The incredible writer, activist, academic and speaker David Graeber has died in a hospital in Venice of undisclosed causes. He was only 59.
I first encountered Graeber's work through his magesterial book "Debt: The First 5,000 Years," which ripped through my circle, especially the science fiction writers, inspiring entirely a subgenre of "debtpunk," like Charlie Stross's "Neptune's Brood."
Debt - along with Solnit's "A Paradise Built in Hell" - was the major inspiration for my own 2017 novel Walkaway:
Graeber's political radicalism was the result, in part, of his anthropological view of economics, which gave him insight both into how we interact with one another, but also why economists' views of those interactions are so often wrong.
But it was his 2018 breakout book, Bullshit Jobs, that arguably reached the largest audience and smuggled his critique of capitalism into an ascerbic and darkly hilarious view of employment:
Graeber and I had corresponded for years before Bullshit Jobs was published, but it wasn't until his tour for the book that we finally met face to face, when I interviewed him onstage in LA:
I was delighted to learn he was charming and gentle in person - still recognizably that acerbic, lightning-witted blade that he was online, but tempered with a deep, human compassion that shone through during the signing afterwards.
The last time I saw Graeber was shortly after the crisis started, when we were on a panel on radical economics together (alas, no video seems to be online from that event). I remember that I made him laugh several times and felt obscenely proud to have done so.
Graeber lived his principles and bore the cost: his activism with Occupy Wall Street triggered vicious retaliation from NYPD intelligence, leading to him being evicted from his childhood home:
He inspired millions and died too young. As Owen Jones wrote, "Rest In Power, David Graeber."
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