Classical democracy: a model for the modern world?

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Abstract

Plato’s Laws proposes a unique and interesting form of government for the hypothetical city-state (polis) outlined there and called Magnesia. It is on the one hand nominally a system of participatory democracy with a lively political culture. On the other, it is an authoritarian state, ruled by an elite and secretive council that carefully scrutinises its subjects and interferes in their lives in ways that today conjure shadows of the bygone Soviet Union. The electoral system is set up so that those in power may remove any potentially unwanted candidate. And the unelected, supreme council (known as the Vigilance Committee or synlogos nukterinos) which has final say over the interpretation of the law and being the only ones invested with the ability to change the law, have close ties with the official state religion so as, to the modern reader, to recollect the Assembly of Experts of the Leadership in post-revolutionary Iran. The Vigilance Committee has at its disposal the highly trained Guardians of the Laws as their agents of enforcement with the state sanctioned monopoly on violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-24
JournalQuarterly Review: Ideas, Culture and Current Affairs
Volume4
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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