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History of World Democracy

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Most people think of the world democracy movement as a new phenomenon or even one whose time has not quite yet come to pass. A closer examination of history, however, reveals that this has been the hope and dream as well as practical project of many political thinkers, activists, and leaders throughout the world and throughout the ages.

To analyze the history of the quest for democracy at the supranational level, we must do so through a closer examination of its component parts: democracy (and republicanism) and the position of nation-states as the primary unit for organizing affairs in our world. One of these concepts is as old as humankind itself, and one of these concepts in basically brand new – which one is surprising to most people.

The first and therefore presumably most “natural” way of organizing affairs of man was through small communities. These were something that we could recognize as democracies and/or republics, but not as modern nation-states. This is contrary to the common perception of history as a slow move away from the inevitable rule of kings to government by the people – a modern idea originating in Europe. These assumptions are wrong on every level. Studies of Native American, Mesopotamian, and North Indian tribes reveal that democracy and republicanism have been around since before recorded history and long pre-date the nation-state system. Every corner of the Earth, at some time, has experienced shifts from republican to tyrannical forms of government and/or back again. Written history is filled with nearly countless ancient democratic city-states (Athens) as well as republican systems (Carthage). In such systems, ultimate power over all matters, including international affairs, resided with the citizens and/or their representatives. This would mean that the decision to go to war or treaty for peace or lower tariffs or other “foreign” matters were voted upon in the same manner as regulation of the trades and other “domestic” matters.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2007

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