First Democracy

First Democracy

The Challenge of An Ancient Idea

Book - 2005
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Americans have an unwavering faith in democracy and are ever eager to import it to nations around the world. But how democratic is our own "democracy"? If you can vote, if the majority rules, if you have elected representatives--does this automatically mean that you have a democracy? In thiseye-opening look at an ideal that we all take for granted, classical scholar Paul Woodruff offers some surprising answers to these questions. Drawing on classical literature, philosophy, and history--with many intriguing passages from Sophocles, Aesop, and Plato, among others--Woodruff immerses us in the world of ancient Athens to uncover how the democratic impulse first came to life. The heart of the book isolates seven conditionsthat are the sine qua non of democracy: freedom from tyranny (including the tyranny of majority rule), harmony (the blending of different views), the rule of law, natural equality, citizen wisdom, reasoning without knowledge, and general education. He concludes that a true democracy must be willingto invite everyone to join in government. It must respect the rule of law so strongly that even the government is not above the law. True democracy must be mature enough to accept changes that come from the people. And it must be willing to pay the price of education for thoughtful citizenship.Ancient Athens didn't always live up to these ideals. Nor does modern America. If we learn anything from the story of Athens, Woodruff concludes, it should be this--never lose sight of the ideals of democracy. This compact, eloquent book illuminates these ideals and lights the way as we struggle to keep democracy alive at home and around the world.
Publisher: New York : Oxford University Press, 2005.
ISBN: 9780195177183
Branch Call Number: 320.9385 WOO
Characteristics: xi, 284 p. : ill., maps ; 19 cm.
Alternative Title: Challenge of an ancient idea


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Jan 05, 2016

Ancient Athens had high aspirations to be a model state, but its democracy broke down when it decided to engage in unwise wars. Could America, the comparison point in this book, having made the same kinds of choices, be undermining its democracy as well? After reading this book, you may well wonder.

Dec 29, 2015

Sympathetically intertwines the history of democracy in Athens, the ideas and ideals of democracy, and the drawing out of these ideas and ideals from ancient Greek thought and experience.

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