Connecting the Voices of Democracy

Friday, June 28, 2013

Demonstrations in Fortaleza, Brazil, part of a movement that began against bus fare increases and expanded to include spending on soccer stadiums for the 2014 World Cup. (Flickr user Semilla Luz/flickr)

The notion of democracy derives from the Greek principle of  kratosdēmos or "rule of the people." It was a form of political organization based on collective sovereignty and self-governance traceable back to Greek city-states, most notably Athens.

“Our form of government is called a democracy because its administration is in the hands, not of a few, but of the whole people,” Pericles, an influential statesman of ancient Greece, had proclaimed.

Today, the overarching symbol of democracy is popular discontent—from Turkey and Bulgaria, to Brazil and again this weekend in Egypt, the language and the time zones may change, but the voice of their protest is increasingly the same.

Are these protests a show of democracy in action, or do they represent something far deeper: A response to a form of capitalism that is becoming identified with the rule of unaccountable elites, lack of accountability, and repressive policing?

According to Professor Alfred Stepan, founding Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration and Religion at Columbia University these protests are a direct reflection of the levels of democratic consolidation in the countries at hand. Professor Stepan discusses the connection between democracy, capitalism and discontent in developing nations. 

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Professor Alfred Stepan

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Todd Zwillich

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T.J. Raphael

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