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Democracy is the single most dominant and longest-lived political system in history. It started out from the tiny city-state of Athens two and a half thousand years ago and has long since established itself as the set of ideal principles for the ordering of the just society. Its world authority is now greater than that of any one religion, and its moral status such that even the worst despot tries to justify tyranny by some appeal to its name.

In part this longevity is due to the manifold nature of the concept. There have been innumerable versions of the democratic state, many of them notably undemocratic: Athenian and Roman representation, for instance, excluded slaves and women – indeed women were counted out of serious contribution ...

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