Parara: Democracy and the modifiers of modernity

Dr. Polyvia Parara teaches Classics and Modern Greek Studies at the University of Maryland College Park. In a recent article in the English edition of the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, Parara argues that modern Western-system states, conventionally known as “democracies”, are in fact a distortion of the original meaning of democracy, since they do not implement “Isopoliteia” – political equality.

Compared to the original meaning of democracy, it is deduced that modern western societies constitute liberal parliamentary republics protecting individual freedoms and granting rights. They are governed by elected representatives, professional politicians that draw legitimacy by the popular vote. Yet, the citizenry remains limited in the private sphere, not constituting a governing body.

Parara references work of interest by two authors. One reference is to a 2005 book by classicist Mogens Herman, The Tradition of Ancient Greek Democracy and Its Importance for Modern Democracy which

suggests creating a deliberative political institution by random selection among the citizenry, which will debate on all political matters by committees and consult the parliament.

Parara also mentions work by Prof. Georgios Contogeorgis, of the Panteion University of Political and Social Sciences in Athens.

[Contogeorgis] proposes a new constitution typology for modernity and redefines democracy for modernity. Prof. Contogeorgis classifies the liberal parliamentary republics of modernity as variations of “liberal elected monarchy.” According to his taxonomy, “representation” constitutes an upcoming evolutionary phase in which the citizenry constitutes a political governmental body that mandates policies to governmental bodies. The following phase of social biology is “democracy.” That said, according to his “cosmosystemic gnoseology,” democracy is a future goal in the historical becoming of modernity that offers humanity a horizon of optimism for more democratic institutions aiming at autonomy.

3 Responses

  1. Isopoliteia refers to the equality of citizenship rights between different city-states. The correct term for equal political rights between citizens of the same polis is isonomia. Mogens Hansen’s book is an excellent read but very hard to come by.

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  2. Today, most people would be confused by the term “elected monarchy.” People associate monarchy with hereditary lineage. But this electoral monarchy system was long used in Europe. Poland, for example, elected its king for many centuries (though elected by an aristocratic body, rather than the general population). It was only abandoned in 1791, so the constitutional framers in the USA knew it well. Indeed, this system was under serious consideration at the constitutional convention in Philadelphia, USA. While some advocated selection of the president for a life term, the Polish king could be removed at any time, or continually re-elected for life. The electoral college somewhat mirrors the system imported from Poland (in that the original constitution had no presidential term limit). It is important to understand that nearly all of the framers opposed democracy, preferring the model of the Roman Republic. The term “elected monarchy,” or “elected oligarchy” aptly describes modern elections.

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  3. […] In a recent article Dr. Polyvia Parara made reference to a 2005 book by Mogens Herman Hansen, The Tradition of Ancient Greek Democracy and its Importance for Modern Democracy. It turns out this book is available online. […]

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