So, David Graber’s dead. Author of “Debt” and “Bullshit Jobs.” An anthropologist, anarchist and fierce activist. The link to his obituary is to the Guardian because it amuses me: he stopped writing for them after they helped smear Corbyn for anti-semitism (a charge Graeber fiercely refuted). Somehow they don’t mention that in the obituary.

Debt was and is an important book. Graeber goes into how money was actually created, as debt, and in effect a way to force people to work for money, even though they didn’t want to. (This is a vast over-simplification and you should read it.) Bullshit Jobs posited that about 40% of jobs don’t need to be done or are actively harmful, and went into some details. I don’t own either of them (read them in bookstores), so I can’t refresh my memory, but Debt in particular struck me at the time as important.

Graeber got some historical details wrong, but none of them were sufficient to undo his overall thesis, and he was roundly hated by historical economists for the book.

He has one more book coming out, “he Dawn of Everything: a New History of Humanity,” written with David Wengrow.

When I heard the news of Graeber’s death I was shocked. I didn’t know him, we weren’t friends. But he was doing actual important work, he was fiercely willing to stand up for what he believed right, and the work he was going to do won’t be done now. At age 59, he had probably another 10 years and two or three books, possibly important, in him.

De Gaulle quipped that “the graveyards are full of indispensable (people)” and mostly he’s right, most people’s deaths don’t matter much to anyone who didn’t know them. Someone will replace them who will do about as good a job.

But an intellectual or artist worthy of the name is, in some sense, indispensable. There are works they will not do, and if they don’t do them no one will.

I didn’t know Graeber, and I can’t claim to be personally sad. But he had important work still to be done, and no one will do it now. And without him to defend Debt from its attackers, it will lose luster and importance (because it’s the sort of book which must be destroyed by status-quo defenders, as it suggests capitalism is not what it claims to be.)

May he rest well, and if there is an afterlife, may it be kind to him. He will be missed by people who never knew him.

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