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Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire

4.22  ·  Rating Details  ·  161 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
“If anthropology consists of making the apparently wild thought of others logically compelling in their own cultural settings and intellectually revealing of the human condition, then David Graeber is the consummate anthropologist. Not only does he accomplish this profound feat, he redoubles it by the critical task—now more urgent than ever—of making the possibilities of o ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published September 1st 2007 by AK Press
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Standard
Dec 27, 2007 Standard rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: democrats
David Graeber is arguably the best anarchist intellectual working in the US as well as a hell of an anthropologist. What is great about this book is that he actually historicizes the anti-globalization movement so that it appears part of the long, broad process of democratic movements everywhere. In what may be the best essay of the book, he joins writers like Silvia Federici in taking apart the notion of "western civilization" and shows how democracy, if defined as people making decisions for t ...more
Sabrina
Jan 21, 2009 Sabrina is currently reading it
so far i've learned that i need to define capitalism better and think about how dirty jokes about bodies actually makes us more egalitarian.
Spicy T AKA Mr. Tea
What an amazing read. Graeber's writing is accessible and fun to read--unlike a lot of other academic (?) texts I've read in the past. He conveys his ideas eloquently while citing his experiences or his knowledge of theory and social action. An anthropologist by training and an anarchist in thought, Graeber has written some very thoughtful essays in Possibilities. His essays regarding his field work in Madagascar are very interesting but his humor and investigations of the global justice movemen ...more
Jrgillooly
Sep 03, 2009 Jrgillooly rated it really liked it
I was told that grad school would require some "rewiring" of my brain, yet in my first semester I found that it was only an extension of writers and ideas that I had been very familiar with in undergrad. That was until I read Graeber's essay on the 1999 Seattle protests ( either the last or next to last in this collection).

Had the bulk of of Graeber's work not been published in the climate of fear post 9-11 I believe he would be in the ranks of other public intellectuals like Chomsky or Zinn and
...more
Matthew
May 21, 2012 Matthew rated it really liked it
Shelves:
The section on why there are so few anarchists in academia is particularly brilliant. It makes me rethink the relationship between academia and power (and it caused me to revisit why I myself had such allergic reactions to academia, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels.)

The bigger point of the book is well taken: there are many ways for humans to live, many ways for humans to approach the problems of distribution of decision making and power. Many ways, in fact, for revolution to happe
...more
Minku
This is Graeber's follow-up to Fragments of An Anarchist Anthropology. It's much larger in scope and size, and it's organized as a collection of long essays, some of which are overly academic, and some of which are much more accessible.

The essays are organized into 3 sections: one about past history and theories about private property, consumption/destruction, capitalism/slavery, and fetishism/creativity. The second section is all about rural Madagascar (since that's where the author spent a few
...more
Marty
Feb 07, 2016 Marty rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and well thought out. This is an important meditation on power, organization, and personal responsibilities. I find much of Graeber (and especially this) a deeply thoughtful call to action to the uninvolved ... even though they will likely only rarely read such works as these. Hopefully, the resonances from those who do read and consider these thoughts will help others come to better understand.
Ben
Jun 17, 2012 Ben rated it liked it
Graeber has a compelling mind w/ compelling ideas. Reading through this collection of essays could be hit or miss for me, sometimes being very engaged with a novel insight into the nature of the relationship between hierarchy and rebellion, other times his words completely flying over my head in a torrent of verbose academic jargon.

What I found most compelling and useful to read were his many reflections on his anthropological fieldwork in Madagascar, particularly Graeber's interpretation of th
...more
Aaron Urbanski
Mar 30, 2011 Aaron Urbanski rated it really liked it
One of the most intellectually demanding books I've endeavored. It took me nearly a year to finish. The book is divided into three main parts.

1. The Origins of Our Current Predicament
2. Dilemas of Authority in Rural Madagascar (which was intriguing at first and soon became a chore to read through)
3. Direct Action, Direct Democracy, & Social Theory (hands down the best part of this book)

The first part of this book offered few new insights to me. I did enjoy the analogy of when food first went
...more
Ericstiens
Feb 10, 2012 Ericstiens rated it really liked it
Shelves: anarchism
David Graeber is finally getting some well deserved attention with his book Debt and his media-annointed role as the intellectual of the Occupy movement. However, he was been doing amazing anthropological work for quite a while and this book is probably the best overview of some of his areas of interest and the ways in which he is re-working anarchist theory by asking - what does anthropology have to offer anarchism? What are the various complicated and shifting over overlapping and consensual a ...more
Roger
Jun 03, 2012 Roger rated it really liked it
This diverse collection of essays is a nice broad overview of Graeber's work. It covers some great historical analyses and reinterpretations of capitalism and social relations, delves into some of his work in Madagascar, and finishes with some essays on action and repression. Graeber has a knack for throwing out little kernels of thought or idea that contain big explosive possibiities: one of my favorites from an essay in here is "A theory of complex political entities that are not states is al ...more
Benjamin
May 27, 2016 Benjamin rated it really liked it
The first part was great, but I got slowed up in the middle bit about Madagascar. At the end there is some ranting about giant puppets and direct action that I enjoyed. I wish AK press had double checked the bibliographies. I was adding some of the citations to wishlists and the authors' names were spelled wrong in the book. That's a small complaint, I guess.

The book also contains a clue as to why Graeber is so popular. He is one of the few people in the movements he describes who is willing to
...more
Jerome
Oct 27, 2010 Jerome rated it liked it
Great collection of essays by expatriated American anarchist anthropologist David Graeber. Although these essays are targeted to an academic audience, and read like academic literature, Graeber asks challenging questions about his subject matter that demand radical answers. Requires a good deal of knowledge of anthropology, sociology, economics, and a smattering of 20th Century continental philosophy to follow, but worth the reading.
0spinboson
Dec 30, 2011 0spinboson rated it it was amazing
Quite a few essays I'll be reading again shortly; mostly finished it quickly so I would know which essays to read more carefully (though it of course helped that they were well-written), and to get a feel for the larger arguments being made, and how the essays relate to each other.
Will write a more informative review that does the book more justice later on.
Amanda
Nov 15, 2008 Amanda rated it it was amazing
This is an awesome discourse on contemporary anarchism. It's thoughtful and utterly convincing. Graeber uses plain language and contemporary examples to make the argument that the possibilities are already open to us to step outside of the frustrating corporate fiefdom that we currently find ourselves in. Definitely recommend.
Adam Piontek
May 03, 2013 Adam Piontek rated it it was amazing
Some of the essays in this book are truly enlightening, especially the one on Manners & Deference, and the one on Social Science as Utopia. Really, they're all excellent, but those are the two that stick with me.
Liz
Nov 21, 2012 Liz rated it really liked it
I liked the chapter on consumerism a lot; also the bit about exactly why it's impossible to negotiate with police.
Maura
Aug 15, 2008 Maura marked it as to-read
goodreads claims the average rating for this book is 5.17. i'm not sure how that's possible, but i'm intrigued...
patrick jones
This is an excellent book. I have read Debt: the first 5000 years by him too, which is also excellent.
Scott Neigh
Reviewed here.
John
Aug 28, 2011 John rated it it was amazing
justin stepney
Dec 21, 2008 justin stepney rated it liked it
Just about to start having finished My Mother Wears Combat Boots. : ]
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David Rolfe Graeber is an American anthropologist and anarchist.

On June 15, 2007, Graeber accepted the offer of a lectureship in the anthropology department at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where he currently holds the title of Reader in Social Anthropology.

He was an associate professor of anthropology at Yale University, although Yale controversially declined to rehire him, and his te
...more
More about David Graeber...

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“Traditional hedonism...was based on the direct experience of pleasure: wine, women and song; sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll; or whatever the local variant. The problem, from a capitalist perspective, is that there are inherent limits to all this. People become sated, bored...Modern self-illusory hedonism solves this dilemma because here, what one is really consuming are fantasies and day-dreams about what having a certain product would be like.” 34 likes
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