Athenian Legacies: Essays on the Politics of Going on Together

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Princeton University Press, 2005 - History - 273 pages
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How do communities survive catastrophe? Using classical Athens as its case study, this book argues that if a democratic community is to survive over time, its people must choose to go on together. That choice often entails hardship and hard bargains. In good times, going on together presents few difficulties. But in the face of loss, disruption, and civil war, it requires tragic sacrifices and agonizing compromises.



Athenian Legacies demonstrates with flair and verve how the people of one influential political community rebuilt their democratic government, rewove their social fabric, and, through thick and thin, went on together. The book's essays address amnesty, civic education, and institutional innovation in early Athens, a city that built and lost an empire while experiencing plague, war, economic trauma, and civil conflict.


As Ober vividly demonstrates, Athenians became adept at collective survival. They conjoined a cultural commitment to government by the people with new institutions that captured the social and technical knowledge of a diverse population to recover from revolution, foreign occupation, and the ravages of war. Ober provides insight into notorious instances of Athenian injustice, explaining why slaves, women, and foreign residents willingly risked their lives to support a regime in which they were systematically mistreated. He answers the question of why Socrates never left a city he said was badly governed.


At a time when social scientists debate the cultural grounding necessary to foster democracy, Athenian Legacies advances new arguments about the role of diversity and the relevance of shared understanding of the past in creating democracies that flourish when the going gets rough.

 

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Contents

Introduction Climbing the Hill of Ares
1
Classical Athenian Democracy and Democracy Today
27
Historical Legacies Moral Authority and the Useable Past
43
Culture Thin Coherence and the Persistence of Politics
69
Quasi Rights Participatory Citizenship and Negative Liberties
92
The Athenian Debate over Civic Education
128
Living Freely as a Slave of the Law Why Socrates Lives in Athens
157
Social Science History Cultural History and the Amnesty of 403 BC
171
Greek Horoi Artifactual Texts and the Contingency of Meaning
183
TyrantKilling as Therapeutic Conflict A Political Debate in Images and Texts
212
Bibliography
249
Index
267
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About the author (2005)

Josiah Ober is Constantine Mitsotakis Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University, where he holds joint appointments in the departments of political science and classics. He is the author of several books on classical Athenian political and intellectual history, most recently Political Dissent in Democratic Athens. He is now working on a project about the relationship between democratic political culture and the social circulation of knowledge.

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