David Graeber's Utopia of Rules: Why Deregulation Is Actually Expanding Bureaucracy
Date Written: 18/03/2015
Year Published: 2015
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX22616
Book review: David Graebe, The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy.
he Utopia of Rules maintains that we, in the ultra-capitalist West, have in fact become like the Soviet Union - a fusion of the state and private enterprise. Those who have assumed control in our current system did so on an ideological platform that vehemently criticized bureaucracy while relentlessly expanding it, says Graeber.
The iron law of liberalism, where deregulation really means more regulation, is evident in the proposed new round of global trade agreements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Graeber suggests these corporate trade pacts aim to solidify the global bureaucracy even further.
The proposed Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) reveals Graeber's point. Through ISDS, panels will be set up whereby unelected corporate bureaucrats will decide whether companies can sue governments if those government so much as stand in the way of corporate profits. In effect, according to Graeber, "deregulation" is creating something of a global civil service.
Graeber acknowledges that his book aims to start a discussion on bureaucracy rather than come up with the answers or alternatives. But the introduction alone is a convincing description about the Orwellian nightmare in which many of us feel we currently live: where the language of those in power suggests they're leading us one direction, while their actions actually forcing us in another.
But Graeber accompanies his argument with both hope and humor, lightening the mood with one-liners like, "Whenever someone starts talking about the "free market," it's a good idea to look around for the man with the gun."
Recounting his own activist experience, he also sees hope. Graeber suggests the free-trade bureaucratization of the planet has already been tried and failed. This happened when the IMF, World Bank and WTO reared their collective head in the 1990s and were met by Global Justice Movement which he suggests, unknown to itself, was an anti-bureaucratic movement.