Rethinking Mass and Elite: Decision-Making in the Athenian Law-Courts

38 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2016 Last revised: 19 Jan 2017

See all articles by Federica Carugati

Federica Carugati

Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University

Barry R. Weingast

Stanford University, Department of Political Science

Date Written: December 6, 2016

Abstract

In the Athenian law-courts, wealthy, educated, and powerful elites fought one another to prevail as leaders and advisors of the masses. Regulated by the masses’ ideals of a good society, elite competition pushed Athens toward stability, prosperity and cultural immortality. Or did it? This article puts pressure on the mass and elite model of Athenian litigation (M&E). According to the M&E model, litigation is a game played by elite litigants and mass audiences; elite litigants seek to win over their opponents as a means to gain honor; and the masses constitute a monolithic body with identical preferences. This model, we suggest, does not adequately explain the dynamics of law- and policy-making in the Athenian courts. Combining findings from two separate bodies of literature in classics and political science, we build a new model of Athenian litigation that modifies the M&E model in two fundamental respects: first, jurors’ preferences are meaningfully pluralistic, therefore litigants (who are not only elites) face uncertainty as to the precise position of the median juror; and second, litigants want to win, but they also have preferences over policy/legal outcomes. Our model identifies the mechanisms that enabled diverse interests to be advanced and negotiated in ways that fostered both stability and innovation in Athenian law- and policy-making.

Keywords: Law, Courts, Ancient Athens, Mass and Elite Politics

JEL Classification: D72, D78, H11, K00, K40, N43

Suggested Citation

Carugati, Federica and Weingast, Barry R., Rethinking Mass and Elite: Decision-Making in the Athenian Law-Courts (December 6, 2016). Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 501. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2881560 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2881560

Federica Carugati

Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University ( email )

75 Alta Rd
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Barry R. Weingast (Contact Author)

Stanford University, Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States
650-723-0497 (Phone)
650-723-1808 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.stanford.edu/group/mcnollgast/cgi-bin/wordpress/

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