Democracy's inherent paradoxes often go unnamed and unrecognized. Exploring such questions, Democracy May Not Exist strives to offer a better understanding of what is possible, what we want, why democracy is so hard to realize, and why it is worth striving for.
... magnificent, paradigm-shifting ... lucid and deep detail ... Writers like these are doing important work in this political moment, reinvigorating the leftist intellectual imagination ... complex but also deeply accessible and lucidly written. It is, in other words, a democratic book about democracy ... Taylor’s deep and wide examination of democratic movements, conversations, and grassroots institutions makes the reader feel as if they are already part of this conversation, as if by reading the book, they have already started to engage in the practice of being a democratic citizen. She speaks to the reader on the level of an equal, and the reader starts to feel as if they could speak back. To put it differently, reading Taylor’s book makes one think democratically, but this thinking also invigorates one’s everyday movements, and makes one start to feel democracy as a pleasure of thinking and acting.
Taylor manages to avoid the complacencies inculcated by the unceasingly propounded message that American methods of 'democracy' are, of course, the best ones ... Taylor displays considerable intellectual nimbleness ... Several deficiencies weaken Taylor’s book. She does not seriously attempt to answer her first question: 'What is democracy? … What are we really referring to when we talk about a system in which the people rule themselves?' ... All too quickly she abandons her aim of defining democracy in order to make it more than an empty slogan. Instead, she embraces the ambiguity that characterizes usage of the term, maintaining that its 'disorienting vagueness' is a 'source of strength.' Vagueness might be good for political actors wishing to deploy 'democracy' to further their aims. It’s not good for analysts wishing to demystify political jargon ... A good book, Democracy May Not Exist would have been even better had Taylor let go of her idealization of 'the people' and responded systematically to those who repudiate the assumption that broader, more active political participation by ordinary folk is a prescription for a more decent world.
Taylor does a commendable job of compiling data from diverse fields to corroborate her central thesis that democracy is the sum of its abiding paradoxes ... The author navigates these different orders of discourse with perspicuity, making the book at once casually readable and intellectually engaging. For readers already familiar with its companion film, the book will seem repetitive in parts, as Taylor does not mind repackaging her best cinematic material as prose. That said, the book is not simply a prose redux of the film. On a general theoretical level, it adds texture to the concept of the democratic paradox, while its individual chapters reflect upon numerous democratic experiments, such as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of North America, that are not covered in the film ... Although I appreciate Taylor’s caution about falling into neoliberalism’s ideological finger-traps, I find her more coherent when she stresses the conceptual link between democracy and popular economic struggle ... The book’s most valuable contribution to contemporary democratic theory may be its dialectical push beyond Plato’s paradox.