The Fragility of Democracy: Lessons from the Classical Past

Free

6:00 pm

All are welcome to attend this academic lecture from Dr Carol Atack, Post-doctoral Research Associate in the Faculty of Classics and St Hugh’s Junior Research Fellow in Classics.

6:00pm talk, followed by a drinks reception in Mordan Hall.

Booking is required, but tickets are free.

Classical Greek thinkers saw democracy as a problematic form of government, prone to poor decision-making and conflict between social classes or among the elite. Democracies where decisions were taken on the basis of misinformation might embark on catastrophic misadventures, as Thucydides shows Athens doing when it votes to attack the wealthy cities of Sicily. Plato thought that untamed appetites might easily corrupt democratic politicians into pursuing their own interests, further destabilising the regime and transforming it into tyranny. But can analogies with the ancient world of the Greek city state inform our present political debates, or do their experiences and ideas belong to such an alien society that they are irrelevant to contemporary political problems?

Drawing on research from Oxford’s Anachronism and Antiquity research project, this talk examines the appeal of analogies from the past, and classical authors’ claims to universal relevance.

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