By John Ballard
Unfortunately this one-hour program from C-SPAN's Book TV is not embeddable but after watching it this morning I am passing the link on to readers who may have time to watch it. I'm putting this post together as I listen to the audio with a view of recommending choice parts to whet the appetite of those who find this sort ot TV too dry and time-consuming to consider.
Two writers are pushing their books. H.W.Brands is a history professor, University of Texas at Austin. David Graeber is identified as a "Reader" with the University of London, Goldsmiths' College, Anthropology Department.
I don't know what a reader is but I learned in my own undergraduate years that Europeans don't have the same hang-ups that Americans do about titles and piles of publishing. One of my classes was with a visiting Oxford professor, a Mr. Wilson, about whom the head of our history department remarked that the title of Doctor doesn't have the same cache in the UK as it does here, and a scholar addressed as Mister can have just as much academic respectability as one called Doctor.
In the case of David Graeber the distinction is even more irrelevant since the C-SPAN moderator mentioned in his introduction that in doing research about these two writers he came across the article in Wikipedia which describes David Graeber as
...an American anthropologist and anarchist who currently holds the position of Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Both of these men are stimulating speakers, mutually complementary, taking turns in front of a standing room only crowd of appreciative listeners whose questions during the Q&A period were intelligent and stimulating for both writers.
Here are a couple of appetizers that may capture the imagination for readers.
==> At 36 minutes Graeber talks about the moral equivalence of debt, guilt and sin as a historical method of power and control over others. Listen for three minutes. A couple of minutes later somebody mentions that great aphorism that If you owe the bank a thousand dollars you have a problem but if you owe the bank a million dollars the bank has a problem.
==> At 51 minutes Brands responds to a question about banking regulations. He outlines the history of banking regulations with clarity and humor, bouncing the response to Graeber for further elaboration. The next question about the Federal Reserve also gets a crystal-clear response. At the end of the program in the last three or four minutes Graeber identifies himself as one of the original 80 participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
This program was aired in October, by the way. I find it interesting that whoever selects the programming schedule at C-SPAN didn't let it get lost in the archives. I'm not a card-carrying C-SPAN junkie, but it is one of the under-appreciated resources of our time and those who fail to take advantage of it do themselves a big disservice.