Fetish and Value

01 February, 2024 20:00 (London time)

“When I conceived the idea of writing my own ‘Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value’ in the late 1990s, I originally … imagined its appearance would be followed by irate critiques from many of the principals insisting I had got their core arguments wrong, and a flurry of productive debates. Nothing of the sort ensued.” David Graeber (2013) from “It is Value that Brings Universes into Being.”

I share the disappointment. In this book David isn’t thinking of creating a theory of value, but rather about capturing the live debate happening around him in the world of high academia. He intended to contribute, to receive feedback, and to further the cause. The academia didn’t respond and David never had an opportunity to bring this to the people.

So this is exactly what I want to do in this group. To process David’s (and his teacher’s) ideas about value into a format accessible to a wider audience and if academia decides that this theory isn’t complete enough to give it to people then they are welcome to chime in.

We will start by reading smaller pieces by David to assemble the conceptual apparatus and learn to shift into his researcher mindset (if that isn’t too presumptuous of me) and when we feel ready enough we will progress onto the book itself – “Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value”. I will be suggesting the reading track for this group but anyone is welcome to bring in the piece they think would contribute.

At the end of the group, I would like us to produce some short materials that could illustrate points we would develop in the course of reading. To this end, I would like this group recordings to be published.

I would like to start this group by reading David’s essay “Fetishism as social creativity“.

This reading group will meet on February 1, March 7, April 4 and May 2.

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