Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Puppet Statecraft

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Puppet Statecraft

Article excerpt

'Please do not mistake democracy for division. We're now allowing people to express their views in a way in which they've never been allowed before within a political party.' Someone could ask John McDonnell, the Corbynista shadow chancellor, when people in the UK were not 'allowed' to express their views. What he means, of course, is that the 250,000 who voted for Corbyn as leader will now be allowed to control Labour party policy. One wonders what parliament is for.

In classical Athens, the home of democracy, no speaker ever stood up and asked the citizenry what it wanted to do so that he could propose doing it. That did not mean speakers failed to take the temperature of popular opinion, but speakers in the Assembly had to attempt to persuade the whole Assembly to see things their way, and every citizen had his own particular interests and concerns to be taken into consideration -- rich and poor, town and country, traders and farmers, hoplites and sailors. Looking beyond those interests, Aristotle concluded that it was those citizens of moderate means that held the key to power, 'for where the middling class is numerous, there least occur factions and divisions among citizens'. …

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