POLS 1000 September 24 2012
Democracy Ancient & Modern, Polis as a Way of Life and The Birth of Democracy: Athens
- How did democracy first appear in Athens?
- In the fifth and fourth century, Athens will see the rise of an intense and rich political community
that will take the form of democracy. Athens as a city-state was at its origins aristocratic and its
slowly transformed itself into a democracy. Through successive reforms, the Athenian state will
go from aristocratic to democratic.
- “city-state” – “polis”
o not a particularly happy translation of the term.
o Certain scholars consider it to be a clumsy and inaccurate or bad translation
o Athens was not like a city and it didn’t have a state. More than a city, did not have state
State was separate from the body of citizens.
- Greek civilization made philosophy, archecture, etc etc. How can we explain the greek miracle?
- The greeks were able to interact with other people – non-Greeks. Due to geographical place and
- The ancient greek character has often been described as curious (about others, themselves and the
meaning of human existence) and inventive (philosophy is the interrogation on the meaning of
- Greeks had a sense of measure and balance regarding all things political.
- Greeks also had a fundamental sense of the importance of politics, as a matter of fact it is difficult
not to think of the greeks when we use the term politics.
- Politics is born with Athenian polis.
- For the Athenians, the polis was considered to be the natural human habitat. Human beings
naturally lived in this type of community known as the polis. Politics was normal for them,
inescapable. Link what means to be human and engaging in politics.
- There was something like excellence in all things human within the contex t of the polis and one
of the most fundamental reason why there was this sense of excellence contained within polis had
to do within the dynamic to understand the Athenian politics.
- They discovered equilibrium between the individual and society, the individual and community.
- In ordr to define urself as a distinct human being, u had to engage in human affairs or politics.
- Being political for the Athenians, meant expressing who you were. Link between politics and
- Felt that political participation was an essential part of developing personal identity.
- This eant that the community itself was the collective expresion of the individual views on
- There is a relationship bw the individual expression and the collective behavior bw meaning and
- The community helped to define u as a citizen (allowed you a form in which u cud define urself)
and as a citizen, u helped to define the community. There is an internal dnamic containing within
- Athenian society, whereby the community did not impose on you and vice versa.
o There is a balance.
o An equalibirim.
- What is public realm?
What are origins of polis? How is it created as a political community?
- The polis was a local association that was creation to ensure security. At its origins, it was simply
something created to ensure commin security. Rapidly beame the focus of the coctzens morals,
asthetic, social .
- Kittos: the polis “make the life of the community and of the infividal more excellent than it was
before.” This is why the polis and by extension democracy is moe than a poiitcal regime. POLS 1000 September 24 2012
- The polis is a way of life. To use philosophical language – is a mode of being. Not just a system.
- The citizen will define HIMSELF through poltiics
o Citizenship requirements excluded women.
Athens rests upon a fundamental distinction bw two different realms.
1) Private realm (oikos)
o The household or the family.
o the realm of necessity. Things have to be done – there must be food, etc etc.
o the realm of inequality.