What were some of the strengths and weaknesses of Athenian Democracy?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most overwhelming strengths of Athenian Democracy was the basic idea that individuals were able to create some semblance of political power through their own voice.  Athenian Democracy was instrumental in suggesting that individuals can only be considered free if their possess political autonomy, the ability to impact issues politically.  In this, Athenian Democracy has to be seen as possessing strength, as it lays the foundation for how "the West" comes to see political power.  Human beings possess power when they are able to have a civic voice and make political decisions about their future.  The weakness of Athenian Democracy might exist in qualifying who was able to take part in such an autonomous experience.  Athenian Democracy literally made political power an exercise for men, only.  While it voiced the idea of "people rule," this did not include women.  A the same time, Athenian Democracy permitted the enslavement of others.  It seems that a government that stressed individual rule and the idea that people have power would lose some of said strength if it did not apply to all people.  In this, I think that Athenian Democracy has to be viewed as possessing a particular weakness in how it was not applicable to all.

Further Reading:
thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Strengths of Athenian democracy include:

The public exercised direct democracy, which extended an opportunity for citizens to deliberate on a myriad of government policies before expressing their individual choice through voting. This organizational structure provided the people with a chance to participate in the functioning of their government.

The principle of public participation was further affirmed by the Boules, which ensured that every citizen served in the decision-making Council that supported the public assemblies.

Leaders were also required to abide by term limits, and the term limits ensured no individual person became too powerful. Additionally, all leaders were held accountable while in service, and the public had an opportunity to challenge any malpractice.

Weaknesses of the Athenian democracy include:

The Athenian form of democracy was a contradiction in the sense that it did not allow participation of a large section of the public, namely, women and slaves.

The Athenian democracy was not equitable, and it did not consider slaves and foreigners. Additionally, Athenian women had no place in decision-making.

etotheeyepi | Student

The greatest defect might have been that the democracy tried to vote itself wealth.

See A War Like No Other by Victor Davis Hanson.

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