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The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement Hardcover – April 9, 2013

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Frequently Bought Together

The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement + Debt: The First 5,000 Years + Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (Paradigm)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; First Edition edition (April 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780812993561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812993561
  • ASIN: 081299356X
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Praise for David Graeber’s Debt
“A sprawling, erudite, provocative work.”—Drake Bennett, Bloomberg Businessweek
“Written in a brash, engaging style, the book is also a philosophical inquiry into the nature of debt—where it came from and how it evolved.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Fresh . . . fascinating . . . thought-provoking [and] exceedingly timely.”—Financial Times
“The book is more readable and entertaining than I can indicate. . . . Graeber is a scholarly researcher, an activist and a public intellectual. His field is the whole history of social and economic transactions.”Peter Carey, The Observer
“One of the year’s most influential books. Graeber situates the emergence of credit within the rise of class society, the destruction of societies based on ‘webs of mutual commitment’ and the constantly implied threat of physical violence that lies behind all social relations based on money.”—Paul Mason, The Guardian
“Part anthropological history and part provocative political argument, it’s a useful corrective to what passes for contemporary conversation about debt and the economy.”—Jesse Singal, The Boston Globe
“Terrific . . . In the best anthropological tradition, he helps us reset our everyday ideas by exploring history and other civilizations, then boomeranging back to render our own world strange, and more open to change.”Raj Patel, The Globe and Mail

About the Author

David Graeber teaches anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of several books, including Debt: The First 5,000 Years. He has written for Harper’s, The Nation, and other magazines and journals.

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#45 in Books > History
#45 in Books > History

Customer Reviews

This book will open your eyes to so many things.
Justin Merritt
To say that his reasoning is faulty would imply that he actually presents well thought out arguments, but unfortunately this is not the case.
Iron man
Before reading this book, I had thought, "Why doesn't OWS have leadership?" and "Why doesn't OWS make demands?"
James R Newlin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By David Wineberg TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
David Graeber takes on an enormously difficult task - giving historical perspective to a movement - Occupy Wall Street - that only just happened, and whose effects have yet to run their course. It is difficult to distance yourself from the overall effect, particularly when, like Graeber - you are at the very center of it. He does an excellent job at a micro level, which will be enormously valuable for future anthropologists - like Graeber.

But he does not have the historical perspective quite right. He wisely asks a lot of questions - like why did this spread so far this time and not others? His answer is structural and tactical (micro), and doesn't ring true. I think the answer is that in every century, the pendulum swings too far (macro). There is an uprising of tormented souls, who, like college grads in the US today, are stopped in their tracks. Stopping the young and hopeful has always been the tinderbox of revolution. Abject misery remains abject misery, but the glass ceiling is the last straw. So in 1848, we saw popular movements that barricaded neighborhoods and attempted overthrow, all over the world. In the 1960s the slaughter of young American men in Viet Nam led to a peace movement that spread to Paris and the Prague Spring. In 2011 the self immolation of an unlicensed Tunisian fruit seller led to uprisings all over the Islamic Crescent. And the bottoming of the 2008 financial miasma has led Americans to catch that Arab Spring fever as well. I think power and oppression make this a cyclical phenomenon.

Graeber wrestles with the question of structure - how Occupy made no demands and had no leaders or externalities. He says that was actually Occupy's key asset, why it succeeded where other, previous attempts all failed.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Evan Neely on April 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The reasons I began reading this book aren't the same as my impressions of its significance now that I'm done. Besides generally finding Graeber's work interesting, one of the reasons I originally decided to look at it was that I teach a class on American social movements and wanted to have some texts on contemporary instances; Graeber is a notable source of information on the Occupy movement (although, oddly, despite his near omnipresence and my regular participation in the movement in its first year, I've never crossed paths with him; I'm not sure why, but he routinely works with friends of mine, and yet...). I heard him discussing it on the radio and it sounded interesting enough. But now that I'm done with it, it gives me a broader perspective on the movement since I effectively stopped organizing after May Day and simply became a fellow-traveler who attends large events and aids in disasters like Sandy but little else. I've witnessed from a distance the transformation of the Occupy movement into a general pro-democracy movement into its more refined "Strike Debt" iteration. I wasn't present when it was decided by many Occupiers to go in that direction, and while I understood the logic, I thought of it as a bit of a rebranding exercise. This book convinced me otherwise, and showed me that this was possibly the right move for the movement to make, especially given its constituency.Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By James R Newlin on July 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
David is one of the organizers of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and a professor of anthropology. His previous work on Debt seemed to be written by his professor side, and this book was written by his activist side.

Premise of the book: Our dominant institutions - corporations and the Democratic and Republican parties - have been unable to deal with our most pressing problems: climate change, loss of biodiversity, pollution, overpopulation/overconsumption, and inequality. Since the Club of Rome's popular report, Limits to Growth, in 1972, our problems have gotten much worse. We have to start working outside of the current political system (e.g. horizontal direct democracy) and questioning our assumptions about money, debt, the assumption that work is necessarily good, submitting oneself to the labor discipline, the amount of corporate, financial, and educational bureaucracy and our thoughts about communism, if we're to have a chance of mitigating damage to the biosphere.

The book starts with the anarchist origins of OWS, a fact I wasn't aware of. Before reading this book, I had thought, "Why doesn't OWS have leadership?" and "Why doesn't OWS make demands?" I had also thought anarchists were violent and angry people, a myth this book shattered, a myth likely coming from my believing corporate media or getting a poor education. This book explains the success of occupy was that it showed people what horizontal direct democracy could look like, and that people were attracted to OWS because it refused to participate in party politics, like electing people to office or trying to address problems through our current political system. Other movements tried to do this, but failed, most miserably, because they had proposed to work inside of the current political system.
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