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The Greek Polis and the Invention of Democracy: A Politico-cultural Transformation and Its Interpretations

Johann P. Arnason (Editor), Kurt A. Raaflaub (Editor), Peter Wagner (Editor)
ISBN: 978-1-4443-5106-4
416 pages
May 2013, Wiley-Blackwell
The Greek Polis and the Invention of Democracy: A Politico-cultural Transformation and Its Interpretations (1444351060) cover image


The Greek Polis and the Invention of Democracy presents a series of essays that trace the Greeks’ path to democracy and examine the connection between the Greek polis as a citizen state and democracy as well as the interaction between democracy and various forms of cultural expression from a comparative historical perspective and with special attention to the place of Greek democracy in political thought and debates about democracy throughout the centuries.

  • Presents an original combination of a close synchronic and long diachronic examination of the Greek polis - city-states that gave rise to the first democratic system of government
  • Offers a detailed study of the close interactionbetween democracy, society, and the arts in ancient Greece
  • Places the invention of democracy in fifth-century bce Athens both in its broad social and cultural context and in the context of the re-emergence of democracy in the modern world
  • Reveals the role Greek democracy played in the political and intellectual traditions that shaped modern democracy, and in the debates about democracy in modern social, political, and philosophical thought
  • Written collaboratively by an international team of leading scholars in classics, ancient history, sociology, and political science
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Table of Contents

Series Editor’s Preface vii

Contributors viii

Introduction 1
Johann P. Arnason, Kurt A. Raaflaub, and Peter Wagner

Part I The Greek Experience in Long-term Perspective 19

1 Exploring the Greek Needle’s Eye: Civilizational and Political Transformations 21
Johann P. Arnason

2 Transformations of Democracy: Towards a History of Political Thought and Practice in Long-term Perspective 47
Peter Wagner

Part II Ways of Polis-making: Grasping the Novelty of the Political 69

3 To Act with Good Advice: Greek Tragedy and the Democratic Political Sphere 71
Egon Flaig

4 Democracy and Dissent: the Case of Comedy 99
Lucio Bertelli

5 Democracy, Oratory, and the Rise of Historiography in Fifth-century Greece 126
Jonas Grethlein

6 Political Uses of Rhetoric in Democratic Athens 144
Harvey Yunis

7 Law and Democracy in Classical Athens 163
Adriaan Lanni

8 Democracy and Political Philosophy: Influences, Tensions, Rapprochement 181
Ryan K. Balot

9 Inscriptions and the City in Democratic Athens 205
Elizabeth A. Meyer

Part III Changing a Way of Life: Democracy’s Impact on Polis Society 225

10 The Impact of Democracy on Communal Life 227
Sara L. Forsdyke

11 The Demos’s Participation in Decision-making: Principles and Realities 260
Claude Mossé

12 Democracy and Religion in Classical Greece 274
Robin Osborne

13 Democracy and War 298
Lawrence A. Tritle

Part IV Political Concepts and Commitments 321

14 Perfecting the “Political Creature”: Equality and “the Political” in the Evolution of Greek Democracy 323
Kurt A. Raaflaub

15 Tyranny and Tragedy in Nietzsche’s Understanding of the Greek Polis 351
Tracy B. Strong

16 The Liberty of the Moderns Compared to the Liberty of the Ancients 371
Nathalie Karagiannis and Peter Wagner

Index 389

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Author Information

Johann P. Arnason is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at La Trobe University, Melbourne and visiting professor at the Charles University in Prague. His previous works include Domains and Divisions of European History (with N. Doyle, 2010), The Roman Empire in Context: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (with K. Raaflaub, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), and Nordic Paths to Modernity (with B. Wittrock, 2012).

Kurt A. Raaflaub is the David Herlihy University Professor and Professor of Classics and History Emeritus at Brown University. His previous works include Geography and Ethnography: Perceptions of the World in Pre-Modern Societies (with R. J. A. Talbert, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), Epic and History (with D. Konstan, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), and The Roman Empire in Context: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (with J. Arnason, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).

Peter Wagner is ICREA Research Professor of Sociological Theory, Philosophy of Law, and Methodology of the Social Sciences, at the University of Barcelona. His previous works include Theorizing Modernity: Inescapability and Attainability in Social Theory (2001), Modernity as Experience and Interpretation (2008), and Modernity: Understanding the Present (2012).

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“This exciting and accessible collection of well-written essays, by a stellar group of international scholars, sheds new light on ancient democracy and its role in critical reassessments of contemporary democracy and liberalism. This book demonstrates anew the vibrancy and relevance of classical Greek politics, society, and culture. Essential reading for all students of democracy, ancient and modern.” - Josiah Ober, Stanford University

“Kurt Raaflaub's distinguished 'The Ancient World: Comparative Histories' series acquires herewith another eminently worthy member, which bears his personal stamp both as inspirational co-editor and as contributor with a special interest and expertise in ancient Greek politics and political thought. From the sensitive introduction (by another of the co-editors) to the concluding essay on ideas of liberty ancient and modern the multinational cast of leading experts takes the longest possible view of what matters most about the ancient Greeks' invention of democracy from its original location within their peculiar polis state-form to its current, very different receptions around the world today. Students of Sophocles and Aristophanes, and of Schopenhauer, Wagner and Nietzsche, among many others, will find their tastes and interests equally well served.” - Paul Cartledge, University of Cambridge

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