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The Democracy Project Paperback – 10 Apr 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Random House US (10 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553840983
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553840988
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.2 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,253,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

I have twice given away David Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years, and Christmas will not change my habits. The book is more readable and entertaining than I can indicate...Would someone, please, give me a copy this Christmas. I promise to keep it for myself (Peter Carey Observer Books of the Year)

Debt:The First 5,000 Years by Goldsmiths College anthropologist David Graeber has become one of the year's most influential books (Paul Mason Guardian Books of 2011) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

David Graeber is a radical anthropologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, who has been involved with the Occupy movement, most actively at Wall Street. He has written for many publications including Harper's, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, and The Guardian. He is also the author, most recently, of the widely praised Debt: The First 5,000 Years, as well as many books on social organization and revolution including Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, Direct Action: An Ethnography. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Format: Paperback
David Graeber takes on an enormously difficult task - giving historical perspective to a movement - Occupy Wall Street - that only just happened, and whose effects have yet to run their course. It is difficult to distance yourself from the overall effect, particularly when, like Graeber - you are at the very center of it. He does an excellent job at a micro level, which will be enormously valuable for future anthropologists - like Graeber.

But he does not have the historical perspective quite right. He wisely asks a lot of questions - like why did this spread so far this time and not others? His answer is structural and tactical (micro), and doesn't ring true. I think the answer is that in every century, the pendulum swings too far (macro). There is an uprising of tormented souls, who, like college grads in the US today, are stopped in their tracks. Stopping the young and hopeful has always been the tinderbox of revolution. Abject misery remains abject misery, but the glass ceiling is the last straw. So in 1848, we saw popular movements that barricaded neighborhoods and attempted overthrow, all over the world. In the 1960s the slaughter of young American men in Viet Nam led to a peace movement that spread to Paris and the Prague Spring. In 2011 the self immolation of an unlicensed Tunisian fruit seller led to uprisings all over the Islamic Crescent. And the bottoming of the 2008 financial miasma has led Americans to catch that Arab Spring fever as well. I think power and oppression make this a cyclical phenomenon.

Graeber wrestles with the question of structure - how Occupy made no demands and had no leaders or externalities. He says that was actually Occupy's key asset, why it succeeded where other, previous attempts all failed. It's the anarchist model that succeeds, he says.
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This is an amazing book. Graeber is astonishingly open and straightforward about the inside story of the Occupy movement and about what it faced in dirty tricks from the authorities. But he goes on from there to provide in depth background to some of the concepts of democracy to demonstrate the lack of logic or continuity in what passes for democracy in the US.
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Format: Kindle Edition
You can't predict revolutions, David Graeber points out. The collapse of the Soviet bloc, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Arab Spring to name a recent few were only foreseeable in hindsight. It's time, he thinks, as do presumably all the thousands of others who have joined in Occupy style events, for another revolution and to his own surprise, there was for a short while what seemed to be the beginning of one near Wall Street in New York in 2011.

But there is the problem of words. Revolution is a scary word. But we all in Europe, bar the elite or apathetic, probably would agree that some drastic change would be good. And there are few words so misunderstood as "democracy" and its apparent opposite "anarchy". Graeber makes a strong case, on historical analysis, for the proposition that the United States was never, and was never meant to be, a real democracy - its an oligarchy with an elite which distracts, not with bread and circuses, but meaningless electoral reshuffles and adverts for consumer goods. As for anarchy, which most people take to mean chaos, the breakdown of law and order, murder and mayhem galore. Graeber does a good job of dedramatising the word, or at least showing what it means to him - the absence of coercive violence as a means to impose some (mostly a minority) people's ideas on others (the vast majority often). But it involves a positive view of human nature, the idea that without prisons, judges, lawyers, armies of SWAT teams and police we might actually get along more or less the same as we do already (minus the car parking tickets in my case) or perhaps even better...

I loved the way Graeber describes how the police are stymied when the people in the streets they are trying to control don't have a leader or spokesperson.
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