Paul_Cockshott wpc at cs.strath.ac.uk
Tue Jun 13 06:08:47 MDT 1995

In the Greek formulation of democracy - governance is not by the "common
people" but by the "citizens" of the state. In the "democratic space" of
the polis, the rights and obligations of the citizen were far more
concrete than anything in operation now.

This is to strip democracy of its character as class

" it is a mistake which some people habitually
make today, to describe democracy and oligarchy
in terms too simple and absolute, saying that
there is a democracy where the mass of the people
are sovereign ( as if the majority were not also
sovereign in oligarchies and elsewhere ), and
an oligarchy where few are sovereign in the
consitution. Suppose a total of 1300; 1000 of these
are rich, and they give no share of office to the
300 poor people, who are also free men and in
other respects like them; nobody would say that
these 1300 lived in a democracy. ....
  A democracy exists whenever those who are free
and are not well off, being in the majority,
are in sovereign control of the government, an
oligarchy when control lies with the rich and
better born these being few." (Aristotle,

The point being, that in an oligarchy like Rome
or the USA, although the majority are sovereign in
the sense of being participants in the constitution,
effective control of the government is in the
hands of the rich.

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