Are our political systems true democracies, or oligarchies in populist clothing?

For Aristotle, whether states were oligarchic or democratic was deeply ingrained in their ways of working – the politics of structure itself. He believed that cities that chose their office holders, jurors and judges by lottery were democratic and that those using elections were oligarchic – that’s Greek for government of, by, and for the few.

He argued that lotteries extinguish the electoral campaigning advantages of wealthier, more expensively educated candidates over poorer adversaries. He reasoned that a handful of people, grown used to generations in office, are easier to corrupt than the many.

On citizens’ assemblies, a contemporary pro-democratic initiative with corrective potential:

The assemblies’ combination of “​demos”​ (people) exercising “​kratos​” (power, or government) was not exactly how ancient Athenians practised “democracy”. Aristotle could certainly have found fault with the formula. Yet he’d also have recognised assemblies’ democratic core: the absence of elected representatives taking the place of citizens.

An Athenian remedy: the rise, fall and possible rebirth of democracy |\ The Correspondent