Accountability and Advice in Greek Political Thought
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CitationLandauer, Matthew Walter. 2012. Accountability and Advice in Greek Political Thought. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractThis dissertation offers a new reading of Athenian democracy, focusing on the connection between the politics of accountability and the dynamics of political advice. I analyze Athenian institutions, norms, and practices comparatively, alongside their autocratic counterparts. I show how Greek thinkers relied on a common conceptual apparatus to understand, defend, and criticize patterns of accountability and unaccountability across regimes. I explore how powerful, unaccountable political actors – whether autocratic rulers or democratic assemblies – could solicit and secure good advice, and how accountable advisers could advise them effectively and safely. In stressing similarities between counsel across regime types, I challenge the characterization of Athens as a deliberative democracy. The sumboulos (adviser) was an important figure in Greek conceptions of both democratic and autocratic politics. Athenian orators are best understood – and understood themselves – as the accountable sumbouloi of the Athenian demos. This identification casts them not as co-deliberators with their fellow citizens but rather as participants in a common Greek tradition of advising powerful figures, a tradition that found expression across political contexts. The important role of sumbouloi in both democracies and autocracies follows from the structural similarity between the two regime types. The Athenian demos, gathered together in the Assembly and in the Popular Courts, was understood to have competencies and powers akin to those of an autocratic ruler. In particular, both the demos and the autocrat were recognized as unaccountable rulers able to hold others – including their advisers – to account. Given the power imbalances structuring relationships between sumbouloi and decision makers in both democracies and autocracies, both practicing orators and theoretically inclined observers came to see that the problems and opportunities associated with having (or choosing) to speak to the powerful were comparable across regimes. The issues at stake in the demos-adviser relationship could fruitfully be compared to those at stake in the autocrat-adviser relationship. Questions such as how the powerful could recognize good advice and good advisers and what the possibilities and limitations of frank advice were under conditions of risk were not regime-specific. Insofar as ancient Greeks had a theory of political counsel, it was a strikingly portable one.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10304400
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