chapter  5
22 Pages

European democracy

How did Europe develop democratic politics? Other civilisations have decision-making processes which involve deliberation and the pursuit of agreement by majority voting or sometimes unanimity, but the combination of formal state machinery and a democratic decision-making process, with all sane adults having the right to have an input, is something of a European (and North American) speciality. We should remember, however, that this is quite a recent development. Despite its early adoption, in some of the ancient Greek city-states, for free men , and its theorisation over a millennium later in Rousseau’s idea that all citizens should participate in legislation, and in Montesquieu’s famous doctrine of the separation of powers (legislative, executive and judicial), the notion of ‘one person one vote’ was wildly subversive in most of Europe until well into the nineteenth century, with its extension to women on the same basis as men not until well into the twentieth (1928 in Britain, 1945 in France, 1971 in Switzerland).