OSB: You seem to be a fan of democracy, as am I, however, I’m not sure I have ever experienced it. What do you think real democracy is?

Nathan Schneider
Nathan Schneider.
Photo: Elizabeth Leitzell,
CC BY-SA 4.0 license
NS: I guess I feel I have experienced democracy. Never perfect, never complete (as Derrida put it, always “democracy to come”), but real and beautiful.

I experienced it as a teenage student, when the teachers empowered us to help govern our school, and then in college living in a housing cooperative.
And I’ve seen it in social movements, in organizations I’ve been part of, and even fleetingly in the voting booth.

I agree that one cannot call the reigning political systems any kind of complete democracy, but they do have some democratic features, and they invite us to the challenge of thickening that democracy radically.

Especially in a moment like the present one in the US, when the government is not going to be an ally, it is so, so important to build democracy wherever we can. This is something social movements have been doing for a while now. Movements like Occupy and Black Lives Matter have found themselves in societies they view as undemocratic, and they responded by practicing direct democracy in the streets, and calling for cooperatives in the economy. I think this is a valuable lesson. When democracy fails at one level of society, start building it in other levels, in other spheres. It spreads like a virus.

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