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Ochlocracy

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Title: Ochlocracy  
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Subject: Democracy, Tyranny of the majority, Porteous Riots, Populism, Illiberal democracy
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Ochlocracy

Ochlocracy (Greek: ὀχλοκρατία, okhlokratía; Latin: ochlocratia) or mob rule is the rule of government by mob or a mass of people, or the intimidation of legitimate authorities. As a pejorative for majoritarianism, it is akin to the Latin phrase mobile vulgus meaning "the fickle crowd", from which the English term "mob" was originally derived in the 1680s.

Ochlocracy ("rule of the general populace") is democracy ("rule of the people") spoiled by demagoguery, "tyranny of the majority", and the rule of passion over reason, just as oligarchy ("rule of a few") is aristocracy ("rule of the best") spoiled by corruption, and tyranny is monarchy spoiled by lack of virtue. Ochlocracy is synonymous in meaning and usage to the modern, informal term "mobocracy", which emerged from a much more recent colloquial etymology.

Contents

  • Terminology 1
  • Ochlocracy versus anarchism 2
  • Mobs in history 3
  • Mobs used to affect policy 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6

Terminology

Polybius (2nd century BCE) appears to have coined the term in his Histories (6.4.6).[1] He uses it to name the "pathological" version of popular rule - in opposition to the good version, which he refers to as democracy. There are numerous mentions of the word "ochlos" in the Talmud (where "ochlos" refers to anything from "mob", "populace", to "armed guard"), as well as in Rashi, a Jewish commentary on the Bible. The word is recorded in English since 1584, derived from the French ochlocratie (1568), which stems from the original Greek okhlokratia, from okhlos ("mob") and kratos (meaning "rule, power, strength").

Ancient Greek political thinkers regarded ochlocracy as one of the three "bad" forms of government (tyranny, oligarchy and ochlocracy) as opposed to the three "good" forms of government (monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy). They distinguished "good" and "bad" according to whether the government form would act in the interest of the whole community ("good") or in the exclusive interests of a group or individual at the expense of justice ("bad").

This (Polybian) terminology for forms of state in ancient Greek philosophy has become customary. It should be noted, though, that Aristotle terms democracy as "polity" (sometimes translated as "republic", which confusingly is used by other Aristotle-translators for "aristocracy", instead) while giving the name of "democracy" to ochlocracy.

An ochlocrat is one who is an advocate or partisan of ochlocracy. It can also be used as an adjective (ochlocratic or ochlocratical).

The threat of "mob rule" to a democracy is restrained by ensuring that the rule of law protects minorities or individuals against short-term demagoguery or moral panic. Though considering how laws in a democracy are established or repealed by the majority, the rule of law's protection of minorities is questionable.

Ochlocracy versus anarchism

Anarchism, meaning "without government", is a term covering various anti-authoritarian philosophies and movements, generally viewing themselves as socialist, which are dedicated to the replacement of states and/or governments (either capitalist governments or all governments) by various suggested alternatives such as autonomous self-realizing democratic structures. Anarchists reject the criticism that anarchism is inherently ochlocratic as a mischaracterization of anarchism, arguing that it includes theories of structure and mutual support rooted in democracy and free association.

Mobs in history

Historians often comment on mob rule as a factor in the rise of Rome and its maintenance, as the city of Rome itself was large—between 100,000 and 250,000 citizens—while the aristocracy and even military was very small by comparison to the citizenry. Lapses in this control often led to loss of official power (and often enough, the heads of the officials themselves)—most notably in the reign of Commodus when Cleander unwisely used the Praetorian Guard against a mob which had come to call for his head. As historian Edward Gibbon relates it:

This followed a previous incident in which the legions of Britain had demanded and received the death of Perennis, the prior administrator. The mob thus realized that it had every chance of success.

The Salem Witch Trials, in which the unified belief of the townspeople overpowered the logic of the law, has also been cited as an example of mob rule.[3] In 1837 Abraham Lincoln wrote about lynching and "the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country—the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions in lieu of the sober judgment of courts, and the worse than savage mobs for the executive ministers of justice".[4]

Mobs used to affect policy

The modern theories of civil disobedience and satyagraha can be differentiated from "mob rule" and its mechanics, as these approaches forego the use of violence and force that the mob of ancient times employed.

Traditional non-violent protest theory holds that if the demonstrators are restrained and do not do any violence, yet refuse to back down, then they could conceivably win, as they either will be joined by the forces they face, be allowed to defy the law or government openly and peacefully, or be physically attacked, struck down, and made into powerful moral symbols of the lengths to which the agents of the state will go to enforce its laws.[5] However, police forces around the world have become adept at making such gatherings irrelevant by limiting them to areas, in some cases dubbed "free speech zones", sufficiently separate from the object of their discontent, the rest of the public, and the media, to make them easily ignored. Permitting requirements in many jurisdictions effectively make demonstrations without advance police permission illegal. Various efforts to increase demonstrators' communal intelligence and mobility using cell phone networks and bicycles have been employed to circumvent crowd control and marginalizing techniques. Flash mobs and Critical Mass style "bike block" actions are examples experimented with, with mixed results, notably during the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Modern theory concludes that since Roman guards, facing [5] The use of political pressure put on by a large amassed group of people was also frequently demonstrated in the Arab Spring, which contributed to swift political change in countries as Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.

See also

References

Notes
  1. ^ "Polybius, Histories, The Rotation of Polities". www.perseus.tufts.edu. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  2. ^ Gibbon, Edward (1862).  
  3. ^ Mob Rule and Violence in American Culture
  4. ^ "Opposition to Mob-Rule", The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 1.
  5. ^ a b [1] From Dictatorship to Democracy by Gene Sharp
Bibliography
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