Democracy Beyond the Nation State : Practicing Equality book cover
1st Edition

Democracy Beyond the Nation State
Practicing Equality

ISBN 9781138235847
Published June 8, 2017 by Routledge
292 Pages

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Book Description

Democracy promises rule by all, not by the few. Yet, electoral democracies limit decision-making to representatives and have always had a weakness for inequality. How might democracy serve all rather than the few?

Democracy Beyond the Nation State: Practicing Equality examines communities that govern their own lives without elites or centralized structures through assemblies and consensus. Rather than claiming equality by abstract rights or citizenship, these groups put equality into practice by reducing wealth and health divides, or landlessness or homelessness, and equalizing workloads. These practices are found in rural India and Brazil, in Buenos Aires, London, and New York, and among the Iroquois, the Zapatistas, and the global networks of La Via Campesina farmers and the World Social Forum.

Readable accounts of these horizontal democracies document multiple political frames that prevent democracy from being frozen into entrenched electoral systems producing modern inequalities. Using practice to rewrite political theory, Parker draws on collective politics in Spivak and Derrida and embodied relations from Povinelli and Foucault to show that equal relations are not a utopian dream, not nostalgia, and not impossible.

This book provides many practical solutions to inequality. It will be useful to students and scholars of political theory and social movements and to those who are willing to work together for equality.

Table of Contents



Part 1: Rethinking Democratic Practice

Introduction: Democracy and Equality

1. Democracy Otherwise: Rethinking Democratic Practice

Part 2: Specific Sites for Practicing Equality

2. Heritage Democracies: Indigenous Equality in Practice

3. Democracies from Below: Subaltern Equality in Practice

4. Popular Democracies: Popular Equality in Practice

5. Global Democracies: Global Equality in Practice

Part 3: Concrete Outcomes of Equality in Practice

6. Everyday Democracies: Daily Equality in Practice

Conclusion: Equality in Practice

Appendix 1: Countermeasures against Inequality

Appendix 2: Resources for Equality in Practice


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Joe Parker is Professor of International and Intercultural Studies at Pitzer College and blogs at

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Author - Joe  Parker

Joe Parker

Professor, International and Intercultural Studies, Pitzer College, The Claremont Colleges
Los Angeles, CA, USA

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'Democracy Beyond the Nation State is a collection of synoptic surveys of contemporary communities of participatory democracy in which the participants treat each other as equals from around the world and the author’s careful reflections on them. It makes a very important contribution to the growing field of local/global self-organising and self-governing associations of egalitarian democratic practice beyond the dominant representative model of democracy.' - James Tully, Contributor to On Global Citizenship (Bloomsbury 2014) & Freedom and Democracy in an Imperial Context (Routledge 2014)

'This important book shows how "practicing equality" is essential to any substantive account of democracy. Through a series of examples of global and local solidarity, participation, and assembly, Joe Parker demonstrates how equality can, and does, achieve concrete meaning in the practices of communities. Defying the debates that assume that principles and practices are distinct, Parker insists that equality is to be found in a number of practices that materialize and transform principles. Shifting our attention away from abstraction and toward popular and enacted forms of democracy, this crucial book considers how groups constitute and distribute power in an effort to produce democratic forms of life with equality at their center. With cogent analyses of groups such the Zapatista Movement, those engaged in indigenous activism, resistance movements in Burma and India, the International Women's Assembly, and Global Slum Dwellers, Parker gives us a vital history that furthers the ethical domain of democratic co-habitation that crosses the division between local and global. An inspired and inspiring read and an opening toward the future of democracy.' - Judith Butler, UC Berkeley, Author of Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly

'With the nation state, and hence democracy as we have known it, in deep and multiple crises, the renewal of democracy on the foundation of equality depends on being attentive to the emergence of democratic and egalitarian self-government independent of—and sometimes up against—the nation state. Joe Parker's attentive study of indigenous practices, popular democracies and a variety of forms of everyday democracy provides us with an invaluable resource for envisaging—and implementing—egalitarian strategies for democratic practice beyond the nation state. Essential reading for anyone working to create new politics from the left!' - Hilary Wainwright author of Reclaim the State, Experiments in Popular Democracy, co-editor of Red Pepper, Fellow Transnational Institute