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Can modern British democracy learn anything from the practice of Ancient Athens?

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Introduction

´╗┐Can modern British democracy learn anything from the practice of Ancient Athens? Athenian democracy was developed in the city state of Athens in around the fifth century. It is known as the first democracy. The theory of democracy started as a theory in Athens, and given its popularity, the system carried on until it?s eventual collapse after the Peloponnesian war. People often look back to Athenian democracy as the first system to get it right, which begs the question - how does it match up to the current form of democracy that we have in Britain. Athenian democracy was a form of direct democracy, where the people have all the power of the decisions for the state, every citizen (in the case of Athens, males over 18, not slaves or women) was eligible for every role in government. ?The extraordinary innovations of Athenian democracy rested in large part on its exclusivity. The classical polis was marked by unity, solidarity, participation and a highly restricted citizenship? (Held, Models of democracy, page 23). The state reached deeply into the lives of it citizens, but embraced only a small proportion of the population During its golden years, Athenian democracy was made up of 3 main institutions: The assembly of 6000, the council of 500, and a committee of 50. ...read more.

Middle

The elected representatives reside in the House of Commons, they are called MP?s (Members of Parliament). There are 650 MP?s, one for each constituency. They meet roughly 5 times a week however they do have recess dates. For decisions to be made in parliament, they need to be met with what?s called a simple majority, meaning only 51% of the MP?s have to vote for it, for it to pass, because each MP is a representative of a constituency this is deemed democratic as if 51% of the representatives vote for it, that means 51% of the electorate must also share these ideals. The British form of democracy has been used for over 700 years without much reform or uproar, the ?westminster? style of government is often looked at as a model of how to get democracy right, and has been mimicked by many other countries. The UK also has a constitution, which while being unmodified (not written down in one continuous document) serves as the backbone of all laws in the country, citing what the government exactly can, and can?t do. (Birch, 2007) Athenian democracy is often heralded as the mother of democracy for the world, and it?s main strength is that it was one of the first societies to use the base idea of people making decisions. ...read more.

Conclusion

?World politics, however, has changed in important ways in recent decades. Instead of countries acting as separate and independent entities, they have increasingly been enmeshed in a web of interconnectedness? (Heywood, Essentials of UK Politics, page 21) The question is still asked however, what can this modern system learn from the ancient one? as opposed to learning from athenian flourishes, I would say that British democracy could learn from the mistakes of ancient Athens, it?s arguable that we?ve learned about what a citizen means, as anyone with a British passport over 18 can vote, modern Britain is also doing much better with foreign policy than ancient Athens did (When was the last time the UK destroyed another country for owing taxes), however it?s always good to look at the roadmap of Athenian democracy and try to avoid going down some of the same roads that led to the end of that system (Dahl 1987). One way of doing this could be through introducing a codified constitution, which would stop any future governments from becoming too power hungry like Athens eventually did, aside from these small things, I?m hard-pressed to find anything specific that the current British democracy could learn from the practices of Ancient Athens. ...read more.

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