Eklogecracy, Psifocarcy, Airetocracy
December 23, 2007
I have been referring to the kind of government and associated structures that exist is the U.S. and Western Europe as Western Style Government System (WSGS). I have been looking for a convenient term that could replace this acronym.
One possible term to use would be Dahl’s “polyarchy”. This term, however, seems to have evolved in Dahl’s own usage from a prescription for democracy, akin to his prescription of Ideal Democracy (A preface to democratic theory, 1956), to an axiomatized description of something similar to a WSGS (Democracy and its critics, 1989). Neither of those definitions is quite what is needed. Even the second definition, which is closer to the one I desire, is a set of conditions which need to be examined to decide whether they truly describe (and are sufficient to describe) the existing situation.
The term polyarchy (rule of many) also seems to hint at the Schumpeterian idea of competing elites (which Dahl cites approvingly in A preface), but no explicit mention of that notion is made in the definition (either the early or the later one).
I therefore felt that a less ambiguous term needs to be used, and decided to coin my own. I decided to focus on the main feature of WSGS – competitive elections – in choosing the term. Undeterred by my ignorance of Greek I tried to find the Greek term for “elections”.
A dictionary look up yielded Εκλογές. I also tried to locate the term Aristotle uses in Politics (by using the English and Greek versions available online). As far as I could tell, he used the term αιρετός. I also used the glossary at the end of Hansen’s The Athenian democracy at the age of Demosthenes. There I found Archairesia (elections of a magistrate), Cheirotonia (vote by show of hand) and psephophoria (voting with pebbles or, later, with bronze disks).
I decided to go with Eklogecracy, for no particularly good reason. This term I take to mean “a government, or the characteristics of a government, as those that existed in the U.S. and in Western Europe in the second half of the 20th century, and exist today.” Thus, no specific characteristics are assumed – whatever exists (and is common to most of those governments rather than peculiar to a single country or a small subset of countries) is Eklogecracy.