Cleisthenes’ Choice: The Emergence of Direct Democracy in Ancient Athens

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    Abstract

    The paper uses political economy methodology to analyze the shift from aristocracy to democracy at the end of 6th century BC in ancient Athens. It is argued that conditioned by pre-existing institutional arrangements and the political conflicts of the time, Cleisthenes, the constitutional framer, chose the institutions that maximized his expected net benefit. Involving the citizens directly in political decision making provided strong protection against the threats to their standing and led to the establishment of direct democracy using a simple majority rule rather than representative government.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)41-61
    JournalJournal of Economic Asymmetries
    Volume8
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011

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    Keywords

    • Ancient Athens
    • Direct democracy
    • Majority voting
    • Cleisthenes

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