The Utopia of Rules

Last week, I wrote about David Graeber’s The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy in the context of Fortnite Battle Royale.

There, Graeber’s most salient observations had to do with the similarities between fantasy role-playing games and accounting, the role of comics in socializing future leaders, and the tension between the fun of rules-based games and that of anarchic play.

That’s certainly an idiosyncratic list of topics to find in a book that is ostensibly about bureaucracy, and still it doesn’t begin to show the extent of the ground that Graeber covers.

It’s a testament to the fact that bureaucracy—the use of impersonal rules and procedures to regulate public life—is so deeply embedded in our lives that I have a hard time thinking of a society that gives a sharp enough counterexample the make it concisely clear what Graeber means by “total bureaucratization.” Continue reading “The Utopia of Rules”

Visualizing American Segregation in Time

Readers of this blog probably have a general notion that residential segregation in the United States is a result of deliberate policies (if that’s surprising to you, Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action Was White is my favorite book on the topic).

You probably also know that employment is also segregated, along lines of both race and gender. And you may not have any real idea whether segregation is increasing or decreasing in either domain—which is understandable, because the answers are complicated. In brief, the separation of some occupations, like janitorial service, into their own establishments (think Aramark) has contributed to a worsening of workplace segregation in the United States.

Vox’s Alvin Chang’s short video illustrates the situation. Continue reading “Visualizing American Segregation in Time”

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