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

English language

ISBN:
978-1-61219-374-8
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4 stars (32 reviews)

The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy is a 2015 book by anthropologist David Graeber about how people "relate to" and are influenced by bureaucracies. Graeber previously wrote Debt: The First 5000 Years and The Democracy Project, and was an organizer behind Occupy Wall Street. Graeber signed a book deal with Melville House toward the end of 2014, and The Utopia of Rules was released on February 24, 2015.

13 editions

Bureaucracy, Games, Capitalism, and Batman

5 stars

What an incredible book. A poignant look at how and why bureaucracies are created and maintained, how they are a form of game that’s opposed to actual play, how each of us has a responsibility to actively imagine a better world and create the conditions under which it can come into existence, and a surprise analysis of Christopher Nolan’s film “The Dark Knight Rises” which (trust me) makes sense in this context.

A clear recommendation for anyone who wants to look critically at how we as a society run the world. It’s also not too dense (as opposed to some other political philosophy works) and written in a very approachable way.

Sadly, a slog to get through.

3 stars

A collection of essays with an almost-clever title but too many detours.

Far too often, I found myself having to re-read parts of essays in order to understand whatever the main point was. There were so many times that the content just meandered somewhere, tried to build into the point, and created confusion about whatever he was trying to describe.

At one point, I was 40 pages into an essay with another 10-20 to go, and it started feeling like he was trying to justify why it was okay to like fantasy literature and games despite the bureaucracy within them. I doubt that was his intent, but that was precisely the way they felt due to the way he writes.

So much of what was said was entirely superfluous, which... is fine. But again, for someone who was touted as being the 'most readable' theorist, this was pretty unreadable.

Review of 'The Utopia of Rules' on Goodreads

4 stars

Four or so essays on power, violence, and freedom, often through media critique and briefly sketched historical analogies. Themes of creativity (imagining better worlds) and force (police violence, the exhaustive interpretive labor that bureaucracy requires from those at the bottom); neoliberalism's squashing of technological progress and social freedoms while redefining those terms so it may champion them; science fiction and fantasy and play and games. Keeps coming back to imagination and its ambiguity and potential for destruction, leaving us left or right more comfortable within layers of rules even if they harm us.

Review of 'The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

This wasn't the easiest read (I finally finished this after about three years of false starts), but once it got going for me, it really got going. A mind-changing meditation on the nature of power and authority and the real and fictional manifestations that power (the essay on futurism was a particularly fun read), the book succeeds at developing a left-wing critique of bureaucracy and the state. Strongly recommended.

Review of 'The Utopia of Rules' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

David Graeber is an anthropologist. It has been said that his political philosophy is close to anarchism, but from his writings you can conclude that this term is too narrow. He is influenced – I guess – by the anarchist tradition, that means he is committed to the idea that someday we would be possible to live in a truly free society. A society that wouldn’t be based on the bureaucracies of corruption and violence, where it would be possible for everyone to define his/her own ways of dealing with other people, and especially within social movements to embody the kind of world one wants to create.

One would think that reading about bureaucracy and paperwork is not the best way to spend an evening and part of the night too, but It was an absolute pleasure to read the Utopia of Rules, which was published in 2015. The actual …

Review of 'The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

There are two seemingly conflicting ideas of what it means to be privileged and powerful: on the one hand, it means that you no longer have to bother yourself about the day-to-day tedium of how to get your needs met; but on the other hand, it means that you’re in charge of all of this day-to-day tedium of how people get their needs met — bwa ha ha. You get to decide who owns what and how transactions will get transacted and who gets their cut.

Bureaucracy, according to [a:David Graeber|29101|David Graeber|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1253069199p2/29101.jpg], is part of the solution to this conflict. It allows the powerful and privileged to maintain their blissful ignorance of the tedium and the personalities of the hoi polloi they lord over, while giving them the illusion of knowledge so they can be confident in their mastery. Bureaucracy tediously collects data of usually stupid varieties and then …

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