What did democracy mean before liberalism? What are the consequences for our lives today? Combining history with political theory, this book restores the core meaning of democracy as collective and limited self-government by citizens. That, rather than majority tyranny, is what democracy meant in ancient Athens, before liberalism. Participatory self-government is the basis of political practice in 'Demopolis', a hypothetical modern state powerfully imagined by award-winning historian and political scientist Josiah Ober. Demopolis' residents aim to establish a secure, prosperous, and non-tyrannical community, where citizens govern as a collective, both directly and through representatives, and willingly assume the costs of self-government because doing so benefits them, both as a group and individually. Basic democracy, as exemplified in real Athens and imagined Demopolis, can provide a stable foundation for a liberal state. It also offers a possible way forward for religious societies seeking a realistic alternative to autocracy.
Josiah Ober is currently a Professor of classics, political science, and (by courtesy) philosophy at Stanford University, California. He has been the Chairman of both a top-ranked humanities department within the department of classics at Princeton University, New Jersey, and a top-ranked department of political science at Stanford University. He has held visiting professorships in the UK, France, and Australia. His previous books have won prizes from the American Philological Association, the Society for Institutional and Organizational Economics, and the Association of Academic Publishers, and have been translated into French, German, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Korean, and Turkish.
List of figures and tables; Preface; Acknowledgements; Note on the text; 1. Basic democracy; 2. The meaning of democracy in classical Athens; 3. Founding Demopolis; 4. Legitimacy and civic education; 5. Human capacities and civic participation; 6. Civic dignity and other necessary conditions; 7. Delegation and expertise; 8. A theory of democracy; Epilogue. Democracy after liberalism; Bibliography; Index.