A Dialectical Take on Graeber’s The Democracy Project

By Keith Haysom

David Graeber’s The Democracy Project is an engaging attempt at the first draft of historical memory for the only recently passed Occupy movement. While only its first chapter counts as a first-person account of occupation of Zuccotti Park, the entire work is a testament to Graeber’s personal commitment, not only to Occupy Wall Street (OWS), but to the political theory he claims was (is?) its animating spark: anarchism. Although the term is soft-pedalled in the introduction to the book, (which proclaims that it is “not just a book about Occupy, but about the possibility of democracy in America”) it becomes clear very quickly that it is Graeber’s intent not only to speak to OWS and (American) democracy fromthe anarchist point of view, but to decisively claim both for anarchism.

This paper’s focus will be on this latter impulse of Graeber’s, and particularly how it surreptitiously positions Graeber’s 21stCentury anarchism as the decisivesuccessor to any earlier Marxist or Marxian-derived radical/revolutionary anti-capitalist struggle. I want to contest the argument (explicit and implicit) that the intrinsically inspiring nature of the “horizontalist” mode of organizing employed by Occupy, as well as a number of other recent social movements, is sufficient warrant to present anarchism as the “last radical theory left standing”, and particularly that it has rendered Marx, Marxism and/or the Marxist tradition irrelevant or outdated.


Categories: Anarchism/Anti-State

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