David Graeber talks about his new book, The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement, and shows how America was not founded as a democracy, but as an anti-democracy.
LP: You note that democracy was contested during America's founding. Who were the proponents of democracy and how did they manifest their views?
DG: Actually, there were almost none. In the writings of the patriots and leaders of the revolution, word "democracy" was used almost interchangeably with "anarchy" or even "mob rule." Everyone opposed it. By democracy, they meant, either rule through popular assemblies like in ancient Greece -- which they saw a little during the big mobilizations they called out during the revolution -- or by extension, any system where ordinary people held the power of governance themselves. So it wasn't really contested among the political classes. They were uniformly opposed to it. You just have to read the opening remarks of the constitutional convention of 1789: it begins, 'we have a problem. There's far too much democracy in this country. State constitutions cannot contain it. We need to set up something stronger.'
In the course of the interview he sums up the major economic problem today.
As for financialization, well, we tend to talk about that as if it's all very abstract. More and more profits are derived not from making or selling anything, but pure speculation, as if these Wall Street types have figured out a way to whisk wealth into being simply by saying that it's there. In fact what it really means is that financial interests collude with government — which they've basically completely bought out, at this point — to enforce policies that reduce more and more Americans into debt. The reason it's so anti-democratic is that it changes the role of government itself, which is increasingly becoming merely the legal cover and muscle behind debt and rent extraction, for a very small group of the super-wealthy who play by a completely different set of rules. This in turn changes ordinary Americans' basic perceptions of their relation to government and other key institutions of our society.Alternet
'A Kaleidoscopic Sense of Possibility': Interview with David Graeber on Democracy in America
Lynn Stuart Parramore