Book Launch | We, the Sovereign
NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge invites you to the launch event for Gianpaolo Baiocchi’s We, the Sovereign, featuring the author in conversation with Thea Riofrancos and Frances Fox Piven.
What does it mean for the people to actually rule? Formal democracy is an empty and cynical shell, while the nationalist Right claims to advance its anti-democratic project in the name of ‘the People’. How can the Left respond in a way that is true to both its radical egalitarianism and its desire to transform the real world?
In this book, Gianpaolo Baiocchi argues that the only answer is a radical utopia of popular self-rule. This means that the ‘people’ who rule must be understood as a demos that is totally open, inclusive and egalitarian, constantly expanding its boundaries. But it also means that sovereignty must be absolute, possessing total power over all relevant decisions that impact the conditions of life. Only, he argues, by a process of explosive and creative tension between this radical view of the ‘we’ and an absolute idea of the ‘sovereign’ can we transform our approach to political parties and state institutions and make them instruments of total emancipation.
Illustrated by the real-life experiences of movements throughout the world, from Latin America to Southern Europe, Baiocchi’s provocative vision will be essential reading for all activists who want to understand the true meaning of radical democracy in the 21st century.
Gianpaolo Baiocchi is an NYU-based sociologist and an ethnographer interested in questions of politics and culture, critical social theory, and cities. He has written about and continues to research instances of actually existing civic life and participatory democracy both in his native Brazil and in the United States. In addition to books and academic articles, he regularly writes for outlets like Boston Review. A senior Fellow at IPK, he also currently heads Gallatin’s Urban Democracy Lab and works with organizations, like Right To The City, that seek to realize democracy’s promises.
Frances Fox Piven is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Womens & Gender Studies at The Graduate Center, CUNY. An expert in the development of the welfare state, political movements, urban politics, voting, and electoral politics, she has been politically engaged with improving the lives of America’s poor since the 1960s. She has taught at several universities in the United States and Europe and among her many books are the bestselling Poor People’s Movements (1977), one of four books she coauthored with Richard A. Cloward; Why Americans Don’t Vote (1989); Why Americans Still Don’t Vote: And Why Politicians Want It That Way (2000); Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America (2008), with Joshua Cohen; and The Lean Years (2010) and The Turbulent Years (2010), both with Irving Bernstein. A recipient of numerous academic and public awards for her work, she was president of the American Sociological Association in 2007, has served on the boards of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Democratic Socialists of America, was founding board chair of the New Press, and is currently a Left Forum board member.
Thea N. Riofrancos is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Providence College. Her research focuses on resource extraction, radical democracy, social movements, and the left in Latin America. These themes are explored in her forthcoming book, Resource Radicals: From Petro-Nationalism to Post-Extractivism in Ecuador (Duke University Press), as well as in essays that have appeared in N+1, Dissent, Jacobin, In These Times, and NACLA. She is also the co-chair of Providence Democratic Socialists of America.
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