Eric Laursen: Remembering David Graeber, Scholar, Troublemaker, Friend

The Indypendent, September 26, 2020

Possibly the last thing David Graeber wrote for publication was an introduction he co-authored, with his longtime friend and intellectual comrade Andrej Grubacic, for Mutual Aid, the classic work on the history of human (and animal) cooperation by the 19th-century Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin. Discussing the impact of Kropotkin’s book, which challenged the dog-eat-dog morality that capitalism had embraced through a misreading of Darwin’s theory of evolution, David and Andrej said the following: “Such interventions … reveal aspects of reality that had been largely invisible but, once revealed, seem so entirely obvious that they can never be unseen.”

Anyone who knew him will immediately recognize this as pure David, laying out his lifelong quest to uncover patterns and tendencies in human behavior that our rulers — the authorities, the state, organized religion, capitalists and the rest — work so hard to obscure. Uncovering these patterns, as Kropotkin did in his book, is not just fun and en-lightening — which appealed to David’s impish side — but a lifeline, offering us alternative paths in a world marked by fear, exploitation, poverty, war and mass murder and the destruction of any culture outside the marketplace.

In our two decades of friendship and occasional collaboration, I never knew David happier than when he could begin a sentence, “Well, the funny thing is…,” always followed by a paradoxical observation about some institution, famous person or aspect of human history and development. He made learning and enlightenment genuinely stimulating, but he was also intensely serious about it, because for him, as for all the best thinkers, everything — the world, human life — depended on it.

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