03 January 2010

Book: What's Wrong with Democracy?

In 2004, "What's Wrong with Democracy? From Athenian Practice to American Worship" by Loren J. Samons II was published (University of California Press):


Publisher's description: "Fifth-century Athens is praised as the cradle of democracy and sometimes treated as a potential model for modern political theory or practice. In this daring reassessment of classical Athenian democracy and its significance for the United States today, Loren J. Samons provides ample justification for our founding fathers' distrust of democracy, a form of government they scorned precisely because of their familiarity with classical Athens. How Americans have come to embrace 'democracy' in its modern form – and what the positive and negative effects have been – is an important story for all contemporary citizens.

"Confronting head-on many of the beliefs we hold dear but seldom question, Samons examines Athens's history in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. in order to test the popular idea that majority rule leads to good government. Challenging many basic assumptions about the character and success of Athenian democracy, What's Wrong with Democracy? offers fascinating and accessible discussions of topics including the dangers of the popular vote, Athens's acquisitive foreign policy, the tendency of the state to overspend, the place of religion in Athenian society, and more.

"Sure to generate controversy, Samons's bold and iconoclastic book finds that democracy has begun to function like an unacknowledged religion in our culture, immune from criticism and dissent, and he asks that we remember the Athenian example and begin to question our uncritical worship of democratic values such as freedom, choice, and diversity."

Reviews: "This is unlike any recent work I know of. It offers a challenging, often refreshing, and what will certainly be a controversial assessment of classical Athenian democracy and its significance to modern America. Samons is willing to tread where few other classicists are willing to go in print. He reminds readers that the Athenian democracy offers just as many negative lessons as positive ones [...]." (James P. Sickinger, Florida State University)

"In this marvelously unfashionable book, Samons debunks much of what passes in the current-day academy as scholarship on classical Athens, demonstrating that it is an ideologically-driven apology for a radically defective form of government." (Paul A. Rahe, Hillsdale College)

"In this elegantly written, carefully researched, and perceptive book, Samons presents a penetrating analysis of ancient Athenian democracy's dark sides. His book is as much about the errors and weaknesses of our own political system as it is about those of ancient Athens. Whether or not we agree with his critique and conclusions, this book is not merely thought-provoking: it is annoyingly discomforting, forcing us to re-examine firm beliefs and to discard easy solutions." (Kurt A. Raaflaub, Brown University)

The book is fully searchable on Google Book Search (including table of contents):


Loren J. Samons II is Professor of Classical Studies and Department Chair at Boston University.

No comments:

Post a Comment