Democracy today is widely regarded as an ideal form of government. Yet in practice it sometimes seems a sham, a political puppet show in which hidden elites pull all the strings. As trust in elected representatives around the world plunges, it is no wonder that democratic revolts have erupted – from Cairo to Kiev and beyond – in an effort to ‘take back control’. In this urgent and lively history, James Miller reminds us that democracy has always generated tensions and contradictions. Through philosophical debates and violent uprisings, it has been contested, corrupted, and refined. In different times and different places – from ancient Athens to revolutionary France to post-war America – its meaning has shifted in surprising ways. For over two thousand years, the world has experimented with democracy. But can it really work – especially in complex modern societies?