Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 18 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

When compared to various forms of autocracy, monarchy, theocracy, oligarchy, and dictatorship, democracies are better at solving, routinizing, and institutionalizing basic problems of common social life and collective action. This article explores the historical origins of ideas that articulate and justify contemporary democratic theory and practice. First, it surveys the conceptual questions embedded in the concept of democracy inherited from the Greek, demokratia—literally, the power (kratos) of the people (demos), though commonly translated as rule of the people. Embedded in this concept of democracy we find at least four basic classes of questions: Who are “the people”? At what level of organization is “self-government” directed? How is the rule of the people translated into collective decisions and actions? Why is democracy good? The answers to these questions form, as it were, the history of democratic theory from the perspective of what historical democratic ideas and practices might contribute to the present and future of democracy.

Keywords: democracy, rule of the people, self-government, collective decisions, democratic theory, demokratia

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.