Historian Josiah Ober of Stanford University joins us for a discussion on classical Athens and how the Athenian system compared to our own demoncracy. As Ober writes in his recent book The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece,

“Democracy and growth define the normal conditions of modernity: Autocracy, while still prevalent, is regarded as aberrant, so that most autocrats pretend to be democrats... These conditions were not normal, or even imaginable, for most people through most of human history. But, for several centuries in the first millenium BCE, democracy and growth were normal for citizens in ancient Greece. How that happened, and why it matters is what this book is about" (p. xiii).

Ober's book brings together archaelogical data, economic theory, and historical and demographic models in order to explain the political developments of classical Greece. In it, he suggests that the ancient Greek world was historically exceptional in many of the same ways that our modern world is. If that's true, what lessons, if any, can we take away from the Athenian experience?

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