• The Utopia of Rules

  • On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy
  • By: David Graeber
  • Narrated by: Mike Chamberlain
  • Length: 8 hrs
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (242 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the author of the international best-seller Debt: The First 5,000 Years comes a revelatory account of the way bureaucracy rules our lives. 

From where does the desire for endless rules, regulations, and bureaucracy come? How did we come to spend so much of our time filling out forms? And is it really a cipher for state violence?   

To answer these questions, the anthropologist David Graeber - one of our most important and provocative thinkers - traces the peculiar and unexpected ways we relate to bureaucracy today and reveals how it shapes our lives in ways we may not even notice...though he also suggests there may be something perversely appealing - even romantic - about bureaucracy.    

Leaping from the ascendance of right-wing economics to the hidden meanings behind Sherlock Holmes and Batman, The Utopia of Rules is at once a powerful work of social theory in the tradition of Foucault and Marx and an entertaining reckoning with popular culture that calls to mind Slavoj Zizek at his most accessible.   

An essential work for our times, The Utopia of Rules is sure to start a million conversations about the institutions that rule over us - and the better, freer world we should perhaps begin to imagine for ourselves.

©2015 David Graeber (P)2018 Tantor

What listeners say about The Utopia of Rules

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Not his most serious book, but still really great

Graeber is best known for his academic tome, Debt, and perhaps second-best for his more popular book, Bullshit Jobs. If you're into either of those books, you should read this book as a kind of follow-up. If you haven't read Debt or BSJ, I'd recommend starting with them first. Graeber applies the lessons of those books here, with some fascinating and insightful detours into pop culture (e.g., the capitalist symbols inherent in action movie heroes).

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Very Insightful

I love when an author is able to show you the world from a different perspective then what is taught in schools. His thought provoking insights will become classics in the next generation. Thank you David!

7 people found this helpful

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Incredible

The courage and insight of Mr Graeber, for me at least, produced an almost disorienting stream of revelation.

An indispensable work for anyone choosing to look upon the world as it is.

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Ideological Rant Devoid of Empirical Effort

I bought this book due to my positive experience with Graeber’s "Debt: The First 5000 Years.” This book, however, is so awful it makes me question the scholarship of his prior work.

The book gets off to a bad start in the introduction which is full of assumptions presented as if they were facts everyone believed in. I figured then that the body of the book would provide supporting evidence. It doesn’t. The book is simply an avowed anarchist’s rant that complex social systems entail bureaucracy and that humans do stupid things with bureaucracy.

When I got to the chapter that concluded that the reason we don’t have things like flying cars and the other stuff dreamed up of by 20th-century science fiction writers is because capitalism and neoliberalism have prevented this by destroying human creativity I decided that Graeber had jumped the shark and that the few hours I’d already invested into listening to his rants were a waste and that things were not going to get any better.

2 people found this helpful

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Good book, until the last chapter

This was a little dry, but otherwise fascinating critique of institutional rules. There were lots of interesting insights along the way, and the book peaked in the middle, but it went off the rails in the last chapter analyzing Batman and Bane (and presumably, Christopher Nolan’s politics).

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Great content

Overall very dry, would have loved to see him compose this content in individual books. For example his book ‘Bullshit Jobs’ was well thought/written, had me wanting to read the next chapter.

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insightful and approachable as always

so much political theory gets lost in so much abstraction and jargon. Graeber is always insightful, approachable and relatable. well worth the read especially for all of us that live and work working bureaucracies.

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Fresh. Excellent presentation. Confirms that I’m not the only one who so believes…

listen to this book. do yourself a favor. this hits the nail on the head in our chaotic times. life is absurd, chaotic, random and impossible to control.

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Excellent, mind-expanding

Not just about bureaucracy!! I particularly enjoyed the final chapter on the Nolan Batman films - what a ridiculous reactionary mess they were - and how Graeber is able to link these to the overall assumptions of the comic book genre and associated political implications. In each chapter Graeber is able to illuminate aspects of culture and the underpinnings of law. This book is above all else just plain fun to read.

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Graeber Understands our Times

The included essays provide insight into our current social conditions through anthropology and philosophy. Graeber synthesizes various sources to decode modern experiences.

The narration is relatively well-performed, with some mild pronunciation errors.