Political Dissent in Democratic Athens: Intellectual Critics by Josiah Ober

By Josiah Ober

How and why did the Western culture of political theorizing come up in Athens throughout the overdue 5th and fourth centuries B.C.? via interweaving highbrow heritage with political philosophy and literary research, Josiah Ober argues that the culture originated in a high-stakes debate approximately democracy. because elite Greek intellectuals tended to imagine that standard males have been incapable of ruling themselves, the durability and resilience of Athenian well known rule provided an issue: tips to clarify the obvious luck of a regime "irrationally" in line with the inherent knowledge and sensible efficacy of choices made via non-elite voters? the matter turned acute after oligarchic coups d' tat within the overdue 5th century B.C. The generosity and statesmanship that democrats confirmed after regaining political energy contrasted starkly with the oligarchs' violence and corruption. because it was once not self-evident that "better males" intended "better government," critics of democracy sought new arguments to give an explanation for the connection between politics, ethics, and morality.

Ober deals clean readings of the political works of Thucydides, Plato, and Aristotle, between others, by means of putting them within the context of a aggressive group of dissident writers. those thinkers struggled opposed to either democratic ideology and highbrow opponents to articulate the easiest and so much influential feedback of well known rule. The aggressive Athenian atmosphere encouraged a century of incredible literary and conceptual innovation. via Ober's new version of an old highbrow milieu, early Western political proposal emerges not only as a "footnote to Plato," yet as a dissident observation at the first Western democracy.

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Next, how does he express himself? What is the generic form taken by his critical expression? And finally, what was his intended readership? For whom was he writing and what did he intend for them to do as a result of having read his essay on Athenian political practices and culture? The first two sets of questions, regarding content and form, can be answered by reading the text with some care. 1. 2). 32) and the literary postmodernism of White, Metahistory; LaCapra, Rethinking Intellectual History; LaCapra and Kaplan, Modern European Intellectual History.

20 T H E P R O B L E M O F D I S S E N T obliged to entreat whoever [of the jurors] comes in and to grasp him by the hand. In this way the allies have become instead the slaves of the Athenian people. 18) By now the Old Oligarch’s argument has expanded considerably. He reveals to his reader that the Athenian empire itself is not to be understood simply as an expression of the military power and greatness of Athens as a unitary polis, but rather as another product of the Athenian demos’ rationally self-interested behavior.

Xenophon concludes his lesson: At Athens, where it was the members of the demos who held the magistracies, how would anyone suppose that “the many” (hoi polloi) would ever be disenfranchised? 13). With these words, the text ends. The elite author of The Political Regime of the Athenians leads his newly enlightened elite reader smack into a brick wall and abandons him there. Having just been taught the nature of his class interest, and that his interest lies in reforming or overthrowing the democracy, the reader now learns that the democracy can be neither substantially revised nor overthrown by political revolution.

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