History of Democracy

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Eleutheria : Libertas : Liberalism In the following paper I shall begin with a succinct historical account of Athenian democracy. Secondly, I will present Athenian eleutheria (freedoms), followed by arguments posed by philosophical theorist Rousseau, on the favorability in such form of democracy as established by Athens, a form also known as developmental democracy. Following Athenian eleutheria, I will give an account of Roman Republicanism, Roman libertas (liberties) as well as arguments from Cicero in accordance with his views on republicanism, also known as protective republicanism. Lastly, I will present liberalism and compare its ideals between Athenian eleutheria and Roman libertas. Athenian democracy, or demokratia, devised from the words demos (people) and kratos (to rule), meaning rule by the people, under the rule of Kleisthenes, began taking form at the beginning of the 5th century B.C.E, following a revolt and subsequent revolution by the Athenian people against an oppressive, tyrannical regime known as “The Thirty.” The toppling of this oligarchical regime would lead to the instituting of a constitution for democratic autonomy and the establishing of eleutheria for Athenians. Thus, by the turn of the 4th century B.C.E, democracy became fully implemented. Although more freedoms, specifically political rights, would be granted to Athenian citizens, which consisted of males born to citizens of the city-state, or polis. Athenian democracy consisted of a mixture between unitary and adversary democracy. It’s unitary element placed emphasis towards interpersonal philia (friendship). Such that, citizens came together to openly discuss policy by participating in the ecclesia (assembly), while openly voting on issues upon discussions end. Mansbridge states that through this “face-to-face contact” individual interests are equally weighed “whereby encouraging members to identify with one another and the group as a whole,” to seek out common interests and come to a consensus benefiting all. This process, Mansbridge says, “helps develop common interests.” Whereas adversary, on the other hand, reflected a more individualistic approach, as opposed to the communal ideal of unitary. Such that, voting by way of secret ballot, resulting in a “majority rule” system, would become the norm after public discussions regarding policy affecting the polis (Mansbride, 1980, p.9). Upon adopting demokratia, perhaps the most significant aspect granted to Athenians consisted of the freedom to live one’s life how one deemed. This is the ability to live in private, how one so chose, while in public abiding to the laws of the polis as established by the ecclesia. Pericles held that “we are free and tolerant in our private lives; but in public affairs we keep to the law. This is because it commands our deep respect” (qtd in Held, 2006, p.13). Aristotle held that eleutheria, specifically the ability, or obligation as he posited, of participating in decision making of the self-ruling city, was a necessary requisite for living the good life. Insofar the good life, according to Aristotle, was that in which provided all the necessary conditions and opportunities for reaching one’s full potential. In Athens, this potential was, in fact, citizenship; the highest level of activity for an individual. And according to Held, “a fulfilled and good life was only possible in the polis” (Held, 2006, p. 14). The polis was made up of the citizenry, also referred to as tribes, the ecclesia, council of 500, in which was responsible for “organizing and proposing public decisions,” as well as juries and magistrates who carried out the “executive functions” of the polis (Held, 2006, pp.18-19). In Rousseau’s The Social Contract, he poses the question of “finding a form of association” that will provide for the “whole common force,” while allowing one to “obey himself alone” (qtd in Green, 1993, p.24). His solution is a social compact, whereby the state, through the...
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