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

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From the author of the blockbuster 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 fr...
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From the author of the blockbuster 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 just how much are our lives being ruined by all this nonstop documentation?

To answer these questions, 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. Is the inane, annoying paperwork we confront every day really a cipher for state violence? And is the capitalist promise of salvation-through-technology just a tool for the powerful to exert more control? Graeber provides a forceful, radical answer to these questions, though he also suggests that there may be something perversely appealing—even romantic—about bureaucracy.

Leaping from the ascendance of right-wing economics in the second half of the twentieth century to the hidden meanings behind James Bond, 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 Žižek 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 our lives—and the better, freer world we should, perhaps, begin to imagine for ourselves.
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