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date: 16 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Building on Pocock’s influential account, this essay investigates Greek and Roman citizenship as a resource for the critical analysis of contemporary theory and ideology – in particular, the models of citizenship based on “neo-Roman” and liberal democratic ideals. On the one hand, a reconsideration of Roman theory and practice reveals the undesirable features fossilized in the Roman and “neo-Roman” tradition. The rule of law disguised the workings of unaccountable elite power; non-domination was idealized only because domination was so pervasive, beginning with the freedom/slavery dichotomy; and citizenship was often nothing more than a civil religion. Conversely, re-examining classical Greek theory and practice enables us to grasp the ethical and dialogical possibilities of citizenship that our liberal democratic models typically neglect. Hence, instead of limiting themselves to advising statesmen in specific times and places, political theorists should think more freely and broadly about our highest aspirations as citizens.

Keywords: Greek citizenship, Roman citizenship, republicanism, non-domination, civic humanism, virtue politics, Polybius, Roman imperialism, Thucydides, Greek tragedy

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