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Maurice Pope’s book The Keys to Democracy

This page is to help you find out how to buy – and see what people have said aboutThe Keys to Democracy: Sortition as a New Model for Citizen Power by the late classicist Maurice Pope.

You can order the hardback either directly from UK publisher Imprint Academic (note the launch discount with code CAT23), from bookshops like Barnes & Noble or globally from Amazon (e.g. US, UK, AU, DE, FR). It is also available as an ebook on Kindle and on B&N’s Nook.

Links to public presentations and discussions of the book are here. You can also read the preface online.

Video highlights of a debate at Wadham College, Oxford, to launch the book in March 2023.

Reviews and endorsements are below, with the most recent entries are added at the bottom of this page.


This is a visionary, luminous, wide-ranging and profoundly humanistic book … Maurice Pope saw the potential of democracy by lot to fight corruption, to improve the quality of deliberation, to build on ordinary citizens’ common sense and diversity, and to educate and spread in the body politic the fundamental ethos of social equality.

Dr. Hélène Landemore 

Professor of political science at Yale University and author of Open Democracy: Reinventing Popular Rule for the 21st Century.


The apogee of a career’s thinking as a radical-minded classicist … The Keys to Democracy remains unique in its philosophical breadth and scope. And in its vision, it is still bolder than many on offer. 

Dr. Paul Cartledge 

Emeritus A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University and author of Democracy: A Life


Maurice Pope was obviously something of a visionary, predicting the modern reincarnation of sortition in the form of citizens’ assemblies years before the recent “deliberative wave” was even a tiny ripple on a few disparate ponds. He was also incredibly knowledgeable and insightful. His arguments and reasoning as he sets out the case for sortition are still highly relevant today.

Dr. Brett Hennig

Director and Co-Founder, Sortition Foundation, Cambridge, UK, and author of The End of Politicians: Time for a Real Democracy


Maurice Pope’s book provides a compelling basis for the next democratic paradigm. He makes it clear that what we refer to as ‘democracy’ today is rather an oligarchy of elected elites—and that it was intentionally designed as such. It’s why we need to reclaim the true meaning, values and processes of democracy. Pope shows us why the ideal of government by the people is not only desirable, it is also possible if we return to democracy by random selection of representatives (sortition). It gives us hope.

Claudia Chwalisz

Chief Executive Officer of DemocracyNext and former lead of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s work on Innovative Citizen Participation


Required reading for our times. Innovation in democracy has never been more needed now that climate change requires long-term collective action underpinned by democratic consent—over decades to come. This bold proposal combines Maurice Pope’s insights into ancient methods of democracy with a brave vision for the future that overcomes the limits of representation.

Dr. Heather Grabbe

Open Society European Policy Institute and University College, London


Maurice Pope’s call for random selection-based democracy is a powerful, pre-emptive herald to the current expansion of citizen participation. It has the distinctive merit of connecting the field of sortition design to wider historical trends and political philosophy. In doing so, his book adds invaluable intellectual ballast to the quest for better democratic practices. Pope’s masterful tract shows that today’s attempts to involve citizens in politics should not be dismissed as an ephemeral fad, but have deep roots in political concerns and debates extending back many years.

Prof. Richard Youngs

Senior Fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, professor at Warwick University and author of Rebuilding European Democracy: Resistance and Renewal in an Illiberal Age 


Informed by a learned and entertaining sweep of the pedigree of democracy, this erudite book makes a cogent case for the merits of sortition as a means of revitalising citizen engagement and improving the quality of political decision making, while not hiding the obstacles to its adoption in the years ahead. At a time of growing cynicism, it should be read by anyone seeking creative ways to boost trust in politics.

Michael Keating

Executive Director of the European Institute of Peace and former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Somalia


Those of us who yearn for citizens’ assemblies to be better respected, understood and used as a transformative tool for democracy will find much solace and hope in Maurice Pope’s pioneering book. Having a work of such calibre and prescience at our side will surely help many hitherto covert sortition supporters come out of the closet once and for all.

Annika Savill

Formerly the Executive Head of the UN Democracy Fund, the Senior Speechwriter to UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan and the Diplomatic Editor of the UK’s Independent newspaper


Awe-inspiring … [Maurice Pope] was an intellectual dark horse.

Dr Edith Hall

Professor of Classics, Durham University and author of Aristotle’s Way and Introducing the Ancient Greeks: From Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western Mind


Maurice wrote his book decades ago. Couldn’t get it published. Too crazy an idea. Until now! 

Jefferson Smith

Democracy Nerd podcast host


A masterpiece of thinking and writing, and a pleasure to read … I love the book.

—James Harding

Editor and founder Tortoise media, former director of BBC News and ex-editor of The Times.


It’s an astonishingly brilliant book. It thinks through many of the things that political theorists and political scientists have been gradually groping towards over the last 40 years. It is radical, but also realistic. It recognizes that the full utopian vision is not going to come about any time soon, that many of the changes in democracy have been gradual processes that have taken hundreds of years to develop.

—Dr Alan Renwick

Professor of Democratic Politics at University College London, Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit and author of The Politics of Electoral Reform: Changing the Rules of Democracy.


Encountering the book … is like discovering a time capsule: we peer into the mind of a genius whose work reaches out from the past and yet, in its perspicacity and ambition, stretches way ahead of us. It’s also a delight to read. Pope’s voice speaks through the text in his breezy style and inimitable wit; the anecdote and humor that he peppers throughout make his points pop in your mind. And they’re big ones...

Pope was … a visionary, and his plan’s more revolutionary than The Communist Manifesto. What’s incredible about it is the context of its writing. In the late 1980s—and certainly with the fall of the Soviet Union—citizens of the West were being told repeatedly that we’d reached “the end of history.” There were no alternatives, Thatcher declaimed, to liberal capitalism and the elective oligarchy that’s got us by the throat. Yet deep in the bowels of his study, this brave, brilliant man was working out an audacious dream for democracy entirely on his own. Reading the result is like being invited in and given a cup of tea in one hand and a stick of dynamite in the other—except the dynamite explodes your mind. The author’s out on a limb here; yet every place he leaps, he finds his feet. The epigraph from Chesterton above actually omits the full phrase: “All real democracy is an attempt, like a jolly hostess, to bring the shy people out.” Maurice Pope is that host, and his feast’s a joy.

Nick Coccoma

Review in The Similitude, 5 April 2023.


It’s surprisingly a lot more relevant today than when Maurice Pope originally wrote it. He was echoing his experience in understanding classical and Athenian democracy and the ways they used instead of elections, which he was very sceptical of. They used sortition, basically random selection, to put ordinary people in control of decision-making and government. Recently there’s been a lot of experiments in this, in Ireland, where they used it to reform their abortion law, and they are about to use it to discuss their neutrality, and in France where they’ve used it in … . carbon and environmental issues and euthanasia issues. So it’s a fascinating book on how random selection can be a more democratic tool than elections.

Jeremy Shapiro

Director of Research at the European Council on Foreign Relations. Speaking on Mark Leonard’s World in 30 Minutes, 28 April 2023.


Un livre né d’une belle histoire : d’abord refusé par les maisons d’édition il y a plus de 30 ans, le manuscrit a été retrouvé par son fils @hugh.pope, qui l’a édité et publié. Un livre précurseur sur les assemblées tirées au sort. Hugh Pope m’a raconté cette histoire incroyable lors d’une rencontre au Parlement.

A book born of a lovely story: first turned down by publishing houses more than 30 years ago, the manuscript was rediscovered by his son, who edited and published it. A pioneering book on randomly selected assemblies. Hugh Pope told me this unbelievable story during a meeting in parliament.

Magali Plovie

President of the French-speaking Parliament of the Brussels Region in Belgium. Magali Plovie chose The Keys to Democracy as one of her three picks for “inspirational reading on democracy this spring.” May 2023.


Of all the things I’ve read on sortition, it’s the most Socratic ... Recommended!

Nicholas Gruen, CEO of Lateral Economics, Australia, during our May 2023 podcast discussion about the The Keys to Democracy.


Not a bad stylist, your Dad. Not a bad writer at all.

Michael Goldfarb, broadcaster, ex-NPR correspondent and host of FRDH Podcast “Democracy in Crisis: One Idea for Fixing It“. 4 June 2023.


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