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

David Graeber. Melville House, $26.95 (272p) ISBN 9781612193748
This essay collection from anthropologist Graeber is an utterly fascinating study of bureaucracy's role in modern life. He grounds readers first in the institution's history and then in the corporatization of contemporary discourse, showing that bureaucracy is merely a substitute for state-sponsored violence. He highlights how, as countries are modernized, bureaucracies ostensibly displace the old elite, but in reality merely reemploy and rebrand them while seeking to justify their own existence. Finally, Graeber demonstrates how corporatization is killing innovation. His book argues that, despite all these failings, bureaucracy is intensely appealing to the human brain because it places structures, rituals, and rules over systems that can otherwise seem meaningless. As an example of its insidious appeal, Graeber points to how pop culture constantly positions characters functioning within bureaucracies as rebels, even as those characters continue to tacitly justify the institutions they seemingly rebel against (see: every cop show ever). Readers familiar with Graeber's work will know the caliber of discourse he brings to the table: not all of his thoughts are unique, but they are wonderfully presented and wholly accessible. This is a rare treat that will amuse as easily as it unsettles, as readers struggle to reframe their own perceptions and open their eyes to Graeber's insights. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 04/06/2015
Release date: 02/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-61219-518-6
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