Angela Davis’ “Abolition Democracy”

Angela Davis has a pretty fantastic author’s byline. She’s run for vice-president of the United States twice on the Communist Party USA ticket, she’s been on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list, and was called a “terrorist” by none other than Richard Millhouse Nixon. She’s got some seriously good publishing credits as well. “Abolition Democracy” is a long-form interview, divided into multiple sections, and dealing mainly with issues of race and how they relate to the role of the prison in society.

Davis’ central thesis revolves around the idea that capitalistic institutions actively circumvent democracy, leaving citizens fundamentally unfree. These institutions are intractable in their relation to racial prejudice, and they do harm to everyone involved with them. Davis also spends some time dismantling the myth of multiculturalism as a means of progressive action, criticizing mainstream liberalism for accepting racial tokenism in lieu of actual, radical change to institutions that impair freedom. The book also spends a good deal of time talking about torture, Guantanamo Bay, and Abu Ghraib

This kind of book-length academic text isn’t too common on my reading lists any more, but I not only felt the reading to be incredibly rewarding, but an enjoyable read. While I disagree with Davis on a few points, I found her arguments to be compelling and her justifications sound. My project of reading fifty books by female authors this year keeps leading me to great books I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise.

Recommendation: Read it, especially if you have any interest in liberalism, race, the prison system, or socio-political movements.


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