Marissa Holmes
The Political Vision of David Graeber

Throughout his life, David Graeber remained an eternal optimist who refused to accept the world as it is, and saw only what it could be. He envisioned international, directly democratic, and egalitarian politics. To achieve this required practice.

An Hypothesis

In Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, Graeber made an hypothesis: majoritarian democracy was in its origins essentially a military institution, a coercive political process in which the minority was compelled by force to do as the majority wanted. Often the “majority,” as in the case of Ancient Athens, was comprised only of white property-owning men. A real democracy could be found in non-Western examples, where people made decisions based on consent rather than coercion. He wrote, “If there is no way to compel those who find a majority decision distasteful to go along with it, then the last thing one would want to do is to hold a vote: a public contest which someone will be seen to lose.” Thus, in communities where the mechanism of coercion, most commonly the state, was absent, there was no reason to engage in a majoritarian process. Instead, he claimed, they operated by not only a formal consensus decision-making process, but a culture of consensus.