Egalitarian Paradise Lost: David Graeber and the Pirates of Madagascar

Published on: February 14 / 2023

Eve Ottenberg for Counterpunch

The search across the globe and in history for egalitarian societies turns up some strange finds. One anthropologist, the well-known, radical, recently deceased, best-selling author and a founder of the Occupy movement at Zuccotti Park, David Graeber, discovered such a world in Madagascar, in the settlements of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century pirates, recording his observations in a posthumous book, Pirate Enlightenment, Or the Real Libertalia. This portrait of a vanished almost-utopia is no idealization; Graeber lays it out in detail, but the conclusion is unavoidable: citizens of these pirate port towns had far more freedom than your average twenty-first century American prole moiling long hours for monopoly corporations. They also appear to have enjoyed a lot more happiness, you know, that thing we Americans are supposedly free to pursue.

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