democracy not but miss

democracy not.png

(2019) by Astra Taylor

via denver public library:

astra's book.png

I suppose a library barcode is the best kind of barcode for democracy to be.

Original Tweet:



intro – living in the tension


democracy is the promise of the people ruling, but a promise that can never be wholly fulfilled because its implications and scope keep changing


decision making is unmooring us law

political gridlock, corruption, unaccountable reps, and lack of meaningful alts incense people across the ideological spectrum; their anger simmers at dehumanizing bureaucracy, blatant hypocrisy, and lack of voice..


apathy, or even antipathy, toward self govt and the difficult daily work it requires is one of the stones that help pave the way to a more authoritarian society. that apathy is helped by the fact that the american system was never designed to be democratic to begin with.

as w many other liberalizing nations of the late 18th cent.. the republic did not consider the majority of its residents to be members of the polity ..enslaved and indigenous people, all women, poor white men, certain immigrants, and some religious groups were denied rights.. including the most basic right of citizenship, the right to cast a ballot

voting and rights both go against essence of humanity.. the denial is in assuming voting/rights et al are legit/essential/vital


the ineqs that plague us today are not an aberration nor the result of whichever party happens to be in power, but a plausible result of the political systems’ very design, which in crucial ways was devised by a restricted and privileged class of men

under a legal order where money qualifies as speech in the context of campaign spending and lobbying, the richest are able to purchase influence while everyone else struggles to be heard;..t

begs a mech that listens to every voice.. every day.. ie: tech as it could be.. with 2 convers as infra

because: curiosity and decision making

while earlier generations focused on expanding suffrage (right to vote) today we face an arguable more formidable task: saving democracy from capitalism

rather.. saving ourselves from any supposed to’s..

rather.. saving ourselves for eudaimoniative surplus

extending democracy from the political to the econ sphere is the great challenge of our age, and also the only way to protect political equality form the concentrated financial power that is proving to be its undoing

today.. we can go way deeper than ie: political equality.. rather to equity: everyone getting a go everyday.. just like democracy.. people beg a reset.. at least everyday

focusing on money is a distraction.. we need to get people to not even think about money ie: short bp


should we ever achieve a fully economically and socially egalitarian society, we’ll still have to strive to balance spontaneity and structure, for ie, or grapple w how best to weigh our present day desires against future needs

if we get back/to an undisturbed ecosystem.. we can let go of the grappling and weighing and striving to balance..

spontaneity and structure are already in us.. if we could just trust that


west: best ideas about justice often come form the very folk you thought you had no grounds for trusting in their ability to think and reflect..

unconditional ness


i don’t believe democracy exists; indeed, it never has. instead, the ideal of self rule is exactly that, and ideal, a principle that always occupies a distant and retreating horizon, something we must continue to reach toward yet fail to grasp.. the promise of democracy is not the one made and betrayed by the powerful; it is a promise that can be kept only by regular people thru vigilance, invention and struggle..

rather.. thru trusting our curiosities

thru theory and practice, organization and open rebellion, protecting past gains and demanding new entitlements, the inspiring potential of self rule manifests, but it remains fragmentary and fragile, forever partial and imperiled..

to me.. that’s not the potential of self rule.. ie: protecting/demanding entitlements et al..

if we let go.. and instead start inside 7b people everyday.. trusting that/us.. then we can become/remain antifragile.. and so.. because of the very fragmentary partial ness of us..

in the end, living in the tension embracing the incongruities and possibilities of democracy w/o giving up, is the message of this book

1 – free to be winners/losers (freedom/equality)


william f buckley: 1968 – ‘unless you have freedom to be unequal, there is no such thing as freedom’


while making my doc i asked dozens of people what democracy mean to them. ‘freedom’ was the standard and often instantaneous reply, as though that clarified matters and the concept’s meaning was self evident.

the people i met usually defined freedom as the chance to exercise choice and get ahead. for some – typically people from marginalized backgrounds – freedom was defined as the absence of fear..

no one, not a single soul in the us or elsewhere, told me that democracy meant ‘equality’


if i had prodded, perhaps the people i spoke to would have professed a commitment to the principle that human beings are intrinsically equal. maybe they simply took this equality as a given – an innate quality every individual automatically possesses simply by virtue of being born human.. and yet i don’t believe that equality went unmentioned merely because it was taken for granted..

freedom and equality have never been self evident, impartial terms, but are constantly evolving.. democracy has to cope w incredible human variation, a process that can require treating people unequally in order to ensure the possibility of something approaching just outcomes..

yes.. and thru detox even more so.. but.. we can get to equity (everyone getting a go everyday) if we focus on one same infra.. ie: 2 convers as infra.. but this begs .. no additions.. subtractions.. has to be for everyone in sync

freedom is not a state of independence but a state of interdependence..

declaration of interdependence.. ness


‘all men are created equal’ the american declaration of independence famously declares.. but the upper class owners of human chattel who penned and signed that doc counted each enslaved african as 3/5 a person, denied men w/o property and women the right to vote, and committed genocide against native people while illegally speculating on stolen land

for early american settlers, democratic ideas ‘gained strength and meaning thru frameworks of exclusion’ – aziz rana


(on abid against unfettered freedom): freedom for some can mean domination for others, since all are not equal. freedom/equality of what?.. and.. for whom?..

i’d say that’s because we have not yet experienced truly unfettered freedom.. it has to be all of us in sync.. and unconditional.. or it won’t ever work

today .. we have the make that possible.. ie: to facil that chaos


wendy brown (political theorist): ‘today there is no meaning of equality and freedom other than the meaning that you see in the market.. but the market itself is a domain of’s a domain of winners/losers. and winners/losers are therefore the natural outcome of a fully marketized democracy


for these reactionaries (to new deal) the threat of equality loomed large: workers w access to sufficient econ recourses are free to disobey their employer (just as a woman w sufficient means can leave an abusive spouse)

business week lauded the bill as a’new deal for america’s employers’: it outlawed sympathy strikes and secondary boycotts and ushered in the era of ‘right to work’.. the catchphrase for a policy designed to take rights away from working people and allow owners to extract more profit


when freedom is nothing but the liberty to pursue your own interest and enhance your own value, equality becomes the right to throw your hat into the ring and to emerge victorious or fail trying

friedrich hayek in the constitution of liberty 1960: freedom is ‘bound to produce ineq in many respects’ .. so any effort to mitigate ineq’s effects had to be abandoned lest overall liberty decreased (such efforts, hayek insisted, while carried out under the banner of social justice, were in fact motivated by nothin other than envy)

again.. not if it is truly unfettered.. which we haven’t yet tried


the development of industrial capitalism and the rise of waged factory work empowered and emerging class of econ elites to begin to alter the meaning of ‘free labor’.. even if toiled day/night in a mill/mine, earning only a pittance and packed int an urban slum

courageous figures such as ida b wells decried the stifled promise of emancipation and the lie of free labor..


real communism, then, would not be a crude leveling, but rather full equality, a way to liberate every individual to experiment and develop their true capacities..  as engels (1820-1895) wrote, ‘the possibility of securing for every member of society, by means of socialized production, an existence not only fully sufficient materially, and becoming day by day more full, but an existence guarantee in to all the free development and exercise of their physical and mental faculties.. this possibility is now for the first time here’

and even more so now.. equity (everyone getting a go everyday) via ie: tech (as it could be..).. that listens to and facils every voice/curiosity.. everyday

security, understood as equal access to the means to meet one’s needs, would be a basis for social freedom, not something we have to sacrifice liberties in order to achieve..

security.. maté basic needs

when would equality go too far and when would freedom need to be constrained?

never.. if we let go enough to truly augment our interconnectedness so that our undisturbed ecosystem kicks back in

how will we org ed and training, for ie, to create a common culture and knowledge base while also balancing people’s differing abilities and interests w society’s need for certain forms of expertise..t

all a matter if we trust curiosity.. no? (ie: taylor compulsory law et al)..  if so.. no training will be needed.. and i think we’ll find that those ‘certain forms of expertise’ we think society needs will either emerge.. or we’ll find out we didn’t really need them

even if opps for meaningful labor and leisure massively expand, there will still be plenty of work that must get done. goods will need to be manufactured and trash taken out and somehow safely dispose of – which brings us to the challenge no just of necessary or unglamorous tasks but of ecological limits.. perhaps the most significant restraint on our utopia of egalitarian liberation..  should capitalism as we know it cease to be, the conflict between freedom and equality will linger on

not if we let go enough.. if we do.. (let go enough).. i think we’ll find (as above) that those manufactured goods that no one is obsessed w/creating (because it’s their art – the thing they can’t not do).. weren’t/aren’t a necessity in the first place.. we just thought they were in our intoxicated state… and that ‘trash’ is really a different animal/concept.. when 7b people are truly free.. ie: we’d have more creative means to upcycle/recycle/peepoople et al..  we’d be creating little to no waste in the first place.. (if we trusted everyone‘s art/curiosity.. everyday)

it’s about equity (everyone getting a go everyday).. that would be our freedom.. equality is just about the opp.. equal opp.. to make everyday what each wants


throughout history, freedom has often been symbolized as a women..  though.. the vivid propagandistic portrayals and idealization stand in stark contrast to .. their subordinate social position thru the ages.. the american indian was, and still is, used a s symbol of liberty (while also being reduced to generic stereotypes)

indigenous peoples

peter martyr d’anghiera late 15th cent sent reports of a place where individuals lived as the ‘most happye of all men’ free from tyranny and toil, masters and greed, laws and judges.. ‘the seedes of all myscheefe have no place’ all thing being held in common.

another observer in 1615: ‘they hold that the earth belongs to no individual any more than the light of the sun

h&n property law et al


(on their kindness, warmth, humanity) .. the absence of social hierarchy was frequently commented on: ‘they have neither kings nor princes, and consequently each is more or less as much a great lord as the other’..  soon called ‘myth of the noble savage’

human history et al

threat to royalist status quo, which is why leaving the colonies to live among indian tribes was a crime punishable by death

influence by contact w indigenous people.. a radical concept of liberty began to circulate: liberty as equality and masterlessness’.. here for the first time, settlers saw freedom and equality, democracy, in action


inspiration for philosophers including john locke and rousseau.. and their writing s on the social contract. but were locke placed property rights above all and argued that indigenous people deserved to be deprived of their homeland because they did not max returns and ‘improve’ the soil the way british agri would.. there’s a reason the american founding fathers loved him – rousseau’s impression led to very diff conclusions.. rousseau insisted man was born free and equal in the state of nature.. it was the intro of private property that corrupted everything..t

h&n property law et al

rousseau: ‘the first man who, having enclosed apiece of ground, bethought himself of saying ‘this is min’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. from how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes or filling up the ditch and crying to his fellows, ‘beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody”

same quote.. slightly diff..from hardt and negri ‘s assembly..  p 29

the first man, who, having enclosed a piece of ground, to who it occurred to say this is mine, and found people sufficiently simple to believe him, was the true founder of civil society…how many crimes, wars, murders, how many miseries and horrors mankind would have been spared by whim who, pulling up the stakes or filling in the ditch, had cried to his kind: beware of listening to this imposter; you are lost if you forget that the fruits are everyone’s and the earth no one’s‘.

for rousseau, this lost eden posed a challenge to the present while undermining the newly emergent myth of progress. european civilization was not some higher state or advancement over prior ‘primitive’ cultures. forward momentum could go in reverse, w positive attributes forgotten or suppressed in the frantic quest of improvement. modern civilization, not original sin, was the source of man’s defilement..

civilization ness


in the right kind of world, rousseau believed, everyone would participate in the general will together, willing for themselves as a people in common, which would result in perfect equality expressed thru the perfect freedom of self govt..

undisturbed ecosystem et al

the people, not the king, were sovereign, and their liberty manifested thru reciprocity, not coercion..t

perhaps one reason we haven’t yet gotten to global equity.. reciprocity is also a form of defilement/coercion/et-al..


every step of the way, the disparaged and dispossessed have placed those contentiously aligned terms, freedom and equality, at the center of the unfinished and unpredictable path toward that alluring but elusive horizon of self rule. it has fallen to them to broaden our democratic vista, in part because the marginalized are positioned to see truths the powerful cannot, or choose not to, perceive.

2 – shouting as one (conflict/consensus)


(on 2011 occupy) a basic truth: the rule of the people is incompatible w the rule of the rich

‘we are the 99%’ and the corresponding naming of the now infamous 1% got american stalking about class in away that hadn’t happened in my lifetime.. our society/econ, occupiers said, were being run for the few, not the many

99 and 1

while the rebels of egypt’s tahrir square or turkey’s takism gezi park may have been calling for basic human rights and fair elections, a core constituency of anarchists at occupy wall st understood real democracy to mean running everything by consensus..

public consensus always oppresses someone(s)

people would make decisions for themselves, w/o delegating tasks to reps, and everyone was to be included in the decision making, no matter how painstaking

but unless we start w individual curiosity .. first thing.. everyday.. decision making is delegating tasks (ie: what decisions to make) to reps

it’s not about being included in decision making.. it’s about curiosities being heard/facilitated.. everyday


a primer shared on occupy’s nyc general assembly website explained, ‘consensus is a creative thinking process: when we vote, we decide between two alts. w consensus, we take an issue, hear the range of enthusiasm, ideas and concerns about it, and synthesize a proposal that best serves everybody’s vision’

we can do so much better than that today..  we can go straight to everyone’s (daily) vision.. and facil that – via curiosity rather than issues

some evenings, standing in the dark w hundreds of others, repeating what a stranger had said so others at a distance could hear it, i felt as if i were a part of some great living, breathing poetry.. but even as i was almost moved to tears an appreciated being part of such a unique social experiment, i never believed i had joined  credible ie of a better form of govt..  i had read enough about the history of protest movements to know that the assembly would break down


eventually it did.. the consensus0seeking participatory ideal was untenable .. ie: early heated discussions over the drum circle in the far corner of the square foreshadowed troubles to come..

see.. energy spent on decisions we don’t even need to be making.. we wouldn’t be addressing.. if 100% of us were free..

the flaws were intrinsic to the decision making structure that had been adopted

the flaw is thinking we have to have a decision making structure (unless you want to call daily curiosity decision making.. in that case.. yeah.. so let’s use this structure: 2 convers as infra)

the long evening meetings favored those who had free time.. making equal participation a challenge for people w demanding works schedules or families to care for

the long meetings.. are irrelevant to everyday life anyway – better to go w 3 and 30.. as the day

because there were no membership requirements, people exercise rights w/o corresponding responsibilities..  w random visitors to the park raising their hands to support plans they had no intention of helping to carry thru

membership.. rights.. responsibilities..plans.. all irrelevant/cancerous.. to what the world needs most: the energy of 7bn alive people


(on fight breaking out).. the census based system promoted as  cure for the ills of mainstream democracy, had turned out to be unbearable, arguably more unstable and a good measure more ridiculous than the original disease

understandable disgust w an unjust system led to an overreaction.. they embraced a form of radical equality that was unsustainable in practice..


given our propensity to bicker, it seems reasonable to accept that our best bet for achieving a functional society is to devise a system that accounts for the constant conflicts of interest and tries to create space for constructive competition, allowing groups to have a fair chance of exerting influence of wining the day

imagining our propensity isn’t to bickering.. imagining we just believe that because we keep looking at and analyzing ie: whales in sea world; if instead we were all truly free.. there’d be no need for competition/influence/conflict..


consensus via graeber ‘everyone should have equal say (call this equality) and nobody should be compelled to do anything they really don’t want to do (call this freedom)’..   it’s this veto power that in theory, compels the group to find a solution that everyone finds acceptable..

only solution acceptable to everyone.. is for their voice/curiosity to be heard everyday.. is that they can spend their day.. doing/being the thing they can’t not do/be (ie: too busy for anything else/bad)

3 – reinventing the people (inclusion/exclusion)


at the heart of democracy is an abstraction ‘the people’.. an entity that is empowered to rule but does not tangibly exist..

the us constitution reflects this fundamental incoherence when it id’s 3 distinct populations inhabiting the same continent: ‘people’ or those entitled to rights/freedom; ‘other persons’ or the enslaved; and indians, who possess tribal sovereignty and are excluded from the body politic.. despite or because of this fundamental conceptual ambiguity, every democratic community, no matter how large/small has to struggle to define itself and its limits.. self govt is a perpetual negotiation over who is included/excluded, who is us/them.

wendy brown: ‘to have democracy there has to be a we. you have to know who we the people are.. it can’t just be a kind of vague universal thing’..  the ugly, bigoted history of exclusion makes it tempting to reject all exclusionary boundaries as inhumane//unjust.. at same time, such sweeping universalism risks making democracy either incoherent, since nearly 8 b people cannot practically make decisions together, or imperialism for it implies a single system governing everyone, everywhere

wow.. perhaps that’s why democracy ness has never resonated .. a basic premise is that there is a border.. between ‘we the people’ and ‘they.. not us’..? members/citizens and non-members.. non-citizens

democracy: a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.

it has to be all of us..

8b can make decisions that matter (we just keep pretending/believing the decisions we come up with are the ones that matter) .. if the governing system is everywhere is based on an infra that truly sets all of us free.. everyday (perhaps there are no decisions that 8b people need to make together.. except that this is how our days should/could be)


arendt: ‘nothing sacred in abstract nakedness of being human’ being excluded from the category of citizen leaves individual profoundly exposed, despite their inclusion in the universal category of human being.

what this proves, arendt contends, is that rights are not inborn and ‘inalienable’.. instead they are agreed upon ‘socially construct’ as academic like to say.. we possess rights only when we are counted as members of a particular political entity that recognizes and ensure them.. paradoxically, citizenship – legal inclusion in a demos – is required if our human rights are to have any chance of being respected..

insane paragraph

rights are not inborn .. because they are.. as ridiculous/cancerous as money.. and property

nationality: human



but if an egalitarian situation is our aim, we will need to allow for one exclusion: there can be no space for those who divide so that they can dominate or exclude in order to exploit

can’t have that dangling ness..  who’s going to decide this..?

it has to be all of us.. unconditionally..

we have to realize/believe that all people want something different..

gershenfeld something else law would allow for it to be all of us.. no exclusions necessary.. because we need everyone for the dance (undisturbed ecosystem) to dance (everyone in sync)

4 – choose this or else (coercion/choice)


when is coercion legit? although the question is rarely framed so bluntly, it is one of the fundamental conundrums of democracy

wow.. another reason democracy ness has never resonated.. i’d say it’s never legit.. esp if you’re touting freedom

coercion et al

a democratic society demands that people engage in two simultaneous frameworks: deciding what can/should be done and .. what cannot/should not be done

ie: supposed to’s.. of school/work

cancerous to the energy we need most

democracy involves expanding possibilities and establishing limits; it comprises what we want to do and what we have to do. it is autonomous choice and constraining coercion.. a proper balance is often elusive.. even if we’d rather min coercion and max consent

imaging we’d rather disband with both

coercion, while often lamentable, is a democratic necessity

yeah.. don’t think it’s a humane necessity.. rather a poison

and choice while it sounds desirable, is not necessarily an unalloyed democratic good..  history after all, offers plenty of instances when people made choices w disastrous consequences for themselves and others..

because we’ve never really been free enough.. all of us at once.. to experience life in curiosity/undisturbed-ecosystem (call that choice if you want.. but it’s a completely diff choice ness than we’re used to.. focus isn’t on choosing things.. it’s on listening to heart.. to know what things matter.. and then having the bravery everyday.. to change your mind)..

undisturbed ecosystem: ‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows

and there is no guarantee that a decision taken thru a democratic process won’t have antidemocratic effects.. putting part or all of the population at risk.. given this possibility, liberal societies cordon off certain precepts, protecting them from wayward citizens who would betray them

so us and them inside a system built on us and them ing..  aka: structural violence


we all possess rights of which we don’t have the right to divest ourselves.. (we say they are inalienable, even natural, which obviously isn’t the case or we wouldn’t have to vigilantly protect them)

while democracy is often defined as a system that relies on the consent of the governed, reality is hardly so simple. this common catchphrase belies the fact that we all know a whole lot happens that we citizens don’t even see, let alone consent to .. most of what govt does is a mystery to the avg person and no one, not even the most astute legal experts, comprehends all the innumerable and intricate laws that bind us

too much ness


human beings tend to accept that *some behavior must be forbidden if we are all to get along, which is why we outlaw violent crimes such as armed robbery and murder and pass ordinances dictating everyone drive on same side of road, and that people not dispose of trash in nearest gutter.. few of us feel coerced by such prohibitions..

i think *that is one of our problems.. accepting that.. rather than accepting all people unconditionally.. which sounds absurd.. only because we’ve been analyzing how humans are from looking at ie: whales in sea world

ie: robbery..not if no possessions; murder.. not if maté needs metjihad/white-right findings et al.. rather your own song ness; traffic.. naked streets.. less cars.. et al; trash.. would have a completely diff mindset/upcycle system if everyone weren’t so intoxicated w consumption and exhausted from trying to support that consumption.. et al

in an ideal world, even the most die hard rebels would always decide to do what is right for the group. but we don’t live in such a world, so coercion is used when people don’t choose properly..t

we in such a world.. which is not a ridiculous idea.. what is ridiculous is that we think ‘coercion when people don’t choose properly’ .. is working.. or ever would work..

we generally accept that some indivduals, sometimes even we ourselves, must be coerced into being good citizens

1\ if coercion is involved.. it’s not being good.. it’s being obedient.. 2\ good ‘citizens’ ness.. is what begs for coercion to work (and it doesn’t)


the word properly and good are, however, red flags, who decides what qualifies as the correct, better choice.. how do we determine *how much coercion to mete out.. the problem is not just proportionality and ensuring that the punishment fit the crime.. but who makes the rules

*none if we want alive human beings.. and an undisturbed ecosystem

hard to believe and trust.. but that’s not because it’s not possible.. it’s because we’ve not yet tried it.. so we just keep judging our capabilities/possibilities by look at whales in sea world

a tweak to taylor compulsory law: this is really what the whole debate over compulsory schooling coercive democracy is about .. do we trust people’s capacity to be curious or not

this battle can be hard to discern, because even in a democracy, the powerful few look for ways to coerce the many while insisting that those they subjugate either deserve or have chosen their fate. they distract us from more compelling and challenging convos about *when coercion is legit, **how choice can be enhanced, and ***how creating a free society of equals inevitably involves restraining ourselves..t


**cure ios city .. with..2 convers as infra

***i don’t think so – not yet tried.. don’t know


on stanford encyclopedia of philosophy’s entry on ‘coercion’.. group of people in addition to hardened criminals appears to need to be coerced unequivocally: children

i had an unusual childhood.. my parents.. mother in particular were outspoken proponents of what they called ‘noncoercive parenting’..  so it was my decision whether to go to school.. stay at home.. nap, play, read..


the frame of noncoercion, though, sets up something of a false opposition. over time, wild folk’s founder, polina malikin, came to that conclusion too. ‘.. assume there’s some sort of blissful presocial state..’ *which ultimately doesn’t exist.. ‘while i think it’s important for kids to have a say and make decisions together and run a school together, **there is some wisdom that elders have that is important and needs to be passed on

**true.. which would happen *naturally and blissfully.. in the city.. as the day.. if everyone were truly free..

she’s basing her conclusion on a school setting.. a nice albeit.. but still not a free undisturbed ecosystem..  where daily curiosity is faciling everything

‘noncoercive’ implies a kind of limitlessness.. but there are real limits.. the environ is coercive.. ‘ eco responsibility.. imposes its own inhere restrictions

ok.. but that is more a listening than a coercion.. if we were truly free.. and back to our indigenous selves.. we would be in tune with the environ.. a dance.. call that coercion if you like.. but it’s not the environ telling us what we have to do.. it’s us listening.. and doing/being.. because of euduaimonia/love


hannah arendt: truth she insisted is fundamentally coercive

perhaps.. but what is truth.. there’s more we don’t know.. and likely much of what we know we’ll find not so absolutely true..


in daily life, plenty of encounters and exchanges are presented as a free choice when the outcome is preordained, or when we are pushed/nudged down a certain path.. what’s called choice architecture shapes every move we make.. ie: appealing walkways; bureaucracy; computer code..

the distinction between *incentive, persuasion, influence, manipulation and coercion constantly blur.. regardless of where those lines get drawn, the fact is our choices rarely qualify as ‘free’

all of those are unnecessary/cancerous.. your folks were right.. they just weren’t able to experiment w non coercion in a big enough ecosystem.. ie: it takes all of us for it to work..


despite being based in speculative fiction more than anthropological fact, social contract theory serves as a conceptual cornerstone of liberalism as well as contemp econ and legal discourse. this much is true: one foundational rationale for our modern democratic system is essentially a glorified intellectual fairly tale

contracts et al

thomas hobbes.. what motivated humans to come together to form a community in the first place.. his answer was a desire for security.. to protect personal safety.. he maintained that there was no possibility of a community, no justice and no propriety, if a sovereign of some kind didn’t have the authority to oblige his subjects to behave themselves, providing a ‘coercive power to tie their hands from rapine and revenge’.. ‘where there is no coercive power erected, that is where there is no commonwealth, there is no propriety.. all men having a right to all things’

what naturally motivates people to come together is maté basic needs..  no coercion/propriety/rights needed there

propriety: the state or quality of conforming to conventionally accepted standards of behavior or morals.


coercion from on high, hobbes maintains, is simply the price to pay for living in civil society, utter submission and subjugation the only way to impose order and ensure survival

oi.. civilization and entropy .. et al

fundamentally, social contract theory is about trying to understand the legitimacy of political authority – a worthy inquiry if there ever was one..  on what grounds should we obey the king or the govt

hobbesian cynicism about human nature: we consent to forms of authority, cooperating and acting morally , due to a rational assessment of how we might max benefit, not out of concern for others or for larger ideals..  a strikingly limited way to comprehend the origins and purpose of govt and the motives of human beings

human nature.. human history .. et al


in locke’s view, not only were indigenous people outside the social contract, but their way of life, based in communal ownership, prevented execution of the contract.. communal ownership had to be eliminated and private property imposed so that the american ‘pursuit of happiness’ a phrase coined by locke, could commence

hardt/negri property law


what’s the diff between an armed robber and a private health ins co if both present the following option: your money or your life.. it’s hard to say a person lacking the funds to pay for urgent medical care enjoys much in the way of meaningful options..t

so true

sicko et al


sheldon wolin in politics and vision: ‘the compulsion arising from a system of property’..t

commerce alone is not capitalism; rather, capitalism, or a ‘system of property’ emerges when the possibility of trade becomes the necessity..t

capitalism ness and hardt/negri property law

historically the modern capitalist paradigm was born at the moment that these market imperatives took over the production and provision of life’s most basic necessity: food.. after enclosure, when people could no longer farm common land for subsistence.. but had to produce in excess for the market and its profit motive.. capitalism’s power was on display

agri surplus ness


today when we talk about capitalism we typically speak of the problem of ineq, highlighting financial disparities.. but the coercive aspects of capitalism, the ways in which our individual choices are constrained and whole societies are compelled to submit to the rule of money, deserve as much attention as the deprivation of poverty.. ie: med/childcare/uni debt


citizenship became synonymous w consumption..t


on the job, we accept our subjugation to a form of private authority that essentially operates in a dictatorial mode – that is, we accept that our bosses are entitle to boss us around.. ie: dress; sm; how we spend off hours; drug test; track movements; deny wages.. we have somehow accepted that the world of work is outside the reach of democracy..


the state became public only because people fought to make it so.. thre’s no reason same shojld not one day be said of th ecorporations tha tnow govern so much of ourl ives..

if democracy is a system where the people consent to the rules that govern them, then it follows, paradoxically, that people might wind up being less individually free in a functioning democracy than in another system..

but when we do not live in a functioning democracy.. find it is our democratic duty to break laws if at least some of them are unjust.. we call this refusal of consent civil disobedience..t

zinn obedience law


martin luther king called it (civil disobedience) a ‘constructive coercive power’

yeah.. see.. there’s a nother way to live.. rather than spending our time chasing down what’s bad.. than coercing people away from bad.. ie: something every souls is already craving.. something every person already is.. if free enough to be it


forging a new more democratic social contract require a massive withdrawal of consent and a coordinate campaign of constructive coercion.. it also requires how we think about coercion and choice..  over the centuries, capitalism has disguised coercion as choice..

i think democracy – as laid out here.. is/has/will be doing much of the same.. smaller cancer still kills..

we have the means today .. and so can’t not.. go beyond constructive coercion.. let’s facil a leap.. where 7b people are free enough to live in an undisturbed ecosystem (in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole)

under more democratic conditions.. coercion should be openly discussed, subject to deliberation and debate, so that we might consider the option of minimizing coercion in every realm of life.. t

we have the means to make it irrelevant.. (max of min).. let’s do faciling daily curiosity  ie: cure ios city

5 – is this what democracy looks like? (spontaneity/structure)


athenian democracy 508 bc – breaking down traditional centers of power based on kinship and religion and binding people in new affiliations based on place.. ie: neighborhood govt; civic tribes; city boards (over saw social welfare and city’s finances and coinage).. tons of reps; council meeting up to 300 days a year.. combining rotation in office

doesn’t really matter how local we go and how many reps/rotations we have.. if still basing things on ie: finances and coinage.. humanity needs 7b reps.. everyday.. sans money (any form of measuring/accounting/rep-ing/contract-ing)


the creation of this community of citizens involved a balance of two conflicting elements that remain crucial to democracy to this day: spontaneity and structure..

fromm spontaneous law.. structure/less ness


emma goldman or mark twain or ?: ‘if voting could change anything it would be made illegal’..t

voting ness


today, alt ways of structuring and counting the vote that would remedy or even cure the current system’s imbalances are ignored or dismissed as outside the realm of possibility..t

today, alt ways of living (sans voting) that would make our current system irrelevant.. are ignored/dismissed outside the realm of possibility

ie: cure ios city.. in the city.. as the day..


60s and student rebellion and counter culture..

beyond democratic surround .. today we have means to re:wire


the *very electoral process that people fought so hard to expand may be democracy’s undoing.. this moment calls for a **leap on the scale initiated by cleisthenes,..t.. and perhaps one inspired by him.. selection by lot may not be the perfect solution to the problems we face, but it suggests that other, radically diff ways of structuring political participation and incorporating spontaneity are possible..

*yeah.. let’s **leap to this..  a nother way.. sans voting/lottery.. et al

6 – a socratic mob (expertise/mass opinion)


turns out honeybees are arguably the earth’s most numerous, longstanding, successful and endearing democrats..t

just after this yesterday: 20 000 bees follow car 2 days to rescue queen

we can get to this level of love/devotion.. if we let go of the waggle dance

the queen.. as central part of ecosystem.. she is no monarch , but rather a mother.. keeper of colon’s genetic health.. beyond choosing how many eggs to lay and the gender of her offspring (majority female).. she oversees no other crucial decisions.. these are made in an astonishingly complex, egalitarian manner by  100s or 1000s of bees, depending on the circumstances.. these bees are the queen’s daughters but not exactly her dependents; we call them worker bees, but they are self managed and have no boss..


of the several 100 scouts, only a minority discovers anything of value (on deciding possible home sites) and returns to perform what’s called a waggle dance..  the better a site, the more persistent and emphatic a bee’s movements are as she aims to recruit her sisters..

see.. this is great.. we think.. but we can do so much better than this.. no persuasion/recruiting needed.. ie: waggle dance ness and undisturbed ecosystem ness

when a quorum of bees gathers at a single site, it signals that consensus has been reached and the matter settled.. t

spontaneity/humanity doesn’t fit w settling.. we don’t have to settle.. in fact.. in order to stay/be alive .. we need to have the bravery to change our minds everyday

(still on bees)* everyone has a chance to be heard, and everyone is an expert in the **task at hand.. there is in fact, no such thing as a ‘hive mind’


**mistake for humans – we need to listen to curiosities first.. and facil via those.. rather than around some task.. no matter how noble

ie: tech (as it could be) that listens to every voice/curiosity everyday.. and facils us locally.. accordingly.. that day..


‘we’ve never seen a bee get excited about an option, a potential home site, simply because she saw another bee excitedly dancing for the site.. each bee will get excited about a site only after she’s made her own personal inspection of *it.. and that is a very important part of the accuracy of the decision making’ – thomas seeley.. people have fads/trends.. can lead to poor decisions.. the bees never run that risk

agree.. if we change the *it from home site to daily curiosity..


on student debt.. this burden shapes how they see their studies..

so too the coercion of a pkg deal degree/whatever


when ed is an investment and not a right, pleasure or duty, student sneed it to yield a return

same with duty ness and rights ness..

pleasure/curiosity is the only focus that will change things


swaths of knowledge that are essential to understanding a multifaceted world become a luxury or irrelevant, and the aim of ed radically narrows: teachers are no longer educating citizens but future job holders

ed-ing citizens .. just as cancerous..

i know of no swaths of knowledge that are essential.. (yes to citizenship perhaps.. but not to a human world.. to an undisturbed ecosystem)

what we need is space/time to listen to our hearts each day.. to what is already in there.. that’s the only basic.. everything else is details.. often unnecessary/cancerous details..


on needing pediatricians, teachers, architects, marine biologists, pilots, computer programmers, plumbers,.. society would collapse

i don’t think so – depending on our defn of each.. ie: teachers yes.. only if we believe everyone is a teacher.. yet still.. i don’t think people should teach. rather model.. otherwise we end up spending our days answering and listening to questions that no one (or at least not everyone) every asked..

maybe we would need less bridges/autos/meds..e t al.. if we were all truly free to listen to our hearts.. ie: eudaimoniative surplus

and.. if we were truly free to do/be our art.. we would all be experts.. more so than today.. ie: the thing you can’t not do unleashes the energy needed to ie: build safe bridges et al


in context of our competitive society, schooling becomes a means of sorting the best from the rest

yes.. schooling on its own is coercive/cancerous.. a sorting by things people don’t choose to be curious about even.. ugh.. the idea that anyone knows what anyone else needs/wants to learn..ugh..  ie: taylor compulsory lawblack science of people/whales


the biggest failing of the techno/merit argument is not that those who ascend aren’t the most brilliant/skillful.. no doubt some are.. but that so many are denied the chance toe exercise their talents and develop their capacities..

i’d say all (those *sorted to the top and those **not) are denied the chance

*if they were most brilliant (doing the thing they can’t not do) we’d have a better world by now

**crazywise et al


i asked whether they learned about democracy in school and they said yes. ‘but it’s about govt, like diff branches, things like that.. they don’t ask us ‘oh how do you feel about the school’.. ‘people inside the school should have something to say..’

see.. this is already a contrived situation.. we’re not letting them speak their voice.. we’re asking them.. inviting them.. to talk about a situation already created for them.. we’re asking them inch their way to consenting with a given assumption

they need detox in order to speak freely.. we’ve not yet given them (or us) that.. so we have no idea

7 – new world order (local/global)


at what size are territories and groups best suited for collective decision making and at what point does direct deliberation become impossible..t

depends if we are first setting people (truly) free.. if we aren’t.. doesn’t matter.. still cancerous.. if we are.. those questions become irrelevant

we have the means today to facil/be ginorm/small ness


to have a chance of success, this cosmopolitan effort must be built form the bottom up.. it cannot begin at the global scale.. creating change from the top down

i think it can do both.. it has to do both.. ie: 2 convers as global infra.. with tech as it could be.. to connect us locally.. everyday anew

rather than choosing bottom up.. over top down.. i think we should focus on inside and outside.. (ie: curiosity and decision making)

my point is mundane: communities and individuals have more capacity to determining their destiny – and to influence international politics and economics in turn.. when they are strongly grounded, embedded in the space in which they live

if that were true.. ie: strongly grounded.. determining destiny, econ, politics, et al.. wouldn’t even be part of the convo/day.. we would think talking about and deliberating on those things was a waste of time

this means treating data as a public good, and making citizens co owners and co creators of services that rely on their personal data..t

if we had a global reset.. to self-talk as data.. perhaps citizen ness and ownership ness and all those things.. would become irrelevant

which is an incredible simple/not-ridiculous/eudaimonious way.. to get rid of cancer


only by taking root can democratic seeds spread

yeah.. if we get to the roots of healing.. to something every soul already craves.. leaping will be instantaneous/natural/insatiable

8 – a ruin or a habitation (present/future)


on climate change.. what is the relationship of democracy to time… this question may seem abstract but it actually foundational..

yes.. time matters.. so we can’t go part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake.. there’s  a nother way


the paradox is that to reach this accessible future, to figure out how to balance the needs and desires of those who live not w with those yet to come, we need to tap the wisdom of the past w/o getting trapped by it

eagle and condor ness.. ie: deeper than ie: supposed to’s.. of school/work.. and the resulting whales in sea world

[this chapter is in exerts first shared bottom of astra‘s page]

Astra Taylor (@astradisastra) tweeted at 12:39 PM – 6 May 2019 :
An excerpt from my new book up at @thenation in which I ponder fun stuff like:
What is the relationship of democracy to time? Do some ancestors need to be disenfranchised? Can we transcend capitalism so generations to come have a chance? (

Advocating for self-destructing legislation is a rather charitable, self-deprecating position for a founding father of the United States.

but we need that to happen everyday

Karl Marx expressed sublime horror at the persistent presence of political zombies: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.”

ie: supposed to’s.. of school/work

let’s just facil daily curiosity .. call it democracy if you like/must

ie: curiosity and decision making

From those democratic innovators Jefferson and Paine we inherited an obsession with novelty, in daily life and in activism. This was groundbreaking in the 18th century, but in the 21st it has become orthodoxy. Our relentless presentism, encouraged by the 24/7 news cycle and social media, enjoins us to immerse ourselves in an eternal now, a state of amnesiac contemporaneity. It severs us from the past and the future—*which serves the powerful just fine: the past contains many ideas they would rather see buried than revived, and reconfiguring our way of life to account for the future would entail a massive disruption of business as usual.

*it could serve all of us.. if we started listening to every voice.. everyday.. ie: via 2 convers as infra.. tech as it could be..

Capitalism thrives on speed, novelty, consumption, obsolescence, and, above all, growth. True sustainability, then, is anathema to capitalism, which rests on the following precept: there must be more value at the end of the day than there was at the beginning. Contraction is a crisis for capital—indeed, without expansion there is no capital, for there is no profit. At bottom, the twin perils of inherited wealth and mass indebtedness, as well as the threat of ecological apocalypse, flow from an economic system predicated on greed and boundless accumulation.

(303) The fact is, we’re up against ecological limits, not monetary shortages; we are constrained by a carbon budget not a federal one, and we need to remake our economy to reflect this reality. Ample wealth exists to be reclaimed for collective benefit, and bringing finance under democratic control will mean that *money will finally serve people, instead of the other way around.

rather.. money will finally become irrelevant.. it can never serve people.. it’s a cancer.. ie: money (any form of measuring/accounting)

That the affluent few are able to live idly off of unearned dividends and interest while most find themselves enduring extended shifts for a reduced pay-check makes this much clear: it is not just wealth but leisure that must be fairly apportioned if a sustainable democracy is to be achieved.

exactly.. and i’d say wealthy aren’t really living in true leisure at this time either..  we’re all ill

begs we base our days on gershenfeld something else law

Free time is not just a reprieve from the grindstone; it’s an expansion of freedom and a prerequisite of self-rule..t

let’s do this firstfree art-ists.

for (blank)’s sake

a nother way

The time to experiment with more ecologically conscious, personally fulfilling, and democracy-enhancing modes of valuing labor and leisure is upon us, at precisely the moment that time is running out..t

we can by augmenting interconnectedness getting us back/to an undisturbed ecosystem/eudaimoniative surplus

Nishnaabeg environmental ethics dictated that individuals could only take as much as they needed, that they must share everything following Nishnaabeg redistribution of wealth customs…

have/need ness.. but won’t/hasn’t ever work until everyone is free..  sync matters

To combat the apocalyptic apparitions, we need to conjure alternative worlds, leaping forward and looking back..t As Hannah Arendt observes in Between Past and Future, tradition does not have to be a fetter chaining us to dead matter; it can also be a thread that helps guide us toward something better and still unseen.

back to book (though i’m sure i’ve already got this quote somewhere..?)


on indebtedness and debt collective from occupy – indebtedness has been historically useful to the powerful as both a source of profit and also an instrument of social control..t

strike debt et al

social control

conclusion – from founding fathers to perennial midwives


what web du bois called ‘excluded wisdom’ the knowledge possessed by everyday people he believed democracy desperately requires.. t

only if those people are first.. truly free..

otherwise we’ve got people believing they are free.. but simply parroting the supposed to ness while intoxicated

begs a mech (w/a detox embed) to listen to all the voices/curiosities everyday..

the unsettling fact is that ruling ourselves is not a predictable or stable enterprise, but this is as much a cause of jubilation as despair. this seemingly fatal flaw is also the source of democracy’s strength. its fragmentary, unfinished nature poses a challenge to all of us who want to be both equal and free..t

antifragility/entropy.. huge to an undisturbed ecosystem


what is democracy et al


democracy now!

democracy os

democratic education