From The Anarchist Library by David Graeber
Or, Democracy Emerges From the Spaces In Between
What follows emerges largely from my own experience of the alternative globalization movement, where issues of democracy have been very much at the center of debate. Anarchists in Europe or North America and indigenous organizations in the Global South have found themselves locked in remarkably similar arguments. Is “democracy” an inherently Western concept? Does it refer a form of governance (a mode of communal self-organization), or a form of govern ment (one particular way of organizing a state apparatus) ? Does democracy necessarily imply majority rule? Is representative democracy really democracy at all? Is the word permanently tainted by its origins in Athens, a militaristic, slave-owning society founded on the systematic repression of women? Or does what we now call “democracy” have any real historical connection to Athenian democracy in the first place? Is it possible for those trying to develop decentralized forms of consensus-based direct democracy to reclaim the word? If so, how will we ever convince the majority of people in the world that “democracy” has nothing to do with electing representatives? If not, if we instead accept the standard definition and start calling direct democracy something else, how can we say we’re against democracy—a word with such universally positive associations?