Inside Story

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Will democracy survive?

15 September 2009

Democracy did not emerge as an historical inevitability, John Keane tells Peter Clarke

Right:

George Grote, an influential proponent of the view that democracy was born in Athens.

George Grote, an influential proponent of the view that democracy was born in Athens.



THERE ARE some shocks in John Keane's latest book, The Life and Death of Democracy. First, he punctures the “democracy started in Athens” myth – “assembly democracy,” he writes, was practised much earlier and further east. But a bigger jolt comes from his thesis that democracy did not emerge as an historical inevitability. It was an invention at a certain time and place, not a natural state of human power-sharing. And its survival as a system of government in the twenty-first century is far from secure.

John Keane is Professor of Politics at the University of Westminster and the Wissenschaftszentrum in Berlin. He took part in a debate, "Does Democracy Have a Future?", at the 2009 Melbourne Writer's Festival, where Peter Clarke spoke with him about democracy's surprising past, challenging present and uncertain future.

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International

Austria’s winds of change deliver a timely message

Philipp Strobl

25 May 2016

The tight presidential election result might suggest Austria is drifting to the far right, says Philipp Strobl. But history shows voters wanted to send a different signal

Right:

“A weight off Europe’s mind”: Alexander Van der Bellen, who won this week’s presidential election, shown here at the inauguration of the Monument for the Victims of Nazi Military Justice in Vienna in October 2014. Christian Michelides/Wikimedia

“A weight off Europe’s mind”: Alexander Van der Bellen, who won this week’s presidential election, shown here at the inauguration of the Monument for the Victims of Nazi Military Justice in Vienna in October 2014. Christian Michelides/Wikimedia