Feature

Author of the week: David Graeber

The Occupy Wall Street activist's new book explains how the Occupy movement could be a model for a new America.

David Graeber isn’t done advocating for “the 99 percent,” said Adrian Chen in Gawker.com. The 52-year-old scholar and Occupy Wall Street activist who was labeled the leaderless movement’s “anti-leader” in 2011 has just published a book that explains how the Occupy movement could be a model for a new America. In The Democracy Project, Graeber points out that the Founding Fathers explicitly rejected the idea of government by pure democracy while Occupy activists did nothing before securing absolute consensus. Curiously, he also writes about the amorphous movement as if it were as alive as it was when sympathizers were camping out in cities around the world. “The people are still there, still doing stuff,” he says. “It’s just that nobody talks about it.”

Graeber doesn’t claim that Occupy offers the only model of true democracy, said J.P. O’Malley in Publishers Weekly. A trained anthropologist, he speaks of village councils he’s seen in Madagascar where people simply sit in a circle and work out policies by accord. That’s hardly the American way, he says: “When was the last time that any Americans actually sat down and came to a collective decision? Maybe if they are ordering pizzas, but basically never.” Fixing the process, Graeber argues, wouldn’t be about unseating elites. Prior to the 1600s, he says, “nobody wrote books asking, ‘What will create the most wealth?’ Instead, they asked, ‘What will create the best people, or the best friends?’ I believe as a society we have lost that.”

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