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Supplement A: 2,234 Descriptions of Democracy: An Update to Democracy's Ontological Pluralism
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Supplement A: 2,234 Descriptions of Democracy: An Update to Democracy’s Ontological Pluralism

[This is the first supplement to the research note “2,234 Descriptions of Democracy” first published in Democratic Theory.]

Evidence in support of the claim “over the last two hundred years it has been noted that there are many . . . ways to describe democracy” (see page 1 in the research note).

See, for the 1800s: Ames 1809: xvii. 1810s: Brackenridge 1819: 133. 1820s: Baldwin and Co. 1827. 1830s: Sega 1830: 16. 1840s: Dumas 1941. 1850s: Ohio Constitutional Convention 1851. 1860s: Brougham 1861. 1870s: Mazzini 1875. 1880s: Fernow 1886: 29. 1890s: Giddings 1896: 717. 1900s: Mackenzie 1906: 9. 1910s: Venable 1916: 214; Mallock 1918: 45. 1920s: Bretherton 1927: 646–647. 1930s: Brooks 1935: 443. 1940s: Wolf 1947: 98. 1950s: Salvadori 1958: 5. 1960s: Rejai 1967. 1970s: Craig 1975: 188–189. 1980s: Gitonga 1987: 4–23. 1990s: O’Donnell 1996: 34, paragraph 2. 2000s: Paley 2002: 496–497; Keane 2009. 2010s: Gagnon 2013; Rupnik, and Zielonka 2013; Flinders 2016.

There is, too, evidence of debate over the meaning of democracy in ancient Greek times. Aristotle serves as a good example. It is not right, he argues in Politics, “to define democracy, as some people are in the custom of doing now, merely as the constitution in which the multitude is sovereign” for there are “various kinds of democracy”—ones that emerge from the culture of a polity/city (i.e. that “manifest from the actual things that have been said” [presumably in the Ekklesia], Aristotle 1944: 1290a, 1292b).

Insofar as can be determined from English translations, the use of adjectives to describe democracy appears common in classical literature. Adjectives like “Athenian” (Aeschines 1919: book 3, 65), “Argive” (Thucydides 1910: book 5, 31), “extreme” (Aristotle 1944: book 3, 1277b), “full” (Andocides 1968: book 1, 76), and “good” (Xenophon 1921: book 2, 3) are used to tell what democracy is or to describe an existing manifestation of it. A jump to early publications in English shows that, here as well, the practice is found: “Quiet democracy” (Greene 1587), “troublesome democracy” (Vaughan 1600: chapter 10), “Morellius democracy” (Baillie 1645), and “singular democracy” (Atwood 1681: 3) are some examples. Like their ancient Greek counterparts, these early English scholars used adjectives to give a specific meaning to the word democracy.


Aeschines. 1919. Aeschines. Trans. Charles Darwin Adams. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ames, Fisher. 1809. Works of Fisher Ames. Boston: T. B. Wait and Co.

Andocides. 1968. Minor Attic Orators in Two Volumes. Trans. K. J. Maidment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Aristotle. 1944. Politics 21. Trans. H. Rackman. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Atwood, William. 1681. Jus Anglorum ab antiquo, or, A confutation of an impotent libel against the government by king, lords, and commons under pretence of answering Mr.Petyt, and the author of Jani Anglorum facies nova. London: Printed for Edward Berry.

Baillie, Robert. 1645. A dissuasive from the errours of the time wherein the tenets of the principall sects, especially of the Independents, are drawn together in one map, for the most part in the words of their own authours, and their maine principles are examined by the touch-stone of the Holy Scriptures. London: Printed for Samuel Gellibrand.

Baldwin and Company, eds. 1827. The Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politics, and Literature of the Year 1826. London: T. C. Hansard, Pater-noster-row Press.

Brackenridge, Hugh Henry. 1819. Modern Chivalry: Containing the Adventures of a Captain and Teague O’Regan, His Servant. Pittsburgh: R. Patterson and Lambdin.

Bretherton, C. H. 1927. “Too Much Democracy.” The North American Review 224 (838): 646–653.

Brooks, Robert C. 1935. “Democracies and their Dictatorships: The Debit Side of Their Ledgers.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 75 (6): 443–481.

Brougham, Henry. 1861. Of Democracy. Mixed Monarchy. London: H. G. Bohn.

Craig, John G. 1975. “Democratic Control in Insurance Cooperatives.” Annals of Public and Co-Operative Economy 46 (2): 187–200.

Dumas, Alexandre. 1841. The Progress of Democracy. Trans. “an American” from Dumas’ original Gaule et France. New York: J. and H. G. Langley.

Fernow, Berthold. 1886. Albany and Its Place in the History of the United States. Albany: Charles Van Benthuysen and Sons.

Flinders, Matthew. 2016. “The Problem with Democracy.” Parliamentary Affairs 69 (1): 181–203.

Gagnon, Jean-Paul. 2013. Evolutionary Basic Democracy: A Critical Overture. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Giddings, Franklin H. 1896. “The Destinies of Democracy.” Political Science Quarterly 11 (4): 716–731.

Gitonga, Afrifa K. 1987. “The Meaning and Foundations of Democracy.” In The Democratic Theory and Practice in Africa, eds. W. O. Oyugi and A. Gitonga, 4–23. Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers Ltd.

Greene, Robert. 1587. Euphues his censure to Philautus wherein is presented a philosophicall combat betweene Hector and Achylles. London: Printed by John Wolfe for Edward White.

Keane, John. 2009. The Life and Death of Democracy. London: Simon and Schuster.

Mackenzie, J. S. 1906. “The Dangers of Democracy.” International Journal of Ethics 16 (2): 129–145.

Mallock, William Hurrell. 1918. The Limits of Pure Democracy. London: Chapman and Hall.

Mazzini, Joseph. 1875. A Memoir by E. A. V., Thoughts on Democracy, Duties of Man. London: Henry S. King and Co.

O’Donnell, Guillermo. 1996. “Illusions about Consolidation.” Journal of Democracy 7 (2): 34–51.

Ohio Constitutional Convention. 1851. Official Reports of the Debates and Proceedings of the Ohio State Convention, Called to Alter, Revise or Amend the Constitution of the State. Columbus: Scott and Bascom.

Paley, Julia. 2002. “Toward an Anthropology of Democracy.” Annual Review of Anthropology 31 (1): 469–496.

Rejai, Mostafa. 1967. “The Metamorphosis of Democratic Theory.” Ethics 77, 202–208.

Rupnik, Jacques, and Jan Zielonka. 2013. “Introduction: The State of Democracy 20 Years On.” East European Politics and Societies and Cultures 27 (1): 3–25.

Salvadori, Massimo. 1958. Liberal Democracy. London: Pall Mall.

Sega, Giacomo (James). 1830. What is True Civilization, or, Means to Suppress the Practice of Duelling, to Prevent, or to Punish, Crimes, and to Abolish the Punishment of Death. Boston: William Smith.

Thucydides. 1910. The Peloponnesian War. London: J. M. Dent.

Vaughan, William. 1600. The golden-groue moralized in three bookes: a worke very necessary for all such, as would know how to gouerne themselues, their houses, or their countrey. London: Simon Stafford.

Venable, Francis P. 1916. “Some Thoughts on Democracy.” The Sewanee Review 24 (2): 214–221.

Wolf, C Umhau. 1947. “Traces of Primitive Democracy in Ancient Israel.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 6 (2): 98–108.

Xenophon. 1921. Xenophon in Seven Volumes. Translated by Carleton L Brownson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Articulations of democracy Boundaries of democracy Breeds of democracy Characterizations of democracy Classifications of democracy Collections of democracy Conceptions of democracy Concepts of democracy Conceptualisations of democracy Conceptualizations of democracy Constructions of democracy Contours of democracy definitions of democracy Delineations of democracy Demarcations of democracy democracy democrat democratic Democratic design Democratic innovation Democratic innovations Democratic Theories democratic theory Democratical democratization descriptions of democracy Designs of democracy Details of democracy Determinations of democracy Divisions of democracy Elucidations of democracy Exemplifications of democracy Explanations of democracy Explications of democracy Expositions of democracy Families of democracy Figures of democracy Formalisations of democracy Formalizations of democracy forms of democracy Frames of democracy Groups of democracy Ideals of democracy Ideas of democracy Ideations of democracy Interpretations of democracy kinds of democracy meanings of democracy Models of democracy Modes of democracy Molds of democracy Moulds of democracy Number of democracy Numbers of democracy Orders of democracy Outlines of democracy Patterns of democracy Profiles of democracy Representations of democracy Schemes of democracy Sets of democracy Sorts of democracy Species of democracy Structures of democracy Styles of democracy Themes of democracy

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