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OCHLOCRA´TIA (ὀχλοκρατία), the dominion of the rabble, or mob-tyranny, a name of later origin than the time of Aristotle, and applied to that perversion of a democracy which extends the idea far beyond that of a state where all have equal legal rights and equal franchise, so that the natural and wholesome inequalities of society were removed or counteracted by the introduction of devices, such as paying citizens for attendance in the popular assembly, or increasing the number and restricting the duration and authority of public offices. Hence the exercise of all the highest functions of government came to be practically in the hands of a mere faction, consisting of the lowest and poorest, though most numerous, class of citizens, who were thus tempted to adopt as their avocation that which they would formerly have delegated to others; and the state came to be regarded as a property of which each citizen was entitled to an equal share. In some respects therefore it most nearly represents the modern idea of a socialist state. Though, however, as was said above, Aristotle does not recognise the term, we may find perhaps his conception of the ochlocracy in his “extreme democracy” (τελενταία δημοκρατία). He says of this that it corresponds to the extreme oligarchy or δυναστεία (Pol. 4.5, p. 1292 b); and he defines it as a democracy which overrides the constitution: κύριον εἶναι τὸ πλῆθος καὶ μὴ τὸν νόμον (whereas in his other kinds of democracy it is in each case ἄρχειν δὲ τὸν νόμον) τοῦτο δὲ γίγνεται ὅταν τὰ ψηφίσματα κύρια ἀλλὰ μὴ νόμος: συμβαίνει δὲ τοῦτο διὰ τοὺς δημαγωγούς. Here we have no constitution, except that which may be formed and re-formed from hour to hour by the hasty legislation of the masses, following impulse or the voice of the popular leaders: it is clear that, if this is not exactly the ὀχλοκρατία described above, it would soon pass into it.

[C.P.M] [G.E.M]

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