When he came along with his gilet and his leather bag, dragging his legs a bit, bowing his head a little forward and always that smile on his face, he had something of an older boy who looked much younger than he was.

And now this news: David Graeber died in Venice.

He was 59 years old.      

There are not many left-wing radicals who do not allow left-wing radicalism to degenerate into clowning, but rather mean it, and who at the same time become global superstars and bestselling authors.

"Anarchist" he called himself - or was named - but whether he really was one can be debated.

He was simply of the opinion that people would cultivate solidarity with one another and take care of one another if they were not cooped up in repressive structures, and he was convinced that "power corrupts".

He did not feel he belonged to other leftist tendencies or even parties, so perhaps he was more of an anarchist for lack of a better alternative.


Graeber still had something of the habitus of earlier revolutionaries and intellectuals, the self-indulgent pomposity of some academic leftists was not his thing, he was much more modest there.

Perhaps that has something to do with his origin.

Graeber grew up in a left-wing Jewish working class family, his father fought in the Spanish Civil War.

The American anthropologist, who had been teaching in London for years, was made world-famous and a figure on the international left by the financial crisis ten years ago.


His book of

debt.

The first 5,000 years

was an event, of course also because gambling banks, loans and government budget deficits were the topic of the hour.

Graeber dismantled a few myths and looked at what seemed to be taken for granted with a new, sharp look.

Social relations determined by money produce violence, dehumanization, slavery, he wrote.

Payment relationships established hierarchical relationships between power and powerlessness.

Where everyone is in debt, many only run for survival.


Myths of origin, such as the economy loves, such as the fairy tale that earlier societies simply exchanged use values, Graeber brushed off the table: Such societies never existed.

People have always used equivalents to facilitate exchange.

But money, in the form of banknotes and coins, was very rare until the early modern period.

You didn't need a lot of it if everyone wrote to them and settled no more than twice a year.

Graeber also pointed to the moral questions that come with debt.

To this day we believe that a debtor is somehow "morally obliged" to repay his debts.

But why at all?

After all, the creditor has lent him money, is hoping for a return - the interest - but at the same time knows about the risk of a loan default. But why is it primarily the debtor that we give moral persecution to?


"A wonderful and helpful book", a "liberation", Frank Schirrmacher celebrated at the time in the

FAZ

on a whole page of the book, which contributed not insignificantly to Graeber's fame in Germany.

Revolutions, wars, upheavals: they almost always have to do with over-indebtedness.

Of course, I could object to Graeber that debt relationships in premodern societies are not comparable to the investment credit that led to exponential economic growth in capitalism.

All of this was a wonderful thing to discuss with him, and he was speaking at what felt like fifteen thousand words a minute in his New York working class accent.