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