chapter  1
38 Pages

The Three Waves of American Democracy

Democracy, the theory and practice of self-governing citizens in a community, had its origins in the ancient Greek city-states, notably Athens. But these early forms of democracy limited citizen participation to a small minority of adults, employed direct voting (Rome was a partial exception), and asked citizens to leave behind their self-interest. Democracy acquired new meaning in the modern era during the course of four great revolutions: the English revolutions of 1642 and 1688, the American Revolution of 1776, and the French Revolution of 1789. The modern rebirth of democracy added three crucial new elements-representation of citizen voters in an area of large geographical expanse (the nation-state), equal participation of all as an ideal and growing reality, and the value of individual self-development.