Legitimate opposition, ostracism, and the law of democracy in ancient athens

Published

Journal Article

© 2016 by the Southern Political Science Association. All rights reserved. Traditionally, scholars have tied the emergence of legitimate opposition to the rise of political parties in the nineteenth century. Once governments acknowledged parties' and partisans' essential roles in representative government, they also established limits on legitimate opposition. Illegitimate opposition was now defined as the pursuit of unconstitutional, extreme, or disloyal ideals. This article upends the traditional understanding of legitimate opposition. Athenian democracy did not feature parties, but it did feature intense political competition. As I demonstrate, that competition was structured by a recognizable form of legitimate opposition. Focusing on the fifth century, I illustrate how Athens fostered contestation and where it drew the boundaries of opposition. Competitors were not sanctioned because of their ideals. Instead, Athenian institutions were antimonopolistic, blocking individuals from wielding excessive power. Recognizing Athens' distinctive, partyless model of legitimate opposition should lead us to fundamentally reconsider the practice and the dominant approaches to regulating political competition today.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Kirshner, AS

Published Date

  • October 1, 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 78 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 1094 - 1106

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1468-2508

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-3816

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1086/686028

Citation Source

  • Scopus