The liberal representative model of democracy is in a crisis. In protest camps, neighbourhood assemblies and through other non-hierarchical initiatives, the Occupy movement as well as other recent anti-austerity movements are redefining democracy as a positive way to engage with this crisis. The more direct democratic models of organisation that they are employing are not aimed at making the politicians regain their lost public legitimacy. Instead, direct democracy is perceived by these movements as a radical alternative to the established forms of representation. Can direct democracy become an actual alternative to representative democracy?
This book takes an engaged and in-depth look at the Occupy movement in Ireland and the San Francisco Bay Area in the US in order to present the most up-to-date evidence of the changing nature of popular democratic demands. It takes an insider’s perspective to analyse the internal processes and iterations of the movement. Establishing links between social movements and transformations of democracy, as well as underscoring the significance of the recent movements for the future of democracy, this book is essential reading for students, scholars and activists interested in direct democracy, social movements, and radical politics more generally.
Table of Contents
1. Social Movements and the Crisis of Democracy
2. What is Impossible is Real: Derrida, Lacan and a quest for real democracy
3. Social Movements in Reality: Approaches to movement research
4. Learning Consensus Decision-Making in Occupy: Uncertainty, responsibility, commitment
5. Living Real Democracy in Occupy: From prefigurative politics to living temporalities
6. Real Politics in Occupy: Transcending the rules of the day
Conclusion: History, reality and future of direct democracy in Occupy
Anna Szolucha is Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow at the University of Bergen, Norway. She has many years of experience as a participant in social movements and a keen interest, both personally and professionally, in direct democracy. She has published in Globalizations; Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change and Interface.
Five years later and we are still digesting 2011 and the revolts that made that year so special. One result of the movements was that they brought into the universities a new generation of students angry, experienced in struggle and hungry to reflect on what had happened, on both the achievements and the weaknesses of the Occupy movement. Anna Szolucha’s book is an outstanding outcome of this process of reflection, at once rigorous and infused with the restless search for a better world. Very much to be recommended.
John Holloway, author of "Crack Capitalism" and "Change the World Without Taking Power"
Anna Szolucha’s book is a major contribution to the literature on direct democracy and social movements. It comes at the right moment, as the political issues raised by the Occupy movement – inequality, police repression, and the failure of representative democracy – continue to reverberate in unexpected ways. A gripping work of participatory action research, historiography and critical theory, Szolucha’s book is essential for activists and scholars interested in direct action, prefigurative politics, and the occupation of public space under conditions of militarized neoliberalism.
Eddie Yuen, co-editor of "Confronting Capitalism: Dispatches From A Global Movement"
Real Democracy in the Occupy Movement is a scintillating contribution to social movement theory which returns it to an engagement with the big intellectual and political questions. Grounded in the author’s militant ethnography and participatory action research, it exemplifies an approach to engaged research on movements which is simultaneously radical and doable. The book goes
beyond simple celebration of the movement to show that real democracy is not just another model to be fetishised, but a living practice with no fixed endpoint and no guarantees beyond the creative efforts of participants. This book is a substantial contribution to social movement theory and social movements alike. It is also a great read.
Laurence Cox, co-author of "We Make Our Own History…," editor of social movements journal Interface