Democracy in Ancient Greek Political Theory: 1906-2006

Polis 23 (2):350-367 (2006)

The notion of 'democracy' as found in ancient Athens and the work of ancient Greek political theorists has crucially functioned as a critical, distant mirror for major authors of twentieth-century political thought -- starting importantly with Ernest Barker but continuing along diverse paths in the works of Karl Popper, Leo Strauss, Hannah Arendt in the wake of World War II, as well as for recent theorists of democracy who have read Athenian practices and critical discourses against the grain of contemporary philosophy, politics, and culture. In all of them, images of 'democracy' in ancient Greek political theory operate simultaneously as historical discoveries, theoretical constructions, and rhetorical supplements for critical renditions of the political realm. As such, they evidence the slippery centrality of ideas of democracy in ancient Greek political thought for the necessary, problematic, and divergent efforts of recent political theorists to justify their ideas as historically rooted, philosophically true, and politically relevant
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