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What is democracy
really? What do we mean when we use the term? And can it ever truly
exist? Astra Taylor, hailed as a “New Civil Rights Leader” (LA
Times), provides surprising answers.
There is no shortage
of democracy, at least in name, and yet it is in crisis everywhere we
look. From a cabal of thieving plutocrats in the White House to
rising inequality and xenophobia worldwide, it is clear that
democracy—specifically the principle of government by and for the
people—is not living up to its promise.
In Democracy May
Not Exist, but We'll Miss It When It's Gone, Astra Taylor shows
that real democracy—fully inclusive and completely egalitarian—has
in fact never existed. In a tone that is both philosophical and
anecdotal, weaving together history, theory, the stories of
individuals, and conversations with such leading thinkers as Cornel
West, Danielle Allen, and Wendy Brown, Taylor invites us to reexamine
the term. Is democracy a means or an end, a process or a set of
desired outcomes? What if the those outcomes, whatever they may
be—peace, prosperity, equality, liberty, an engaged citizenry—can
be achieved by non-democratic means? Or if an election leads to a
terrible outcome? If democracy means rule by the people, what does it
mean to rule and who counts as the people?
paradoxes are too often unnamed and unrecognized. By teasing them
out, Democracy May Not Exist, but We'll Miss It When It's Gone
offers a better understanding of what is possible, what we want, and
why democracy is so hard to realize.