Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That?

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9780916650292: Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That?

Is democracy, or "true" democracy, the pinnacle of human social organization? Is the fundamental goal of socialist revolution the broadening and deepening of democratic institutions? Bob Avakian argues that there is something far more subversive, something far more liberating, than democracy.

"Democracy: Can't We De Better Than That?" is a major work of Marxist political theory that dissects the fundamental positions and arguments of democratic theory, and that confronts the "crowning achievements" of democratic society. Avakian posits the following theses: democracy is not an end in itself but a means to an end; it is part of the superstructure of society and conforms to and serves a particular economic base; it arises in certain historical conditions and is generally associated with the bourgeois epoch, it never exists in abstract or pure form but always has a definite class character and is conditioned by the fundamental relations between classes; and, finally, democracy has a distinctive role to play in the socialist transition period but will wither away, with the state, with the achievement of communism, and be replaced by qualitatively higher forms of political organization and participation.

Avakian examines the notion of democracy as it was developed in ancient Greece and Rome, and subjects the democratic theory of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Paine, and Mill to detailed analysis. He explores the ideological underpinnings of the modern theory of totalitarianism and goes on to critique current western Marxist and Soviet conceptions of the relationship between democracy and revolution. In concluding his study, Avakian sketches the transformative possibilities of socialist revolution, while, at the same time, considering the problems and tensions intrinsic to making such a revolution.

"Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That?" compels one to rethink the structures and possibilities of social organization; its practical and programmatic import is immense. Not all readers will agree with its conclusions, But no one who reads this work will quite be able to view democracy through the same prism again.

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Review:

Avakian is an energetic Marxist theoretician who alms to demonstrate how democracy is essentially a means toward the world-historic end of international communism. Avakian first presents a brief review of the historical origins of democracy in the ancient Greek city-states. Then, turning toward his main interest, he argues that democracy fundamentally represents one element in the superstructure of human society, in which power relationships are determined at base by class relationships. Thus, in bourgeois democracy, democracy provides for equal rights among members of the ruling bourgeois class, but dictatorship for the oppressed masses. Understandably, Avakian devotes one chapter to analyzing the United States as an exemplification of bourgeois democracy. It is his contention that, in the course of the international socialist revolution toward communism, this false bourgeois democracy will wither away along with the modern nation-state, and all shall be for the better. Avakian is more critically original when he details the "illusions" of democracy as employed among Third World revolutionary leaders like Fidel Castro and as professed in problematic state socialist regimes like that of the Soviet Union. In this respect, he comments at great length on the relationship among the dictatorship of the proletariat, totalitarianism, and democracy in the world's evolution toward communism. Avakian is an enthusiastic and well-read Marxist thinker. His writings, however, are so abstruse and esoteric that they should prove of interest only to those souls hardened to the obscurantism of intra-Marxist discussion and debate. -- From Independent Publisher

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Avakian, Bob
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