Activism

The New Democracy: Anarchist or Populist?

By Paul Raekstad

The meaning of political concepts is always tied to the practices that develop, sustain, and change them through time. Democracy is no different. One of the most interesting recent chapters in the history of democracy is the New Democracy Movement, which includes the wave of movements from the Arab Spring to the Movement of the Squares and Occupy, and is sometimes taken also to include later events like Nuit Debout. These movements used the language of democracy to critique our most basic institutions – both political and economic – and have changed the way many people think about politics, arguably leading to a spread of anarchist tactics of direct action and prefiguration along with the re-emergence of left populism in the growth of parties like Syriza and Podemos and candidates like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. This review article discusses three books about the New Democracy Movement, with particular focus on the debate about whether it is best seen as an effort in ‘translating anarchy’ or as the birthplace of a new left populism.

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