Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

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

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

Federica Carugati

Indiana University Bloomington - Ostrom Workshop; Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Political Science; Indiana University Maurer School of Law

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

Federica Carugati

Indiana University Bloomington - Ostrom Workshop ( email )

513 North Park Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47408
United States

Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Political Science ( email )

Bloomington, IN
United States

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
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/

Paper statistics

Downloads
86
Rank
249,866
Abstract Views
393