Democracy: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)

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Very Short Introductions: Brilliant, Sharp, Inspiring

Democracy refers to both ideal and real forms of government. The concept of democracy means that those governed -- the demos -- have a say in government. But different conceptions of democracy have left many out. Naomi Zack provides here a fresh treatment of the history of this idea and its key conceptions. In the ancient world, direct and representative democracy in Athens and Rome privileged elites, as did democratic deliberative bodies in Africa, India, the Middle East, and China. Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero were sceptical of mob-rule dangers of democracy. The medieval and renaissance periods saw legislative checks on monarchy, notably the Magna Carta. The social contract theories of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau matched political expectations that national government be based on consent, for the benefit of those governed. The American Revolution established a new sovereignty, based on British government tradition. By contrast, the French Revolution heralded universal humanitarian ideals.

In the nineteenth century, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, and Karl Marx focused on the democratization of society. Mary Wollstonecraft had championed women's education and rights and Mill advocated further for that cause. Movements for the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, and labour unionization were organized. World War II brought a reset in the twentieth century, with new democratic governments for many countries, including India and South Africa, and new ideals. Karl Popper, Hannah Arendt, and John Rawls emphasized orderly government transition, inclusion, and fairness. Equalitarian goals have concerned racial and ethnic minorities, as well as women. The twenty-first century has brought fresh challenges, including disasters and uninformed electorates. Democracy among nations is a future goal.


ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

About the Author


Naomi Zack, Professor of Philosophy, Lehman College, CUNY Naomi Zack, PhD, Columbia University, is Professor of Philosophy at Lehman College, CUNY. Her recent books include The American Tragedy of COVID-19: Social and Political Crises of 2020 (2021), Progressive Anonymity: From Identity Politics to Evidence-Based Government (2020), Reviving the Social Compact: Inclusive Citizenship in an Age of Extreme Politics (2018), Philosophy of Race, An Introduction (2018), and The Theory of Applicative Justice (2016).
Product Details
ISBN: 9780192845061
ISBN-10: 0192845063
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication Date: December 28th, 2023
Pages: 192
Language: English
Series: Very Short Introductions