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David Graeber: ‘There Has Been a War on the Human Imagination’

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Posted on Aug 12, 2013
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American intellectuals have had plenty of cause for despair in these Roman decades of international and domestic imperialism against different ways of thought and life. At an April launch party in San Francisco for the 22nd volume of The Baffler, anthropologist and contributor David Graeber explained some of how this happened and praised a nationwide grass-roots effort to reverse the trend.

Editors, writers and others who engage with publications like The Baffler, a quarterly countercultural magazine of genuine social creativity and dissent, “are trying to get back to the idea of having actual intellectuals again,” Graeber says. “We don’t really have intellectuals in America. We’ve gotten rid of them.”

Graeber gives one concrete example of how this has been done: “Student loans are destroying the imagination of youth. If there’s a way of a society committing mass suicide, what better way than to take all the youngest, most energetic, creative, joyous people in your society and saddle them with, like $50,000 of debt so they have to be slaves? There goes your music. There goes your culture. There goes everything new that would pop out. And in a way, this is what’s happened to our society. We’re a society that has lost any ability to incorporate the interesting, creative and eccentric people.”

“Nothing is more important, I think,” Graeber concludes, “to the future of humanity than to start” creating “spaces outside of these disciplinary mechanisms that have been created to confine us.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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