By Wayne Price
Review of David Graeber, Revolutions in Reverse: Essays on Politics, Violence, Art, and Imagination. (2011)
A review of David Graeber’s book, Revolutions in Reverse. The author has some intelligent insights, such as the importance of recognizing where the justice movements have won victories. In other ways his thinking is sometimes muddled, as he tries to both reject the need for an insurrectionary revolution and, at the same time, to advocate it as part of his perspective of reversed revolutions.
The anarchist writer and anthropology professor, David Graeber, has written a number of thick volumes. This is a smaller work, a collection of essays written between 2004 and 2010. They have, Graeber assures us, a “unifying theme.” They focus on questions of strategy for the global justice movement, including “revolution”, what Graeber means by the term, and what he thinks about it. In my opinion, this book, like his other writings, combines intelligent insights with muddled thinking and a non-revolutionary perspective (see Price, 2007; 2012).
Graeber’s main concern is that movement activists seem to be discouraged by the failures and limitations of the various struggles against the states and the corporations. Graeber wants to tell them to look up, actually they have done pretty well, made significant gains, and may even be said to have “won” in some ways.
This is a very important point, to the extant that it is true. Popular struggles have not simply “lost,” but have had significant victories. Our rulers are aware of this and do their best to demoralize and discourage us. Instead radicals should be aware of the positive results of what has been gained, not in order to hold a premature victory celebration, but to maintain our spirits and hopes.