Wild Democracy: A Biodiversity of Resistance and Renewal

Written by Community Solutions fellow Samuel Alexander

Originally posted on simplicitycollective.com

I’ve just published a new Simplicity Institute Report, called “Wild Democracy: Resistance and Renewal”. The introduction is available below and the full report is available here

With characteristic insight, the great American philosopher, John Dewey, once wrote: ‘Every generation has to accomplish democracy over again for itself.’ His point was that, at each moment in history, citizens and nations inevitably face unique challenges and problems, so we should not assume the democratic institutions and practices inherited from the past will be adequate for the conditions of today. Our ongoing political challenge, therefore, is to ‘accomplish’ democracy anew, every generation. 

It seems we have forgotten Dewey’s lesson. Too often we assume instead that democracy is something that has been achieved already, once and for all. Why do we need to reinvent it? Indeed, in the wake of a recent federal election (in Australia), it is easy to be seduced back to the comfortable unfreedom of the shopping mall or withdraw into the existential numbness of social media or television, believing that, having voted, our political work is done. The task of governing is now in the hands of our so-called ‘representatives’. That’s what political participation means in a market capitalist society, doesn’t it?

This is, of course, an impoverished, even dangerous, conception of democracy, which we propagate by way of casual apathy at our own peril. It is government of the people, certainly, but not government by the people and increasingly not for the people. Accordingly, with a deferential nod to Dewey, below I offer an outline of a new political orientation, sensibility, and practice – a position I call ‘wild democracy’. In a global tide that seems to be drifting enthusiastically toward ecocide and fascism, wild democracy signifies a radical and participatory eco-egalitarian politics that seeks to take root beyond the tired parliamentary distinctions of Left and Right, but also beyond (and yet between) the antagonistic but enriching poles of anarchism and Marxism. As I will explain, wild democracy is a localised politics with a global perspective, positioning itself ‘in the wild’ beyond the state and yet, at times, pragmatically engaged with the state. In short, wild democracy is a revolutionary politics without a Revolution, as such – a paradox I will unpack and defend below.

The full report is available here.