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Astra Taylor’s Democracy Reading List

November 15, 2019

In our interview this month, the author and filmmaker Astra Taylor discusses the inherent conflict between capitalism and democracy. Her new book, Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone, is a formidable examination of how “rule of the people” evolved throughout human history, and it’s clearly informed by Taylor’s voracious reading habits. Since she cited so many authors during our discussion for the November 2019 interview, we asked her to give us a list of books that have inspired her work as an activist and an artist.

Abolition Democracy
by Angela Davis

This small book by one of our greatest thinkers and activists is truly remarkable. It inspired a lot of epiphanies that influenced my documentary and book.

Being Numerous: Essays on Non-Fascist Life
by Natasha Lennard

This book tackles urgent, fundamental questions: What are the sources of our oppression? Do we want to be free? An inoculation against apathy and nostalgia, this is an essential, provocative collection for our confounding times.

Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities
by Rebecca Solnit

During a period of pervasive cynicism and political despair, the first edition of this book provided me with a model for activist engagement that I have held dear ever since. Today, as movements for climate, racial, and economic justice sweep the globe, its message is more relevant than ever. It provides succor and sustenance for those fighting for a more just world.

Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership
by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Exploitative real-estate practices continued well after housing discrimination was officially banned, and here Taylor reveals how financial practices of “predatory inclusion” perpetuate social inequity. It’s an in-depth look at the intersection of debt and racism that offers a scathing indictment of the ongoing obsession with homeownership as central to democracy and the American Dream.

On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal
by Naomi Klein

There’s nothing more urgent than the climate crisis. The indomitable Naomi Klein shows why and what we can do about it.

A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal
by Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen, and Thea Riofrancos

Urgent, clear-eyed, and energizing, this is a powerful example of the radical collaborative thinking we desperately need to avoid climate dystopia. The insights within are infused with the fighting spirit required to win a world where the many can survive and thrive.

Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation
by Silvia Federici

A feminist tour de force about the beginnings of capitalism, the economic and political function of witch trials, and so much more. People recommended it to me for years before I read it, but you should not delay. Federici plays a central role in my documentary What Is Democracy? but we barely scratch the surface of her work in the film.

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