Was it a coincidence that democracy emerged in ancient Greece? What might be the factors that contribute to it?


Looking at the world history, Egyptians, Persians, Chinese etc, authoritarian governments seem to be the norm, while democracy is more like a rare mutation.

I don’t think the ancient Greek philosophy of “living a virtuous life”, “rule by many” just happened randomly, but I don’t have much knowledge of how the Greek lived and what are the social factors that might contribute to democracy.

In general the west seems to be more aware of the legitimacy of the government than the their eastern neighbors, England had the Magna Carta long before the Enlightenment, France and Netherlands had the revolution, Scandinavian countries are closer to “socialism” than any country in the world who claim themselves to be.

My theory is that this has a lot to do with the population.

The east was much more populated in general, think about China and India, in a place where there are more people than available resources, competition becomes fierce. People need to “step over” others to get the resource they need, they can only do so by violence. Ruling by fear is the only working way, otherwise it will be in chaos.

Democracy is a social contract that seems to be much more acceptable in a situation where resources are abundant with people had their basic needs fulfilled. It also seems to be more likely to happen in an isolated, peaceful place where war is not a huge threat.

When there is less people it also make lives more valuable. The enlightenment thinking emphasizes greatly on “human nature”, I doubt in a overly populated, highly competitive society it will be possible to have the same respect for “human rights”.

But then I was thinking, is it true that agrarian civilization tends to be more populated? Why Europe was never as populated as the east?

It will be great to hear some insights from people who have researched on Ancient Greece or European history. I’ll be glad to hear any arguments on this theory and you are welcome to come up with other possible factors/theories. It will also be great if you have any recommendations on books regarding this.

Source: reddit post


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