In This Review

Radical Democracy
Radical Democracy
By C. Douglas Lummis
Cornell University Press, 1996, 185 pp

Since the collapse of communism, there has been a dearth of realistic ideas on how to redefine an agenda for the left. The present volume accepts the general conclusion that socialism's former heavy dependence on the state to bring about social equality led to a dead end, and suggests a highly energized "civil society" of activists and networked local communities in its place. The author argues that such political arrangements will not work, however, in the absence of a democratized economy, which evidently means a return to family farming, craft production, and the like. He contends that "the people" do not want the alienated life created for them by technology and contemporary industrialization, though they have been voting with their feet in favor of capitalist prosperity pretty convincingly for some time now. The author argues that no wealth has been amassed in the modern world without being taken from somebody else -- a bizarre observation for a Western academic teaching in East Asia, which has independently caught up with the West rather rapidly in recent years. In contrast to Ian Shapiro, Lummis faces a major question of how you get from there from here, given that the left must abjure state power and the power of other large institutions.