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

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

David Graeber

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 1612195180

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

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.

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i.e., “you, Joe, you wouldn’t have made a mistake like that; you, Mark, you’re the new guy, you must have screwed up—if you do it again, you’re fired.” It’s those who do not have the power to hire and fire who are left with the work of figuring out what actually did go wrong so as to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The same thing usually happens with ongoing relations: everyone knows that servants tend to know a great deal about their employers’ families, but the opposite almost never occurs.

This in turn is not because these objects are somehow intrinsically difficult to administer democratically—history is full of communities that successfully engage in the democratic administration of common resources—it’s because, like the DAN car, they are surrounded by endless government regulation, and are effectively impossible to hide from the government’s armed representatives. In America, I have seen endless examples of this dilemma. A squat is legalized after a long struggle; suddenly,

likely to have, ban those technologies likely to be too socially disruptive, and guide development in directions that would foster social harmony. The fascinating thing is that while many of the historical trends Toffler describes are accurate, the book itself appeared at almost precisely the moment when most of them came to an end. For instance, it was right around 1970 when the increase in the number of scientific papers published in the world—a figure that had been doubling every fifteen

as having an elected President and legislature were duly thrown in. But this is meaningless. Signs of real democratic life are entirely absent in the show—no character ever makes even a passing reference to elections, political parties, divisive issues, opinion polls, slogans, plebiscites, protests, or campaigns. Does Federation “democracy” even operate on a party system? If so, what are the parties? What sort of philosophy or core constituency does each represent? In 726 episodes we’re not given

millionaires.) This is why for most of European history, elections were assumed to be not a democratic, but an aristocratic mode of selecting public officials. “Aristocracy” after all literally means “rule by the best,” and elections were seen as meaning that the only role of ordinary citizens was to decide which, among the “best” citizens, was to be considered best of all, in much the same way as a Homeric retainer, or for that matter, a Mongol horseman might switch allegiance to some new

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