Democracy is the most universal political ideal of our day. George Bush invoked it to justify invading Iraq; Obama congratulated the rebels of Tahrir Square for bringing it to Egypt; Occupy Wall Street claimed to have distilled its pure form. From the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea to the autonomous region of Rojava, practically every government and popular movement calls itself democratic.
But what is democracy, precisely? Is there a common thread that links all these different variants? And can any of them deliver on their promises?
In this critical appraisal, we trace democracy from its classical origins to its current ascendancy around the globe. Reviewing how democratic discourse has served recent social movements in the United States, Spain, Greece, Bosnia, Slovenia, and elsewhere around the world, we conclude by asking what it would mean to seek freedom directly rather than through democratic rule.
This book grew out of years of international dialogue between participants in these social movements. Exploring how recent uprisings have been catalyzed and limited by democratic discourse, From Democracy to Freedom explores the difference between government and self-determination, proposing new ways to understand what we’re doing when we make decisions together.
For more critical material on democracy, you could consult our classic text, “The Party’s Over: Beyond Politics, Beyond Democracy,” our poster series on the subject (which became the chorus of a song), Uri Gordon’s guest column, or our “Vote Here” stickers, one of which is included free in every copy of From Democracy to Freedom.
Table of Contents
- From Democracy to Freedom
- What Is Democracy?
- Monopolizing Legitimacy
- Checks and Balances
- The Original Democracy
- Representative Democracy—A Market for Power
- Direct Democracy I: Let the Smartphones Decide?
- Direct Democracy II: Government without the State?
- Consensus and the Fantasy of Unanimous Rule
- The Excluded: Race, Gender, and Democracy
- Arguments Against Autonomy
- Democratic Obstacles to Liberation
- Towards Freedom: Points of Departure
- Refusing to Be Ruled
- Case Studies
- Spain: From 15M to Podemos (2011)
- Greece: From the occupation of Syntagma Square to Syriza (2011)
- The United States: Occupy (2011-2012)
- Slovenia: From Occupation to Uprising (2012-2013)
- Bosnia: From the Uprising to the Plenums (2014)
- The Democracy of the Reaction (1848-2017)
Conclusion: Secessio Plebis
- Appendix: The Art of Politics