What’s Wrong with Democracy?: From Athenian Practice to American Worship

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University of California Press, Nov 29, 2004 - History - 307 pages
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Fifth-century Athens is praised as the cradle of democracy and sometimes treated as a potential model for modern political theory or practice. In this daring reassessment of classical Athenian democracy and its significance for the United States today, Loren J. Samons provides ample justification for our founding fathers' distrust of democracy, a form of government they scorned precisely because of their familiarity with classical Athens. How Americans have come to embrace "democracy" in its modern form—and what the positive and negative effects have been—is an important story for all contemporary citizens.

Confronting head-on many of the beliefs we hold dear but seldom question, Samons examines Athens's history in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. in order to test the popular idea that majority rule leads to good government. Challenging many basic assumptions about the character and success of Athenian democracy, What's Wrong with Democracy? offers fascinating and accessible discussions of topics including the dangers of the popular vote, Athens's acquisitive foreign policy, the tendency of the state to overspend, the place of religion in Athenian society, and more.

Sure to generate controversy, Samons's bold and iconoclastic book finds that democracy has begun to function like an unacknowledged religion in our culture, immune from criticism and dissent, and he asks that we remember the Athenian example and begin to question our uncritical worship of democratic values such as freedom, choice, and diversity.

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What's wrong with democracy?: from Athenian practice to American worship

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"It is the purpose of this book to present and foster criticism of modern democracy," Samons declares in the first line of this contrarian political history, which argues that Americans suffer from a ... Read full review

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Really enjoyed this book. While the intro was very dry, the book picked up afterwards with a very timely critique that was both informative and engaging. The book challenges the ideological superiority of democracy in American political culture in a sophisticated way, allowing us all on a personal level to re-evaluate the true merits and failings of democracy.  


Democracy Imperial
Democracy Defeated
Democracy and Religion
Socrates Pericles and the Citizen

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About the author (2004)

Loren J. Samons II is Associate Professor of Classical Studies and Associate Dean for Students, College of Arts and Sciences, Boston University. He is author of Empire of the Owl (2000), editor of Athenian Democracy and Imperialism (1998), and coauthor, with Charles W. Fornara, of Athens from Cleisthenes to Pericles (California, 1991).

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