How Democracy Made Its Way from the Halls of Ancient Athens to the Streets of Cairo

Monday, April 08, 2013

OWS, occupy wall street, s17 A protester confronts police in Lower Manhattan during an OWS demonstration. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

David Graeber is a man of many talents. A longtime activist, a professor of anthropology at the University of London, and a prolific author, David also helped found the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. He even coined the phrase "We are the 99%."

While Occupy encampments are no longer a staple of cities across the United States, Graeber credits the movement with jump-starting a broader shift toward radical democracy in America. In his new book, "The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement," Graeber explains that the true meaning of democracy is often contested, particularly by class. 

In early American history, Graeber writes, "When members of the educated classes spoke of 'democracy,' they were thinking of a system of government, which traced back specifically to the ancient world."

By contrast, for "ordinary Americans," Graeber continues, the idea of of democracy "was freedom, equality, the ability of a simple farmer or tradesman to address his 'betters' with dignity and self-respect."

Graeber believes in the "ordinary American" democracy, and he says he found it in the Occupy protests of 2011. 


David Graeber

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger

Comments [1]

Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Thank You for having David Graeber on. I enjoyed listening to him. I am here smirking because I can sense many Americans listening to him speak about Democracy and calling him a Communist.

Apr. 08 2013 12:17 PM

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