Development and Political Theory in Classical Athens
30 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2015
Date Written: June 9, 2015
Analyzing the birth of political thought in Greece uniquely as a response to democracy in Athens overlooks the economic, social and legal aspects of the profound transformation that Athens underwent in the classical period. That transformation did not merely affect political structures. Without understanding this larger transformation, we cannot adequately explain the development of Greek political thought. Between the late 6th and 4th centuries BC, 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 that protected individual rights and sustained the polis’ exceptional growth.
Some of those who witnessed this transformation first-hand attempted to grapple, often critically, with its implications for politics, social relations, and moral psychology. We show that Thucydides, Plato, and other Greek political thinkers devoted a considerable part of their work to analyzing the polis’ tendency toward political but also economic, social, and legal inclusion. Such a tendency, as many of them recognized, made Athens stand out among other Greek poleis, despite the fact that Athens was a democracy, not because of it. Democracy, therefore, is not the only explanatory variable in these accounts.
Keywords: development, political development, political theory, classical athens
JEL Classification: B12, D70, H11, N40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation