Isakhan Benjamin - Stockwell Stephen - The secret history of democracy

Authors : Isakhan Benjamin - Stockwell Stephen
Title : The secret history of democracy
Year : 2011

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Introduction : Democracy and History Benjamin Isakhan and Stephen Stockwell The notion that democracy could have a ‘secret’ history might at first seem strange to many readers. Indeed, the history of democracy has become so standardized, is so familiar and appears to be so complete that it is hard to believe that it could hold any secrets whatsoever. The ancient Greek practice of demokratia and the functions of the Roman Republic are foundational to Western1 understanding of politics; school textbooks introduce the Magna Carta and the rise of the English Parliament; Hollywood blockbusters recount the events surrounding the American Declaration of Independence; many best-selling novels have been written about the French Revolution; and the gradual global spread of the Western model of democracy has been a recurrent news story since the end of the Cold War. So pervasive is this traditional story of democracy that it has achieved the status of received wisdom: endlessly recycled without criticism by policy-makers, academics, in the popular media and in classrooms across the world. The central argument of this book is that there is much more to the history of democracy than this foreshortened genealogy admits. There is a whole ‘secret’ history, too big, too complex and insufficiently Western in character to be included in the standard narrative. But even in this standard history of democracy there are many alternatives that open up the possibilities of what democracy might be: participatory or representative; majoritarian or minimalist; demotic or elitist; with positions filled by election or by lot; with sovereignty resting in one (the constitutional monarch) or in the many (the will of the people). So what is democracy? How do we judge the good from the bad ? ...

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