Theme Panel: Classical Reflections on Democracy and Legitimacy

Classical Reflections on Democracy and Legitimacy

Recent years have seen a growth in skepticism concerning the legitimacy of democratic institutions. As tensions emerge between liberal justifications of popular rule and the outcomes of democratic procedures, the epistemic and ethical capacities of the people have become pressing topics of discussion for political scientists and pundits alike. Far from novel, these questions bring us back to the roots of democratic theory in ancient Greece. This panel will focus on this early moment in democratic theory, investigating a range of underexplored Athenian responses to the questions of what the dêmos is capable of and how these capacities should be evaluated. Looking beyond the well-known arguments of Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics, our panelists illuminate the breadth of ancient Greek thinking about democratic knowledge, virtue, and capacity.


Kinch Hoekstra, University of California, Berkeley (Chair)
Ryan Balot, University of Toronto (Discussant)
Matthew Landauer, University of Chicago (Discussant)

Recognizing Virtue: The Cognitive Capacity of the Dêmos in Thucydides
Mark Fisher, University of California, Berkeley (Author)

Demotic Agency in Classical Athens
John T. Lombardini, College of Williams and Mary (Author)

City as Text: Reflection, Judgment, and Democratic Attunement
Elizabeth Markovits, Mount Holyoke College (Author)

Man, the Measurer: Promethean Utilitarianism in Plato’s Protagoras
Seth N. Jaffe (Author)