The Idea of Democracy in the Modern Era

"The dominant ideologies in modern capitalist states have tended to dilute the democratic idea, to dissolve it altogether into the concept of liberalism, to offer liberalism not as a complement to, but as a substitute for, democracy as popular power" (Euben, Wallach, and Ober, 78).

A shared quality between ancient and modern democracy is the amount of nationalism and patriotism seen in the people and the government alike. For example, the Athenian people regarded their power and existence very highly. "Pericles says abut his policy:...Remember, too, that the reason why Athens has the greatest name in all the world is because she has never given in to adversity, but has spent more life and labor in warfare than any other state..." (Euben, Wallach, and Ober, 106). Similar to this profound sense of accomplishment and perseverance, The United States and its government has also been known for demonstrating respect and honor within the nation and it has also faced times of adversity.

Another similarity is seen between ancient Athens and modern democracy when a lack of representation for a city-state or nation as a whole is seen. In modern democracy, there are still examples where the people, or demos, of a nation feel excluded from the decision making within the government "...Everyone shouting for their rights means that no one is clearly heard" (Euben, Wallach, and Ober, 330). This of course is seen in ancient democracy as well due to the fact that only adult males were allowed to participate in the government's activities. (Raaflaub, Ober, and Wallace, 11)

Creating a more detailed comparison to twenty-first century democracy, John Zumbrennen makes connections to ancient Athenian leaders representing the "silent" demos and describing how this is done in the United States, specifically during the Bush administration shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "...Besides resting on his surging popularity in the days after 9/11 and the vast flow of positive rhetoric from government and media outlets in those days, Bush's political position here hinged on his temporarily successful attempt to let the silence of the American demos speak" (Zumbrennen, 187-188). He goes on to explain why this success existed and compared it to success in Pericles' rule, "What is more, as with Pericles, Bush's success depended in considerable part on central claims about American unity and American identity" (Zumbrennen, 188).

Although similarities exist between ancient and modern democracy, they relate to each other in only basic ways. In , the comparison is discussed, "...This system was radically different from just about anything we citizens of the twenty-first century know as a democracy. Even the few examples of direct democracy that have survived to be studied by modern scholars...are comparable with the Athenian model in only elementary ways" (Raaflaub, Ober, and Wallace, 11).

Held, David. Models of Democracy. 3d ed. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

Consists of a collection of essays that traces the historical development and contemporary significance of the concept of democracy. The assumption is that to understand contemporary democratic life, we must first grasp the dynamic history and emergence of democratic ideas and practices.


The Dilemma of Modern Democracy | VQR Online

“To anyone interested in the intellectual history and fate of democracy, I warmly recommend this lucidly written book.”

It was under this political system that Athens successfully resisted the Persian onslaughts of 490 and 480/79, most conspicuously at the battles of Marathon and Salamis. That victory in turn encouraged the poorest Athenians to demand a greater say in the running of their city, and in the late 460s Ephialtes and Pericles presided over a radicalisation of power that shifted the balance decisively to the poorest sections of society. This was the democratic Athens that won and lost an empire, that built the Parthenon, that gave a stage to Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes, and that laid the foundations of western rational and critical thought.


Modern Democracy - The Christian Delusion - Google Sites

By the time of Aristotle (fourth century BC) there were hundreds of Greek democracies. Greece in those times was not a single political entity but rather a collection of some 1,500 separate poleis or 'cities' scattered round the Mediterranean and Black Sea shores 'like frogs around a pond', as Plato once charmingly put it. Those cities that were not democracies were either oligarchies - where power was in the hands of the few richest citizens - or monarchies, called 'tyrannies' in cases where the sole ruler had usurped power by force rather than inheritance. Of the democracies, the oldest, the most stable, the most long-lived, but also the most radical, was Athens.

Weekend Roundup: Modern Democracy At The Crossroads

A number of works have been published that provide overviews of the different historical and contemporary forms of democratic thought. Written by one of the most renowned democratic theorists in the United States, offers a brief and highly readable introduction to democratic thought that brings together normative and empirical strands of research. offers another brief and accessible guide to the various traditions of democratic thought, while presents a more comprehensive survey of the different currents of democratic theory and their historical developments. The text is notable for its discussion of theories of deliberative democracy and theories of radical pluralism, two of the more recent and popular trends in democratic theory. provides one of the most popular overviews of the various models of democracy coupled with a critical account of what democracy means in light of globalization. Another critical account of the field of contemporary democratic theory is offered by , while provides a historical narrative of sweeping scope that tells the story of democratic governments and ideals as they have developed and transformed since classical Greece. focuses on theories of the liberal democratic state, while provides an introductory exploration of normative democratic thought. offers a collection of essays written by leading political theorists that charts the development and contemporary significance of the idea of democracy.

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Democratic theory is an established subfield of political theory that is primarily concerned with examining the definition and meaning of the concept of democracy, as well as the moral foundations, obligations, challenges, and overall desirability of democratic governance. Generally speaking, a commitment to democracy as an object of study and deliberation is what unites democratic theorists across a variety of academic disciplines and methodological orientations. When this commitment takes the form of a discussion of the moral foundations and desirability of democracy, normative theory results. When theorists concern themselves with the ways in which actual democracies function, their theories are empirical. Finally, when democratic theorists interrogate or formulate the meaning of the concept of democracy, their work is conceptual or semantic in orientation. Democratic theories typically operate at multiple levels of orientation. For example, definitions of democracy as well as normative arguments about when and why democracy is morally desirable are often rooted in empirical observations concerning the ways in which democracies have actually been known to function. In addition to a basic commitment to democracy as an object of study, most theorists agree that the concept denotes some form or process of collective self-rule. The etymology of the word traces back to the Greek terms (the people, the many) and (to rule). Yet beyond this basic meaning, a vast horizon of contestation opens up. Important questions arise: who constitutes the people and what obligations do individuals have in a democracy? What values are most important for a democracy and which ones make it desirable or undesirable as a form of government? How is democratic rule to be organized and exercised? What institutions should be used and how? Once instituted, does democracy require precise social, economic, or cultural conditions to survive in the long term? And why is it that democratic government is preferable to, say, aristocracy or oligarchy? These questions are not new. In fact, democratic theory traces its roots back to ancient Greece and the emergence of the first democratic governments in Western history. Ever since, philosophers, politicians, artists, and citizens have thought and written extensively about democracy. Yet democratic theory did not arise as an institutionalized academic or intellectual discipline until the 20th century. The works cited here privilege Anglo-American, western European, and, more generally, institutional variants of democratic theory, and, therefore, they do not exhaust the full range of thought on the subject.