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Economy and Society
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Did the Greeks know democracy?
Paul Veyne Version of record first published: 16 Aug 2006.
To cite this article: Paul Veyne (2005): Did the Greeks know democracy?, Economy and Society, 34:2, 322-345 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0308514052000343903
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Economy and Society Volume 34 Number 2 May 2005: 322 Á/345
Did the Greeks know democracy?
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I. The Greeks invented the words ‘‘city,’’ ‘‘democracy,’’ ‘‘people,’’ ‘‘oligarchy,’’ ‘‘liberty,’’ and ‘‘citizen.’’ So, if it were not for slavery, which would be the major difference between their democracy and true democracy, it is tempting to assume that they invented the eternal truth of politics, or of our politics. For then there would be an eternal politics about which we could philosophise, instead of just writing its history. Across the centuries we would find again an identical essence of the political; political regimes, despite their differences, would exhibit a functional analogy that could be represented in a number of ways: establishing justice, getting men to live together peacefully, defending the group, exercising class domination by the owners of the forces of production . . . But let’s suppose that this is all just appearance and that the words mislead us. Let’s suppose that what is defined as politics in different epochs is based upon presuppositions that escape the consciousness of the historical actors, and that they also elude a posterity that is too eager to recognise itself in its ancestors, even if this trivialises their features. Identical words and vague analogies would then conceal huge and invisible differences, like trees concealing the wood. We will try here to clarify some fragments of this hidden part of the iceberg. We will call the biggest of these fragments, which is not the only one, the ancient citizen’s ‘‘militantism’’; it roughly corresponds to what Claude Nicolet, in a fine book (1980), called the citizen’s profession. Because an ancient citizen does not have human rights or citizen’s rights, he has no freedoms or even freedom; he has duties. We won’t find the democratic semi-ideal of Western
Copyright # 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd ISSN 0308-5147 print/1469-5766 online DOI: 10.1080/0308514052000343903
the optimum for the population. To express the strange conception of the relations between State and society involved in civic militantism. in the sense in which statisticians speak of a population of microbes or even of trees. politics is comparable to the task of a river inspector or forest warden: he does not leave nature to itself. Just two centuries ago things were not yet like this. Militantism was a semi-ideal. a grand knight. and his whole art consisted in shearing the animals without skinning them. What was this happiness? Having a king: it was thought that they needed nothing else. and to this end he respects and follows its natural tendencies: he confines himself to organising them. a human population works. it inspired political reformers and revolutionaries. he wants to ensure the happiness of nature itself. in a state of neglect. and it paralysed demands and outbursts of anger. society and tourism. Politics has always sought men’s good. he did not organise the happiness of nature. reproduces and goes on holiday.’’ never explicitly stated but present everywhere. nonetheless it filled the air with imperatives that were sometimes obeyed.Paul Veyne: Did the Greeks know democracy? 323 nations back in ancient Athens. the economy. but the mental climate of political parties formed by activists. this activist ‘‘presupposition. man makes up a population. any more than he redistributes vehicle ownership. For a long time the doctrine of the public authorities was one of non-interference. Admittedly. but neither does he own it. by itself. it is true that it deceived both profiteers and victims about the reality of social relations. This king was a kind of gentleman-farmer [English in original]. Actually the king possessed a dominion in which a human fauna Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . we must start by making a quick detour through more recent centuries: a bit of political ethnology will bring out the contrast more clearly. We could also compare politics to the policeman’s job of traffic control: he does not leave cars to themselves or decide where drivers must go. Rather. just as democracy or human rights are for us: it was neither pure ideology nor entirely a practice. In other words. like our forest warden. as we understand it. of laisser faire. today we think that the population’s welfare [English in original] is best secured by State intervention: public intervention will channel the flows of demography. it limited the inventiveness and choice of arguments in polemics. of which he was the shepherd. but of what man? For us. he organises the natural circulation of cars and pedestrians. since this liberalism was supposed to bring about. he regulates the flow of traffic. but exploited it to his own advantage: his subjects were not a population but a flock. he does not exploit it in his own interest like a farmer. So. came up against indifference or passive resistance in its applications. II. living within the borders of a national territory. Politics was then a matter of making the subjects happy.
. nonetheless. Let us turn now to the Greek or Roman city-state. As Christian Meier writes in his fine study: ‘‘A rift opened up between the social order and the political order. thanks to someone like Colbert. was the relationship between city-state and society? It cut every citizen in two. with all its inequalities. which was completely taken up by his relationships with other kings.’’ (Meier.40. between the militant as such and the militant as a private person immersed in the world of economic forces and social relations. In a world where citystate and society formed an equivocal or antagonistic couple. the less the king concerns himself with them. like others that their comrades had elected or accepted as officials. and the king’s affairs. We know that civic festivals and also some military expenses were usually financed by richer citizens who felt morally obliged to contribute in this way. The civic institution did not exploit the population. were called raison d’etat . those who are governed and the public authorities are not clearly distinguished: all are involved in the measures taken. the zeal with which the citizen made his efforts and resources available to his fellows had to be more spontaneous than that of a simple taxpayer. on this resource. but a bad citizen’’ (Thucydides: II. The group sociology of each of these tiny states was less like that of a modern nation. because civic sponsorship arose from two very different motives. his cousins and rivals. and he confined himself to the deduction of his share from nature’s crop. At the most. the public authorities were only activists. he pursued his own profession as king. This was accompanied by an intense politicisation: ‘‘It is only among us’’. Thanks to this tax. he will only interfere with this natural flux in order to levy a tax. in his own interest. ´ for their part. While society.2). with its economic and social life. like a king: it made it take an active part. a bit like the relationship. whether democratic or not. If he becomes aware of traffic on a road or waterway passing through his lands. of some forgotten corner of the realm. remained essentially unchanged . in a modern party. this king had his own activities and his subjects theirs. ‘‘that a man who takes no part in political affairs is not considered a peaceable man. which were not those of his subjects. . The king interferes as little as possible in his subjects’ affairs. called tonlieu. would consider the excessive proximity of the royal tax collector with some unease. it was not the king’s affair. 1990: 145). the king will switch from a tax collecting economy to the plantation and development.324 Economy and Society survived as best it could and frolicked as it wished. For example. the more they will love him. but only to the extent that all or part of this population was required to take an active part in an institution set up within it and which was the city-state. and they. by a civil society to be governed as something distinct from the State: it was formed by its population itself. says an Athenian.1 What. or whom were made to feel morally obliged. An ancient city-state was not constituted by a population with its leaders. and property was sacrosanct. every citizen earned their living as best they could. then. than that of a militant political party. liturgies and euergetism had a social motivation: the rich displayed and legitimised their Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . As we can see. was rich or poor.
The one who governs is simply a citizen. who are his judges for the day.ii. and spends his own fortune to construct fortifications or equip warships. There was a constant temptation to interpret reality through this schema. A prince of the ancien regime expected only loyalty or ´ negligence from the subjects of his realm. that ‘‘it is true that one can live quietly without thereby being at fault and failing to serve the city. this good citizen is a politician by vocation. The hesitation between these two schemas can be seen in the final six pages of The Crown. governing is a specialised activity. on the other hand. But the second motivation was civic and more compelling: while not being a formal duty. they come from the ranks of the governed and will later return to them. he does not mean that in order to perform one’s duty it is enough not to violate the code. What was called the Law was much more than that what we designate by the word2: the Law included laws.iv). There is. he could not deny his devotion to his own people. usually corresponding to reality. the governors are not from a different race than the governed. unwritten Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . morality is a strong obligation. according to the second model the distinction between governors and governed is less important than a larger whole that unites them: the civic body made up of activists. then. considered that. and they are not their masters.’’ After this concession. admitted that some govern and the others have only to obey. in Greece and Rome political thought always hesitated between two models. All that is required of a modern population is that it does not destroy the possibility of life in common within a certain system. In short. the orator nevertheless depicts the good citizen as an activist who is not content with the performance of duties prescribed by the public authority. We can see the difference from other epochs. travels as an ambassador. albeit more active than others. Certainly. who has been given responsibilities by his peers. this is the life most of you lead my dear fellow citizens. Demosthenes concedes to the Athenian crowd. and that they pay the taxes. One. like a tax. or even to apply it to reality. submission to a minimum of public spirit. its citizens had chosen it (this is what the Laws of Athens say to Socrates in the Crito ) and it expected them to have the zeal of professional soldiers. Now. When Xenophon writes that ‘‘a good citizen respects the laws’’ (Xenophon [a]: I.Paul Veyne: Did the Greeks know democracy? 325 wealth by giving it away. for a militant. An ancient city-state. in a way. public order and military obedience is necessary for a population that one has to take care of. and these showy gifts were just as much spontaneous as they were interested. On the other hand. since he must do everything he can without meanly calculating his own share. III. To our eyes. Even so. but takes on numerous other commitments: he advises the people in the assembly. no limit to what a city-state may rightfully expect from its own people. euergetism was a moral obligation nevertheless.
one did not govern the citizen but made use of him in order to govern. not to the soil. and. militant zeal thus defined a political arena in the restricted sense of the word (Meier 1990). the collective will. This State was a strange ship without passengers: apart from the captain (or rather.6). War. Xenophon [a]: II.iv. It may also be the case that militant commitment and group solidarity have a more political origin. as Rehm puts it (1896: 78). We can well imagine that the presupposition of militantism will be more clearly and durably successful the less it affects the interests of the wealthy. a recent and otherwise excellent translator5 wrongly speaks of a crew and passengers. come from? We may think of two possible origins: war and the community. The Law was the genius of Athens: in the Crito. was a ship whose passengers were the crew. as one said.326 Economy and Society customs. misunderstandings between the ancients and ourselves6. when Plato and Aristotle speak of the ship of State. more generally. in the classical epoch. his political activity is added to his social life and remains distinct from it. they organise themselves into a group for survival and each contributes the best of himself for their common salvation.2). with their different abilities and wealth. orders of officials. however. Christian Meier has pointed out the nature of Cleisthenes’ reform: mobilisation of the masses of the countryside in order to detach them from the patronage of the eupatrids (Meier 1973: 115 Á/119).4 Whoever belongs to the ship was supposed to be involved in handling it. Aristotle [a]: 1276 B 20). supposed nuances of expression often reveal chasms in thought. which dominated thought and to a degree practice. Meier 1990: 38). Bourgeois liberalism will organise cruises in which all the passengers fend for themselves as best they can. individuals. the patriotism of Socrates is attached to the laws. the crew providing them only with collective goods and services. A consequence of this was a collective passion. Obeying the Law meant zealously devoting oneself to the will of the group. Maybe too the question of origins is a false problem: the schema of militantism could have been invented on the basis of models of Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . Alongside society. they only ever mention seamen (Plato [a]: 488 a. far from being insignificant ways of speaking. or nation. Max Weber contrasted the warrior democracy of antiquity with the medieval commercial city (VidalNaquet 1986: 105. which was a source of legitimacy over and above temporary forms of legality (Xenophon [a]: IV. The fact that the citizen was an activist also means that. Where does such a singular conception.i. political decisions. Nothing is insignificant in a text. and not demanding: a militant serves his party. was half of a citizen’s life (Aristotle [a]: 1254 B 30 and 1333 A 30. Obeying. he was not the object of government but its instrument. if we overlook these nuances we trivialise the text and think to find ‘‘eternal’’ truths in it. The Greek city-state. a politicisation of thought that gives a misleadingly modern look to ancient Athens. and content is indistinguishable from form. it carried only members of the crew. find themselves having to cross historical time and its reefs7. he does not make use of it to improve his lot. ancestors. the pilot3). With a slip that reveals his modernity.
8 those whose time is their own. but also blinkers. and it could not conceive of it otherwise. a contemplative order. in his case. without having to work. he does not propose to take in hand the human fauna but to establish the existence among men of a well-made institution. It is pointless to add that. It is as if he were recruiting a regiment. more edifying: in Rome the poor will be imperiously called upon to put love of the State before hideous greed. if you like. he is not trying to take the human masses in hand. like the Orientals. the outcome will be more complicated and ideological or. he does not take on the organisation of humanity. but this was either a great privilege or excessive laxity. . obviously because they are rich. which is no different from the implicit presupposition of the political thought and practice of the Greeks in general. To understand the importance of leisure or free time. or in passive kingdoms. It remains true nevertheless that antiquity thought politics in terms of militantism with the same naturalness with which we think of it in terms of democracy. juxtaposed a politics of equality and solidarity in civic virtue. When Aristotle writes that man is a political animal. or inventiveness. A city-state is an institution set up in the midst of human beings. instead of living in amorphous tribes. granted we accept that there is invention in history. we must first understand the very specific nature of the would-be ‘‘democratic’’ Greek city-state. like the barbarians. This (and it has not been sufficiently noted) is the presupposition of The Laws (Veyne 1976: 205 Á/207).9 Plato restores healthy doctrines to the institution: all the participants in his model city will have to have a patrimony that will enable them to devote themselves exclusively to collective life. or rather. but putting together a fine regiment. IV. for which they have the leisure. historical chance. but full membership of which is normally restricted to the privileged. Sometimes the privileged circle was extended to include the entire ‘‘people’’ (as in Athens). The Greeks did not question themselves about social life: they set out to constitute a well-made city-state. or to provide human society with a sovereign. We can see that the Greeks posed the political problem in a way that is more or less the opposite of ours. since political life is very sensitive to social powers. in other words between civic virtue and free time or leisure. as if he were recruiting them for a monastery of monks who are sufficiently wealthy to be able to spend all their time singing hymns. the city-state. Plato wants to recruit a city of individuals of leisure. Such is the ambiguity of the term ideology: apology.Paul Veyne: Did the Greeks know democracy? 327 Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 thought taken from contexts far removed from political and military action. or to get them to live together peacefully. and to that end the recruits are hand-picked. To a society as unequal and divided as many others. We will confirm this by considering the relations between political activism and the social powers of time. or what was called this. Plato does not mean to make men happy.
now that . and this schema was based on a reality: the foundation of real city-states given a constitution by a founder who had first of all selected the future citizens. Citizens will not have to work. They did not wonder about the origin of society. but nor did they write The Social Contract or The Leviathan. the movement was centrifugal and some city-states were extended to the whole demos. but from which. they did not write The Mirror of Princes. each may enrich himself and increase his patrimony up to four times the initial endowment. their speculation consists in founding an ideal city-state. once it has been attained. the Greeks ask themselves who alone will have full entitlement to citizenship and take on the responsibility of constituting a well-ordered city-state. will these men have to pursue. while they started from the institution and. extending from the Greeks down to us. and. The schema for Plato’s The Laws is the foundation of a colony (Plato [b]: 704 A Á/C. But why and how was the philosopher’s city-state reserved for the rich? Why is the possession of free time hereditary? For. In Plato’s city every citizen will receive a patrimony. what this means. is to live in a polis rather than elsewhere. this was so obvious for Plato that he only mentions it in passing. 737 B. a modern democracy may be limited to only active citizens. The ancient problematic and the modern problematic were able to intersect because some Greek city-states were extended to all of the people. with the Greeks. or rather as the minor premise of his syllogism: ‘‘What way of life. then. obviously. 744 BC). Nonetheless. they never felt universalism as an ideal or a regret. even if they moved on to their democracy. for which politicians take responsibility and ask themselves how these people can be organized as citizens. Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 V. Something else was possible for them that would be unthinkable for us: they sometimes reversed direction. conversely. the telos of the perfect man. We can see how idle it would be to speak of ‘‘one’’ eternal democracy. This is why the Greeks drafted constitutions and Laws when they speculated. in other words.328 Economy and Society he means that the ideal. it would be unthinkable to turn back). 735 E. they derive from two diametrically opposed points on the horizon: the modern problematic starts from a population. is that the Greeks are superior to the barbarians and that are they are the masterpiece of humanity (Defourny 1932: 383). which will remain his property. in Plato’s city-state. returning to a suffrage based on a poll tax (while for us universalism is a natural right the full realisation of which may initially tolerate some restrictions. modern politics has sometimes distinguished between active and passive citizens. Ours is a movement from universality towards the institution. Plato insists on this: every man desires eternity and wants to leave his goods to his descendants. there is succession and inheritance. 707 E-708 D.
he produced for exchange on local and distant markets. rationally organizing cultivation so as to respond to the market. This rich man has time to himself not because he does not work at all. bad sort. and to possess one does not have to do anything: it is enough to take life as it comes. others are doing the skilled work.10 It is easy to see that free time was not measured with a stopwatch in hand but designated a permanent level of life: it signified wealth and. but is associated with the lifespan of a family. political tasks if he is a magistrate. this patrimony must be administered: but this is the exercise of property rights. domestic tasks: overseeing his farms cultivated by slaves (Plato [b]: 806 D. The notables readily contrast this purpose with the immorality of the commercial pursuit of an immediate profit’’ (Guillemin 1980: 251 Á/257). it is not the end that organises the rationality of administration precisely because this end remains internal to the family: to pass on a patrimony to one’s descendants. To the contrary. if he is not. Returning to a fine page of Alain Guillemin. in accordance with the ancient conception of work. since free time is needed both for the development of quality and for political activity’’ (Aristotle [a]: 1328 B 35). economic. the man of leisure does not have a profession but is identified as the possessor of a patrimony. in the manner of jurists. wealth based on land. The millennial contempt for trade lasted until the establishment of anonymous capitalism. but two pages later he maintains that the same citizen will have to ‘‘stay awake at night to perform his tasks. who also formulated a plan for a city-state. and this patrimony is not conceived of synchronically. he contrasts good chrematistics with the immoral. However. It was even less likely that his management was autarchic.12 Aristotle argues no differently when. However. he often sought to develop his productivity in order to pass on a larger patrimony to his children.Paul Veyne: Did the Greeks know democracy? 329 they have been assured of the right amount of necessities. 808 B). Plato lays down that a citizen worthy of the name must not do anything.’’ that is. The cult of autarchy was not the rejection of exchange: it meant that exchange is a means and not the end of patrimonial rationality. and slaves have been entrusted with agricultural work. the principle that founds this rationality is not the maximisation of profits. was no less strict: ‘‘Citizens must not lead the life of artisans or tradesmen (such a life being ignoble and inimical to quality). par excellence. as it is for the capitalist entrepreneur. The young Aristotle. but because he is not dependant on anything or anyone. ‘‘they are real landowning entrepreneurs and they seek to make a profit. and nor must those who wish to be citizens be farmers. It did not necessarily follow from this that the big landowner was an absentee landlord content with a level of income sufficient to maintain his rank. but the management of a patrimony to be passed on to one’s children. providing a sufficient part of the produce for our men to lead the well regulated life?’’ (Plato [b]: 806 DE).11 In The Laws. The market is only a means for getting richer. and it does not even need to be said. in which the enterprise is no longer the patrimony of a dynasty seeking to Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . rather. or. in embarrassing or embarrassed pages at the start of the Politics. In this sense. not work.
he will be presumed not to work. craft or banking enterprise can also be managed as a patrimony. If one was rich and worked in order to remain so. and even Aristotle. or in order to become even richer. one let resources flow in without making an effort to procure them. the ideology of the free use of one’s own time is an ideology of patrimonial rationality. Plato.16 in the name of political realism. The rich lived as men of leisure and were socially influential: the value of these two facts. this will be their way of taking into account the social powers in which they share or from which they suffer. Actually. But was it really true that the exclusive occupation of the rich was to get involved with public affairs. in their eyes this is not a fact so much as a fault: the rich are at fault for not always conforming to their own essence. In that case. will link civic behaviour with leisure.’’ Either one has a patrimony of landed property that one manages oneself or gets someone else to manage.330 Economy and Society perpetuate its own social and political power. elsewhere. and political philosophers. which.17 However. will be increased by the justification of each by the other. on the other hand. even if had had time off.40. A slave. censure the apolitical attitude of the rich who think only about accumulating money and completely neglect the city-state. stopwatch in hand. since the spectre of need was far away. but not exclusively. Free time or leisure will be highly valued as admirable.2).15 and in Aristotle’s Politics. since the merchant or craftsman shares the dynastic aim of the leisured class. rather than as an anonymous machine for generating profit. The hint of disquiet in our Athenian thinkers arises from the fact that they continue to hear a contrary assertion repeated in the city-state: ‘‘It is possible for one to attend both to one’s own affairs.13 For work or a job evoke the idea of need. or one may also have an interest in commerce or a skilled craft. and to those of the city-state’’ (Thucydides: II. the poor could not find an hour for this? Let’s not dwell on this: we are in the realm of fictions. Aristotle’s Politics develops an argument over many pages. Roman law will put it thus: ‘‘To manage as a good father. of the risk of privation. so that one is not reckoned to be a tradesman or manufacturer: one remains oneself. was never a man of leisure. Two mechanisms are put to work here that we put together under the name of ideology: valorisation and presupposition. one was not working. like getting dressed in the morning. or rather these two forces. there is a leitmotif that recurs with such insistence as to betray a trace of disquiet or bad faith: only wealth provides the free time that enables one to concern oneself with public affairs. This dynasty is essentially. political activity is transformed into a privilege of the rich. wealth is justified by political activity and. In The Laws (Plato [b]: 846 D).18 Against this claim. founded on landed property: a commercial. and that. The few hours of the day or night expended to this end did not count: they were only a mundane necessity. which are different for each person. employs every available means: Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . in its incoherence. whose vision of everything was blinkered by the presupposition of militantism. but on a large scale. since it was the privilege of the socially dominant class.14 since he lived dependent on a master.
3. therefore men of leisure are activists. or if the roles were distinct as in our times. Besides. this link was doubly contingent. free time is the good. philosophers will think that the link between having time freely available to one and political power is the good. 2. This took place thanks to a syllogism whose major premise presupposes while its minor premise accords value: in politics. it would not matter to them that the argument is not perfect in its details: the certainty of the conclusion is no less incontestable.19 Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 Politics is handed over to the rich.’’ that creates a right: distributive justice requires that unequal rights are due to unequal merits. the good consists in activism. must not be. a ‘‘discourse’’ born from historical chance. and that too often they refuse to govern. beforehand’’ that it is founded. the privilege having to be reserved for men of leisure. since a poor toiler is not a man of quality and so must be prevented from being involved in politics. in fact.Paul Veyne: Did the Greeks know democracy? 331 1. the philosophers do not succeed in thinking a valuation of free time that is not founded on the civic presupposition of their time. The conduct of politics is only in the hands of the socially dominant class in ancient societies where superiorities are cumulative.20 We have not sought to condemn an ancient ideology so much as show how two independent facts Á/ having time at one’s free disposal and public spiritedness Á/ were made part of a system. Those who toil have limited time to devote to the city-state. We do not ask ourselves whether or not the State is the instrument of the dominant class. they judge themselves (Aristotle [a]: 1318 B 10. those who toil are concerned above all with earning a living and readily leave politics to the rich. Nevertheless. since every force considers itself to be the good and is pleased with itself: ideology as valuation is reduced to this. and do not want to be. and because being a man of leisure is a quality. 1319 A 300). and so they will try to justify. rather than in the thousand other ways to which the relations of production would have been equally well suited. Militantism. and must be.23 the same individuals possessing power.22 Sensitive to power like common mortals. but only whether the rich exercised the political profession themselves.21 and power’s prestige is equally perceptible to those subject to it and those who exercises it. wealth. The state of affairs in which the rich have or claim supreme control of politics is accorded value outright. We have seen that Plato and Aristotle assert both that men of leisure govern. ‘‘Knowing already. a ‘‘virtue. belongs to a series that is . to found this state of affairs. they reinforce themselves in the superiority of this conviction. Equally contingent was the fact that the content of politics was lived or thought as militantism. while the poor cannot be. because they have the leisure for it. therefore they are not involved in politics. Those who toil are not worthy to concern themselves with the city-state. and culture.
together with Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . VI. Yet without being opposed to democracy. secretly. even if they were not out and out oligarchs. political participation was a kind of question of honour.27 Aristophanes was certainly not an oligarch. the Athenian poor did not invent its own scale of values.25 But its respect for the social superiority of the notables. Thucydides or Euripides are only partly sincere when they put eulogies to democracy in the mouths of Pericles or Theseus. as in later centuries it will find it in the church. the people are not so stupid! It knows full well that it is being deceived! In its own heart it thinks like the knights (Aristophanes [b]: 1111 Á/1150). but they did not really want democracy. and of being able to ‘‘have its say’’ on public and international questions. the people found its pride only within the political arena. which gave their native land its singular stamp. where it will be equal to the grand. to put it like Cournot. he acted as if his popular public agreed with him in regarding the defects of popular government as an obvious reality towards which one can only be indulgent. incarnate civic virtue. by definition. and that must be taken as it is.’’ In Athens there was a strange division between the political arena and social powers. In short. this is the sign that.24 if not on economic interests. the people demanded democracy and was proud of having it. As the young Marx wrote: ‘‘The sole object of existence and of the will was the political State. they looked on this democratic phenomenon. it was the people who made up the juries and the exercise of justice was a civic right par excellence (Plato [b]: 768 B). it was not an ideal they would have shared while acknowledging its imperfections. democracy was a reality whose defects they knew only too well. Whether they were loyal or just resigned towards the people. in these eulogies these men of leisure practice a certain indulgence towards the ideals of a people they love. But fundamentally. unlike the bourgeoisie. In Athens. It also shaped real struggles. We can understand then what this democracy was: for the people. a way of affirming their own dignity in front of the powerful. but in its own way it shaped the ancient valuation of wealth. Athenian pork butchers and tanners were not opposed to this state of affairs. from the outside. men of leisure retained enough superiority to allow them to be paternalistic towards the democratic oddity. like those fortunate.26 which was itself excluded from the political arena for a long time. as political. seeing the wealthiest humbled before the popular jurisdiction (Aristophanes [a]: 575)! Those who did not belong to the people could accept the extension of citizenship to the entire people. upright men who. he looked down on it. As Christian Meier writes. political democracy was the opium of the people. but he taunted the popular regime because it is not the job of a satirist to be a panegyrist.332 Economy and Society independent of the economy. what satisfaction jurors had. through which they govern. for the valuation of free time. remained intact.
the Gracchi: they proposed to strengthen the city. it was seen as the extension of a privilege rather than as the realization of a universal right.Paul Veyne: Did the Greeks know democracy? 333 their social power. . antiquity was unaware of the representative system. The ancient democracies were always fragile and lasted only as long as the duration of a collective passion.’’ (Demosthenes: 10. Wealth is surrounded by such prestige that its power compels recognition: such prestige is even more decisive than Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . that Demosthenes allows himself to use against Aeschines in front of the assembled people: ‘‘I am worth more than Aeschines and better born than he.29 For thinkers there remained the possibility of blessing this development by explaining that a city-state needs citizens who make their own wealth and time available to it (Aristotle [a]: 1238. I went to the best schools. that wealth would guarantee the independence of active citizens. Should this brevity be attributed to a particular feature of constitutional technique? We know that they were all direct democracies.a. like a slave. not to make individuals happy (Appian: I. the nobles will take back power and never let it slip from their grasp. and that the people itself continued to respect the powerful.25.e. It is true that the argument could have been turned around: if we redistribute the patrimonies.1). and I was wealthy enough not to be forced by want into shameful jobs. And Demosthenes does not displease them: he wins his case triumphantly.b. somewhat embarrassing for the modern reader. The presupposition of their politics was still militantism. as a child Aeschines.7 Á/9. on that occasion. but it must be said that. but because they are socially powerful. This fragile political conquest will not withstand social power for two centuries: in the fourth century. the people fully agreed with the notables in thinking that democracy was not self-evident: as we have already said. as will be repeated from 1789 to 1848: rather it was held that it would enable them to do more for the good of the city-state. but constitutional law does not exist without reason.a. No doubt.256 Á/258). I would not like to appear as someone who scorns poverty.30 It was not thought. Your fortune rather. . was. Max Weber wrote: ‘‘every direct democracy tends to turn into a regime of notables’’ (Weber 1979). therefore. This was not a day on which one should displease the people who. and the possibility of saving the honour of thought by subtly distinguishing between the duty of the wealthy to contribute more to the city-state by governing it and their claimed right to govern because they are wealthy (Aristotle [a]: 1280. So argued the most famous social reformers of antiquity. the city will have more useful citizens. were judges. Here is the language. their political power remained intact. The notables do not inherit power because they have the time and ability to govern. 1316. His good conscience as landowner is explained by the fact that wealth determined every other type of superiority. and the different scales of value and antagonistic forces that nowadays call for modesty did not exist then. 26 Á/37).14 and passim ). as a child.28 In short. to clean out the hall where your father taught .
Plato. The asymmetry between governors and governed is as blatant today as it was when people had masters. the bourgeoisie governs. Athenian democracy could only be direct. capitalism will call itself liberalism in the centuries of liberty. the relationship between the electors and the politics pursued by the elected is even more remote. no doubt. since their power is dependent on chance. is a philosopher inasmuch as he takes it literally31. but two formations that cannot be compared with each other. historically. while wealthy Greeks spoke of serving the city-state. it thinks itself in laudatory terms. The reason that things have not been like this for a couple of centuries in the West is simply the professionalization of the political craft. . VII. but what terms are these? What every age holds to be such. there are not two varieties. The difference is that the representatives of the people can no longer be considered as masters of the governed: the real role of popular elections is not to select representatives. These specialists are no doubt elected. Whereas. he will systemise incoherent assertions arising from distinct powers. The doctrine of the free disposal of one’s time claimed that a wealthy man is not working. but rather because. but to underline that they do not govern by divine right. elections are a lottery that reminds everyone that power is only on loan to the governors. and that they are not like a king who was the legitimate proprietor of his realm. but they start by electing themselves (they are made or become candidates) and the electoral system inevitably distorts a general will that does not exist beforehand and that the system helps to form. This is not because this way of governing is technically possible when the political tasks are not too complicated. he will institute as many festivals as there are days in the year. by transforming citizens into activists. what we call direct democracy was an attempt to remove from the notables the political part of their general influence.334 Economy and Society Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 the economic blackmail a rich man can exercise on those who depend on him. on the other hand. who believes everything his society says. Direct or indirect democracy? The alternative does not depend on a technique that can be isolated as such from the historical context. Plato will require them really to stop working and. to achieve his ends. We know that ideology is only power’s satisfaction with itself. the indirect democracy of the modern West is a way of legitimising the power exercised by professional politicians over a passive population. but not the wealthy themselves. he will turn this back against the wealthy themselves and establish duties for them. if that is possible. Plato never doubts the superiority of the rich32 and their right to command. or when the state is a small city in which everyone can assemble in a public place. even when engaged in an activity that would be called work when performed by someone less wealthy. but while the wealthy direct belief in their own superiority against the poor.
He reproaches them for always seeking to become wealthier. and we know36 that they cannot do two things at the same time. or. they employ it. more or less the same degree of reality as civic militantism. It has. automatic Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . This idea of autarchy had a very weak influence on economic behaviour in antiquity. in which the destiny of societies is at stake. wealth makes one lose one’s self-control: the wealthy no longer obey the Law and become ambitious. and luxury means political decadence. it is the same idea: when one concerns oneself with profit one neglects the public good. so to speak. and practice any profession.33 It is necessary to put an end to this situation.37 Finally. and he derides everything else’’ (Plato [b]: 831c]. in a reprehensible way: they work. from Solon35 and Plato up to Rousseau. and this is not a matter of an occupation of secondary importance’’ (Plato [b]: 846d). that is. a smaller shop. if we want to measure the importance of the militant presupposition in ancient thought. better. Their love of wealth ‘‘leaves them no moment of respite for being concerned with anything but their private property. that citizens look to their own egotistical interest rather than to the single public good. So. So. or rather. rivalry and lack of discipline are the products of wealth (Plato [b]: 678bc).Paul Veyne: Did the Greeks know democracy? 335 Plato calls his idle rich contemporaries oligarchs. but it had a considerable influence on ideas. since a citizen worthy of the name ‘‘already has a sufficient profession.A. and should not have a port that is too big. we should consider that it is as great as the themes of luxury and decadence. passing through half a millennium of Roman ‘‘decadence. will suffice. since he does not want to honour them with the name of aristocrats. What’s more. ‘‘No transactions will be conducted with a view to profit’’ (Plato [b]: 847d). be reduced solely to the virtue of individuals? The collective dimension is made up of material forces. We confess that this theme remains incomprehensible to us. out of greed. The young Aristotle’s judgement will be similar: a city-state is not a shopkeeper. The idea was the more disconcerting one of autarchy. one must not depend on the economy. the soul of every citizen is completely devoted to his enrichment and never thinks of anything other than his daily profit.S. wealth. instead of making good use of the time at their disposal. because trade is greed and luxury. so long as it brings him profit. does not need excessive earnings. wealth generates jealousy and internal struggles. in fact. injustice. Export and import will be reduced to a minimum. that of creating a well-regulated city and not altering it. Each is ready to learn any technique.34 Whether it is a matter of citizens considered individually or of the city-state itself. a more fragile power than the poor and virtuous Japan of 1941? Are poor countries free from social conflict? And how could the collective dimension. and this ruins the city-state? Increasing wealth presupposes. the main enemy is greed. which have filled entire libraries. in the ancient meaning of the word: one must be economically independent. then. Is this a Vichy-like fear of an economic development that would oust the dominant class? Not at all.’’ from Cato to Heliogabalus. or to Romulus Augustus.38 How was it possible to think this for two millennia? In what respect was the U.
the details of the progression were pictured in different ways. and ethics is a morality of effort against temptations. which forms customs. So there would be no citystate without the Law that trains militants and obtains their obedience. as modern laws cautiously are: the Law creates society. how does lack of self-control generate avidity. or the ‘‘invisible hand. From classical Athens to Quintilian. makes it exist. of false consciousness. everything collapses: the Law creates the city-state. when there is a fall in ethical tension. Militancy is not sustained by anonymous forces: it is distinct from society. . and evil nature spreads. Not even fears and sorrows escape the imprint of the moral militant. education Á/ to speak only of this Á/ induced the child to submit to good order (eutaxia) and to flee laxness: there is a GrecoRoman obsession with virility . If the customs are evil and. as the Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . so as to reform it. VI. . it may even diverge widely from society. whereas their revolutionary audacity is only an illustration of the ancient legislator’s voluntarism. Psychology is the driving force of politics. There is no salvation except through individual virtue: ancient thought explained social facts on the basis of what it knew. disorder is more natural than order and only effort will maintain the stability of the city-state. But. from which lack of discipline and ambition are born? It was not really known.41 There is a single means of defence: training individuals by means of the Law. Militancy was a permanent ethical tension and this voluntarism pervaded everything that Greek and Roman society believed in and wanted to be. when they were not left vague. Plato’s Laws will be seen as utopian dreams. we know. and the ‘‘virtue’’ of each individual is a consequence rather than a cause. they dream of this catastrophe as decadence. and there was no great concern to know: from Plato to Sallust. assuming that this virtue is more socially useful than egoism. in other words. Faced with ancient sermons on decadence. we are overcome by a kind of laziness. it explained them through the individual and morality. when it did not resort to the gods and Fortune. or else it will degenerate. The decadence of city-states is a natural fact like ageing (Polybius: VI.40 Without the Law. This voluntarism is also typical of the citizens who actively obey the Law.’’ is lacking that would make society endure independently of individual intentions and create the social dimension from an aggregation of egoisms. it does not have to be not too far ahead and not too far behind the customs of society. It was selfevident that every imaginable vice crowds in at the gate. or taken to be self-evident rather. When the Greeks and Romans have nightmares of the complete collapse of the city. the Law is no longer obeyed. Society does not survive by itself but needs an energy that continually recreates it. then there is no remedy. more precisely.336 Economy and Society mechanisms. aggregate effects. We will only find meaning if we bring out its two or three presuppositions.9. this energy will be individual and ethical. for the collective and material dimension is unknown. it is an action that transforms a society into a city-state. Also. to revolutionize it. and fashions its customs by means of a training that is called education. or if the Law itself is wicked. we let them talk and give up any idea of finding a meaning in this simple-minded sociology.57)39: the inertia.
The right to pry therefore had the same degree of reality as the ‘‘discourse’’ of militantism: it was rarely put into practice. However. Jellinek has shown that this to be an exaggeration: ‘‘For the ancients. modern times have conquered a zone of freedoms and private life against the State. a modern State only concerns itself with the morality of citizens in explicitly defined cases. For us. the ethical requirement was blended with political conservatism.’’ When they try to formulate the grounds for their malaise. whereas a city-state’s right to examine the private life of its citizens was unlimited. Comparing the freedom of the ancients and the moderns. they do not blame the gap between the ideal of real liberation and the poverty of bourgeois freedoms: rather. who thought it badly made. their fear is of themselves. they take as their target the distance between the militant ideal (that they assume was real in the good old times) and social reality. rather than a lacuna. was the city-state’s right to pry.Paul Veyne: Did the Greeks know democracy? 337 Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 decomposition of social muscle. after this. even if it was seldom exercised. immoral. as for the moderns. and whose days were sad. they nonetheless exist. even if human rights are often violated or annulled. Say. Because. except that antiquity was never aware of the juridical character of this sphere of independence’’ (Jellinek 1921: 307). they lived in a constant ‘‘state of fury. independent of the State. like Andre Breton when he renounced ´ bourgeois society. In the militant presupposition. of disorder and anarchy: in short. which was nothing other than the correlate of the militant presupposition: the citizen was not a sheep in the flock of the governed. The ideal of this ancient democracy was that the citizens be its slaves. is this not the sign of a radical difference? As Menzel says in his memorable study of the trial of Socrates: ‘‘It remains the case that this freedom was only a de facto status. there have been men who felt themselves to be in exile in real society. And their opponents behave likewise. a mere oversight. they do not fear the spread of partisans of social equality. from Plato to Saint Jerome. Its generating movement was the opposite of that of our democracy. that it was never a subjective right that could be asserted against the State’’ (1938: 59). from Crito to The Laws. on the other hand. To establish freedoms against the city-state would have been unthinkable. VIII. what existed in Greece. Plato experienced the unhappiness of the militant consciousness for all his life. unlike the more passive citizens of gendarme states or welfare states. whether Juvenal was of the left or the right. it was already too much that the city was constrained to formulate . the individual had a sphere of free activity at his disposal. it did not formally guarantee this freedom. Benjamin Constant said that the city-state was free. but an instrument of the city-state that expected him to have the private morality that modern states demand from their officials. It was in the trial of Socrates. whereas the only freedoms the Athenians had were those left them by the citystate. but its citizens were slaves.
the death penalty also awaits the impious in the city-state of The Laws. itemizing them one by one: good citizens should not need such detailed prescriptions.338 Economy and Society prohibitions. since this ideal is almost never realised. If he had been. which was willingly inquisitorial. when the straight and narrow path of civic virtue is followed. and they defend Socrates only by challenging the facts: he was not really an atheist. and when they tried to explain why. whom Plato does not call Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . which confined itself to enforcing respect for the laws. instead of channelling them as best it can by means of barriers. is not developed in this way. then each would carry the Law of the city within himself and the city would not have to govern an entire flock of citizens as a whole. but by daily habits. rather than to govern them from outside with orders and prohibitions. and ‘‘love of innovations is also caused by the habits of private life. whose citizens live under constant surveillance and surrounded by denouncers. Isocrates also prefers civic morality to written laws. the simplest thing for the city would be for it to cast the master’s gaze on their consciences directly. and the more permissive reality. for the Greeks it was self evident that the group could not be indifferent towards private life.b. We know that luxury and wealth form undisciplined characters. there is no need for barriers when citizens know how to govern themselves and their conduct is dictated by their zeal for the Law. But why supervise it. in eutaxia . However. every citizen would follow the straight path. against wrongdoings.42 No one protested against this principle. correspond respectively to the two possible modalities of power between which Greek thought wavered. But what if their zeal is not steadfast? In that case. In short. since education is never perfect (which is why one talks so much about it). In any case. The best modality would be for the city to have a direct hold on the soul of its instruments. If citizens were fully educated in obedience to the rule. by confining itself to correcting deviations after the event. virtue. the number and precision of the laws are the sign of a badly organized city in which one has to erect barriers. their consciences should be enough to dictate what should or should not be done in every case. the city is founded as a substitute for the weaknesses of conscience: it undertakes the supervision of each individual’s private morality. rather than reserve public severity for acts that harm others or the group? What private vices matter to the State? We will see. Plato would have been the first to make him drink the hemlock. We can see that the militant ideal. they maintained that prevention is better than cure. and neither Plato nor Xenophon invokes freedom of conscience in defence of Socrates. Only the ignorant ‘‘can think that men are better where the laws are more detailed’’.20). the porticos are not filled with laws. as if one could inculcate morality by decree! ‘‘Quality. and lots of them. duty is carried in the soul’’ (Isocrates: 39Á/41). it is good to create magistrates who will keep their eye on those whose way of life brings danger to the constitution’’ (Aristotle [a]: 1288. it is also good to prevent wicked teachers from corrupting young people. in their eyes atheism43 is rightfully judged blameworthy.
if it wants to be a political force. On the other hand.48 Socrates preferred an undeserved death to giving an example of disobedience of the laws and thereby destroying what in his eyes was the framework of his homeland. However. ‘‘every activist is a public man.47 but this defender of the right to a private life no longer had the title of citizen and became an agent of the Macedonian kings who then had Athens as their protectorate.19).4.a. out of party patriotism.30). If we ask how the moral individual matters to the State. the Laws. Perhaps this is sublime.1360. magical fear of the consequences of impiety for the group. the idea that personal morality is the weak point in the chain and that if it gives way the collective fabric will break up. Aristotle rightly said that tyranny is indifferent towards private morality (Aristotle [a]: 1919. For only the Laws enable the city to survive (Aristotle [d]: I. and give. and not in a Kantian imperative. and censors in Rome. a thousand answers. it will provide a political rationalisation for its .Paul Veyne: Did the Greeks know democracy? 339 Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 informers however.44 which was very loose conduct (Isocrates: 49). He could have fled. died without saying anything. can Athenians remain indifferent to the impiety of one of their fellow citizens? Socrates’ religious shortcomings concern solely the duties of the moral individual (there was no State religion forming a distinct order of things).45 Someone who squandered his patrimony on pleasures was no longer a good citizen46. protection of individuals. but only slaves. but if it was not sublime? It would be revealing. an Athenian who frittered away his own wealth on courtesans dared to reply to the censure of the Areopagus that he was doing what he liked with his own money.b. Public opinion cannot not be scandalised by private vices. because he situated the energy of morality in the pressure of others. of society. It would be revealing of what ancient politics thought it was. IX. and so as not to wreck an organisation based on discipline. 566). political thinkers have given. and Socrates was condemned. and with us the city itself ?’’ (Plato [c]: 50ab). no doubt because a tyrant no longer has fellow citizens. Bergson called this force social obligation. but in a dream the Laws of his land told him not to: ‘‘What are you thinking about Socrates? Of destroying us. gyne´conomes. He may be compared with those old Bolsheviks victims of show trials who. all of them false: fear of scandal and the contagion of example. We won’t be surprised to learn that the activity of these inquisitors will remain symbolic or limited to making some examples. and the Areopagus in Athens. An old archon was excluded from the Areopagus for having dined in an inn (Athenaeus: XIII. On occasions real cities established magistrates responsible for private morality: ephors. These bad reasons are of little importance: the rationalisations count less than the force that pushes men to think them true and leads them to be continually reborn.’’ as a proverb says somewhere.
Isocrates and Aristotle prefer the method of controlling consciences to that of the overall conduct of the flock. On the other hand.340 Economy and Society moral indignation. 20. this division of roles will entail the constitution of a particular domain. governing is not a particular profession with its own maxims and esprit de corps. It is the same individuals who govern the city. fellow citizens are no longer peers whose private life is commented on by all the neighbourhood gossip. public opinion has the secular arm at its disposal. that a specialised organ takes power or that power is given up to it. but one does more perhaps: one forgets it. here again we will find the two possible modalities of authority between which the Greeks wavered. Intellectuals are Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . the source of obligation. For some professional politicians. if it is armed with a secular arm it will act ruthlessly. and their possible deviations are not a State affair: they do not compromise the survival of the civic flock. the effects they produce and the expenditure of energy they call for are unequal. even if the culprit’s fault consists solely in what he thinks in his own head. If an official puritanism is nonetheless imposed. what matters is that they do not fight amongst themselves and produce disorder in the ranks. it will be less as a method of government than as a threatening message: moral laxity is prohibited in order to signify that subversive ideas are also prohibited and that every citizen must feel himself to be an instrument of the State. and it matters little that the flock has its fun. themselves. take puritanism seriously: Plato. politics is carried out at the level of mass effects. that is to say. For the group that governs. All that matters is public order and public security. which will be the province of a new modality of authority. The State will impose private morality for so long as it is not distinct from society and public opinion. 1317. Isocrates: 37. It remains to know when. Thinkers. which one tacitly abandons. that of politics.10. without them losing or gaining authority in either case. allowing each to ‘‘live as they see fit’’ (Aristotle [a]: 1310. ever ready to censure the other person and to consider deviations as challenges to its shrewdness. opinion reigns and the citystate is nothing other than the set of its members. Preferences were divided between these two forms of authority: their respective effectiveness is practically the same. however. the rest is private life. which is the conscience of its members. control of individual life is only pointless zeal. and who constitute public opinion. When authority is exercised with a firm grip. on the other hand. they reproach Athenian democracy with having abandoned the first method. Politics now concerns only the collective interest. this confused initial state is offered by Plato’s The Laws. since it is human to ascribe an inevitable evolution to a political regime that one does not like. Plato [a] 557b). the city will condemn a fellow citizen for scandalous conduct in the same way as it will flare up against an enemy city.b.30. in what cases. There is no original specificity of politics. where morality and civic duties are on the same level. Let us suppose. One won’t go so far as to recognise the latter as a formal right to freedom.a. and in our own times we have seen dictatorial regimes waver between puritanism and a supposedly depoliticising permissiveness.
9 Down this road one will end up assigning ofﬁces in the city-state to beggars and slaves. 5 See Tricot’s note (Aristotle [b] 1962: 1276 B 20).M.’’ rather than as ‘‘virtue’’ which distorts the nuance and makes many pagan texts incomprehensible. he was of the same view as his killers. Socrates had the misfortune to live in one of these periods of zeal. Or to give citizenship to beasts of burden.Paul Veyne: Did the Greeks know democracy? 341 Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 fearful and proselytes. 10 The term arete is best translated as ‘‘quality. out of ethical zeal.’ No. 2 On the Law. 77). This text reveals not the slightest hesitation on slavery. Rouge (174) has ´ shown. 6 On the method. pp. was also the captain of the ship. but in truth. .49 Antiquity. (1983).44). Polybius. We call this presupposition or ‘‘discourse’’ (in Foucault’s sense) what Meier calls the ‘‘political identity’’ of a society. 165 Á/176. or pilot. On politicisation. because in troubled times this civic ideal was taken literally. as J. . 3 Since the gubernator. then. except when some reformers undertook to put this more exacting ideal into practice. Theramenes wants to associate his adversary with the absurdity of democracy pushed to its ultimate consequences and resorts to hyperbole that his adversary himself ﬁnds exaggerated. 4 The metaphor of the politician as a gubernator has been studied by C.iii. 8 Either one participated in the city-state. 124. or to the metics. ‘‘Virtue’’ . The last word falls to Rene Char: ‘‘History is the long succession of the ´ synonyms of an identical word. it is as if in our world children who have just reached the age of reason wanted to vote. see pp.’’ Translated by Graham Burchell ´ Source : ‘Les Grecs ont-ils connu la democratie?’’ appeared in the journal Dioge`ne . . Public opinion has the same reflexes. less sensitive than politicians to aggregates. Ducrot: ‘‘We can search in every text for the implicit reﬂection of the deep beliefs of the epoch: it will be understood therefore that the text is only coherent on condition of completing it with these beliefs. see O. To contradict it is a duty. Although we know that it does not appear as an afﬁrmation of these’’ (1976: 13). 7 ‘‘The State is like a ship at sea . some felt themselves ‘‘excluded from the city’’ (Plato [b]: 768 B) and suffered as a result. Moschetti (1966). . they do not make a clear distinction between politics and individual morality that they consider to be a political necessity. they are disturbed by isolated disorders that they see as symptoms.48). or one didn’t. steered through the waves of international affairs’’ (Plato [b]: 758 A 5). Notes 1 See Meier (1990: 141). 3 Á/33. There is no point in saying that no one ever tried to open the city-state to slaves. see Victor Ehrenbeg (1957: I. with regard to this ideal. it likens the government of civic aggregates to the educational control of a household and calls for strict authority. saw the constant rebirth of a militant ideal that had very little to do with its real politics. (VI. complains the Athenian Theramenes (Xenophon [b]: II.
he is nevertheless proud of being good at business or as a farmer: it was a talent that was appreciated. 19 See Polybius (IV. one can assert one’s own strength rather than justify oneself. O. Plato ([b]: 744 BC. is not what we understand by work. Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . 3) a particular case was the disparagement of commerce and of manual trades. The Laws in their totality are a programme that immerses the rich in a sort of contemplative civic life in which they no longer have time to concern themselves with their economic affairs. whoever has to earn a living does not have time to satisfy their political vocation’’ (Christes 1975: 25). not a ship owner (one who was happy to equip the ships). precisely. but they may also ‘‘resent’’ it (overcompensate). 23 See Veyne (1976: 117) where an idea of Robert Dahls’ is developed. 20 On distributive justice in politics see. that the facts often contradict (one can eulogise oneself with arrogance. with challenge. and on the hesitation between two models (‘‘the political level separates what the technical level joins’’). 12 As Maurice Godelier writes (quoting from memory): ‘‘The intentional rationality of economic behaviour is not an absolute given but depends on the hierarchy of social relations. see Meier (1990: 169 Á/170) and ‘‘Freiheit’’ in. 15 More generally.4).II. ‘‘quality’’ designates equally well a virtue and the noble title of a ‘‘man of quality’’. With regard to the superstition that valued agriculture but deprecated commerce and artisanal activities. 24 On freedom as the right to express one’s own opinion. On the double attitude of the Greeks and of Plato towards artisans.7 Á/8). Vidal-Naquet (1986: 224 Á/245). it is also possible to keep silent and harden oneself in one’s own haughtiness).73. 757 B Á/E). 4) if a notable is not deﬁned by his own economic activity. 21 That is. and [c]: 1131 A 25) and Isocrates (21).’’ 13 It will be the same in Rome where the artes liberales only keep their speciﬁc liberal character on condition that they are exercised by a free man. ¨ 14 This was a proverbial expression (Aristotle [a]: 1334 A 20). exercised by a slave or by a freedman they do not have any liberal character at all. an extra quality.2 and V. 1282 B 20. being rich was a quality. 18 Pericles’ speech. Bruner. see the end of this article. was deﬁned as a ship owner. 1301 A 25. In The Suppliant Women (Euripides: 419). are deﬁned by their job: this is why work was esteemed by the popular classes. they can display anger and rebel. asserting the superiority of humility and the eminent dignity of the humble who will get their reward when the last will be ﬁrst. advantages. Christes (1975). for Aristotle. Conze and R. see P. 22 Those who suffer it can also react against power. true or false. After the work of De Robertis and D. a ship owner who was not noble. Aristotle ([a]: 1280 A 10. 1286 B 13. people of no worth. Politics. often moreover the ideology is only read and known by its own beneﬁciaries. 247). ﬁnalised assumption.342 Economy and Society opposes the single moral value to other. as De Robertis has easily been able to show. The variation itself is expressed through four different variables: 1) what was considered to be work in the eyes of the ancients. Norr. Kosellek (1984 Á/1992: v. that is the fact of depending on another person or on things. however. 16 ‘‘The contempt for work was born from the ideal of political life. the herald of an oligarchic city declares: ‘‘Even if a poor farmer is not ignorant. ideology serves for justifying before others. it varies according to social class. it is a functional. his work will prevent him from being occupied with common affairs.’’ 17 For Plato. 11 The problem of the disparagement of work in antiquity is quite complex. W. see now J. see the brilliant arguments by which Xenophon tries to rationalise it (Xenophon [c]: IV. 2) the place of work in the ancient deﬁnition of the social individual is different from our epoch: a noble ship owner was a noble.
the greedy rich who work are depicted as obsessed and repressed puritans. it would be better to wonder what they thought about the workers: they despised them as socially inferior. There is also (Isocrates: 44. Hellenic patriotism is a patriotism of the band. once again. IV. 25 Meier (1990: 146). of the concrete group. and for isegoria . Mosse (1979: 241). namely the old citizens of noble birth. Polybius. The particularity of this attitude is obvious: the oligarchs feel they are foreign to Athens. But. Isocrates (26) maintains. at least for the people of little account. XIII.9. XXVI.27.8. VI. II. Aristophanes. . citizenship ceases to be a function so as to become a status.31. 26 Meier (1990: 145). 30 The wealthy have the duty to serve the city-state: they are its slaves. The Oligarch. as does Action Francaise. for example. 6. that is the men with whom Alcibiades breaks every relationship for another city. with a Hesiodic tone: ‘‘In the good old times people of lower rank were directed towards agriculture and trade. Athens had its own clan of oligarchs who held themselves aloof and peered at the actions of democracy. ‘‘What’’ they repeat ‘‘would become of the people without us?’’ (Pseudo Xenophon.Paul Veyne: Did the Greeks know democracy? 343 Isegoria is the right to express one’s own opinion on politics without having to keep quiet in favour of just the powerful. In short. Pluto ) eulogies of (agricultural or even commercial) work. Instead of wondering what the ancients thought about work. which do not ensure security. we need to see the reasons for such universalism. autonomy. The career of Alcibiades is a good example of this group patriotism: the Athenians are Athens. From Isocrates to Cicero. who preferred France to the French. which extends responsibility to the poor and to slaves. which survives beyond the errors of democracy. because it was known that poverty is born from idleness and criminality from poverty’’ (Isocrates). Even during ´ the century and a half of democracy. were almost nonexistent. 31 It would be tempting to contrast Plato’s attitude with Stoic universalism. 27 Euripides’ Ion. 33 In The Republic. are very different from The Suppliant Women or the speech given by Pericles in Book II.4. for parresia. so there are governors and governed facing each other. the oligarchs destroy Athens’ wall to the sound of ﬂutes. The wealthy and powerful can be overthrown and reduced to slavery. parresia is the right to speak frankly on political matters or the courage to speak freely without fear of the powerful: see. where the term is often linked to parresia.6. they will only be autonomous by learning to despise wealth and liberty. V. or Book VIII of Thucydides. 29 With Aristotle. they had prevailed over a rival band. either you are in the democratic band or you are opposed to it: since city-state and civic body are the same thing. in which he speaks in the ﬁrst person.10. Characters. this fraternity is widely praised. preoccupied only with accumulating and saving. 334 BC. VII. See C. one cannot dream of an eternal Athens. the real addressees of Stoic universalism are the privileged. If not for the privileged class. The Constitution of the Athenians ). at least. There was the sense of solidarity that will lead loans of money between citizens to be seen as fraternal conduct that does not threaten property rights.6.38. who have a sufﬁcient patrimony. 3). and then with whom he makes peace . which serves ¸ eternal France and detests the Republic.4. 32 According to Letter VII. it arises not so much from a consideration of the poor and the slave as from the difference in comparison with wealth and false privileges. or like De Gaulle. After the Athenian defeat of 405.12.1. 28 Or. Aeschines. as if it were a festival: they did not feel themselves involved in the defeat of an eternal Athens. .4 and 9. work was nonetheless a good thing. Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . ‘‘We have nothing in common with them’’ (Theophrastus. Faced with these blows of destiny. a city’s strength is constituted by ﬁve in every thousand of the civic body.
Everywhere political life is contrasted with pleasure. In this article we tried to show the curious contrast between the autarchic ideal and the real. cyclically. were held (like Greek citizens. 1979. good emperors.344 Economy and Society 34 Aristotle ([a]: 1327. 49 Immorality is both a direct threat and a disturbing symptom for the city-state. 168 B). formed by education. See Quintilian. In my view we should assume that corruption is judged not for its material effects (the particular actions of corrupted adolescents) but for the content of the teaching. 44 and 74. in the theoretical prohibition of commerce and international trade. Abdera persecuted the philosopher Democritus for having squandered his patrimony (Athanaeus: IV. 40 See a fundamental page of The Laws (Plato [b]: 875a Á/d).b. customs are corrupted (Isocrates: 47). I. prohibited innkeepers from selling food. 37 Excessive wealth makes submission to reason and the public authority difﬁcult (Aristotle [a]: 1295 B 5 Á/20). only self-control enables us to prevail over the pleasures (840c). in theory) to follow a more rigorous morality. Hyperides. it is a contrast that we cannot explain if we have not understood the extension. scarcely autarchic situation. Polybius (VI. A Roman knight will respond similarly to the reproofs of a censor: ‘‘I thought that my patrimony was mine’’ (Quintilian). a text we have retranslated in Annales E. it is rather salvation’’ (salvation of the city. all in all.a. Aristotle. see F. IV. 48 See Aristotle ([a] 1310. when everyone does exactly what they please. 3. after every period of decadence everything begins again. 46 One of Solon’s laws prescribed atimia for whoever squandered their patrimony (Diogenes Laertius. The reality was very different. while wealth produces indiscipline (Isocrates: 3). obviously. in the ancient subconscious. the constant theme of the present day disorder of customs is due to a quite natural illusion: politics is conceived only as a constant control that either comes from the public authority or arises from the individual moral sense. so that we would call it a crime of opinion (but this expression would have no meaning for a Greek). and the constitutions evolve. as public ﬁgures. For the ancients. Hampl (1959: 497). Greek religion is not deﬁned according to the criterion of a profession of faith. 44 That is. The censors in Rome were extremely severe with knights who.57) 39 While humanity continues to exist.’’. For theous nomizein see Menzel (1938: 17). Plato ([b]: 715d). 41 Man is made for toil: if he relaxes.35): ‘‘it is not slavery to live in obedience to the constitution. L. 167e Á/168a and 168f. In antiquity. On the vacuity of the theme of the decadence of Roman customs at the end of the Republic. VI. see. 55).. 36 See note 16. Now. 42 On the legal basis of the accusation of corrupting young people. this is a sign that the city is breaking up and that citizens are as independent of each other as cities are (Aristotle [a] 1280. 43 ‘‘Socrates does not worship the same gods as the city. who shows that Plato modiﬁed the meaning of this expression in accordance with his own religious opinions. 38 Plato. being wealthy signiﬁes believing that everything is permitted (this will be the double meaning of luxuria in Latin). 45 In Rome.S. the enemies of licence. verses 5 Á/10.30). p. only poverty generates restraint. lack of selfcontrol is the source of all lack of discipline and every excess (734b). Gernet (1909: 375sq ).a. danger threatens (Plato [b]: 779a). 230 and note 70.C. and with it of the citizens). the presupposition of militancy: the autarchic ideal. is only a piece of this continent. see Menzel (1938: 26). 35 For Solon. of this submerged continent that we have baptized. 47 Athenaeus.5). in which one confesses one’s ‘‘belief ’’ in the gods. for example. when it Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . see the fragment 3. Fahr (1969: 156). and W. in the absence of public supervision. to the best of our ability. but according to the criterion of cultural practices.
. W.S. [c] Oeconomicus Downloaded by [University of Leipzig] at 01:17 06 December 2012 . E. (1980) Le pouvoir et l’innovation: les notables de la Manche et le developpement de l’agriculture. trans. Fischoff. XX.. Xenophon. [b] Knights Aristophanes. (1959) ‘‘Das Problem des ‘Sittenverfalls’’’. The Histories. Euripides. Paris. (1957) Der Staat der Griechen . C. ´ Defourny. in Historische Zeitschrift . Tricot. Contributo alla storia del diritto marittimo e del diritto pubblico romano. ´ 1973. (1938) Hellenika . Guillemin. Aristotle. (1986) The Black Hunter: forms of thought and forms of society in the Greek World . [b] (1962) La politique. it is concluded that people will surely take advantage of this to behave badly. Vienna. Falla. Mass. Against Ctesiphon . Paris: Hermann. Veyne. P. Plato. Moschetti. Kosellek. ed.Paul Veyne: Did the Greeks know democracy? 345 is observed that sadly this control hardly exists. W.. (1896) Geschichte der Staatsrechtwissenschaft . (1990) The Greek Discovery of Politics. F. ´ vol. [c] Nicomachean Ethics. vol. Aristophanes. Andrew Szegedy-Maszak. Demosthenes. trans. M. Milan. G. Rehm. C. trans. C. Aristotle. vol. Conze. Berlin. 3. Paris: Seuil. (1909) L’approvisionnement d’Athe`nes en ble Paris. LXXXI. Christes. (1975) Bildung und Gesellschaft: die Einschatzung der Bildung un ihrer Vermittler in der Antik . London: Batsford. C. Leipzig. Weber. R. trans. 3rd ed. Berkeley/London: University of California Press. [d] Rhetoric. References Aeschines. A. [b] Hellenica . J. O.M. Darmstadt. eds. Revue ` internationale des droits de l’Antiquite . (1921) Allgemeine Staatslehre. in ´ ` Revue des e´tudes anciennes. P. [b] The Laws. G. Ducrot. Areopagitus. Hampl. 1. The Crown . Aristophanes. Studi in onore di Edoardo ´ Volterra . C. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta. L. (1979) Economy and Society. Roman History: The Civil Wars . Aristotle. 1830 Á/1875 . V. (1932) Aristote. Plato.F. (1969) ‘‘Theous nomizein’’. and London: Harvard University Press. A. P. [a] The Wasps. Aristotle. Xenophon. J. [c] Pluto. Ehrenberg. Hildesheim. The theme of decadence comes down to the unreality of the ideal. Meier. Zum Probleme der Anfange des Atheismus bei dem Griechen . Polybius. (1976) Dire et ne pas dire. David McLintock. The Suppliant Women Fahr. Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins University Press. History of the Peloponnesian War. O. M.H. [a] The Republic. I. Thucydides. Brunner. [a] Memorabilia . Paris. [a] Politics. Jellinek. Isocrates. (1979) ‘‘Citoyens ‘‘actifs’’ et ´ citoyens ‘‘passif ’’ dans les cites grecques: ´ un approche theorique du probleme’’. Xenophon. Menzel. (1984 Á/1992) Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: historisches Lexicon zur politisch-sozialen sprache in Deutschland . Etudes sur ‘‘la Politique’’ . (1976) Le pain et le cirque: sociologie historique d’un pluralisme politique. Mosse. Cambridge. Plato. Vidal-Naquet. Nicolet. Centre de sociologie rurale. (1980) The World of the Citizen in Republican Rome. [c] Crito. (1966) Gubernare rem publicam. Rouge. Meier. ´. (1973) ‘‘Clisthene et le ` probleme de la polis grecque’’. J. Appian. Gernet.
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