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Greek Political Thought

ISBN: 978-1-4051-5221-1
320 pages
April 2008, Wiley-Blackwell
Greek Political Thought (1405152214) cover image
This wide-ranging history of ancient Greek political thought shows what ancient political texts might mean to citizens of the twenty-first century.
  • A provocative and wide-ranging history of ancient Greek political thought
  • Demonstrates what ancient Greek works of political philosophy might mean to citizens of the twenty-first century
  • Examines an array of poetic, historical, and philosophical texts in an effort to locate Greek political thought in its cultural context
  • Pays careful attention to the distinctively ancient connections between politics and ethics
  • Structured around key themes such as the origins of political thought, political self-definition, revolutions in political thought, democracy and imperialism
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Preface and Acknowledgments.

Abbreviations.

1. Introduction: How to Do Greek Political Thought.

2. Archaic Greece and the Centrality of Justice.

Achilles, Agamemnon, and Fair Distribution.

Justice as “Distinctively Human”.

Institutions and Values of the Early Polis.

What is Justice? The Voice of the Oppressed and the Origins of Political Thought.

The Egalitarian Response.

The Elitist Response.

Case Study: Sparta and the Politics of “Courage”.

A Second Case Study: Archaic Athens and the Search for Justice.

3. Democratic Political Thinking at Athens.

Evidence and Sources.

Democracy Ancient and Modern.

Democratic Conceptions of Freedom.

Democratic Deliberation.

Courage, Trust, and Leadership.

Democratic Political Thought outside Athens?.

Protagorean Arguments for Democracy.

Democratic Conceptions of Equality.

Justice and the Demos.

4. Criticizing Democracy in Late Fifth-Century Athens.

Mapping out the Problem: The “Old Oligarch”.

Modern and Ancient Quandaries.

Nomos and Phusis.

The Challenge of Thrasymachus and Callicles.

Thucydidean Imperialists Revisit Nomos and Phusis.

Socrates and Nomos.

Logos and Ergon.

Democratic Epistemology and Relativism.

Democratic Epistemology and Untrustworthy Rhetoric – or, Where Does the Truth Lie?.

Socrates and Athens.

5. Imperialism.

Aristotle Analyzes Imperialism.

Definitions and History.

Monarchic Imperialism.

Natural Superiority?.

Debating Athenian Imperialism.

Final Thoughts.

6. Fourth Century Revisions.

The ancestral republican “solutions”.

The monarchic “solution”.

Plato’s “solutions”.

Criticizing Contemporary Politics.

Plato on Rhetoric and Order in the Gorgias.

The Priority of Reason in City and Soul: Plato’s Republic.

Educating Citizens in the Classical Context.

Politics and Ethics.

Philosophical Rulers.

Platonic Political Philosophy after the Republic.

7. Aristotle’s Political Thought.

Civic Conflict, Emotion, and Injustice: Observing the Polis as It Is.

Exploring What Ought To Be: Aristotle’s Naturalism.

Aristotle on the Good Life.

Nature in the Politics.

Aristotle on Slavery.

Polis and Citizenship in General.

Aristotle’s Best Polis.

Political Possibilities in Existing Cities.

The Best Constitution in Relation to Existing Conditions.

Classification of Constitutions.

The Power of the Masses.

Conclusion.

8. Hellenistic Political Thought.

Theory of Kingship.

The Traditional Schools.

New Directions: Cynics, Stoics, and Epicureans.

The Politics of Cynicism?.

Stoicism and Epicureanism.

9. Epilogue: The Question of Politics.

Bibliographic Essay.

Notes.

Index

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Ryan K. Balot is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. The author of Greed and Injustice in Classical Athens (2001) and Greek Political Thought (Blackwell, 2006), he specializes in the history of political thought.
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  • A provocative and wide-ranging history of ancient Greek political thought.

  • Demonstrates what ancient Greek works of political philosophy might mean to citizens of the twenty-first century.

  • Examines an array of poetic, historical, and philosophical texts in an effort to locate Greek political thought in its cultural context.

  • Pays careful attention to the distinctively ancient connections between politics and ethics.

  • Structured around key themes such as the origins of political thought, political self-definition, revolutions in political thought, democracy and imperialism.
See More
"Balot's book is written with admirable clarity and offers a coherent and sophisticated perspective on ancient politics for an undergraduate.... It has a thought-provoking agenda and treats the abstract issues really well." (The Classical Review, 2008)

"This comprehensive and well-informed book fills a niche.... [A] clearly argued and illuminating book. Balot achieves his stated aims with deceptive ease." (Journal of Hellenic Studies, February 2009)

“Balot’s book is written with admirable clarity and offers a coherent and sophisticated perspective on ancient politics for an undergraduate audience.” (The Classical Review, Vol 58 No. 1, 2008)

“Balot has provided students with a carefully cleared path through several centuries of thought about Greek politics.” (Bryn Mawr Classical Review)

"Greek Political Thought is a great starting point for any student interested in the ethical and political thought of the ancient world." (Philosophy Reviews)

"Balot's historical and narrative approach has the huge merit of combining ancient context and modern relevance. Balot eavesdrops on Plato, Aristotle and their forerunners and successors to bring us the hot political news. His lively brand of 'virtue politics' should instruct the advanced undergraduate and graduate student audience at which it is aimed, as well as refresh the parts of the established academy that drier scholarship cannot reach. Written in an easy and attractive style, Greek Political Thought promises to stimulate a vivacious dialogue between ancient and modern political concerns."
Paul Cartledge, University of Cambridge

"This is a remarkable book, a work of exceptional erudition and insight. It supplies a much needed survey of Greek political thought, but it is considerably more than an accessible and trustworthy guide to the territory. Balot presents himself not as an antiquarian chronicler but as an active interpreter, setting out the debates among the texts of the Greek tradition as new resources for thinking about the ethics and politics of our own time. Often controversial, but always scrupulous, Greek Political Thought will be of great value to serious students at every level."
Stephen Salkever, Bryn Mawr College

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