Because: Imperialism!

by Henry Farrell on April 4, 2012

Preliminary throat-clearing: as promised, a reply to David Graeber’s reply below, or rather, to the particular bits of it that concerned me. Before getting into the substance, let me briefly clear up that I won’t be talking at any length about what I think of his general conduct, style of argument in which he claims that serious critics are liars out to delegitimize him and so on. As you may imagine, I am very unhappy with his behavior – but I also believe that for purposes of analysis one ought to separate the person from the work. Worse people have written better books. I will, however, note (since Gabriel Rossman is too nice to do this himself) that Graeber’s account of their Twitter interactions is extremely tendentious, to the point of being more or less unrecognizable to me.

Warning: what comes below is rather long. The first section will look at the specific complaints in Graeber’s reply, each in its turn. The second will return to the book chapter in question. The third will look at broader issues of how to study imperialism.

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