Economic Equality and Direct Democracy in Ancient Athens

With the most sincere of apologies from the website administrators for a slight delay in posting––we are happy to present the newest monograph from our colleague Larry Patriquin at Nipissing University: Economic Equality and Direct Democracy in Ancient Athens (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). This new volume examines social property relations and democracy in Ancient Athens, marking a fascinating new monograph for those interested in Political Marxism.  Prior to this book, Professor Patriquin edited the Ellen Meiksins Wood Reader (Leiden: Brill, 2012) and is also the author of the monograph Agrarian Capitalism and Poor Relief in England, 1500-1860: Rethinking the Origins ofthe Welfare State (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). You can find more of Prof Patriquin’s publications listed here. Continue reading for a slightly more expansive précis of the book.

9781137503473.inddIn this work, Larry Patriquin argues against mainstream views, which tend to find an inexplicable paradox between ancient Athens’ extraordinary politics, on the one hand, and its apparent economic inequality, on the other hand. In contrast, he suggests that in the period c.594-323 B.C., Athenian males controlled significant means of production, in particular land, which enabled these relatively independent men to successfully challenge their exclusion from politics. It is generally agreed that Athens produced the most radical form of democracy in the history of humanity. What is often overlooked, however, is that its radical nature was rooted in an equally radical version of economic parity. The book concludes by suggesting that the key lesson we “moderns” can take from Athens is that some form of economic democracy is a necessary prerequisite for political democracy.

“This book offers a most useful and an original contribution to the field – the field being the very broad one of the interrelationship between ‘ancient (Greek)’ and ‘modern’ democracy, and the possible benefits for modern of studying ancient. It both engages with and takes forward the modern scholarly discussion, principally by redefining and refining the nature of ‘equality’ in the economic as opposed to the political sphere of ancient Athenian democracy.”––Paul Cartledge, A.G. Leventis Senior Research Fellow, Clare College, University of Cambridge, UK