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Power & the People: Five Lessons from the Birthplace of Democracy

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DEMOCRACY WAS BORN IN ATHENS. FROM ITS FOUNDING MYTHS TO ITS GOLDEN AGE AND ITS CHAOTIC DOWNFALL, IT'S RICH WITH LESSONS FOR OUR OWN TIMES. Why did vital civic engagement and fair debate descend into populism and paralysis? Can we compare the demagogue Cleon to President Trump, the Athenian Empire to modern America, or the stubborn island of Melos to Brexit Britain? How did DEMOCRACY WAS BORN IN ATHENS. FROM ITS FOUNDING MYTHS TO ITS GOLDEN AGE AND ITS CHAOTIC DOWNFALL, IT'S RICH WITH LESSONS FOR OUR OWN TIMES. Why did vital civic engagement and fair debate descend into populism and paralysis? Can we compare the demagogue Cleon to President Trump, the Athenian Empire to modern America, or the stubborn island of Melos to Brexit Britain? How did a second referendum save the Athenians from a bloodthirsty decision? Who were the last defenders of democracy in the changing, globalised world of the 4th Century BC, and how do we unconsciously echo them today? With verve and acuity, the heroics and the critics of Athenian democracy are brought to bear on today's politics, revealing in all its glories and its flaws the system that still survives to execute the power of the people. 'Timely and fascinating' Robin Lane Fox


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DEMOCRACY WAS BORN IN ATHENS. FROM ITS FOUNDING MYTHS TO ITS GOLDEN AGE AND ITS CHAOTIC DOWNFALL, IT'S RICH WITH LESSONS FOR OUR OWN TIMES. Why did vital civic engagement and fair debate descend into populism and paralysis? Can we compare the demagogue Cleon to President Trump, the Athenian Empire to modern America, or the stubborn island of Melos to Brexit Britain? How did DEMOCRACY WAS BORN IN ATHENS. FROM ITS FOUNDING MYTHS TO ITS GOLDEN AGE AND ITS CHAOTIC DOWNFALL, IT'S RICH WITH LESSONS FOR OUR OWN TIMES. Why did vital civic engagement and fair debate descend into populism and paralysis? Can we compare the demagogue Cleon to President Trump, the Athenian Empire to modern America, or the stubborn island of Melos to Brexit Britain? How did a second referendum save the Athenians from a bloodthirsty decision? Who were the last defenders of democracy in the changing, globalised world of the 4th Century BC, and how do we unconsciously echo them today? With verve and acuity, the heroics and the critics of Athenian democracy are brought to bear on today's politics, revealing in all its glories and its flaws the system that still survives to execute the power of the people. 'Timely and fascinating' Robin Lane Fox

39 review for Power & the People: Five Lessons from the Birthplace of Democracy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lieselotte Thys

    Almost a 5 because it really got me thinking but just not detailed enough in it's ideas for a renewed democracy. Almost a 5 because it really got me thinking but just not detailed enough in it's ideas for a renewed democracy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Conor Sullivan

    This book aims to show that by looking back to ancient Athenian democracy, which was firmly established following Cleisthenes’ reforms of the Athenian constitution in 508 BC, we can shine a light upon where modern democracy is lacking and even find ways improve it by using practices found in antiquity. Using an array of historical sources, the book identifies five lessons, which it considers seriatim, that we can take away from the birthplace of democracy and apply to modern day - these are, the This book aims to show that by looking back to ancient Athenian democracy, which was firmly established following Cleisthenes’ reforms of the Athenian constitution in 508 BC, we can shine a light upon where modern democracy is lacking and even find ways improve it by using practices found in antiquity. Using an array of historical sources, the book identifies five lessons, which it considers seriatim, that we can take away from the birthplace of democracy and apply to modern day - these are, the need to: inspire political responsibility and reduce apathy in the citizenry; oppose demagoguery and nepotism; be capable of self-reflection and self-correcting unwise decisions; expand enfranchisement; and, reject ‘democratic tyranny’, by not imposing democracy on others. Although I found the book was often filled with engaging postulation and political philosophy, there was a lot I disagreed with and even more that I found entirely frustrating to read. The book touches on many important topics that need to be discussed and debated today in order to preserve democracy as a force for good but, unfortunately, it only touches on them, there is no deeper analysis and, so, after virtually every important topic is mentioned, you come away with only a surface level appreciation for the problem and little by way of proposed solutions. Moreover, at one point they argue in ancient Athens there was a ‘wisdom of the crowd’ inherent to it’s direct democracy and that sortition (their way of randomly choosing representatives) prevented a legislature being dominated by one socio-economic class. However, I found that the authors ended up successfully arguing against these propositions and, in turn, undermined their whole position. For two people who uphold the value of democracy and the legitimacy of the will of the masses, I was taken aback by their labelling of the election of Trump and the Brexit vote as ‘calamitous crises’ of democracy, the latter was also later referred to as a ‘constitutional disaster’. Their reasoning being that, in the instance of Trump, fewer people voted for him than Hillary and, with Brexit, that there is a general apathy in UK politics and a narrow scope of enfranchisement. Certainly, these are valid criticisms but I can’t help but feel this takes an all too myopic view of modern liberal democracy. This is a shortcoming that I believe is repeated throughout and is invariably coupled with a gross misrepresentation of fact, albeit in a very implicit way, in an attempt to undermine any legitimacy of conservative politics and represent it as anti-democratic and perniciously nationalistic. Whilst I agree with the authors that we need a more informed and engaged electorate so that democracy can function efficaciously, a greater appreciation for the increasing role (social) media plays in the engagement of society in the political sphere (and the need to ensure there is some accountability when this is used nefariously) and that the re-adoption of political term limits from ancient Athens is absolutely vital, I found this book to be simply too partisan in its anti-conservative bias and I was alarmed by its repeated attempts to infer that conservatism is anti-democratic. This is patently untrue. What I enjoyed most about this book was the continuous reference to the mythical origins of concepts - such as freedom of speech, the rule of law and the presumption of innocence before a court - which form the edifice of democracy: there is even a mythical story for the birth of democracy itself. The linking of the strength of a democracy and the freedom to openly ridicule it, as shown by the quotations of philosophers and satyrical playwrights from the overlapping Golden Age of Athens and the Age of Pericles, also greatly added to my enjoyment of this book. If you have an interest in ancient Greek (mainly Athenian) history and mythology or a belief in the sanctity of democracy and progressive neoliberalism, then I’m certain you will greatly enjoy this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paul Taylor

    Cruelly underrated by those who have read this book ahead of me; I can only assume that they are supporters of some of the politicians who are criticised by the authors (or even the politicians themselves). There is much that is wrong in politics and there are valuable lessons to be learnt from history as well as significant parallels in modern times.

  4. 5 out of 5

    P

    A strong and gripping start that got bogged down in subjective, 'axe to grind' opinion and academia towards the middle and never fully recovered. Felt like the book's editor gave up reading it themselves half way through. A strong and gripping start that got bogged down in subjective, 'axe to grind' opinion and academia towards the middle and never fully recovered. Felt like the book's editor gave up reading it themselves half way through.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    3.5

  6. 5 out of 5

    Adam

  7. 4 out of 5

    Vaishnavi Sreenivas

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rodney Jones

  9. 5 out of 5

    Paul Mead

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andy Hassan

  11. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Wu

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alison

  13. 5 out of 5

    Salman Rauf

  14. 4 out of 5

    Muhammad Hamza

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shaun

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ron Shaw

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alex Stirbu

  19. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ivor

  21. 4 out of 5

    David

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lois Carr

  23. 5 out of 5

    jbangelova

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tom

  25. 4 out of 5

    Daniel R. Pinto

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cweb

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael Austin

  28. 5 out of 5

    Connor

  29. 4 out of 5

    Irina Slavskay

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kelly McCarthy

  31. 5 out of 5

    Will Bickford Smith

  32. 5 out of 5

    Isobel Ramsden

  33. 5 out of 5

    Rebel_fleur

  34. 5 out of 5

    Mackenzie Beier

  35. 5 out of 5

    Nys

  36. 5 out of 5

    Jan

  37. 5 out of 5

    Yasmin

  38. 5 out of 5

    Kalliopi

  39. 4 out of 5

    Richard Hickman

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