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Democracy as the "Never-Ending Fight for a More Democratic Life"


At the Baffler website, Maximillian Alvarez reflects on Astra Taylor’s acclaimed new documentary, What Is Democracy? Alvarez notes how the fragmented cinematography of the film mirrors our partial, fraught realization of the democratic ideal. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

It’s in this way that Taylor—quite masterfully—cinematographically supplements all that is said and implied about democracy by luring out into the open a sense that everything you are seeing contains the democratic seed of what could and must be. Even in scenes that lay bare the vile work of avaricious demons hellbent on dividing and destroying and subjugating the demos , everything trembles with urgency and unknowing. There’s urgency in the sense that whatever residues of democratic life we may have inherited are rapidly becoming desiccated and hollowed out. There’s unknowing as we look fearfully and try to make out what ominous shadows are on the horizon. And this , we begin to sense, is when it is most possible to finally circle around the truth of democracy. Because for the future to be known , possibility must die, and democracy is nothing if not possibility—the possibility that we can live more democratically. As Taylor makes painstakingly clear, that possibility will recede if we do not feel it, and act on it, urgently . Because the need for us to lend our hands and aid in the birth of a more democratic way of being only ever disappears when—by force, choice, or fatigue—we abdicate our role in making the world; that is, when we hand the world over to others.

Image: Promotion still for Astra Taylor’s recent documentary What is Democracy? Via