What Are the Strengths and Weaknesses of Athenian Democracy?

Some of the strengths of Athenian democracy include making decisions based on the opinions of many rather than a few, giving responsibility to more citizens and making records available for public examination. Weaknesses include the voters’ ability to make poor decisions and be swayed by rhetoric and short office terms that made implementing policies difficult.

Prior to Athenian democracy, a few people would make decisions for the masses. This meant that they may not have represented mass opinion, whereas getting all males over the age of 18 involved in politics increased the likelihood of policies representing what people wanted. In addition, citizens had the chance to spend time acting as council representatives, which gave them power and direct involvement with decision making. As records were made available for public examination, there was a means of holding public officials to account.

One of the biggest weaknesses of Athenian democracy was highlighted by Plato; the masses are sometimes ignorant, and they are likely to be swayed by rhetoric. This means they may make stupid decisions that do not benefit society. Athenian democracy also had one-year term limits. While there were opportunities for public officials to be reelected, this did mean that implementing policies became difficult, as there was not enough time to execute them.