Catalogue


Political dissent in democratic Athens : intellectual critics of popular rule /
Josiah Ober.
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1998.
description
xiv, 417 p.
ISBN
0691001227
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
author
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1998.
isbn
0691001227
catalogue key
2394815
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [375]-401) and indexes.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Josiah Ober is the David Magie Professor of Ancient History in the Department of Classics at Princeton University
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1999-06-01:
Ober's impressive book will likely reinforce the author's growing stature as one of the leading interpreters of ancient democracy in the English-speaking world. His overall argument is that the Western tradition of political philosophy arose in Greece during the later fifth and fourth centuries as a critical response to the specific conditions and experience of Athenian democracy. This idea is not entirely new (cf. Farrar's essay in Democracy: The Unfinished Journey, 508 BC to AD 1993, ed. by J. Dunn, 1992), but it is here pursued far more systematically than elsewhere, with chapters devoted to the political writings of seven "critics" of democracy: Pseudo-Xenophon, Thucydides, Aristophanes, Plato, Isocrates, Aristotle, and Pseudo-Aristotle. Especially useful are Ober's contextual treatments of his chosen authors, while the significant connections he identifies among their respective critiques provide some support for his decision to characterize this diverse group as members of a single "dissident community." Although his use of analytical categories borrowed from an eclectic array of authorities, including J.L. Austin and Michel Foucault, is sometimes more distracting than helpful, Ober's book makes a substantial contribution to knowledge of the history of political thought in classical Greece. Upper-division undergraduates and above. G. Anderson University of Illinois at Chicago
Reviews
Review Quotes
"[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
"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
"Ober commendably explores texts vital for understanding ancient democracy in a presentation well designed to encourage dialogue."-- Thomas J. Figueira, American Historical Review
"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 Science
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, June 1999
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Unpaid Annotation
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.
Unpaid Annotation
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.
Main Description
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 oligarchiccoups d' tatin 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.
Main Description
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.
Table of Contents
Preface
Abbreviations
Introductionp. 3
The Problem of Dissent: Criticism as Contestp. 14
Public Speech and Brute Fact: Thucydidesp. 52
Essence and Enactment: Aristophanes Ecclesiazusaep. 122
Justice, Knowledge, Power: Plato Apology, Crito, Gorgias, Republicp. 156
Eloquence, Leadership, Memory: Isocrates Antidosis and Areopagiticusp. 248
Political Animals, Actual Citizens, and the Best Possible Polis: Aristotle Politicsp. 290
The Dialectics of Dissent: Criticism as Dialoguep. 352
Bibliographyp. 375
Index Locorump. 403
General Indexp. 409
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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