Democratic deliberation in the Athenian Assembly: Procedures and behaviours towards legitimacy

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Abstract

This study examines the deliberative credentials of Athenian democracy. Much scholarship has investigated ancient Athens as a successful (or less successful) example of participative democracy and has stressed the importance of collective deliberation to its political system. Building on this research, this article explores whether the Athenians subscribed to, and implemented in their institutions of political decision-making, deliberative ideals and a commitment to consensus compatible with those central to modern literature on deliberative democracy in political theory. After a survey of relevant studies on deliberative and participative democracy, the article discusses the pitfalls of the plebiscitary forms of democracy to which ancient direct democracy is often compared. It then considers the deliberative setup of Athenian political decision-making, concentrating on Assembly procedures and the ideas that speakers and the public explicitly upheld through their conduct in the Assembly, investigated through a close reading of Assembly accounts and normative statements in the orators (particularly Demosthenes’s Prooimia). Finally, it analyzes an example of protracted debate in the Assembly—on the Sicilian expedition—to make the case that Athenian political decision-making strived to fulfil the deliberative ideal in order to create legitimacy, whether or not that democratic deliberation resulted in effective policy choices.
Translated title of the contributionDemocratic deliberation in the Athenian Assembly: Procedures and behaviours towards legitimacy
Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)339-381
Number of pages43
JournalAnnales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales
Volume74
Issue number2
Early online date23 Jul 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jul 2020

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