Synopses & Reviews
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, offers the perfect book to address these urgent questions. Beginning with the most recent democratic activist movements in America and abroad, he takes readers 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 twentieth 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.
Reinventing Democracy 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.
"Part first-person history of the Occupy movement, part how-to manual, this hopeful book considers 'the possibility of democracy in America' that is, leaderless direct democracy. Graeber, an anthropologist whose Debt: The First 5,000 Years put the modern, debt-based global financial system in broad historical context, makes the argument that the current political system is not the only option. Beginning with the 2011 occupation of Zucotti Park, Graeber examines the movement's successes before looking at U.S. media coverage and the movement's spread to communities nationwide. He voices both the frustration and elation that emerged from Occupy while addressing and reframing criticisms like the refusal to engage with the existing political system. The book's second half makes a case for direct democracy, gives examples of recent political upheavals that led to more directly democratic systems, and offers guideposts for greater participation in direct democracy. Graeber points out the fascinating shift in meaning for the term democracy which from an analogue of anarchy became, through the Founding Fathers, a means to contain such direct participation in political affairs and his positive, forward-looking ideas make a world in which 'freedom becomes the ultimate organizing principle' seem well within our reach. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
David Graeber teaches anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of several books, including Debt: The First 5,000 Years. He has written for Harper’s, The Nation, and other magazines and journals.