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What Is Democracy? (2018)

1:40 | Trailer
This documentary examines the philosophy behind the concept of Democracy, from ancient Athens to modern Greece and the American Civil Rights movement.


Astra Taylor


Astra Taylor
4 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Astra Taylor ... Self
Silvia Federici ... Self - Feminist Scholar and Activist
Eleni Perdikouri ... Self - Professor of Philosophy
Harrison Preddy Harrison Preddy ... Self - NC State College Republicans
Hannah Niles Hannah Niles ... Self - NC State College Republicans
Cornel West ... Self - Professor of African-American Studies
Mickey Michaux ... Self - North Carolina General Assembly (as Representative 'Mickey' Michaux Jr.)
William Barber ... Self - Raleigh Protest Speaker (as Rev. William Barber II)
Delaney Vandergrift Delaney Vandergrift ... Self - Activist and Student
Efima Karakantza Efima Karakantza ... Self - Professor of Ancient Greek Literature
Eulalia Francisco Eulalia Francisco ... Self - Opportunity Threads Cooperative
Alfonso Gonzalez Alfonso Gonzalez ... Self - Opportunity Threads Cooperative
Walter Vicente Walter Vicente ... Self - Opportunity Threads Cooperative
Wendy Brown ... Self - Professor of Political Science
George A. Papandreou ... Self - Former Prime Minister of Greece (as George Papandreou)


The concept of democracy is presented in light of democratic societies being under attack in present day. Academics and historians discuss the ancient Greek origins of the concept, which in its broadest terms means, "for the people, by the people". A wide range of people, from politicians, academics to a diverse array of the general public, discuss the concept from their own perspective. Those in the former two groups generally see issues in present day democracy in the imbalances in society, where those in authority or who control the flow of money, such as banks, have more power, while those who don't may fall prey to demagogues who twist the concept for their own political self interests. They also state that anyone can use the concept for their own personal benefit as opposed to democracy being seen somewhat inherent to a greater good. While democracy more closely equates to either the notion of one person/one vote or majority rule, many, if asked, mistakenly equate it with other ... Written by Huggo

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User Reviews

"Democracy is something you do." - Abbie Hoffman
2 March 2021 | by lee_eisenbergSee all my reviews

Winston Churchill once called democracy "...the worst form of government, except all the others." Of course, democracy (commonly understood to mean rule by the people) has never gotten solidly defined. Astra Taylor's "What Is Democracy?" addresses this issue, the changing understanding of democracy over the centuries, and how assorted issues - debt, racism, etc - can affect democracy.

The documentary does not give a definition, leaving it up to the viewer to decide what democracy should mean. Basically, the documentary uses the socratic method, posing questions that might not have ready answers. In the end, what one can draw from it is that democracy (however one defines it) can only flourish if the masses pay attention and participate. The alternative is a kakistocracy (rule by the worst or least qualified people).

Worth seeing, featuring interviews with Prof. Cornel West and former Greek PM George Papandreou.

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English | Greek | Arabic | Spanish | Latin

Release Date:

16 January 2019 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

What Is Democracy? See more »

Filming Locations:

Athens, Greece See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$6,284, 20 January 2019

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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