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  • A pejorative term referring to a single ruler who rules in self-interest against the will of his subjects. The word originated as a nonpejorative Greek word for “illegitimate ruler,” meaning one who assumes rule without the support of a constitution, religion, or monarch. Tyrannies existed in large numbers in Ancient Greece; among the most notable is Peisistratus (607–528 BCE), who assumed rule of Athens following a coup. He was popular among the poorer classes and instituted cultural reform of the city. He is credited with paving the way for the later prominence of Athens. Another usage of the term is the expression “tyranny by the majority.” Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859), a French political theorist, coined the expression in Democracy in America (1835). After observing democracy ...

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