Sunday, November 26, 2006

On Democracy

The rarity and fragility of "rule by the people" is staggering (from the Blackwell Dictionary of Twentieth Century Social Thought):
Although so important today, historically democracy has been relatively unimportant. For many centuries it did not exist. "Both as an idea and as a practice, throughout recorded history hierarchy has been the rule, democracy the exception" (Dahl, 1989)--although this state of affairs is now, perhaps, being reversed. For a period in classical Greece democracy was important, notably in Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries BC. After that, though, it was not until the late eighteenth and nineteenth century that the idea became important again; and not until the twentieth century that it became properly established in practice. And it was only after World War I that a general disapproval of democracy was replaced by widespread approval.

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