Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: September 25, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952637 | Print ISBN: 9780761923879 | Online ISBN: 9781412952637| Publisher:Sage Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Political Participation and Rights
From an historical perspective, democracy is a mutable concept. Societies—such as ancient Athens—thought to be the cradle of democracy, or medieval city-states, are suspect due to the quality of their systems. For instance, the Athenian agora was restricted to free male owners of slaves. Similarly, the British political system, considered a source of democracy, even after midnineteenth century electoral law reforms, restricted full membership to a small portion of the adult population. French women received voting rights only after World War II, and the United States government only extended effective voting to African Americans in the South, despite the formal principle of political equality, in the mid-1960s. These formal and practical shortcomings of democratic performance led to a suspicion of democracy in general. Marxists since Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) were critical of democracy, claiming that it masked class inequality and resulted in a structure of dominance. Marxist-Leninism ...