A Conversation for Ancient Greek Slavery and its Relationship to Democracy

Democracy by Any Other Name?

Post 1

a girl called Ben

What would have happened of the Athenian policical system had not been CALLED Democracy? As you mention, it was more of an Aristocracy (rule of the best) than a Democracy (rule of the people). We might call it an Oligarchy (rule of the few). (Or maybe a fartocracy - rule of the wind-bags?)

The reason this is important is because of the power of the IDEA of democracy. The current systems of directly elected governments (most of Europe) or indirectly elected leaders (the US) are relatively new inventions, only one or two hundred years old or so.

In post revolutionary Russia there were a large number of different parties. The second largest called themselves Bolshevics, we've all heard of them because they ended up ruling the USSR for almost 80 years. Most of us have not heard of the party who were larger than them when the Bolshevics picked their name. The Bolshevics called them Menshevics, and they vanished into history, via lost elections, prisons and shallow graves.

The relevance of this story? "Bolshevic" means "Majority" or "Popular" and "Menshevic" means "Minority" or "Unpopoular"

The power of words you see... Western culture is based on the idea that classical models were the best in literature, architecture, and political structures. The Athenians were the most civilised of all so their political system - the rule of the people - must the best. But if they had called thier system something else - the "rule of men over 35" - the "rule of property owners" - would those ideas have had the credibility in pre-democratic Europe which was given to democracy?

Sitting inside any historical era, it is hard to imagine history any other way. But was democracy so inevitable in Western Europe and America? After all full suffrage regardless of race or sex is mainly less than one hundred years old. It didn't feel inevitable to the people that created it - and probably still doesn't feel inevitable in the places where it does not exist.

Democracy by Any Other Name?

Post 2


Ben, I have to agree with you about the power of the word. The British middle classes also tried to limit the idea of "The People" to a specific set of "qualified" individuals, male property owners of a certain income, but kept finding pressure from those just beneath their arbitrary limit - because the *idea* didn't exclude them - and the franchise widened by degrees.

Back to tie-in between slavery and the growth of democracy; both the British Empire in the seventeenth/eighteenth centuries and the USA in the eighteenth/nineteenth centuries routinely kept slaves so perhaps, in a pre-technological age, it was necessary to have slaves to have the time to care about rights.

Democracy by Any Other Name?

Post 3


Slavery by another name appears to be very currant today
as it is still the wealthy and powerful that have the access to the best education systems(jobs, money and time to think about l,u,e ).

The poor (slaves) may have some access to an education but while still earning a living at minimal wages to produce the goods and services for the elite.

In order to survive on a low income acheiving an education can become just a distant dream, only to be realised by the next generation if enough money can be saved to allow them to have the time to be educated to then have access to a decent job to then allow the next generation to have access to the the best educational systems etc

this seems to be the common dream of attaining wealth security
and freedom

but it sounds like slavery to me

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