Read First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea by Paul Woodruff Online


Americans have an unwavering faith in democracy and are ever eager to import it to nations around the world. But how democratic is our own "democracy"? If you can vote, if the majority rules, if you have elected representatives--does this automatically mean that you have a democracy? In this eye-opening look at an ideal that we all take for granted, classical scholar PaulAmericans have an unwavering faith in democracy and are ever eager to import it to nations around the world. But how democratic is our own "democracy"? If you can vote, if the majority rules, if you have elected representatives--does this automatically mean that you have a democracy? In this eye-opening look at an ideal that we all take for granted, classical scholar Paul Woodruff offers some surprising answers to these questions. Drawing on classical literature, philosophy, and history--with many intriguing passages from Sophocles, Aesop, and Plato, among others--Woodruff immerses us in the world of ancient Athens to uncover how the democratic impulse first came to life. The heart of the book isolates seven conditions that are the sine qua non of democracy: freedom from tyranny, harmony, the rule of law, natural equality, citizen wisdom, reasoning without knowledge, and general education. He concludes that a true democracy must be willing to invite everyone to join in government. It must respect the rule of law so strongly that even the government is not above the law. True democracy must be mature enough to accept changes that come from the people. And it must be willing to pay the price of education for thoughtful citizenship. If we learn anything from the story of Athens, Woodruff concludes, it should be this--never lose sight of the ideals of democracy. This compact, eloquent book illuminates these ideals and lights the way as we struggle to keep democracy alive at home and around the world....

Title : First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780195304541
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 284 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea Reviews

  • Paul
    2019-02-13 16:28

    This book was just an overview of a subject, and as such each chapter could have been a book unto it's self. The author tends to the abstract as philosophers tend to do, and seems to be expounding on cosepts such as reverence and citizen wisdom that he dose not really define, it challenges the popular cosept of democracy, and has a good working definition of tyranny. This is a short work (231 pages), and each chapter could have easally been a book in it's own right. That said it paints a good picture of the pro's and cons of a living democracy in ancient greece. The author tends to the abstract, without fully explaining or defining the cosepts he is explaining. It is easy to wax philisophical about political systems and why they work. To do so with incomplete definitions of those consepts that make up the political system makes the work ring untrue. The book spends a chapter discussing reverence and harmony with little in the way of an explaination of what the author means by these words. It can be gleanned from the work by rereading the chapter but after being so obvious it ...well lost me. The shorter a work, the more consise I think it should be. On harmony and reasoning without knolage the book became less obvious. The work challenges the common understanding of democracy. The author is very clear in telling the reader what democracy is not, majority rule, a tyranny of partys, exclusive of the minority, or easy. In this the author perhaps has the most to say to the common American. It nails down many of the faillings of the American system, and gives a historical, and at the end of the book, contemporary options. It is refreshing to see in print, an opinion of why the american system is not as on track as it should be, without blaming one side or the other but blames all sides equally. This work also states quite clearly that Atheanian Democracy cannot work in a multicultural, multiethnic and geographically diverse nation, like our own. It dose however state that to not try to strive for the ideal is also a mistake. It gives a good working definition of tyranny. This I found invaluable. The term Tyranny and tyrant are thrown arround so often as to loose significance, to have a good definition of tyranny gives significance to its self and to freedom.As a whole it is a fair book, well researched though the conclutions the author makes are up for debate, some thing he points out is the very heart of democracy as is the struggle for how to best acheive democracy and be free of tyranny. Well worth a read as it challenges the sound bite explainations of the subject we are now faced with.

  • José Monico
    2019-01-24 17:33

    This one was recommended by a political podcaster. I'm afraid I can't shake my overall expectation for this book. What drew me to this one was the central idea of political reform in the United States by way of education. Now that is not a radical theory by any means; but I was hoping to exactly read how, and what kind of education that simple idea had in mind. Little did I know that the podcaster's summary was more in-depth than the book's explanations.I'm afraid this shortcoming is not only limited to that notion. At only 231 pages of actual content, the book puts out many interesting thoughts on the ideals of democracy. But I'm afraid none of them are thoroughly probed. Leaving me to wonder how Athenian democracy could successfully be implemented within the populational confines of 313 million Americans, or the best modern equivalent to the 'general education' so frowned upon by 'new-age' thinkers during the second wing of Athens new government. I did enjoy Paul's defense on ancient rhetorics (sophists); and the critical tone on some of the great philosophers of all time. Making true to his word that no amount of excellence or authority is spared from critique.

  • Terence
    2019-02-15 13:22

    This book is a great primer on the concepts of democracy. Unfortunately it suffers a bit from a lack of focus and is thus plagued by needless redundancies and the sense that the work is much longer than it is. Had Woodruff been able to tighten this to a hundred pages I think it would be considerably more effective and poignant. Nonetheless I found it to be a valuable read and an interesting foil to the text I finished just prior, Mann and Ornstein's It's Even Worse Than It Looks. I say that because of how some proposals to altering our present system to become more functional sometimes butt against those that would make it more democratic. Such conflicts make for some interesting dilemmas, and while concrete answers aren't always to be had here, a path to their solutions, by way of asking the right kinds of questions is. For those interested in politics and various forms of government, this is not one to miss.

  • Jennifer
    2019-01-27 15:30

    It's been a long haul, but I finally finished. Am I glad I read it, yes. Did it make me want to scream and throw things, yes. Personally, when I read a book that purports to be history, I just want to read history. I don't mind knowing the author's opinion, but I really don't want to be beaten about the head with the author's opinion. This particular author writes with a big stick.Obviously, I disagree with the author on several fundamental issues.I found the history of Athenian democracy interesting, and based on the Afterword pp 211-230), useful in considering how well our system of government in the United States is serving us now. That said, do I believe we should abandon our Republic, NO. I do believe that we could stand election, tax, and party-system reform. I do believe we are experiencing tyranny by political parties. I am still more afraid of mob rule.

  • Mary
    2019-01-26 11:23

    Woodruff is kind of the intellectual of the semester. This book also fits into the whole patriotism thing that’s been in the back of my mind since I went to DC. He suggests that ancient Athens can teach us a lot about democracy—not that it was perfect. He also suggests that America may not be ready for democracy—real democracy—and that it may actually be getting less democratic. The references to America are implied throughout the book (for example, Athen’s ill-fated military advances against Syracuse), but the last chapter makes the damning accusations against the US outright. Still, it’s hard to know, what, exactly, we’re supposed to do about it. Aside from rewriting the Constitution, I don’t know what we can do.

  • Jon
    2019-02-02 16:23

    A very solid work. More important in 2016 than it was in 2004. Woodruff's approach is accessible, readable, while attentive to nuance and complexity. He's assertive and focused, placing value on issues and ideals we can understand, yet uses those ideals and values to raise thought-provoking questions that neither digress into needless despair or shallow optimism. A leveled and incisive introduction to how democracy of old can aid our approach to these ideals in the present. While some of the information at the end is now out of date, the principles he's addressing remain vital to the communal discussion. Good stuff.

  • Jon
    2019-02-13 11:28

    At once a review of Athenian history, a treatise on the worth of democracy, and a critique of contemporary American politics, First Democracy is singular. While Woodruff's warnings don't point directly to any one contemporary public leader, it's clear all along that he wrote the book out of fear that we're stumbling, like a drunkard after a senseless death metal concert, towards tyranny. Thankfully, Woodruff's exposition of the rise and fall of the world's first democracy paints a clear picture about how we might hold onto the central reason America has been so successful a nation.

  • Colin
    2019-01-22 18:19

    This outstanding book examines the meaning of democracy and compares and contrasts ancient Athenian democracy with modern American democracy. The examination is a thorough one, and includes a detailed look at what democracy is NOT (common misconceptions, like majority rule, are addressed). I would recommend this book to anyone who lives in or wishes to live in a more democratic society - in other words, almost everyone I know. And I finished reading it just in time for the 4th of July. Independence Forever!

  • Ahmed
    2019-02-09 14:19

    A readable, sober analysis of Athenian democracy. Because it is such a short book intended for a very broad audience, those extremely interested in the subject might find it too general or find the style choppy here and there. It conveys a succinct message quite well: democracy as "rule by the people" has little to do with elections and is much more than voting.It is unique, accessible, engaging and short, which could make it a good civics supplement or even text book, for young adults.

  • Dustin Simmons
    2019-02-15 15:34

    This book does an excellent job of shifting the discussion about democracy and democratic ideals away from its philosophical detractors like Plato and Thucydides towards the ideals and underlying principles that the ancient Athenians were striving for. There is much for a modern audience to ponder in these pages.

  • Nick
    2019-02-06 11:47

    Simply awesome .... The right to argue when you don't know what you are talking about .... majestic.The pillars of the modern democracy as seen by the ol' Greeks ....The author is a professor at U of Texas .... really cool in his ideas ... Please read for yourself - and if you do, please fire me an email with your comments .... Thanks!!! :o)

  • Mandy
    2019-01-21 14:26

    This book is excellent. It is thoughtful, provocative and clear. Woodruff is concise, but still provides all the information necessary to make his point in the historical and contemporary aspects of the subject matter. Reading this has me rethinking my perceptions of U.S. government in terms of definitions of a democracy. An excellent book that every U.S. citizen/resident should read.

  • Steven
    2019-01-31 14:48

    I think this is an important book. The Author describes the 200 year Athenian struggle for democracy. He identifies 7 traits of Democracy and examines each with respect to events in ancient Athens. He believes that the United States have been on a path toward democracy but that recently we may be retreating from rather than advancing toward it. A very thought-provoking and informative book.

  • Regina
    2019-01-22 14:38

    Amazing book, I think if you are into politics or a law student it is to-read with red light. Although i do think everyone should try and educate themselves of this particular subject. This book is a very easy read, and fast paced. Ideas are numbered, pointed out and simple to comprehand. Do not wait, READ IT!

  • Alvin
    2019-01-25 10:22

    An interesting appraisal of Greece's attempt to develop a democracy with its successes and failures. The author does a very good job looking at the historical context and drawing conclusions that help the reader understand the relationship of democracy to contemporary society.

  • Kiera Beddes
    2019-02-15 11:45

    The book looks at the elements that make up democracy: freedom from tyranny, harmony, the rule of law, natural equality, citizen wisdom, reasoning without knowledge and general education. It was an interesting analysis of democracy and what it takes to sustain it. It's worth further analysis.

  • Kelly
    2019-02-05 12:24

    A very interesting look at the history of an idea that is frequently mentioned and widely misunderstood.

  • Josh
    2019-02-03 14:38

    I liked this, although it probably won't be that interesting to most people. Still, worth a read if you're interested in democracy.

  • Rachel
    2019-02-09 16:19

    Very thought provoking.

  • CHAM
    2019-02-06 18:30

    I tried teaching this book (unsuccessfully) to my Greek class in 2005-2006.

  • Dimitris
    2019-02-01 13:22

    Wonderful. Woodruff asks the right question without being a dogmatic supporter of the always rebellious, on-going and alive idea of democracy