How Athenians Managed the Political Unaccountability of Citizens

Recent discussions on this blog have focused on the need for ongoing political accountability in any sortition-based political system, so I thought this article by Farid Abdel-Nour and Brad L. Cook in the current issue of History of Political Thought would be of interest:

Abstract: The political unaccountability of ordinary citizens in classical Athens was originally raised as a challenge by ancient critics of democracy. In tension with that criticism, the authors argue that attention to the above challenge is consistent with a defence of Athenian democratic politics. In fact, ordinary citizens’ function in the Assembly and courts implicitly included the burden of justifying their own political decisions to an imagined authority, as if they could be brought to account. By means of practices that encouraged this self-scrutiny, Athenians marked the challenge of citizens’ political unaccountability as an unavoidable but manageable aspect of their democracy.

The authors argue that ‘one type of practice placed citizens’s political decisions under the external gaze of other citizens, another placed them under the gaze of the gods, and yet another placed them under the gaze of an internal imagined audience’ (p. 445).
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