The African Origins of the Athenian Democracy
20 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2012 Last revised: 12 Mar 2012
Date Written: October 28, 2011
Democracy is arguably the most studied concept and form of social organization in political science, but, surprisingly, political scientists have showed little interest in its origins. Midlarsky (1992) thinks that this is the case because scholars are “mostly concerned (correctly) with the substance of contemporary politics, not its history.” The few studies that discuss the emergence of the concept and practice of democracy invariably look at the city-state of Athens in ancient Greece. Thus, the general consensus among scholars seems to be that Athens is the birth place of democracy; other parts of the world, including Sub-Saharan Africa, are ignored or omitted from the historical evolution of democracy. Some scholars totally dismiss Africa in particular, arguing that there was nothing democratic about pre-colonial African institutions (Simiyu, 1988). Some go as far as to say that Africa’s difficulties arise from cultural norms that are less likely to support democratic institutions (Coquery-Vidrovitch 1992; Schatzberg 2001). From their perspective, Africa has been devoid of democratic elements until these institutions were introduced and imposed by Western colonialism. But nothing could be further from the truth and the reality is that historical evidence simply does not support such contention. In fact, the works of historians suggest that it is from Africa that the fire of the Athenian democracy was stolen. It is the purpose of this paper to demonstrate the Africa origins of the Athenian democracy.
Keywords: Democracy, Institutions, Consensus, Colonialism, Africa, Athens, Origins
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