Athenian Political Thought and the Reconstitution of American Democracy
In the contemporary United States the image and experience of Athenian democracy has been appropriated to justify a profoundly conservative political and educational agenda. Such is the conviction expressed in this provocative book, which is certain to arouse widespread comment and discussion.
What does it mean to be a citizen in a democracy? Indeed, how do we educate for democracy? These questions are addressed here by thirteen historians, classicists, and political theorists, who critically examine ancient Greek history and institutions, texts, and ideas in light of today's political practices and values. They do not idealize ancient Greek democracy. Rather, they use it, with all its faults, as a basis for measuring the strengths and shortcomings of American democracy. In the hands of the authors, ancient Greek sources become partners in an educational dialogue about democracy's past, one that goads us to think about the limitations of democracy's present and to imagine enriched possibilities for its future.
The authors are diverse in their opinions and in their political and moral commitments. But they share the view that insulating American democracy from radical criticism encourages a dangerous complacency that Athenian political thought can disrupt.