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The Democracy Project

A History, a Crisis, a Movement

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eBook published by Spiegel & Grau (Random House Publishing Group)

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About This Book
A bold rethinking of the most powerful political idea in the world—democracy—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 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.
 
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.

Praise for David Graeber’s Debt
 
“A sprawling, erudite, provocative work.”—Drake Bennett, Bloomberg Businessweek
 
“Written in a brash, engaging style, the book is also a philosophical inquiry into the nature of debt—where it came from and how it evolved.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“Fresh . . . fascinating . . . thought-provoking [and] exceedingly timely.”—Financial Times
 
“The book is more readable and entertaining than I can indicate. . . . Graeber is a scholarly researcher, an activist and a public intellectual. His field is the whole history of social and economic transactions.”Peter Carey, The Observer
 
“One of the year’s most influential books. Graeber situates the emergence of credit within the rise of class society, the destruction of societies based on ‘webs of mutual commitment’ and the constantly implied threat of physical violence that lies behind all social relations based on money.”—Paul Mason, The Guardian
 
“Part anthropological history and part provocative political argument, it’s a useful corrective to what passes for contemporary conversation about debt and the economy.”—Jesse Singal, The Boston Globe
 
“Terrific . . . In the best anthropological tradition, he helps us reset our everyday ideas by exploring history and other civilizations, then boomeranging back to render our own world strange, and more open to change.”Raj Patel, The Globe and Mail
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A bold rethinking of the most powerful political idea in the world—democracy—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 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.
 
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.

Praise for David Graeber’s Debt
 
“A sprawling, erudite, provocative work.”—Drake Bennett, Bloomberg Businessweek
 
“Written in a brash, engaging style, the book is also a philosophical inquiry into the nature of debt—where it came from and how it evolved.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“Fresh . . . fascinating . . . thought-provoking [and] exceedingly timely.”—Financial Times
 
“The book is more readable and entertaining than I can indicate. . . . Graeber is a scholarly researcher, an activist and a public intellectual. His field is the whole history of social and economic transactions.”Peter Carey, The Observer
 
“One of the year’s most influential books. Graeber situates the emergence of credit within the rise of class society, the destruction of societies based on ‘webs of mutual commitment’ and the constantly implied threat of physical violence that lies behind all social relations based on money.”—Paul Mason, The Guardian
 
“Part anthropological history and part provocative political argument, it’s a useful corrective to what passes for contemporary conversation about debt and the economy.”—Jesse Singal, The Boston Globe
 
“Terrific . . . In the best anthropological tradition, he helps us reset our everyday ideas by exploring history and other civilizations, then boomeranging back to render our own world strange, and more open to change.”Raj Patel, The Globe and Mail
Product Details
eBook (352 pages)
Published: April 9, 2013
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Imprint: Spiegel & Grau
ISBN: 9780679646006
Other books byDavid Graeber
  • Debt

    Debt
    The First 5,000 Years
    Now in paperback: David Graeber’s “fresh . . . fascinating . . . thought-provoking . . . and exceedingly timely” (Financial Times) history of debt   Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom: he shows that before there was money, there was debt. For more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors. Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it.

    Lost People

    Lost People
    Magic and the Legacy of Slavery in Madagascar
    Betafo, a rural community in central Madagascar, is divided between the descendants of nobles and descendants of slaves. Anthropologist David Graeber arrived for fieldwork at the height of tensions attributed to a disastrous communal ordeal two years earlier. As Graeber uncovers the layers of historical, social, and cultural knowledge required to understand this event, he elaborates a new view of power, inequality, and the political role of narrative. Combining theoretical subtlety, a compelling narrative line, and vividly drawn characters, Lost People is a singular contribution to the anthropology of politics and the literature on ethnographic writing.

    Toward An Anthropological Theory of Value

    Toward An Anthropological Theory of Value
    The False Coin of Our Own Dreams
    This innovative book is the first comprehensive synthesis of economic, political, and cultural theories of value. David Graeber reexamines a century of anthropological thought about value and exchange, in large measure to find a way out of quandaries in current social theory, which have become critical at the present moment of ideological collapse in the face of Neoliberalism. Rooted in an engaged, dynamic realism, Graeber argues that projects of cultural comparison are in a sense necessarily revolutionary projects: He attempts to synthesize the best insights of Karl Marx and Marcel Mauss, arguing that these figures represent two extreme, but ultimately complementary, possibilities in the shape such a project might take. Graeber breathes new life into the classic anthropological texts on exchange, value, and economy. He rethinks the cases of Iroquois wampum, Pacific kula exchanges, and the Kwakiutl potlatch within the flow of world historical processes, and recasts value as a model of human meaning-making, which far exceeds rationalist/reductive economist paradigms.

    Direct Action

    Direct Action
    An Ethnography
    Anthropologist David Graeber undertakes the first detailed ethnographic study of the global justice movement. The case study at the center of Direct Action is the organizing and events that led to the one of the most dramatic and militant mass protests in recent years—against the Summit of the Americas in Québec City. Written in a clear, accessible style (with a minimum of academic jargon), this study brings readers behind the scenes of a movement that has changed the terms of debate about world power relations. From informal conversations in coffee shops to large “spokescouncil” planning meetings and tear gas-drenched street actions, Graeber paints a vivid and fascinating picture. Along the way, he addresses matters of deep interest to anthropologists: meeting structure and process, language, symbolism and representation, the specific rituals of activist culture, and much more. Starting from the assumption that, when dealing with possibilities of global transformation and emerging political forms, a disinterested, “objective” perspective is impossible, Graeber writes as both scholar and activist. At the same time, his experiment in the application of ethnographic methods to important ongoing political events is a serious and unique contribution to the field of anthropology, as well as an inquiry into anthropology’s political implications. David Graeber is an anthropologist and activist who teaches at the University of London. Active in numerous direct-action political organizations, he has written for Harper’s Magazine and is the author of Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value, and Possibilities.

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