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Democracy: A Very Short Introduction (New Edition) [#075]
Democracy: A Very Short Introduction (New Edition) [#075]
  • Provides a fresh, modern treatment of the concept of democracy and its varying conceptions in societies from antiquity to the present
  • Analyzes key ideas about democracy from leading social and political thinkers, from Plato to Rawls
  • Explains different forms of democratic government, and the impacts of social movements

Democracy refers to both ideal and real forms of government. The concept of democracy means that those governed — the demos — have a say in government. But different conceptions of democracy have left many out. Naomi Zack provides here a fresh treatment of the history of this idea and its key conceptions. In the ancient world, direct and representative democracy in Athens and Rome privileged elites, as did democratic deliberative bodies in Africa, India, the Middle East, and China. Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero were sceptical of mob-rule dangers of democracy. The medieval and renaissance periods saw legislative checks on monarchy, notably the Magna Carta. The social contract theories of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau matched political expectations that national government be based on consent, for the benefit of those governed. The American Revolution established a new sovereignty, based on British government tradition. By contrast, the French Revolution heralded universal humanitarian ideals.
In the nineteenth century, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, and Karl Marx focused on the democratization of society. Mary Wollstonecraft had championed women's education and rights and Mill advocated further for that cause. Movements for the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, and labour unionization were organized. World War II brought a reset in the twentieth century, with new democratic governments for many countries, including India and South Africa, and new ideals. Karl Popper, Hannah Arendt, and John Rawls emphasized orderly government transition, inclusion, and fairness. Equalitarian goals have concerned racial and ethnic minorities, as well as women. The twenty-first century has brought fresh challenges, including disasters and uninformed electorates. Democracy among nations is a future goal.


1:Thinking about Democracy: Tools for understanding
2:Democracy in the Ancient World: Greece, Rome, and Beyond
3:Democracy in the Medieval and Renaissance Worlds - Internal Democratic Structures
4:The Social Contract: Consent of those Governed
5:Rights and Revolutions: (Exclusive) Political Equality
6:Social Progressivism: Toward Democracy in Society
7:World War II and after: New Democracies and New Conceptions of Democracy
8:The Future of Democracy: Threats and Resilience

About the author: 

Naomi Zack, Professor of Philosophy, Lehman College, CUNY
Naomi Zack, PhD, Columbia University, is Professor of Philosophy at Lehman College, CUNY. Her recent books include The American Tragedy of COVID-19: Social and Political Crises of 2020 (2021), Progressive Anonymity: From Identity Politics to Evidence-Based Government (2020), Reviving the Social Compact: Inclusive Citizenship in an Age of Extreme Politics (2018), Philosophy of Race, An Introduction (2018), and The Theory of Applicative Justice (2016).

"...the book is interesting from a historical perspective in that it sets out details of past and present concepts of democracy." - Michelle Gresty, Law Society

Product details

ISBN : 9780192845061

Naomi Zack
192 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
Sep 2023
Very Short Introductions
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Democracy: A Very Short Introduction (New Edition) [#075]

Democracy: A Very Short Introduction (New Edition) [#075]

Democracy: A Very Short Introduction (New Edition) [#075]