This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.


← To name the unnameable

Cartomancer's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by Cartomancer

Yes, pure democracy leads to "the tyranny of the majority"; not a new idea.

Straight out of Aristotle indeed. But the terminology used both there and in general should probably be spelled out.

"Democracy" does not mean "rule by the majority". It means "rule by the people" or more accurately "rule by the entire citizen body". It is not rule by the majority on behalf of everyone, it is rule by everyone on behalf of everyone. If a minority group within the citizen body does not have its needs met, and doesn't have access to rule (by virtue of having its voices drowned out) then that isn't true democracy in the classical sense.

"Ochlocracy", literally "mob rule" was Aristotle's term for what happens when democracy goes bad and what it turns into. In maritime Athens the "ochlos" generally meant a mob of sailors, but it has wider application.

Aristotle himself was no fan of democracy of course, largely because he thought it almost always degenerated into ochlocracy. But he was enough of a scholar to document it and give it its due anyway.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 15:21:35 UTC | #910911