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 through the overdue 5th and fourth centuries B.C.? through interweaving highbrow historical past with political philosophy and literary research, Josiah Ober argues that the culture originated in a high-stakes debate approximately democracy. on the grounds that elite Greek intellectuals tended to imagine that normal males have been incapable of ruling themselves, the sturdiness and resilience of Athenian well known rule provided an issue: easy methods to clarify the obvious good fortune of a regime "irrationally" in accordance with the inherent knowledge and sensible efficacy of selections made through non-elite electorate? the matter grew to become acute after oligarchic coups d' tat within the overdue 5th century B.C. The generosity and statesmanship that democrats confirmed after regaining political strength contrasted starkly with the oligarchs' violence and corruption. because it used to be now not self-evident that "better males" intended "better government," critics of democracy sought new arguments to provide an explanation for the connection between politics, ethics, and morality.

Ober bargains clean readings of the political works of Thucydides, Plato, and Aristotle, between others, by way of putting them within the context of a aggressive group of dissident writers. those thinkers struggled opposed to either democratic ideology and highbrow competitors to articulate the easiest and so much influential feedback of well known rule. The aggressive Athenian atmosphere inspired a century of fabulous literary and conceptual innovation. via Ober's new edition of an historical highbrow milieu, early Western political concept emerges not only as a "footnote to Plato," yet as a dissident statement at the first Western democracy.

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And so it was in order to ensure their own physical security that the demos forbade the casual beating of slaves. -Xenophon strikingly endorses the general principle enunciated by Dunn (“Transcultural Significance,” 105) that, all things being equal, humans prefer to be free in the simple sense of not being directly subject to the will of others. 11–12), because a naval power requires the availability of capital (chr¯emata) and a variety of specialized trades (technai). Metics provide the necessary skills, whereas money is acquired by taking a portion of the earnings of slaves.

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. Hexter, On Historians, offers a witty and opinionated survey. 1. 7 There have been many attempts to define the Old Oligarch’s seemingly confused political stance, often resorting to biographical fantasy.

This last comment fits with and extends the logic of the argument. The demotic masses, like the author himself (but unlike his imagined reader), recognize that people tend to act in their own self-interest, and they regard an excellent character as something naturally distinct from and hostile to their own corrupted nature. Ergo the demos hates elite persons on the sensible grounds that they cannot trust excellent men to act both irrationally and immorally in seeking to further demotic interests.

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