Middle Earth and form-filling – David Graeber on bureaucracy

This is the first in an occasional series of reviews of books I’ve been reading.

David Graeber – The Utopia of Rules

A wonderful  book! Graeber manages to write in a relaxed comprehensible – even witty – style about a subject that normally kills anything like that stonedead: bureaucracy. He asks pointed and excellent questions: why has bureaucracy in fact increased exponentially, especially in the USA, UK and Europe, while every right wing commentator is noisily insisting it’s going to be reduced? Why has it extended its tentacles from the military and government and corporations to education and the rest of society? Why does bureaucracy make us act so stupidly? Do we actually secretly like bureaucracy, because it makes us feel safe inside a game with rules, even if we don’t actually understand the rules?

More seriously he also examines what is the connection between state violence and Batman? And why doesn’t Middle Earth have any bureaucracy?

There’s one thing I’d like to ask him: have you read any Terry Pratchett? And particularly “Going Postal” and “Making Money”, late books where the Wizard of Ankh-Morpork dares to contemplate the irruption of bureaucracy into a fantasy world? Or “Small Gods” one of the finest religious satires ever written, which contains a particularly poisonous example of the perfect bureaucrat?

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You can buy the book here.

 

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