Deakin University
isakhan-democracycritiquing-post-2015.pdf (1.21 MB)

Democracy: critiquing a Eurocentric history

Download (1.21 MB)
conference contribution
posted on 2015-01-01, 00:00 authored by Benjamin IsakhanBenjamin Isakhan
This paper sets out an ambitious critique of contemporary political scientists, political historians and others concerned with the history of democracy. It argues that overwhelmingly the history of democracy relies on an overtly Eurocentric narrative that emphasizes the keystone moments of Western civilization. According to this narrative, democracy has a clear trajectory that can be traced from ancient experiments with participatory government in Greece and to a lesser extent in Rome, through the development of the British parliament, the American Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution, and then finally onto the triumphant march of the liberal model of democracy across the globe over the last 200 years, particularly under Western tutelage. Histories of democracy that focus exclusively on these events not only privilege Europe and its successful colonies, but also miss the broader human story of the struggle for and achievement of democracy.
This presents us with a distinct challenge. For those whose heritage does not include a direct link to Greek assemblies, the American Congress or the French Revolution, the ‘standard history of democracy’ provides a distant and exclusive narrative, which limits one’s ability to embrace democracy. This paper concludes by noting that, as democracy spreads out across the world today, political scientists not only need to break down the intellectual orthodoxy that democracy has exclusively Western roots, but also to embrace a more global view of democracy as a political practise that has been present at various times and in sometimes unfamiliar ways in the complex histories and rich cultural traditions of most of the people of the earth.



Australian Political Studies Association. Conference (2015 : Canberra, A.C.T.)


1 - 14


Australian Political Studies Association


Canberra, A.C.T.

Place of publication

Canberra, A.C.T.

Start date


End date




Publication classification

E1 Full written paper - refereed

Copyright notice

2015, APSA

Title of proceedings

APSA 2015 : Proceedings of the 2015 Australian Political Studies Association Conference

Usage metrics

    Research Publications


    No categories selected