Using the Ancient Greeks to Think About Public Goods: a Dialogue

Using the Ancient Greeks to Think About Public Goods: a Dialogue

Greg Anderson (History, Ohio State University)
Josiah Ober (Classics & Political Science, Stanford)
Glenn Patten (Classics, UCSB)
Thursday, February 16, 2012 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Classical structures (such as the polis) and ideas (such as koinonia) are frequently invoked in discussions of the common good — either as the grounds from which modern ideas and structures developed, or as marks of a fundamental break between ancient and bourgeois societies.  Two leading scholars offer complementary views, exploring both civic decision-making and social practices, Aristotelian theory and cultural context, continuity of past with present and the distance between them.  Together they offer new perspectives on the problem of re-imagining the commons today.

Greg Anderson is the Ohio State University Department of History’s  specialist in the history of ancient Greece. He is a graduate of the universities of Newcastle and London in his native Britain, and holds MA, MPhil, and PhD degrees in Classics from Yale University. Anderson’s primary research areas are archaic Greece, classical Athens, and social theory. His work explores articulations between culture, politics, and the production of material life. His first book, The Athenian Experiment (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003), addressed the cultural implications of the shift from a narrow oligarchic regime to a more socially inclusive political formation in pre-classical Athens. Among his more recent publications, one article reconsiders the cultural construction of “tyranny” in archaic Greece, while another makes a case for seeing the classical Greek “state” as a cultural “effect,” the product of a complex entanglement between the material and the ideational. His current book project (Illiberal Athens) is a postmodern Marxist “social ecology” of classical Athens, an account of the inequalities, the exploitations, and the other costs of producing a “free society” in Greek antiquity.

Josiah Ober, the Constantine Mitsotakis Chair in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanf, specializes in the areas of ancient and modern political theory and historical institutionalism. He has a secondary appointment in the Department of Classics and a courtesy appointment in Philosophy. His most recent book, Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens, was published by Princeton University Press in 2008. His ongoing work focuses on the theory and practice of democracy and the politics of knowledge and innovation, Recent articles and working papers seek to explain economic growth in the ancient Greek world, the relationship between democracy and dignity, and the aggregation of expertise.

He is sole author of about 60 articles and chapters and several other books, including Fortress Attica (1985), Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens (1989), The Athenian Revolution (1996), Political Dissent in Democratic Athens (1998), and Athenian Legacies 2005). He has held residential fellowships at the National Humanities Center, Center for Hellenic Studies, Univ. of New England (Australia), Clare Hall (Cambridge), Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences , and Univ. of Sydney; research fellowships from the ACLS, NEH, and Guggenheim; and has been a visiting professor at University of Michigan, Paris I-Sorbonne, and UC-Irvine. Before coming to Stanford he taught at Montana State University (1980-1990) and Princeton University (1990-2006).

Sponsored by the Department of Classics, the Department of History, the Department of Political Science and the IHC’s Idee Levitan Endowment as part of its Public Goods series.

Click here to listen to a recording of this panel from the IHC series Public Goods.