Honors | Enacting Democracy (HON)
H204 | 7674 | John Lucaites


MW 11:15am-12:30pm
HU 111

A persistent concern among contemporary political theorists and
popular pundits is the claim that deliberative democracy is in
crisis or "on tial." The reasons for this anxiety vary from writer
to writer but include the concern that U.S. public culture is
increasingly fragmented, mass mediated, ethnically and culturally
diverse, and subject to the demands of increasing globalization
(including the impulse to imperialism). There are other worries as
well, but the bottom line is a concern that we have lost the
capacity to enact a productive democratic culture. This course seeks
to address this anxiety historically by drawing upon the analogy of
the origins of democracy in 4th Century BCE Athens, where similar
anxieties confronted the efforts to constitute a Hellenic society.
The chief question will be: what can we learn about how the problem
was addressed then that might help us to think through the ways in
which we might imagine and address the problem now?

The focus of this class will be on the debates and discussions
concerning the relationship between rhetoric and democracy that
dominated much of the philosophical discourse of Athens at this
time, as well as on the ways in which specific rhetorical practices
functioned to embody and enact a vibrant Athenian democracy.

We will approach our task by reading and learning how to interpret
and use the arguments and analysis of classical authors concerning
the relationship between rhetoric and democracy with a focus on the
writings of Aristotle, Plato, and Isocrates (not be be confused with
Socrates), and the speeches reported by Thucydides. The class will
be organized around two separate formats: discussion and role
playing/simulation. The first and last months of the class will
follow a standard discussion format where we read and explore the
meaning and relevance of key texts for exploring the relationship of
rhetoric and democracy. During the middle portion of the semester
the classroom will be converted into the Pynx (the site of public
debates in ancient Athens) as we play a role simulation game in
which we recreate the debates concerning how to constitute Athenian
government and society.

Common subjects for these debates could include issues like who
should make key decisions for the Athenian society: randomly
selected citizens? Oligarchs? Philosopher Kings: Will leaders
continue to be chosen by random lot (a mode of radical equality) or
should there be a standard that focuses on some measure of merit
(e.g., wealth)? Will citizenship be broadened to include slaves who
fought for democracy in the recent wars? Foreigners and immigrants?
Women? Will Athens rebuild its long walls and warships and extract
tribute from surrounding city-states? Will public education be made
universal and free? Who will decide what it should consist of? Will
Socrates be put on trial? And if so, and if actually found guilty,
what will be his punishment? And so on. Will history repeat itself?
Or will we end up with a different Athenian society? History is
always contingent and there is no telling in advance what the
outcome will be. In the end we will examine the implications of the
game as a resource for imagining how democracy is (or might be)
enacted in contemporary times.

Course assignments will include reading, active participation in the
role simulation, and the writing of four or five short essays (4-6
pp. in length). For more specific information contact Professor
Lucaites (Lucaites@indiana.edu).