Democracy May Not Exist, but We'll Miss It When It's Gone

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What is democracy really? What do we mean when we use the term? And can it ever truly exist? Astra Taylor, hailed as a “New Civil Rights Leader” by the Los Angeles Times, provides surprising answers.

There is no shortage of democracy, at least in name, and yet it is in crisis everywhere we look. From a cabal of plutocrats in the White House to gerrymandering and dark-money compaign contributions, it is clear that the principle of government by and for the people is not living up to its promise.

The problems lie deeper than any one election cycle. As Astra Taylor demonstrates, real democracy—fully inclusive and completely egalitarian—has in fact never existed. In a tone that is both philosophical and anecdotal, weaving together history, theory, the stories of individuals, and interviews with such leading thinkers as Cornel West and Wendy Brown, Taylor invites us to reexamine the term. Is democracy a means or an end, a process or a set of desired outcomes? What if those outcomes, whatever they may be—peace, prosperity, equality, liberty, an engaged citizenry—can be achieved by non-democratic means? In what areas of life should democratic principles apply? If democracy means rule by the people, what does it mean to rule and who counts as the people?

Democracy's inherent paradoxes often go unnamed and unrecognized. Exploring such questions, Democracy May Not Exist offers a better understanding of what is possible, what we want, why democracy is so hard to realize, and why it is worth striving for.

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About the author

Astra Taylor is the author of The People's Platform (winner of the American Book Award) and made two documentary films, Zizek! and Examined Life. Taylor’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, n+1, and The Baffler, where she is a contributing editor. She lives in New York City.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Metropolitan Books
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Published on
May 7, 2019
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Pages
192
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ISBN
9781250179852
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Political
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Democracy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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From a cutting-edge cultural commentator, a bold and brilliant challenge to cherished notions of the Internet as the great leveler of our age

The Internet has been hailed as an unprecedented democratizing force, a place where everyone can be heard and all can participate equally. But how true is this claim? In a seminal dismantling of techno-utopian visions, The People's Platform argues that for all that we "tweet" and "like" and "share," the Internet in fact reflects and amplifies real-world inequities at least as much as it ameliorates them. Online, just as off-line, attention and influence largely accrue to those who already have plenty of both.
What we have seen so far, Astra Taylor says, has been not a revolution but a rearrangement. Although Silicon Valley tycoons have eclipsed Hollywood moguls, a handful of giants like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook remain the gatekeepers. And the worst habits of the old media model—the pressure to seek easy celebrity, to be quick and sensational above all—have proliferated on the web, where "aggregating" the work of others is the surest way to attract eyeballs and ad revenue. When culture is "free," creative work has diminishing value and advertising fuels the system. The new order looks suspiciously like the old one.
We can do better, Taylor insists. The online world does offer a unique opportunity, but a democratic culture that supports diverse voices and work of lasting value will not spring up from technology alone. If we want the Internet to truly be a people's platform, we will have to make it so.

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