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The Evolution Of Democracy Essay, Research Paper

Claire Munger

The Evolution of Democracy

Democracy is more a Utopian aspiration rather than a concrete description of any government. A common understanding of democracy, often applied to unworthy situations, is simply that the masses will govern themselves. This understanding was articulated by an Athenian statesman, Pericles, “Our Constitution is named a democracy, because it is in the hands not of the few, but of the many”(Cummings & Wise, 1971, p.20). This idea of democracy was extended through all of the arguments and testaments since its first recognition in Greece. A realistic and attainable view of democracy has more to do with brotherhood than politics. Once the realization that social issues cannot be kept from government, then a full understanding of the purpose and execution of government will take place. “A democratic society was one in which the mass of the people played an active role rather than a passive role, and in which the old traditions of deference and subordination had been replaced by a sense of equality among the people – the feeling that one man, or even one person, is as good as another, or at least has an equal right to be respected and listened to”(Arblaster, 1994, p.42)

Democracy was in its purest form during its early stage of evolution in ancient Greece. Athens is a select example and “the most stable long-lived, and important culturally the most brilliant and creative of all the city-states”(Arblaster, 1994, p.14). Athens, however, did not believe all citizens to be equal. The inherent flaw within this original democracy is the exemption of citizenship to women and slaves. Only men who were born and lived in a city-state could be citizens. The idea of “self-governing”(Arblaster, 1994, p.14) was right in theory, but in actuality it was interpreted to exclude more than half of the population on basis of citizenship. Athens was a direct democracy. After much reformation all free men were allowed to participate in the assembly, a lawmaking body. These men participated in different positions through what is understood to be a lottery. “The essence of it was the direct personal participation of the citizen body in the government of the city”(Arblaster, 1994, p.17). Although popular sovereignty came forth in England in the 1640’s, it was evident in ancient Greece. The government was run by a perpetual governance of the people and never halted to delegate responsibility. The fact that Athenian government was not coordinated through representatives but through the people themselves was the key point to Athens’ uniqueness. This was in part because the population was so limited. Any later att


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