Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

Democracy before Liberalism in Theory and Practice

$25.99 (G)

Part of The Seeley Lectures

  • Date Published: July 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316649831

$ 25.99 (G)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • What did democracy mean before liberalism? What are the consequences for our lives today? Combining history with political theory, this book restores the core meaning of democracy as collective and limited self-government by citizens. That, rather than majority tyranny, is what democracy meant in ancient Athens, before liberalism. Participatory self-government is the basis of political practice in 'Demopolis', a hypothetical modern state powerfully imagined by award-winning historian and political scientist Josiah Ober. Demopolis' residents aim to establish a secure, prosperous, and non-tyrannical community, where citizens govern as a collective, both directly and through representatives, and willingly assume the costs of self-government because doing so benefits them, both as a group and individually. Basic democracy, as exemplified in real Athens and imagined Demopolis, can provide a stable foundation for a liberal state. It also offers a possible way forward for religious societies seeking a realistic alternative to autocracy.

    • Establishes the hypothetical modern state of 'Demopolis' to creatively and effectively demonstrate the relevance of classical Greek democracy for liberal states
    • Combines history with political theory to enable knowledge of the past to support the argument for the present
    • Emphasizes the relationship of democratic legitimacy, civic education, and political participation, allowing audiences to connect democracy and popular participation without resorting to populism
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Demopolis is Josiah Ober’s long-awaited case for the intrinsic value of democracy, not liberal democracy, but democracy simply, the project of collective self-governance. Ober provides a clear and clarifying analytical framework for understanding democracy itself, prior to or apart from its admixture with liberalism. The result is not merely a powerful work in political philosophy but also a compelling argument for the human value of dignitarian democracy: forms of self-rule defined and constrained by the value of human dignity. This book is a masterpiece.' Danielle Allen, Harvard University

    'There is no better guide than Joshiah Ober to Athenian democracy, and now, also to its significance for understanding the value of democracy today, even where modern liberal rights and values may not exist. This book combines history and theory in a political tour de force.' Melissa Lane, Princeton University

    'Demopolis is a tightly reasoned work of scholarship … Mr Ober is an excellent writer and his argument is worth the effort. He believes today’s liberals, following the political philosopher John Rawls, conflate liberalism and democracy in ways that make it difficult to assess one without the other.' Barton Swaim, Wall Street Journal

    'Ober concludes that basic democracy might form an alternative foundation in light of current challenges to liberalism, such as populist nationalism. This conclusion will not convince all, but Ober’s work is thorough and thought-provoking. Highly Recommended.' J. Heyrman, Choice

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316649831
    • length: 222 pages
    • dimensions: 227 x 152 x 11 mm
    • weight: 0.36kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of figures and tables
    Note on the text
    1. Basic democracy
    2. The meaning of democracy in classical Athens
    3. Founding Demopolis
    4. Legitimacy and civic education
    5. Human capacities and civic participation
    6. Civic dignity and other necessary conditions
    7. Delegation and expertise
    8. A theory of democracy
    Epilogue. Democracy after liberalism

  • Author

    Josiah Ober, Stanford University, California
    Josiah Ober is currently a Professor of classics, political science, and (by courtesy) philosophy at Stanford University, California. He has been the Chairman of both a top-ranked humanities department within the department of classics at Princeton University, New Jersey, and a top-ranked department of political science at Stanford University. He has held visiting professorships in the UK, France, and Australia. His previous books have won prizes from the American Philological Association, the Society for Institutional and Organizational Economics, and the Association of Academic Publishers, and have been translated into French, German, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Korean, and Turkish.

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.