Pericles and the Socialization of Economics by Tadit Anderson 2014
later: I've moved on to writing another chapter this one examining to importance of Epicurus and the 600 year Epicurean movement, and its relationship to "socialism" as promoted by Karl Marx in his dissertation. An important part of this is the contribution made by Benjamin Farrington in his book The Faith of Epicurus, with a side analysis of a popular level book by Greenblatt entitled "The Swerve." See the article above this piece.
I will be working on a comprehensive re-write of this article when I finish the article I am currently working on, which will content-wise be a following chapter. The point is that it is still a work in progress and part of a much larger writing/research project. Tadit
There is an interesting provenance between the defaming of the democracy of Athens under Pericles as dysfunctional and the use of this fiction to support an "aristocratic" and anti-democratic form of governance. This occurred both under Plato's direct influence under the pretext of "democracy" and the support of "conservative" class interests. This pattern was repeated even two thousand years later in the late 18th century toward the elite suppression of democratic movements, as representing a premise of enlightenment. It continues to dominate contemporary political life and the content of otherwise legitimate academia.
The premise of the validity of Plato's critique was in large part validated by the veneration of "classical" philosophy read uncritically. The life of this misrepresentation was also extended in the fabrication of creation myths about the peculiar nature of the alleged modern "democracy," by the advocacy of the authors of the US Constitution. The third incentive was and is that Plato's ideology validated the accumulation of further wealth by an "aristocracy" of wealth. The premise was to present The US Constitution as "democratic" to gain popular support, but the substance was to install an oligarchy by the aristocracy of wealth.
By the end of the 19th century a more reliable historical narrative and analysis of the Golden Age of Athenian democracy was available. It was provided by George Grote's twelve volume History of Greece published between the period of 1846 - 1856. This more accurate historical narrative should have replaced Plato's narrative re-established in the 18th century toward suppressing democratic governance and reforms favoring democracy. It is also true that propaganda if repeated often enough and when the effect is to make a particular class much more wealthy takes on the pretense of truth.
Making a distinction between the functional democracy of Pericles and Plato’s oligarchy presented as a form of democracy was made all the more difficult by the potential gains of unearned wealth provided to upon those interests served by the promotion of Plato's fiction as the established myth, even if false. A closer examination of the Athenian discourse about the "ideal state" that occurred after the destruction of the Periclean era of democracy will be explored in a following chapter. Historically this discourse began with Socrates, then by Plato, and then by Epicurus's criticism of both and in favor of an authenti democratic culture.
Authentic democracy evolved in classical antiquity in the eastern Mediterranean region in a community discourse about the functionality of the political process of the Greek city-state, Athens. Foremost it is Plato who has been allowed to defame the legacy of Pericles's Athenian democracy and to press the supposition that democracy limited to aristocratic land owners was a superior form of governance. In fact Plato and the interests that supported his Lyceum represented the opposition to popular democracy in Athens.
Further, when the history of Athenian democracy is properly contextualized, the long standing misrepresentation and Plato's advocacy for timocracy as participation in governance limited to land owners falls apart. Even so Plato's centuries long list of would be aristocrats and their courtier academics continued substitute their self interests over broad participation in the processes of governance. The stunning part is that the conflicts between authentic democratic functionality and oligarchy as "democracy" have been carried forward into our present context, for instance in the current certification of free speech as measured and permitted based upon the aristocracy of wealth. The implications for the current political and economic fictions seem substantial, as in plutocracy wins again over democratic participation the economic life of the community. Perhaps this knowledge can assist in dissolving the continuing misrepresentations about the leadership of Pericles, so that the true golden age of Athenian culture and democracy can be identified for its actual economic functionality, particularly toward ELR capacities and the democratic application of modern monetary economics.
There is much in the actual history of Pericles's Athens which demonstrate the functionality of economics under an authentically democratic culture and an ongoing communal discourse in the management of community, ie eikos-nomia. Reversing the centuries long investment in Plato's misrepresentations about the functionality of authentic democracy is going to be a difficult but necessary process, made more difficult by the for profit occupation of the commons, including public education. Plato's idealistic materialism also provides the template for neo-classical economics, and it also defies any sense of appropriate scientific reasoning within economic history or economics as a social science.
the evolution of democracy
The establishing of the Persian Empire was initially about the reliably safe passage along the Silk Road through foothills, valleys, and plateaus for commerce moving along the Silk Road. As an event it was a major step forward in the development of both civilization and economy. Rather predictably the xenophobic would and still frame this social and economic revolution as a conflict between the cultures of the mirrored despotism upon the east against the vanities of the nominal west. In its decline the Persian Empire became a self continuing process of the collection of tributes and taxes to support that empire as a territorial and economic monopoly. Cyrus, the Great began his accomplishment with the civilization of a jubilee process common to the region which included the freeing of slaves and probably the erasure of debts. Solon's reforms adopted similar points, such as the re-patrioting of Athenians sold into slavery.
By the time Pericles was established as Strategos and had succeeded Ephialtes the reforms of Cleisthenes, Pisistratus, and Solon were still being resisted and explored as political capacities. Reasoning as applied within a democratic discourse reached a high point under the leadership of Pericles and under the influence of Ionian natural philosophy. Pericles's friendship with Anaxagoras as a teacher and natural philosopher played an important part in the resulting Ionian Renaissance in Athens. Additionally the popular participation in the performance arts of theater and poetry paralleled and furthered serious public discussion of questions regarding civic governance.
Thanks to Thucydides we have a version of Pericles's Funeral Oration from the early part of the Peloponnesean War. As a civic custom, funeral orations were produced on an annual basis during times of mortal combat and warfare. This particular oration also describes Pericles's vision for Athens. It is also a statement of how Pericles and the majority of Athenians saw themselves and in comparison to the politics of Sparta and the Dorians of Lacedaemonia. It also notes contrasts between the neo-Mycenean, "conservatives," such as Cimon and Plato, and the significance of Delian League as led by Pericles's Athens.
The Delian League represented a major political and military innovation in its time by being based primarily upon naval power. It was effectively a regional Ionian/Aegean mercantile alliance as a benign sort of classical antiquity NATO led by Athens to diminish the encroachment of Persian imperial interests and against sources of piracy in the region. This process was preceded by the cooperation of the Samian navy with the Persian Empire during Xerxes's punitive invasion of Greece as planned by his father Darius. At that time the Samian navy was the largest navy in the region, as narrated in Heredotus's History.
The immediate cause for this funeral oration by Pericles is the Peloponnesean war. It was largely a war by Sparta and its allies who favored a slavery based agricultural centered economy characteristic of the Doric/Mycenaean "heroic" culture. In addition The Spartans and their allies were critical of democratic Athens as an oppressive and imperial force. In 464 BC Sparta requested the assistance of Athens to break a revolt of the Spartan "helot" slaves which had occupied Mt. Ithome. The reason the Athenians were invited to the suppression of that revolt was that Athens had particular success in siege warfare. After the Athenians arrived, they were dismissed because the Spartan leadership feared that Athens would change sides to support the helots. After the helot rebellion was ended Athens assisted in relocating the helot rebels to Naupactus, to establish an ally in the area through which an invasion by Sparta would would approach Athens. (cf Kagan)
The "conservatives" of Athens tended identify themselves with the oligarchic objectives of governance. They thereby sustained an ongoing political relationship and alliance with Sparta. Because the Athenian principle of democracy allowed for dissent, the conservative faction in Athens was not identified as antagonistic to the democracy of Athens, though Cimon was ostracized fairly late in the approach of the Peloponnesean War. Thereby Plato's Lyceum represented a culturally and politically conservative political agenda, and effectively a disloyal and well funded minority. The objective of the Spartans and its allies was largely to restore the oligarchic governance of the Peloponnese and of the Attic peninsulas. In the present context the U.S. tends to act more like Sparta than Pericles's Athens
The intrinsic contradiction of the polesis and a democratic culture is in the inclusion of political interests which operate actively to reduce the participation of others and thereby gain greater power to further their more narrow political and economic interests. This pattern of reduction prevails currently in western nations even where democracy is nominally the norm, only partly through the absence of effective campaign finance regulations. Plato's Lyceum was much like the current 501(c) 4s, rather than part of an open discourse, his influence was also magnified by the support of the Mycenaean oligarchs. Democracy in Athens was greatly diminished after Pericles's leadership passed due to both the siege by Sparta and its allies, and by a devastating plague of its besieged population. The reputation of the period as an Athenian Golden Age has been misrepresented as also being applicable to the conservatives that actively wanted to reduce the participation of citizens in the political and economic life of the community.
The Ionian Context
Key points in Pericles's Funeral Oration include Pericles's recollection that the Athenian ancestors through a succession of reforms established Athens as a free state based upon the participation and respect of its citizens for that legacy. He asserts that Athenian institutions are not based upon rivalry, but based upon the legacy of democracy, and open discourse. Given this context the antagonists are both the Spartans and the Athenian "conservatives." Further Pericles declares that Athens is an example for all and a school to all of Hellas. Although the practice of slavery continued in Athens under Pericles, Athenians were in most cases free of debt based slavery. The nature of its judicial system was such that a judgment favoring debt based slavery was unlikely to be approved politically. Debt based slavery was also unlikely by the very active nature of its economy and the availability of currency. Part of this was in the rebuilding of the Parthenon, and the development of additional cultural infrastructure. Another part was due the development of Athens into a mercantile and naval power after the invasion of Greece by the Persians in the Greco-Persian Wars and in the resistance by the Ionian cities to occupation.
Historically the Athens of Pericles was a center of democracy, high culture and of Ionian natural philosophy, which is recognized as the early stage of natural science. A popular accusation of Pericles and the Ionians by the Athenian conservatives was "impiety," which roughly translates in this context as "opposition to superstition." Science likely developed in Ionia earliest in the west because of its concentration of builders, crafts people, merchants, navigators, and engineers. The Lacedaemonian and Mycenaean culture sustained a strong reliance upon agriculture and slavery which was connected to their aristocratic love of wealth and disdain for manual skills and labor except in and as related to warfare. FN Farrington.
The xenophobia of particularly the Lacedaemonians and the Neo-Mycenaeans also contributed to a retardation of natural science in that it led to a refusal to adopt scientific methods even from older and more sophisticated cultures such as Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia. Reason and reasoning through public political and cultural discourse , and through the conduct of technologies based upon natural science came to epitomize Pericles's vision for Athens as "the school for Hellas."
Ionia as a region of origin generally indicated an involvement in the commerce of the Silk Road, and the shipping of finished goods and raw materials throughout the known world, both eastward and westward, north into Black Sea and then into Europe, and north and south along the Atlantic coastal areas. Before establishment of cities in Ionia, Phoenicians more specifically came originally from one of the Phoenician cities such Troy, Sidon, Byblos, and from prior settlements along the Red Sea (Erythraean Sea). This also establishes a probable connection to the long established Indian Ocean rim mercantile communities, and to the Harrapan culture of the Sarasvati River valley, and to intra regional land routes of Silk Road commerce east of Persia. FN Rajaram/Frawley. Miletus was a city state that was located originally on the Pelopennesian peninsula, which then moved to Ionia. The Phoceans were originally from the Black Sea coast of Ionia, and like the Phoenicians, established a number of settlements along the length of the Mediterranean Sea. It is also true that in about 2000 BCE there was a major flood in Asia Minor which washed away not only the Temple of Artemis near Sardis, but also a number of Ionian coastal settlements.
"Ionia" was less of an ethnic identification than an indication of participation in a network of commercial and mercantile nodes. The Ionians were by their mercantile nature xeno-phillic, in stark contrast to the xenophobia of the Spartans and the conservative Athenians. They also had a mixed economy including production and technologies related to the fabrication of finished goods. The technology of iron smelting and thereby the advent of the iron age is credited to the late Hittite empire which was also located in Asia Minor. The wealth of the early Mycenaean cultures were based upon land occupation, slavery, tribute economics, and piracy. We know that Pericles and the intellectual culture of Athens were strongly influenced by Ionian artists, engineers, and teachers such as Anaxagoras.
The Greek practice of ostracism as a means of dampening local political conflicts also had a secondary positive effect in the importation of culture and connections from Ionian communities surrounding the Aegean. Pericles was first elected as Strategos (general) as a quasi-executive position in 461 BCE and he succumbed to a plague that hit Athens in 429 BCE. Much of the legacy credited to Athens in its contributions to western culture through its "Golden Age" can be traced back to Pericles's advocacy and leadership, relative to military matters, economic policies, public education, and cultural institutions. This all included the importation of Ionian skills, technology, and natural philosophy, and the analytical reasoning associated with natural philosophy, in contrast to rhetorical reasoning.
As a side point, though Pericles's received his personal name at birth, it translates as "surrounded by glory," the heroic compulsion to live up to that naming and his family legacy should not be ignored, as an additional source of his leadership. Along the way the accomplishments of Pericles and the Ionians have often been mis-represented due to the superstitions and idealistic materialism of Plato's Academy. Structurally and conceptually neo-classical economics has strong affinities to Plato's idealistic materialism. as being based upon idealized fictions and anti-democratic intentions including the concentration of wealth by oligarchic forms of governance of that community.
The Ionian Renaissannce
Through its legacy of democratic reforms, the importation of Ionian natural science, and through Pericles's advocacy and leadership, Athens experienced what is best described as an Ionian Renaissance. In terms of its political, technological, and cultural advancements it is also often described as the Golden era of Greece and thereby of ancient Europe. Even so, the Ionian Renaissance was established in no small degree against the conservative economics of Mycenaean manoral economics and Plato's "democracy" based upon aristocratic entitlement and land ownership, as timocracy and upon the conceits supported by the substitution of Homeric bardic tales as historical fact. (cf G. Vico's New Science)
The democratization of the Athens city/state was a relatively slow process beginning with the rise of the polesis culture in the region after the collapse of the Mycenean manoral tribute economy circa 1200 BCE. Each later phase of reforms needs to be understood as responses to problems to which specific reforms were proposed. Solon (594 BC), Peisistratos (528 BC), Cleisthenes (508/7 BC), and Ephialtes (462 BC) each represented contributions to the cumulative democratic reform of Athens's polity and economy. This long term process defines the nature of the progressive development of democracy in Athens. Plato's timocracy was a minor proposal in opposition to popular Athenian democracy. By Cleisthenes's time the Athenian "conservatives" were calling for a return to the Athenian constitution which was prior to Solon's reforms, in other words restoring an aristocratic oligarchy. In short the institutionalization of democracy which Pericles received took about 150 years to develop.
The cumulative effect of these Athenian political and economic reforms was further developed and expanded in Pericles's advocacy of Athens as a cultural center, as a mercantile port, and as a naval power, including its eminence within the Delian League. In contrast its conflicts with Sparta were as much cultural, economic, political and imperial toward reversing that legacy. In Pericles's advocacy of the building of the long wall fortifications between Athens and its two harbors, he advocated for Athenians to live primarily within those fortifications, at least during land based military sieges. This was possible because most of what Athenians could desire in the way of food, goods, and other commodities could be brought to Athens through its two ports protected and supplied through its naval power. Pericles's Athens was defeated less by the Peloponnesean alliance than by public health issues in the plague which also killed nearly a third of its population while under siege.
In the context of the long standing networks of city/states there were two additional network nations in the Mediterranean region prior to the rise of Pericles's Athens, the Phoenicians and the Phoceans. Some city states served as ports of trade, emporia, ship yards, and redistribution hubs. Also, occasionally city states would grow to be too large to function under the ordinary polesis capacities or that the establishing of allied city states elsewhere would benefit that network economically.
It was true in Pericles's Athens during the Delian League that a small farmer could earn more as an oarsman in a trireme in a few months than what he could earn farming in a year. The advantage to the members of the Delian League over being occupied by the Persian empire is that Persia would rule over entire cities as within its territorial empire. Within Ionia often the Persian empire would install its own tyrant due to resistance to paying taxes and tribute to Persia. Because the Delian League was based upon naval power, member city states could conduct their own civic affairs, and call upon Athens as needed. Many of the members of the Delian League decided that it was more efficient to pay Athens for the use of its navy to deter pirates and encroachment by Persia.
This reflects three important features of the economics of Pericles's Athens. First, that it was not forced to compete with the large scale manor based agriculture which was based upon slave labor. Second it had a much more diversified and complex economy than was typical of the region. Third by Pericles's early training, his intellectual talents and particularly as influenced by Anaxagoras and other Ionian intelligentsia he tended to apply reasoning typical of the functionality and reasoning of Ionian natural philosophy. Third having work available both through the reconstruction and expansion of the Parthenon and other Athenian cultural infra-structure projects, and through the expansion of mercantile and commercial industries, the debt enslavement of the thetes class of citizens was far less likely. Easily the growing commerce of its two ports and the construction and expansion of its cultural infrastructure motivated a large number of masons and ship builders to be attracted to Athens who had likely worked elsewhere. An obvious additional effect was the reduction of the wealth gained by slave labor in agricultural production in a "captured" market.
Having adequate currency in circulation also made it possible for small scale farmers to not become indebted to and enslaved by the concentrated wealth of the Mycenean manor culture. This too was an Ionian innovation adopted by Pericles's Athens. Under the early reforms of Solon, he established a progressive taxation policy. The proportion of the aristocracy involved in controlling the Athenian democracy was reduced by the increased number of citizens participating in the democratic institutions. Citizens during Pericles's leadership were also for the first time paid to participate in civic duties including serving on juries and on administrative bodies, rather than being conceded in default to the aristocracy. This provided additional reasons for the aristocracy as a general group to resist the more popular nature of democracy under Pericles in the management of the Athenian community.
A reform by Cleisthenes allowed all those who fought for Athens to also participate as full citizens in the assembly. The hoplite infantry by its armaments was affordable to small scale farmers and thereby increased the participation of the lowest voting class in the processes of democracy. The required social psychology of the hoplite/phalanx deployment also created an additional level of co-operative/communal culture. Slavery was not eliminated in Athens, but the reliance upon slavery was greatly reduced by the increased amount of specie currency in circulation and the high level of competing economic activities. Women were still not generally accepted as equals, though a few achieved a much higher level of independence. Pericles's association with Aspasia who had migrated to Athens from Miletus and then their later marriage was taken by the "conservatives" as a basis to indirectly attack Pericles. Aspasia was a highly educated woman and a hetaera who operated an ongoing symposia and salon. His mentor and friend Anaxagoras was also driven away from Athens based upon claims of impiety..
An additional distinction of Athens in addition to its very long history was also that its patron god was Athena and the temples at Delphi were administered by the priests of Apollo. This places Athens as part of the ancient goddess/god culture which also had connections to the former Temple of Artemis near Sardis in Lydia, to the temple of Hera on Samos, both in Ionia cities, and to the even more ancient site of Gobeklitepe in Asia Minor. The Minoans, Phoenicians, Phoceans, and Athenians had a common cultural lineage which included goddess worship. This is in contrast the enslavement of neighboring city states by Sparta, and which was also projected as the normal societal hierarchy by the Mycenaeans manors. This enslavement of others allowed them to dedicate themselves to military activities and suppressing periodic slave revolts.
It is also true that in the vast nature of Pericles's cultural infrastructure projects an economy of non-agricultural crafts and production had to develop and/or be imported to support this level of infrastructure development and public administration. The majority of the old Parthenon still remained in ruins from the Persian invasion in 480 BCE. The rebuilding the Parthenon under Pericles's leadership began in approximated 457 BCE. Part of this involved establishing the Ionian technologies of production and the related natural philosophy which is also the root source of modern science in the nominal west. The Parthenon as a temple also served as a bank and treasury, complete with assumed accounting if only to prevent charges of embezzlement from Pericles's opposition and as a means of documenting expenditures.
Class Warfare and Welfare
The communal positives of the development of Athenian public infrastructure were enormous. The contrast of Pericles's democracy both to Plato's advocacy of oligarchy and timocracy, and to the current neo-liberal occupation of national economic policies of plunder, tax evasion, and mass extortion could barely be more complete. It is the impact of Pericles's public works and cultural infrastructure that are the primary basis of the modern admiration of ancient Greece. The nearly thirty year Peloponnesean War was essentially based upon the xenophobia by Mycenea and Sparta, and in their fear and jealousy of Pericles's Athens in its leadership of the Delian League. Pericles's Delian League was to a strong degree a commercial alliance of numerous Ionian city states.
As a piece of a larger and darkly comic comparison, Plato and Aristotle's prognostications and pronouncements are generally imposed without much in the way of any historical context. They suppose to represent a "conservative," as in a nominally "careful,"response to unruly democracy. Actually that "conservatism" was backwards aspiring to opposition to broader levels of political and economic participation. This should seem very familiar to current political fictions. In reviewing Plato's many nominal "dialogues," because his material presumes a legitimacy by his fictionalization of many historical philosophers and public persons, it is startling how his material is so thoroughly bereft of honest of historical context or even demonstrating more than a polemic regard for the perspectives of the philosophers he supposes to rebut, excepting Socrates of course. Thereby he seems more adept as a playwright than as a philosopher in good faith. As this material has been carried forward This is also due to the result of uncritical academics claiming to be responsible scholars in good faith, yet reproducing Plato's advocacy for governance by aristocracy and misrepresenting positions that he wants to suppress in order to appear to elevate his own ideology.
Although Plato and Aristotle have often been represented as progenitors and scions of democracy in their own historical context they represent primarily the views of a reactionary elite not unlike the current crop of neo-liberals who are devout in advocating their own class interests, promoting economic superstitions, and deus ex machina pieties as have the present day advocates of austerity for others and the concentration of wealth by the few. Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum were clearly allied with interests that favored reforms that would have "restored" the Athens Constitution to the time before Solon's reforms. No wonder Solon soon went on a a ten year tour of the known world, to avoid being coerced into reversing his reforms.
One of the odder effects of Solon's introduction of small denomination coinage as a democratic reform, was that ordinary citizens could afford to visit a brothel. In that era the institution of the symposia generally was aristocratic and included the presence of courtesans. The same small denomination coinage also supported the development of retail economics. The difference was entirely about the democratization of economics. The democratic potential of the general Athenian public was greatly increased by the intense and broad nature of civic education available to a level comparable to what had been available only to the aristocratic strata. The capacity for informed democratic participation was increased also through the intensification of public support of civic culture for a broad spectrum of arts including theater and the use of public spaces for discussion among the public buildings as advocated by Pericles.
Given Plato's and Aristotle's partisanship in favor of timocracy and xenophobia, they would have opposed reducing the debt enslavement of small scale farmer's and non-property owning, working class people. Their advocacy of the nominal "conservative" world view included the self interest motivating the Athens's "aristocratic" resistance to broad participation in the political and economic public discourse. Further, Athens's "conservatives" were closely allied with Sparta which was extremely xenophobic, structurally dependent upon sustaining slavery, and whose main reason for pressing the Peloponnesian War was that Athens as the leader of the Delian League had become "too strong." I would expect that the high culture of Ionian Athens would have quickly spread to other Ionian cities. The oddity here is the presentation of Athens as the "birth" place of western democracy has been, and continues to be expropriated to validate an anti-democratic legacy, while approving of the defeat of Athens as a democracy in its own historical context. This is historicism masquerading as history.
Plato's "Conservative" Legacy
This legacy was reproduced and mis-represented in the drafting of the US Constitution. This was a product of the adoption by the European "Enlightenment" of what was a falsified history. If I were to insert the US Constitution as originally drafted within a relative time line of Athenian political history, the degree of participation by the community would be closer to the period prior to Solon's reforms in Athens, rather than to the Ionian Renaissance sponsored by Pericles in Athens. This makes the pretenses of the nominal Federalists much closer to Plato's advocacy of the Mycenean tribute economy and the use of various forms of chattel and debt slavery, than to Pericles's recognition of the positive effects of commerce and a mixed economy.
Further I expect that Pericles's understood that education and civic discourse was fundamental to a functional democracy. Art and theater became a major basis for public discussion and political commentary, along side the discussion of military and civic priorities. Imagine what the American legacy would be if it had adopted Pericles's democracy as a standard, rather than Plato's oligarchy. Accepting the pretense of democracy based upon the false pretenses of an aspiring elite by substituting Plato's pretenses requires intentional historical and political illiteracy, if not just simple greed.
The nominal American Revolution was actually subverted as more of a counter-revolution close to the lines and assumptions of Plato's aristocratic timocracy. Enormous in the US colonial and nominally "democratic" context was the demand that slaves be fully defined as property. A major motivation by the self labeled "Federalists" in their drafting of the US Constitution was their heavy emphasis upon embedding a definition of slavery cloaked as "property" deeply in the text of the proposed Constitution and was strongly related to preserving the stolen wealth including native lands. This included promoting a federal government over a confederation to prevent slaves from escaping into states where abolition to slavery was gaining ground. This provided a basis by which abolitionist states could be compelled to return escaped slaves to slave holders in the slave holding states. This federalism also placed the national government as the means in appropriating native American lands to buy off low income Europeans settlers as members of the newly minted "white race." (cf G. Horne and T. Allen)
The resulting "democratic" values don't really deserve the loyalty it acquired by the misrepresentation of the democracy during Pericles's administration and leadership. There is a slice of this comparison which frames the Continental Congress's form of democracy as a fiction to sustain a cargo cult like process for the politically semi-literate on one hand, while preserving the pretext of presumed entitlements to wealth for the self nominated aristocracy, acquired mostly through the exploitation of slaves and debt indentured servants. George Washington was a slave holder and a shameless land speculator who used his political influence based upon wealth through marriage and slavery to increase his personal wealth at the expense of slaves, native Americans, and US citizens. So much for the preservation of cherry trees and democratic equality.
The US Constitution would have been a significantly different document if the actual Athens of Pericles had been used as the source for defining democracy, rather than Plato's Republic, but then it was primarily drafted by would be aristocrats who were seeking to evade the growing influence of the British slavery abolition movement in England and the potential major reduction in their wealth that the abolition of slavery threatened. The neo-liberal assumptions under which economic empire is now projected seems to be just another gambit for endless debt slavery and unaccountable aristocracy defined by access to wealth by way of wage slavery. The simplest demonstration is that the American "Revolution" was for the colonial slave holders and profiteers a response to the Somersett decision in 1772 by Law Lord Mansfield. That very important legal opinion declared that any person stepping foot upon English soil would be entitled to the full rights and privileges of an English born person. Slavery in the British Colonies was not abolished until 1837. The Somersett decision put the fear of British law into the colonial would be aristocrats.
A more hidden piece of political subterfuge is under the standard of the faux democracy advocated by Plato. Working class residents who did not own a sufficient piece of property were also disenfranchised from participating in the aristocratic version of "democracy," aka, timocracy based oligarchy, and which thereby also occupied the economies of their community. This was far less than the participation allowed to adult male native citizens of the Athenian democracy under Pericles.
"For more than two thousand years, democracy has had many powerful enemies and few friends. Powerful thinkers in the century following the Periclean period condemned democracy and cited Athens's history as evidence of its fatal flaws. Most ancient writers portrayed its leaders as self seeking demagogues, destroyers of the common good. They called democracy unstable, a scene of devastating struggles between factions and classes, where the poor majority trampled on the better off minority, careless of the rights of the individual; its inherent instability inevitability led to civil war, and thence to anarchy and tyranny. ..." (Kagan p.268
'Plato attacked Pericles directly, and blamed the Athenians for praising democratic politicians: (Kagan, ibid) "...people say that they have made the city great, not seeing that it is swollen and rotten underneath because of these former leaders; for they have filled the city full of harbors and dock and walls and revenues and all of that kind of nonsense, and have left no room for moderation and justice. And when the crisis of the disease comes, the people will blame the advisors of the moment, and applaud Themistocles and Cimon, and Pericles, who are the real authors of their calamities" from the Gorgias "dialogue.' (Kagan ibid)
"This hostile portrayal persisted unchallenged into the eighteenth century and dominated Western thought. Rulers and writers from the Renaissance through the European Enlightenment embraced Plato's critique, for it was in their best interest to do so. Kings, nobles, and conservative supporters of hierarchy feared giving power to 'the mob.' Artists and writers feared the debasement of culture under the rule of the common man; religious leaders foresaw the incompatibility between the authority of the church and popular government -- all the powerful forces and institutions of royal and aristocratic Europe were hostile to the idea of democracy and readily accepted the view that Athens under Pericles had been a disastrous failure.
In the fierce debates that characterized the Age of Enlightenment and swirled about the French Revolution, the Greek experience... (actually Athenian, under Pericles, ed)... was repeatedly used as a crushing argument against the advocates of democracy. So powerful and widespread was the opinion that even men who founded the world's most successful and stable democracy took it for granted in their debates over the (drafting) of the American Constitution."(Kagan p. 269).
From Alexander Hamilton: "Men of this class, whether the favorites of a king or of a people, have in too many instances abused the confidence they possessed; assuming the pretext of some public motive, have not scrupled to sacrifice the national tranquility to personal advantage or personal gratification. ... The celebrated Pericles, in compliance with the resentment of a prostitute (Aspasia, Pericles's second wife[ed.]), at the expense of much of the blood and treasure of his countrymen, attacked, vanquished, and destroyed the city of the Samians[sic]. The same man, stimulated by private pique... was the primitive author of that famous and fatal war, distinguished in the Greek annals by the name of the Peloponnesian [sic] war; which...terminated in the ruin of the Athenian commonwealth." (Kagan p. ibid)
'Even James Madison echoed Plato's judgment of ancient Athens: "... such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths." (Kagan ibid)
"The facts about Periclean Athens were very different. Plato's assault on its character is a travesty. The Athenian people did not permit their leaders to usurp power. They were not slow to remove and punish even the most powerful men in their democracy, as Pericles learned to his sorrow, and they withstood external as well as internal threats to their democracy. Through the horrors of almost three decades of the Peloponnesian War, military defeat, foreign occupation and an oligarchic coup d'etat, the people of Athens showed that combination of commitment and restraint is necessary for the survival of a popular government and life in a decent society (Kagan p. 270)
Plato's criticism of Periclean democracy was a usurpation of contemporary facts, and in support of prejudices favoring aristocratic and conservative wealth, dependent upon willful historical ignorance and the power of rhetorical persuasion. This is a blunt demonstration of Plato's use of the Noble Lie. The adoption of Plato's representation by European aristocracies as a basis for western "Enlightenment" represents primarily a reproduction of aristocratic entitlements and a fortification against democracy in a deliberately self serving sort of intentional dys-enlightenment.
Again from Kagan's concluding chapter: "Political equality was the cornerstone of Athenian democracy, but economic equality... was no part of the democratic program in the age of Pericles or after. Early in the sixth century the Athenian peasantry had demanded a re-distribution of the land of Attica, but the demand was not met; nor was it ever renewed. ... For the Athenians, therefore, social justice did not mean economic leveling." Kagan p. 272 While this may be literally true, the nature and extent of Athens economy became more democratic as a secondary fiscal effect of its cultural infrastructure in the local hiring of workers and by the payment of citizens in participating in various types of civic duties. Literal economic equality is not a necessary outcome for there to be a positive social and economic effect within a monetary economy.
While most of Kagan's conclusions seem fully historical and authentic, he seems to miss the point that through many of Pericles's reforms and initiatives, democracy was made real both politically and through the greatly increased capacity of Athenians to participate in both the polity and the economy of their community. This demonstrates as well the importance of an ongoing communal critique. Further, the quality of that political and economic participation was increased substantially through the paid participation in various civic duties and by the removal of the economic barriers that would otherwise limit civic participation to the wealthy aristocrats. Using public funds in support of a democratic culture also through cultural facilities and activities, and having jobs available to Athenians through the nature of a diverse commercial, industrial, and military economy also distanced non-aristocratic Athenians from poverty and economic usury.
Over all Pericles's Athens provides important validation for Modern Monetary theory in the establishment of cultural infrastructure and in support of broad participation in the economic life of a democratic community, here and now. There is also validation for the thesis that Plato's idealistic materialism is in large part a philosophy built upon ahistorical fictions and class ideology, thereby it remains more of an ideology than a disciplined discourse based on its predictive utility and standards of observation and implication. From this a partial explanation is available for why conventional economics is produced as an idealized pseudo social science, rather than being based upon historical and empirical experience.
Why is this important to anyone? At that time the city state of Athens had about 250,000 residents and was possibly the largest single city in the entire region. One source cites Athens having approximately 25,000 persons having citizen status. This suggests that because Athens operated as city state democracy there were easily thousands of people involved in public meetings in the agora. It is the golden age of Athens led by Pericles which is the example of democracy that Plato presents as defective in his philosophical theater. Plato writes the entire script and in so doing serves his own ideological self interests, and the interests of the oligarchic political partisans he served. Further, Plato's fiction has been applied repeatedly particularly in the 17th century forward to validate aristocracy and plutocracy, as well as to institutionalize slavery and imperial plundering of economic resources. This has been a continuing validation for elite rule often under the premise of "enlightenment," and cultural superiority
In reality the leadership of the ecclesia required the ability to facilitate a large group of people to do research, present and discuss proposals and related costs for each routine and non-routine and non-routine activity with a staff of secondary administrators. The actual political ecclesia probably represented several thousand adult males meeting in the agora. Further leadership and facilitation of that process required organizing various proposals and sustaining certain municipal services and water supply some ongoing administration would also be necessary.
So many people have been persuaded that Plato's straw man rhetoric is literal history. Instead it is a complex version of his noble lie, a fly by of integrity and historical veracity. Turns out that Plato's cursed democracy was also historic Athens's "Golden Age," contemporary to Pericles's exact period of ancient classical Greek history. There is a deep and broad conflict here between democratic functionality and the ideological assertion of class entitlements, including in a selective sense of injustice. Management of the community and economics would remain as a communal discourse.
Main sources: Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy by Donald Kagan (1991)
The Counter-Revolution of 1776 by Gerald Horne (2014)
The Invention of the White Race by Theodore Allen (2012)
The Faith of Epicurus
Benjamin Farrington (1967)
Science and Politics in the Ancient World by Benjamin Farrington (1965)
Greek Science, It's Meaning For Us Benjamin Farrington (1944)
A People's History of Science. by Clifford Conners (2005)
Coins, Bodies, Games, and Gold by Leslie Kurke (1999)