Astra Taylor’s book ‘Democracy May Not Exist But We’ll Miss it When it’s Gone’ (Verso, 2019) is, at its core, an exploration of how late stage capitalism and self-rule are fundamentally incompatible. Taking her cue from Athenian democracy, with its emphasis on social equality and economic egalitarianism (“rule of the people” observed Plato and Aristotle, means “rule of the poor”), Taylor argues that contemporary liberal “democracies” like the United States, defined by grotesque wealth inequality, gerrymandered elections and profoundly un-democratic structures within schools, workplaces and the wider economy, have radically abandoned the philosophy.
With a lens that is constantly expanding and contracting, Taylor offers both a sobering account of the past and a grim forecast for the future. Contrasting the democratic ideals of ancient Athens and the early United States with their legacies of slavery and colonialism, Taylor posits that democracy has not yet manifested in a form free from self-defeating inconsistencies or arbitrary exclusions. And yet in its current form, with its fetishization of market freedom at the expense of economic and political equality, Taylor suggests that the West is, in many ways, embracing an even more artificial and hollow iteration that its predecessors did – pointing to the “fossil fuel guzzling status quo” and the superior rights of transnational corporations over ordinary people as just two cases in point.
You can read the rest of this article at the New Economy Journal.