Reclaim the State
Experiments in Popular Democracy
A Verso book
From England to Brazil, and Norway to China, Hilary Wainwright sets out on a quest to discover how people are creating new, stronger forms of democracy.
The anticapitalist protests at Seattle and Genoa are dramatic symbols of a growing collective anger about the globalizing power of a few multinational corporations. But there is more to anticapitalism than demonstrations: concepts like participatory democracy and economic solidarity form the heart of alternative but equally compelling visions.
Hilary Wainwright, writer and long-time political activist, set out on a quest to find out how people are putting such concepts into practice locally and taking control over public power. Her journey starts at home, in east Manchester, where local community groups are testing Tony Blair's commitment to 'community-led' regeneration by getting involved in the way government money is spent. In Newcastle, she joins a meeting of homecare workers and their clients to challenge the threat of privatization of homecare services in that city. In Los Angeles she talks to the people behind the community-union coalitions that have had major successes in improving the impoverished bus system and in winning a living wage for employees of firms contracted by the city. And in Porto Alegre she discovers the wider democratic potential of the participatory budget, the basis of investment decisions in many Brazilian cities. Local democracy and 'people power', it turns out, provided the foundations for a global alternative, as her visit to the World Social Forum reveals.
Wainwright concludes with a set of proposals for turning resistance into lasting institutions of participatory democracy – an embedded bargaining power against corporate and military elites. This, she argues, will require very different kinds of political parties from ones currently alienating voters. Reclaim the State shows that the foundations for new political directions already exist, and provides imaginative and practical tools for building on them.
- July 2003
- 5.7 × 7.7 in
/ 256 pages
- Territory Rights: USA and Dependencies and the Philippines.
Endorsements & Reviews
“Whether she's in Beswick or Brazil, Hilary Wainwright has gone in search of the questions to the key issues of our time – how can we gain access to the levers of power, democratise them and then use them to effect progressive change? She returns with answers free of dogma and full of in sight, rooted in the experiences of those who know best – people shaping the future of their communities on the ground. Intelligent, well-written and painstakingly researched it is a crucial contribution to the Left agenda.” — Gary Younge, Guardian
“Examining recent events from England to Brazil, and Norway to China, Hilary Wainwright not only charts struggles for social gain but highlights the relations of knowledge and power that they unearth and produce ... To make an 'alternative world not only possible but real' requires examining our experiences, learning from them, and then charting new paths forward. Wainwright is courageously and energetically at work on the task.” — Michael Albert, Z Magazine
“An extremely valuable contribution to the debate about concrete alternatives to neo-liberalism.” — Naomi Klein
“Hilary Wainwright draws on successful innovations in popular participation from around the world to make a convincing case for the viability of a genuine third way between the dead ends of neo-liberalism and social democracy. This book is likely to become the intellectual flagship of the new politics movement.” — Walden Bello