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For most of Europe's history, oligarchy and democracy were taken to be antithetical forms of government. Competition between the rule of a privileged few and the rule of all or of many was generally understood to be a zero sum game; the many could usurp the few, or vice versa, but they could not both rule at once. Late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century recourse to the logic of representation, in response to the revolutions in the Americas and France allowed an oligarchic configuration of society to be recast, eventually, in pseudo-'democratic' form. French revolutionary political practice in particular soon came to divide the advocates of orderly forms of representative government, on the one hand, from the partisans of mass sovereignty and direct popular empowerment, on the other. This talk will argue that much the same alternative persists to this day.