POLSCI 3VV3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Direct Democracy
Course CodePOLSCI 3VV3
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POL SCI 3VV3 LECTURE 1
Demos + kratos= people who have the power. We the people ought to have the power, not just
that we rule, it is a statement about power.
Mon + archy= solo who rules
The democratic system in Athens is not like ours. It was direct democracy as citizenship was
open to a smaller number of people than today. There were only about 40,000 citizens who
lived in Athens. They were able to do anything they wanted, change the constitution, declare
war, etc. There were around 150,000 slaves living in Athens. There were around 70,000 metics
(resident foreigners) who had no say in government. Only about 10-20% of the population had
a say, so how democratic was ancient Athens really?
There is evidence to suggest that direct democracy (assembly democracy) in Athens had
already existed in the East almost 500 years prior to the Greeks, especially in Iraq.
About 500 years ago, the Aboriginals had their own form of democracy. The
Haudenosaunee/Iroquois Confederacy. It was nearly impossible for them to make decisions
without consensus. Even though they had chiefs or a council of elders, it was impossible to get
their people to do something without their consent. This is arguably more democratic than the
Greeks system where they had a vote and could have 49% of the population not agree with
what was going on.
Democracy in Athens was a relatively new thing. It became a radically quickly democratic place
in the 5th Century BCE. The leadership in Athens felt it was important to recruit people from the
lower classes to improve their participation. They did this to improve their ability to fight wars
and collect taxes. They wanted to include more people so they could rely on their support.
Athens was entering a period of radical expansion. Citizenship had been expanded so that
nearly every free man had democratic rights. Democratic philosophy had not existed at this
point because the people writing were elites. They were not of the people. The reading for this
week is arguably the only true democratic theory philosophical writing that has been written
until Rousseau. Saying that Athens was great because it is democratic. Athens is totally original
and they have created something completely new. They are called a democracy because the
hands of the administration (not just sovereignty but the whole process) are in the many not
the few. Although everyone is equal, the claim of excellence is also recognized. He is
anticipating an objection here > he is arguing with somebody who is an enemy of democracy.
We are equal but some of us are excellent. We still have mechanisms to find the most talented
people for each post, and rather than resent the people who are most talented, we all agree to
admire them. Even though we are all equal, we recognize that each of us are different. Poverty
is not an obstacle, they are not dependent on the ruling class but on themselves. Each person is
able to contribute to the democracy.
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