A bold rethinking of the most powerful political idea in the world - democracy - as seen through the lens of the most transformative political movements of our time and the story of how radical democracy can yet transform America.
Democracy has been the American religion since before the Revolution - from New England town halls to the multicultural democracy of Atlantic pirate ships. But can our current political system, one that seems responsive only to the wealthiest among us and leaves most Americans feeling disengaged, voiceless, and disenfranchised, really be called democratic? And if the tools of our democracy are not working to solve the rising crises we face, how can we - average citizens - make change happen?
David Graeber, one of the most influential scholars and activists of his generation, takes listeners on a journey through the idea of democracy, provocatively reorienting our understanding of pivotal historical moments, and extracts their lessons for today - from the birth of Athenian democracy and the founding of the United States of America to the global revolutions of the 20th century and the rise of a new generation of activists. Underlying it all is a bracing argument that in the face of increasingly concentrated wealth and power in this country, a reenergized, reconceived democracy - one based on consensus, equality, and broad participation - can yet provide us with the just, free, and fair society we want.
The Democracy Project tells the story of the resilience of the democratic spirit and the adaptability of the democratic idea. It offers a fresh take on vital history and an impassioned argument that radical democracy is, more than ever, our best hope.
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Nice book, but few new things if you know Graeber
It's not only a history of Occupy Wallstreet (how it began and ended, which was not really covered by the media), but also broad strokes about democracy in general. About the US' Founding Fathers and greek influence and obviously a bit of ethnography (Graeber's profession). I imagined a few more nitty gritty details about organizing, but here Graeber only gives short references to other authors and talks more about the general experience. I've heard some of his talks and also read his book Debt, so for me there were a few things I'd already heard.
Graeber explains why they refrained from making demands. The argument is basicly, that the occupation was Direct Action (as in what anarchists do), to show in practice how democratic organizing can work and sort of rub it in Wallstreet's face. Apart from that, they more or less consciously wanted to leave it to people's imagination what the movement would achieve, so as to mobilize more people. Consequently the crowd was so diverse that it would have been really hard to formulate demands everybody would be onboard with, had they wanted to.
In the TV series The Newsroom there's an episode where a woman from Occupy Wallstreet is interviewed and the interview goes rather badly for her. In the end she's asked: "What is your best case scenario for how this [the Occupy Movement] ends?" Her answer: "That it doesn't end."
I thought - just like the liberal protagonists of the series - that's kind of dumb, you've got to have an agenda. You can't just go on protesting. Now I kind of get it. It was more than just a protest, it was an experiment in democracy. But Graeber explains that way better and also I've already written enough.