Beasts and Gods

How Democracy Changed Its Meaning and Lost Its Purpose

Roslyn Fuller


An extraordinary historical, political and philosophical work that is set to not only reconfigure our understanding of democracy, but to challenge the individualistic basis of the modern liberal politics.

Democracy does not deliver on the things we have assumed are its natural outcomes. This, coupled with a growing sense of malaise in both new and established democracies forms the basis to the assertion made by some, that these are not democracies at all.

Through considerable, impressive empirical analysis of a variety of voting methods, across twenty different nations, Roslyn Fuller presents the data that makes this contention indisputable. Proving that the party which forms the government rarely receives the majority of the popular vote, that electoral systems regularly produce manufactured majorities and that the better funded side invariably wins such contests in both elections and referenda, Fuller’s findings challenge the most fundamental elements of both national politics and broader society. 

Beast and Gods argues for a return to democracy as perceived by the ancient Athenians. Boldly arguing for the necessity of the Aristotelian assumption that citizens are agents whose wishes and aims can be attained through participation in politics, and through an examination of what “goods” are provided by democracy, Fuller offers a powerful challenge to the contemporary liberal view that there are no "goods" in politics, only individual citizens seeking to fulfil their particular interests.

Author Bio

Roslyn Fuller is currently a research associate at the Waterford Institute of Technology and has lectured in international law at Trinity College, Dublin and National University of Ireland, Maynooth. She is also legal correspondent for Russia Today, contributing a regular column on issues of international law.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: What is Democracy?
  • Part I
    • 1. Democracy in Athens: People Power is Born
    • 2. The Myth of Representation
    • 3. Buying and Selling Elections
    • 4. Participation: Bought In or Locked Out?
    • 5. Modern Democracy and the International System: A Perfect Storm
    • 6. Non-Governmental Organizations and the Civil Society Chimera
    • 7. How Did Things Get to Be this Way? The Roman Republican System and the Founding Fathers of America
  • Part II
    • 8. The Way Forward: Digital Democracy
    • 9. Disinformed is Disenfranchised: Why Taming Mass Media is a Necessary Step towards Democracy
    • 10. Democracy and Dissent: The Balance between Individual and Community
    • 11. Direct Democracy Today: Cutting the Gordian Knot


'A visionary thought experiment...guaranteed to make you think differently about the trillion dollar bureaucracies we call democracy today.'

‘Fuller takes the much needed leap from pointing out what’s wrong with our democracies to proposing a parallel system based on democracy’s original foundations. It’s a strong reminder that democracy is and must always be a work in progress, or it won’t be a democracy at all.’
Pía Mancini, democracy activist and co-founder of DemocracyOS

‘Fuller’s is a timely book, laying out the myriad problems with modern democracy in plain English. Anyone concerned with the lack of participation in our modern democracies must read this.’
Jillian York, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Beasts and Gods provides a fascinating contrast between democracy in theory and democracy in practice. This provocative book draws on lessons from ancient Greece, while advocating direct democracy by decoupling economics from politics.’
Marjorie Cohn, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

‘Every now and then Modern society throws up someone who questions its most cherished myths. The how and why of it deserves a book in its own right. Roslyn Fuller is one such, and, in this work, she takes on a holy cow, Democracy, that the West loves to believe it invented (like all good things).’
Rajani Kanth, Harvard University

‘Everyone interested in rethinking democracy in the digital age should read this book. The old ways of governing are dying, and Beasts and Gods offers timely and provocative ideas on how to finally make people power a reality.’
Micah Sifry, author of Wikileaks and the Age of Transparency

'There is no doubting the timeliness of Fuller’s contribution to the ongoing debates over the future of democratic government.'
The European Legacy


Publication Date: 15 November 2015
424 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781783605422
Hardback: 9781783605439
eBook ePub: 9781783605453
eBook PDF: 9781783605446
eBook Kindle: 9781783605460

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