First Democracy

The Challenge of an Ancient Idea

Paul Woodruff,

First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea
 
 
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 this eye-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 conditions that are the sine qua non of democracy: freedom from tyranny , harmony, the rule of law, natural equality, citizen wisdom, reasoning without knowledge, and general education. He concludes that a true democracy must be willing to 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. 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.


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