Has democracy had its day?

The worst kind of government – apart from all the others – faces increasingly tough challenges. Four leading historians consider its future.

‘A Tub Thumper’, by Thomas Rowlandson, c. 1817-1820. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. Public Domain.

Democracy in the Athenian sense has not yet been realised

Edith Hall, Professor of Classics at King’s College London and author of Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life (Bodley Head, 2018)

Democracy as we understand it is creaking. Under our system of government, the people’s role consists of little more than being allowed to vote every few years for individuals organised into political parties to represent them. The principle that a parliamentarian is not obliged to represent his electors’ views was lent respectability by Edmund Burke when he told the voters of Bristol in 1774, ‘You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament.’

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