Annals of the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Economics, History and Political Science

The Annals is a forum for the free exchange of ideas
among scholars working in the field of social sciences
Volume LV 1 - 2021

David Graeber, Bureaucratic Violence, and the Critique of Surveillance Capitalism

Veronica Barassi,
pp. 237-254
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With his ability to almost historize everything and find anthropological insight in historical patterns and connections, David Graeber was one of the most radical and interesting intellectuals of our times. His political engagement inspired generations of activists across the world, and his theories deconstructed most of our western-centric understandings of human nature, economic life and anthropological processes. This article explores how Graeber’s work on bureaucratic violence, technology and imagination sheds a critical light on the emergence of what is commonly understood as “surveillance capitalism” (Zuboff 2019). In this article, the author reflects on the legacy of her mentor, and shows how Graeber’s theory adds historical depth and anthropological insight into the techno-historical transformations of our times. His work enables us to understand the limitations to human freedom created by our use of data technologies and to reflect on the fact that we are creating a type of society that reinforces and amplifies the things that Graeber criticised most: social inequality and human reductionism.