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Dangerous CounselAccountability and Advice in Ancient Greece$
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Matthew Landauer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226654010

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226653822.001.0001

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Accountability and Unaccountability in Athenian Democracy

Accountability and Unaccountability in Athenian Democracy

(p.25) 1 Accountability and Unaccountability in Athenian Democracy
Dangerous Counsel

Matthew Landauer

University of Chicago Press

Chapter one explores patterns of accountability and unaccountability in Athenian democracy, comparing its accountability politics to other regimes’. It begins with an analysis of Athens’ institutions for holding politically active citizens to account, arguing that the system was popular, discretionary, and asymmetrical. Large groups of ordinary citizens, voting (but not speaking) in the assembly or serving as jurors in the popular courts, were given wide latitude to hold political elites accountable but were not themselves held to account for their judgments. It explores a number of possible justifications for popular unaccountability, including feasibility constraints, the “wisdom of the masses,” and the question of collective versus individual responsibility for the decisions of the demos. The chapter focuses on one prominent justification in particular, which relied on the equation of the juror and the assemblyman with the figure of the powerless, amateur, and therefore deservedly unaccountable idiōtēs (private citizen). However, that identification was always a tenuous one, given the Greek association of unaccountability with tyrannical rule.

Keywords:   accountability, graphē paranomōn, idiōtēs, jurors, unaccountability

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