Yesterday and Today
While «populism» is quite a new word, «demagogy» is an ancient one, but they relate to something very similar. «Demagogy» was the name of a degeneration of democracy that ancients knew very well. The author recalls some texts of Plato and Aristotle on this subject and uses them to reflect on some problems of contemporary democracies. According to Plato there is no difference between democracy and demagogy. The only alternative to the power of the demos, incompetent and impolite, is the rule of the wiser men: a form of aristocracy. In the opinion of Aristotle, on the other hand, it is possible to distinguish between democracy and demagogy: in the former the power of the mass is limited by the law; in the latter the demos rules without restrictions. The reforms of IV century b. C., in Athens, that subtracted a part of the power to the assembly and gave it to the college of nomothetai and to courts, can be understood as a remedy against demagogy. Modern representative democracies have invented procedures with the same purpose.