Development and Political Theory in Classical Athens

in Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought
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The birth of political thought has long been associated with the development of either the polis as a new form of political organization in Greece, or of democracy as a new form of government in Athens. This article suggests that this view ought to be expanded. Between the late 6th and 4th centuries bc, the Greek polis of Athens established large, participatory democratic institutions. But the transformation that the polis underwent did not merely affect political structures: in this period, Athens transitioned from an undeveloped, limited access, ‘natural state’ toward a developed open access society – a society characterized by impersonal, perpetual, and inclusive political, economic, legal and, social institutions. Those who witnessed this transformation first-hand attempted to grapple, often critically, with its implications. We show that Thucydides, Plato, and other Greek political thinkers devoted a considerable part of their work to analyzing the polis’ tendency toward not only political, but also economic, social, and legal inclusion. Without understanding this larger picture, we cannot adequately explain the development of Greek political thought.

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    BalotGreek Political Thought p. 2.

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    Cartledge‘Greek Political Thought’ p. 11.

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    Golden standard: John RawlsPolitical Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press1996); with Samuel Richard Freeman (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Rawls (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2003).

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  • 18

    Karl R. PopperThe Open Society and Its Enemies (Princeton: Princeton Universtity Press1963).

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