A radical new theory is challenging the traditional narrative of how democracy was born. In this episode, we speak with political scientist David Stasavage, author of the recent book The Decline and Rise of Democracy. Stasavage believes that democracy was not invented by the Greeks but was actually widespread across the pre-modern world. And in today's episode he explains why.
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Transcript of the Episode's Prologue
Five years ago a bombshell article came out called “It wasn't just Greece: Archaeologists find early democratic societies in the Americas.” According to the article, there is increasing evidence that certain states in Mesoamerica before the Spanish conquest were not ruled by kings but by senates and other institutions normally associated with democratic rule. This seemed to go against the traditional narrative that democracy started in ancient Greece, was later revived in Europe, and from there was spread to the rest of the world. So, what’s the deal here? Was democracy really more widespread in ancient times than previously thought?
In today’s episode we’re looking at a new book that is challenging the standard history of democracy. It’s called The Decline and Rise of Democracy and it goes much further than that article from 5 years ago. Its author David Stasavage collects and presents evidence for many pre-modern non-European democracies and argues that democracy has been around since time immemorial. David Stasavage is the dean for social sciences and a professor of political science at NYU and he joins us now.