The final book from David Graeber, the iconic intellectual, activist, and co-author of the New York Times bestseller, The Dawn of Everything.
Pirates have long lived in the realm of romance and fantasy, symbolizing risk, lawlessness, and radical visions of freedom. But at the root of this mythology is a rich history of pirate societies— vibrant, imaginative experiments in self-governance and alternative social formations at the edges of European empire.
In graduate school, David Graeber conducted ethnographic field research in Madagascar, producing what would eventually become a doctoral thesis on the island’s magic, slavery, and politics. During this time, he encountered the Zana-Malata, an ethnic group made up of mixed descendants of the many pirates who settled on the island at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Pirate Enlightenment, or the True Libertalia, Graeber’s final posthumous book, is the outgrowth of this early research, written while he and David Wengrow were working on what would become their major bestseller, The Dawn of Everything. In direct conversation with that work, Graeber explores how the proto-democratic, even libertarian practices of the Zana-Malata came to shape the Enlightenment project defined for too long as distinctly European. The result is a short but sweeping exploration of the non-European origins of what we consider to be “Western” thought, and an endeavor to recover forgotten forms of social and political order that gesture toward new, hopeful possibilities for the future.