The death of democracy and the resurrection of timocracy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Throughout the centuries the ownership of wealth has been used as the measure for the determination of status in a community or society. Exactly what constituted wealth differed from one period to the next. The nature and extent of power within the narrow confines of the family and the wider political context was defined on the basis of ownership of wealth. Wealth power was transmuted into the authority to influence government and social morality. 'What I have' superseded 'I am a human being' and was thus decisive in the determination and adjudication of justice in human relations. This experience and concept of human relations in the sphere of politics was manifest in ancient Greece. It has persisted in different forms in the evolution of Western political philosophy and is an enduring reality of our time. Concretely, it left democracy intact only in name and replaced it with timocracy, or rule by money. This replacement is politically disturbing as it is a surreptitious negation of the principle of popular sovereignty. It is also morally disturbing because it undermines the principle of justice in human as well as in international politics. Accordingly, I explore the implications of this situation for moral education. The thesis defended in this paper is that the supersession of democracy by timocracy is ethically untenable. Feta kgomo o tshware motho-directly translated as 'go past the cow and catch the human being' is an ethical maxim in the African philosophy of Ubuntu among the Bantu-speaking peoples. It is a philosophy whose practice is opposed to this supersession of democracy by timocracy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-303
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Moral Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'The death of democracy and the resurrection of timocracy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this