x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Book review: Democracy Project shows protest still important, but what's next?

In his provocative new book, David Graeber examines the American political system from an activist's perspective.

The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement
David Graeber
Spiegel & Grau

In this provocative, mind-bending book about democracy, David Graeber takes us from the streets of New York and the Occupy Movement to the town hall meetings of centuries ago.

With the passion of an activist who likes to tilt at windmills of power, Graeber reminds us that the United States has never been democratic in the true sense of the word. Just ask Al Gore.

Graeber taps into the Arab Spring to show how the people's voices do matter, even in the most oppressive environments.

The Occupy movement evoked the same spirit. The 99 per cent decided that their voices mattered and would be heard.

"Protest, however militant, is an appeal to the authorities to behave differently," Graeber writes. "Direct action is, ultimately, the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free.

"The refusal to make demands was, quite self-consciously, a refusal to recognise the legitimacy of the existing political order of which such demands would have to be made."

Graeber is right in arguing that the Occupy movement brought together a wide variety of people, crossing class and race boundaries and giving voice to a new grassroots movement.

What's next? Graeber argues the idealist's line often repeated: To get the change we want, to become a more equal society, we have to be part of the change.

rpretorius@thenational.ae