Political Dissent in Democratic Athens: Intellectual Critics of Popular Rule / Edition 1

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Overview

How and why did the Western tradition of political theorizing arise in Athens during the late fifth and fourth centuries B.C.? By interweaving intellectual history with political philosophy and literary analysis, Josiah Ober argues that the tradition originated in a high-stakes debate about democracy. Since elite Greek intellectuals tended to assume that ordinary men were incapable of ruling themselves, the longevity and resilience of Athenian popular rule presented a problem: how to explain the apparent success of a regime "irrationally" based on the inherent wisdom and practical efficacy of decisions made by non-elite citizens? The problem became acute after two oligarchic coups d' tat in the late fifth century B.C. The generosity and statesmanship that democrats showed after regaining political power contrasted starkly with the oligarchs' violence and corruption. Since it was no longer self-evident that "better men" meant "better government," critics of democracy sought new arguments to explain the relationship among politics, ethics, and morality.

Ober offers fresh readings of the political works of Thucydides, Plato, and Aristotle, among others, by placing them in the context of a competitive community of dissident writers. These thinkers struggled against both democratic ideology and intellectual rivals to articulate the best and most influential criticism of popular rule. The competitive Athenian environment stimulated a century of brilliant literary and conceptual innovation. Through Ober's re-creation of an ancient intellectual milieu, early Western political thought emerges not just as a "footnote to Plato," but as a dissident commentary on the first Western democracy.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Literary Supplement
[An] impressive new book . . . rich in detail and suggestive in interpretation. . . . There is passion in [Ober's] account of democracy and sympathy in his portrayal of individual critics.
— Mary Margaret McCabe
American Historical Review
Ober commendably explores texts vital for understanding ancient democracy in a presentation well designed to encourage dialogue.
— Thomas J. Figueira
Review of Politics
It would be difficult to overstate the scope and magnitude of Ober's erudition as displayed in this book. It is epic in its sweep.
— V. Bradley Lewis
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

This book is first-rate: intelligent, judicious, original, a seamless performance, and on a fundamental topic. . . . [A] great achievement.
— Robert W. Wallace
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences
This book is first-rate: intelligent, judicious, original, a seamless performance, and on a fundamental topic. . . . [A] great achievement.
— Robert W. Wallace
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences - Robert W. Wallace
This book is first-rate: intelligent, judicious, original, a seamless performance, and on a fundamental topic. . . . [A] great achievement.
Times Literary Supplement - Mary Margaret McCabe
[An] impressive new book . . . rich in detail and suggestive in interpretation. . . . There is passion in [Ober's] account of democracy and sympathy in his portrayal of individual critics.
American Historical Review - Thomas J. Figueira
Ober commendably explores texts vital for understanding ancient democracy in a presentation well designed to encourage dialogue.
Review of Politics - V. Bradley Lewis
It would be difficult to overstate the scope and magnitude of Ober's erudition as displayed in this book. It is epic in its sweep.
Booknews
Interweaving intellectual history with political philosophy and literary analysis, Ober (ancient history, Yale U.) explores how and why the Western tradition of political theorizing arose in Athens during the late fifth and fourth centuries B.C. He writes for : political theorists as well as scholars of ancient history, classical philosophy, and Greek literature. The main text is written with this broad spectrum of readers in mind (all Greek is translated and terms are explained); classicists can look to the footnotes for more particular discussion of terminology, translation, and scholarly controversies. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknew.com)
From the Publisher
"This book is first-rate: intelligent, judicious, original, a seamless performance, and on a fundamental topic. . . . [A] great achievement."—Robert W. Wallace, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences

"[An] impressive new book . . . rich in detail and suggestive in interpretation. . . . There is passion in [Ober's] account of democracy and sympathy in his portrayal of individual critics."—Mary Margaret McCabe, Times Literary Supplement

"Ober commendably explores texts vital for understanding ancient democracy in a presentation well designed to encourage dialogue."—Thomas J. Figueira, American Historical Review

"It would be difficult to overstate the scope and magnitude of Ober's erudition as displayed in this book. It is epic in its sweep."—V. Bradley Lewis, Review of Politics

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691089812
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 11/12/2001
  • Series: Martin Classical Lectures Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 440
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Josiah Ober is the David Magie Professor of Ancient History in the Department of Classics at Princeton University. His books include "The Athenian Revolution, Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens", and "Demokratia "(edited with Charles Hedrick). All three books are available from Princeton.
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Table of Contents

Preface
Abbreviations
Introduction 3
Ch. 1 The Problem of Dissent: Criticism as Contest 14
Ch. 2 Public Speech and Brute Fact: Thucydides 52
Ch. 3 Essence and Enactment: Aristophanes Ecclesiazusae 122
Ch. 4 Justice, Knowledge, Power: Plato Apology, Crito, Gorgias, Republic 156
Ch. 5 Eloquence, Leadership, Memory: Isocrates Antidosis and Areopagiticus 248
Ch. 6 Political Animals, Actual Citizens, and the Best Possible Polis: Aristotle Politics 290
Ch. 7 The Dialectics of Dissent: Criticism as Dialogue 352
Bibliography 375
Index Locorum 403
General Index 409
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