Peasant-Citizen and Slave: The Foundations of Athenian Democracy by Ellen Meiksins WoodThe controversial thesis at the center of this study is that, despite the importance of slavery in Athenian society, the most distinctive characteristic of Athenian democracy was the unprecedented prominence it gave to free labor. Wood argues that the emergence of the peasant as citizen, juridically and politically independent, accounts for much that is remarkable in Athenian political institutions and culture.
From a survey of historical writings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the focus of which distorted later debates, Wood goes on to take issue with recent arguments, such as those of G.E.M. de Ste Croix, about the importance of slavery in agricultural production. The social, political and cultural influence of the peasant-citizen is explored in a way which questions some of the most cherished conventions of Marxist and non-Marxist historiography. This book will be of great interest to ancient historians, classicists, anthropologists and political theorists, as well as to a wider reading public.
The Rise of Democracy in Greece
Ancient Greek Democracy
Athenian democracy developed around the sixth century BC in the Greek city-state known as a polis of Athens , comprising the city of Athens and the surrounding territory of Attica , and is often described as the first known democracy in the world. Other Greek cities set up democracies, most following the Athenian model, but none are as well documented as Athens'. Athens practiced a political system of legislation and executive bills. Participation was not open to all residents, but was instead limited to adult, male citizens i. Cleisthenes broke up the power of the nobility by organizing citizens into ten groups based on where they lived, rather than on their wealth. The longest-lasting democratic leader was Pericles. After his death, Athenian democracy was twice briefly interrupted by oligarchic revolutions towards the end of the Peloponnesian War.
Athens in the 5th to 4th century BCE had an extraordinary system of government: democracy. Under this system, all male citizens had equal political rights, freedom of speech, and the opportunity to participate directly in the political arena. Further, not only did citizens participate in a direct democracy whereby they themselves made the decisions by which they lived, but they also actively served in the institutions that governed them, and so they directly controlled all parts of the political process. Other city -states had, at one time or another, systems of democracy, notably Argos , Syracuse , Rhodes , and Erythrai. In addition, sometimes even oligarchic systems could involve a high degree of political equality, but the Athenian version, starting from c.
A democracy is a political system , or a system of decision-making within an institution or organization or a country, in which all members have an equal share of power. Democratic government is commonly juxtaposed with oligarchic and monarchic systems, which are ruled by a minority and a sole monarch respectively. Democracy is generally associated with the efforts of the ancient Greeks and Romans, who were themselves considered the founders of Western civilization by the 18th century intellectuals who attempted to leverage these early democratic experiments into a new template for post-monarchical political organization. Nevertheless, the critical historical juncture catalyzed by the resurrection of democratic ideals and institutions fundamentally transformed the ensuing centuries and has dominated the international landscape since the dismantling of the final vestige of empire following the end of the Second World War. Modern representative democracies attempt to bridge the gulf between the Hobbesian 'state of nature' and the grip of authoritarianism through 'social contracts' that enshrine the rights of the citizens, curtail the power of the state, and grant agency through the right to vote. Anthropologists have identified forms of proto-democracy that date back to small bands of hunter-gatherers that predate the establishment of agrarian, sedentary societies and still exist virtually unchanged in isolated indigenous groups today.
In the year B. It was the first known democracy in the world. This system was comprised of three separate institutions: the ekklesia, a sovereign governing body that wrote laws and dictated foreign policy; the boule, a council of representatives from the ten Athenian tribes and the dikasteria, the popular courts in which citizens argued cases before a group of lottery-selected jurors. The Greek system of direct democracy would pave the way for representative democracies across the globe. Out of all those people, only male citizens who were older than 18 were a part of the demos, meaning only about 40, people could participate in the democratic process.