The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (Paperback)

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Why do the promotion of market forces and stated efforts to reduce red tape only result in more more bureaucracy, pointless meetings, more paperwork, bullshit affidavits and web-forms, and endless waiting on hold or in "virtual cues"? Anthropologist Graeber explores corporate and government workings in a series of essays that attempt to put the structural violence of bureaucracy in perspective ("Whenever someone starts talking about the "free market" it's a good idea to look around for the man with the gun. He's never far away."). Readers of The Baffler will recognize the expanded essay on technological disappointment: instead of the promise of visionary and potentially useful inventions like robotic maids (or flying cars!), modern society has not only abandoned fanciful dreams when it comes to invention, but has accepted technologies that "furthered labor discipline and social control." Corporate-inspired inventions can now track us, quantify us as consumers, and have created more bureaucratic functions to keep us working longer hours. Even science fiction has shifted from possibility to dystopia. And, finally, Graeber has some fun dissecting popular super-hero movies for their reactionary themes in service of modern bureaucracy.

— Will


From the author of the international bestseller Debt: The First 5,000 Years comes a revelatory account of the way bureaucracy rules our lives

Where does the desire for endless rules, regulations, and bureaucracy come from? How did we come to spend so much of our time filling out forms? And is it really a cipher for state violence?

To answer these questions, the anthropologist David Graeber--one of our most important and provocative thinkers--traces the peculiar and unexpected ways we relate to bureaucracy today, and reveals how it shapes our lives in ways we may not even notice...though he also suggests that there may be something perversely appealing--even romantic--about bureaucracy.

Leaping from the ascendance of right-wing economics to the hidden meanings behind Sherlock Holmes and Batman, The Utopia of Rules is at once a powerful work of social theory in the tradition of Foucault and Marx, and an entertaining reckoning with popular culture that calls to mind Slavoj Zizek at his most accessible.

An essential book for our times, The Utopia of Rules is sure to start a million conversations about the institutions that rule over us--and the better, freer world we should, perhaps, begin to imagine for ourselves.

About the Author

DAVID GRAEBER teaches anthropology at the London School of Economics. He is the author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years, Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value, Lost People: Magic and the Legacy of Slavery in Madagascar, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire, and Direct Action: An Ethnography. He has written for Harper's, The Nation, The Baffler, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New Left Review.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781612195186
ISBN-10: 1612195180
Publisher: Melville House Publishing
Publication Date: February 23rd, 2016
Pages: 272
Language: English