Nearly 2500 years ago in Greece, a new word was coined, demokratia, combining the terms demos (“the people”) and kratos (“to rule”). From the moment of its Greek inception to the present day, when nearly every nation on earth claims to be democratic, the concept of popular rule has been a site of deep contestation in Western political theory and practice. This course will examine a constellation of the thorniest and most persistent questions raised by the proposition that “the people” should “rule”: What kind of association is a democratic people--an aggregate, a unity, a multitude? Should all have an equal share in rule? Is there an appropriate size for the practice of popular rule? Can popular rule be squared with representation? With minority rights? Does popular rule require specific institutions? Specific values? Is popular rule inherently stable or, well, unruly? And perhaps most importantly, why should the people rule at all?
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