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Few people embody the intersections of this show's interests quite as much as anthropologist, activist, and writer David Graeber. His field work, writing, and activism represent the best of what AEWCH does: turn an eye to spiritual concerns while taking direct and creative political action. David is a professor at the London School of Economics and the author of an almost overwhelming number of books, including, Fragments Of An Anarchist Anthropology, Debt: The First 5000 Years, On Kings (with Marshall Sahlins), and most recently, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory.
So of course, I'm so happy to have him on the show to discuss, among other things, the supernatural currents that run through and underpin the political realm.
IN THIS EPISODE
- Whether or not we needs spirits for leftist politics
- The cosmic principles of the political field
- Occult politics versus mythical politics
- That time I decided to not pay a phone bill and stopped caring about power
- The autocratic stage of child development
- Why creating small-scale communities are harder than large ones.
- Absurdity as a political tactic
- The difference between "natives" and natives
- The problem with the grim revolutionary
- How to approach socialism and why Marx leaved more room fro spirituality than many think
- Changing time to fight capitalism
• There's so much more available from David - introductions to other books, anthologies, he's edited, and a whole shelf of other books he's written - so the best way to get a good overview of that is to go to his website. Also, I use some of David's ideas to discuss the horror film Ready Or Not on the Horror Vanguard podcast, and I think it's not a bad intro to David's work.
• Grant Morrison's Bat-Mite appearances (pictured below) are in the amazing Batman arc, The Black Glove which is collected as a graphic novel.
• David's quote on debt: "Debt is the perversion of a promise, a promise that has been perverted through mathematics and violence. I’m not saying mathematics is bad, but the combination of mathematics and violence is extremely bad. A debt is a promise to give a certain sum of money, in a certain amount of time, under certain conditions. It is a contract that is ultimately enforceable through the threat of force. The problem is that through a genuinely perverse historical alchemy, we’ve come to see such acts of violence as the very essence of morality."
• One of David's best known essays is excellently entitled "ON THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF GIANT PUPPETS: broken windows, imaginary jars of urine, and the cosmological role of the police in American culture" and you can read it here.
• "There is a long folk history of this figure, the Badass. He is usually male, and while sometimes earning the quizzical tolerance of women, is almost universally admired by men for two basic virtues: he is Bad, and he is Big. Bad meaning not morally evil, necessarily, more like able to work mischief on a large scale. What is important here is the amplifying of scale, the multiplication of effect." - Thomas Pynchon, from "Is It O.K. To Be A Luddite?"
• Karl Groos was the philosopher and psychologist who David refers to in relation to play, self awareness, and child development, and is the author of The Play Of Man. David explores game and play more deeply in his excellent book, The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy.
• Apparently I misattributed the definition of magic to Dion Fortune! But it's a common mistake.
• David is currently at work on a book with David Wengrow, author of What Makes Civilization?: The Ancient Near East and the Future of the West among other books.
• The organization I was Vice President of for two years, The Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, is still going, and I'm so proud of my work with them.
• You must have seen The Witch if you're a fan of this show, right? Right?
• Here's David on "hollowing out" the state.
• I talk about Wilhelm Reich on AEWCH 59 with Reich scholar James Strick.
• Was Lenin a nudist? Well, yeah, probably!
• I haven't yet read David's "Radical alterity is just another way of saying “reality”: a reply to Eduardo Viveiros de Castro" but I'm going to as soon as I'm done with the show notes.
• Here's "The Same Old Song" by Russell Means. Means's essay is not actually an essay, for, as he states at the outset, "The only possible opening for a statement of this kind is that I detest writing. The process itself epitomizes the European concept of 'legitimate' thinking; what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken."
• I was hugely influenced by Vine Deloria Jr.'s work, and his attack (seriously, that's more the word for it than "critique") on anthropologists remains salient. (And since I love him, here's a photo of him.)
• Here's more info on Malidoma Somé, and you can also check out his great book, Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman.
• I talk all about the problems with reducing the witchcraft to political economy, as well as the figure of the dewitcher on AEWCH 98 with Thomas Waters.
• I still like Giordano Bruno, in spite of the, um, persecution we carry out here. And I think he was just talking about the creation of elementals, which I discuss on AEWCH 67 with Daniel Joseph.
• David brings up his interest in Whitheadian concepts of time and space, which are explored, I think, most deeply in Whitehead's The Concept Of Nature.
Until next time, friends!