Synopses & Reviews
The final posthumous work by the coauthor of the major New York Times bestseller The Dawn of Everything.
Pirates have long lived in the realm of romance and fantasy, symbolizing risk, lawlessness, and radical visions of freedom. But at the root of this mythology is a rich history of pirate societies — vibrant, imaginative experiments in self-governance and alternative social formations at the edges of the European empire.
In graduate school, David Graeber conducted ethnographic field research in Madagascar for his doctoral thesis on the island's politics and history of slavery and magic. During this time, he encountered the Zana-Malata, an ethnic group of mixed descendants of the many pirates who settled on the island at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia, Graeber's final posthumous book, is the outgrowth of this early research and the culmination of ideas that he developed in his classic, bestselling works Debt and The Dawn of Everything (written with the archaeologist David Wengrow).
In this lively, incisive exploration, Graeber considers how the proto-democratic, even libertarian practices of the Zana-Malata came to shape the Enlightenment project defined for too long as distinctly European. He illuminates the non-European origins of what we consider to be "Western" thought and endeavors to recover forgotten forms of social and political order that gesture toward new, hopeful possibilities for the future.
"Pirates captured the imagination of writers and readers centuries ago, and David Graeber reveals why. He has produced one of the most fascinating, original, and altogether brilliant books ever written about these unruly outlaws." Marcus Rediker, author of Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age
“A tour de force of anthropological scholarship and an important addition to Malagasy history… Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.” Kirkus
About the Author
David Graeber was a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics. He is the author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years and Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, among many others books, and co-author with David Wengrow of the New York Times bestseller The Dawn of Everything. An iconic thinker and renowned activist, his early efforts in Zuccotti Park made Occupy Wall Street an era-defining movement. He died on September 2, 2020.