Archive | December 2011

The Relevance of Scholarship to Social Change

It can go in any direction – you can have horrible right wing fantasy utopias realised in some cultures, extreme patriarchal ones in others, and so on and so forth. But I think we need to start thinking about history. Radical social movements, revolutionaries, reactionaries and all those things we’re familiar with in contemporary politics weren’t invented two hundred years ago. We’ve been taught that they were – that right and left suddenly came into being, and that all these revolutions suddenly started happening, in the middle of the eighteenth century. But I think they’ve actually been happening for thousands of years, it’s just that we don’t have the language to describe them.


– David Graeber interviewed in the White Review: on anthropology, anarchism, and more. He touches on how his ethnographic investigation of the Malagasy people of Madagascar, his recent survey book on the history of debt and money across societies, and Occupy Wall Street are connected.


What Meaningful Survival Requires

Law students are threatened neither with death nor the whip, but modern society has imposed quite effective facsimiles in the form of competitiveness needed to get into law school, the ambition and determination to do well, and the sense that success will be aided by accepting attitude toward whatever does or doesn’t happen to you during the process of learning law.

The goal is to get a degree, to avoid all confrontations with persons of authority, and to defer service activities and good works until you are established in your practice. Of course, in most cases the avoidance and deferment become a life-time pattern that, as with slaves, continues naturally and without thought long after the original motiviation is forgotten.

Your fear is not of death but of failure. Your chains are forged, not of iron, but of the magnetic force of money, status, and professional acclaim. These fetters can be as effective a restraint on liberty as was the slave’s desire to live and avoid the lash. But wealth and recognition are not the modern equivalent of the freedom sought so fervently by African slaves. Meaningful survival – as slaves like Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Gabriel Prosser, and Frederick Douglass learned – requires risk, confrontation, and revolt.

– Derrick A. Bell Jr., The Law Student As Slave