David Graeber, the radical anthropologist, provocative critic of economic and social inequality and self-proclaimed anarchist who was a coiner of “We Are the 99 Percent,” the slogan of the Occupy Wall Street movement, died on Wednesday at a hospital in Venice. He was 59.
His death was announced on social media by his wife, Nika Dubrovsky, an artist. She did not specify the cause, but Dr. Graeber reported on YouTube last week that he had been feeling ill.
A public intellectual, professor, political activist and author, Dr. Graeber captivated a cult following that grew globally over the past decade with each book he published.
In “Debt: The First 5000 Years” (2011), he explored the changing definitions of borrowing and who owed what to whom. He advocated a “jubilee” of loan forgiveness. Writing in The New York Times Book Review, Thomas Meaney called the book “more than a screed” and praised its “brash, engaging style.” In “The Utopia of Rules” (2015), Dr. Graeber ridiculed the bureaucracy that is typically associated with government, but that also permeates the corporate world and everyday business transactions.
In “Bullshit Jobs: A Theory” (2018), he wondered what happened to the 15-hour week that the economist John Maynard Keynes, in 1930, had predicted would be possible by the end of the 20th century. (“This book asks readers whether there might be a better way to organize the world of work,” Alana Semuels wrote in her Times review. “That’s a question worth asking.”)
“In technological terms, we are quite capable of this,” Mr. Graeber wrote. “And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. Huge swaths of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they believe to be unnecessary.