An interview with David Graeber over at Naked Capitalism.
He’s talking mainly about economic disincentives to doing good in the world that appear to be a feature of our “capitalist” economy.
I can’t agree with a lot of Graeber’s verbiage – you know, “power structures”, things like that – and like the founding fathers I don’t care much for “democracy” either. In other words, the democracy leaning to anarchy that characterized the Occupy movement and Graeber’s thinking about what to do at this point doesn’t strike me as being much of a solution to anything.
But in terms of identifying what’s wrong now, Graeber and I are in complete agreement. While of course I approach all this from a different and somewhat less scholarly position – more ‘lawyerly’ than scholarly – the basics of the issue are the same for both Graeber and me. In fact, I identified the debt problem – and a solution (updated here) – publicly before his most recent magnum opus (Debt – the First 5,000 Years) came out.
Graeber’s insight that the debt game has altered the role of government (“…which is increasingly becoming the legal cover and muscle behind debt and rent extraction”) is also important, but the solution to that is not so much to turn all of government and society upside down, which is the constant temptation of the revolutionary, but rather a return to first principles by the third branch of government (the judiciary) in general, and the legal profession in particular.
To take just one example, evictions are judicial processes. As I have noted before, they are ridiculously easy to do, not to mention the fastest existing judicial process by far. This is a reflection of a lot of what is wrong, true, but the solution is so simple: change the law.
Do we have to change hearts and minds as well? Certainly, and especially in the legal profession and the judiciary.
The anthropological approach to these issues is academically interesting and has a lot to offer, but it still amazes me how little regard there is for the legal profession and by extension – and somewhat distressingly – the rule of law. The problems Graeber is speaking about fit very neatly – and pretty much entirely – into the ‘law’ category, much more so than the ‘anthropology’ category, but no one talks to lawyers about it.
That’s strange, I think, and maybe even a big part of the underlying problem: a pall of despair over the rule of law and lawyers.
We’ve probably brought it on ourselves.