Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Democracy and Imperialism Discussion Forum 2013-4

Democracy and Imperialism Discussion Forum 2013-4 Discussion of Term 2 Lecture 6: Democracy today

You need to be logged in to post in this topic.
  1. •What did democracy mean to those living in the 16-18th centuries? •How has ancient Greek democracy come to be seen today? •What use can the example of ancient Athenian democracy be in the future?
  2. What use can the example of ancient Athenian democracy be in the future? Plato’s Protagoras (319b-d) - a) The Athenians defer in matters concerning technical expertise i.e. shipbuilding, to those who are well informed. b) However concerning matters of the state, everyone is allowed to speak in the Assembly and indeed it is viewed as an essential expression of freedom. Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Paper No. 35 a) Shoemakers and manufacturers alike elect merchants to represent them, this is the basis for democracy since it is only natural the ignorant defer to their betters. These passages are diametrically opposed in their conceptions of democracy, and indeed it is as Wood pointed, the fundamental difference between the terminology of 'demos' versus 'we, the people'. The democracy at Athens very much relied on a social construct as much as a political one of freedom – to 'rule and be ruled in turn' (Aristotle) as opposed to slavery which in Greek derives from doulos (slave). However the relatively modern revolutions, such as the American or French or the English Civil War, were based on the notion of a land-entrenched class seeking protection from despotic, monarchical rule. At no point did the nobles who signed up to the Magna Carta want or expect the masses to share political rights; they merely wanted a 'checks and balances' system which they saw as freedom – for themselves, to be instituted. This is why, in all seriousness, James Madison could claim that American politicians in the 18th-19th centuries were 'democratic', despite essentially agreeing with Hamilton's derogatory picture of the people and affording no opportunity for shoemakers (etc.) to have a say in the constitution. The modern notion of 'democracy' is not worthy of its name; it was successively stripped to the extent that it now refers to purely the res publica only and the various seesaw appendages which keep it alive. The example of Athenian democracy affords to modern society an image of something which it has lost - apart from, I would say, in Switzerland and potentially Iceland; that being political participation as an active formulation.
  3. •How has ancient Greek democracy come to be seen today? What I have found is that the democracy of Athens has been largely grouped together; throughout the course we have looked at various forms of government, and they can all be identified as something more specific than democracy (eunomia, isonomia, demotic, etc.), rather than the general view that the Athenians created democracy, and this democracy has become idealised to the point where the system in question is unattainable. Even looking through the notes of this lecture, this is evident, i.e using the speeches of Pericles on the side of buses, despite the fact that we know this was not representative of Classical Athens, or even the 5th century Athenian politics. I think on the most basic level, ancient Greek democracy has been seen as the foundation on which much of modern politics is built, but only due to the fact that the politics are incorrectly generalised and distributed across several hundred years of ancient history. •What use can the example of ancient Athenian democracy be in the future? In order to achieve a level of ancient Athenian democracy in the future, the restrictions put on many countries needs to be removed, as the Athenians, despite first thoughts, did include a large proportion, if not all of their citizens. Because citizenship laws are far more open now in that race and gender, at least to an extent, aren't the issue they once were, there needs to be a more inclusive policy from countries that have these restrictions (Germany, Switzerland, USA, etc.). Also, despite the practical difficulties that faced the Athenians, in terms of men of the coast having access to the Assembly, they seem to have been well represented for large periods of time. As the Internet is now available, this could be used to make voting more efiicient, and also eliminate the possibility of mob-voting due to the isolated nature of it, which was an issue for Athenians.

Are you sure?

Are you sure?

Forum followers

Follower data is not currently available.

Search results