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Political Science History & Theory

Recovering Reputation

Plato and Demotic Power

by (author) Andreas Avgousti

Oxford University Press
Initial publish date
Jun 2022
History & Theory
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2022
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Democratic societies run on opinion, and so reputation matters to their functioning. Issues pertaining to reptuation emerge in discussions ranging from the character of political candidates to the image nation-states project to domestic and foreign audiences. But reputation is also a cause of concern. We worry that political appearances are highly artificial, stage-managed affairs; that politicians merely pretend to care about their constituents; and that the rhetoric of "people power" is mere window-dressing for what is, in fact, rule by elites. In short, we tend to think of reputation as the business of the few, rather than the many.

In Recovering Reputation, Andreas Avgousti considers the modern problem of reputation by turning to the dialogues of Plato, to demonstrate that reputation is not only an issue for political elites, but that it is a quality that helps the wider citizenry to cohere, bringing together citizens and non-citizens. Plato shows elites, both citizens and non-citizens, engaging non-elites either by undermining their opinion or by challenging it. But when elites in Plato's writings challenge (rather than merely undermine) popular opinion they still seek their public's praise. Avgousti argues that reputation is worth thinking about because it is a power that circulates among the many, linked to and sustained by myths and rumors, and it is a power that the many exercise through the social mechanisms of praise and blame. In this way, Avgousti illustrates that reputation is something that can destabilize normative ideas while still being a powerful force in our democratic politics. In working through Plato's writings, Recovering Reputation expands our understandings of reputation's potential in democratic contexts.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Andreas Avgousti is a Research Affiliate at Simon Fraser University's Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies. His research is motivated by contemporary democratic concerns and spans the ancient Greek world from Plato to John Chrysostom, focusing on questions about opinion and oratory.

Editorial Reviews

"This insightful book, based on deep readings of Platonic texts, uncovers the seldom acknowledged but pervasive role of reputation that courses through Plato's political dialogues. Attending to the dialogues' minor characters, as well as the contextual myths, practices, and ideologies of ancient Athens, Recovering Reputation, with its focus on the demotic power of reputation, re-orients and expands our understanding of the power of the people. It deserves to be read by all who care about the viability of democracies."

--Arlene W. Saxonhouse, Caroline Robbins Collegiate Professor of Political Science and Women's Studies, University of Michigan

"In a series of closely observed studies of key parts of several major texts, Avgousti shows that a healthy respect for popular opinion shapes Plato's political philosophy. He does this by tracking the way Plato portrays how characters, including Socrates, and regimes, including the kallipolis, pursue their aims by deftly negotiating, not subduing, the power of the many as arbiter of reputation. The result is a striking argument for approaching Plato as a repository of insight into practical politics."

--S. Sara Monoson, Professor of Political Science and Classics, Northwestern University

"Reputation' combines fashionable opinion with a public registry of social worth. Andreas Avgousti offers here a groundbreaking study of this phenomenon by carefully studying its roots in the ancient Greek idea of doxa and its branches in contemporary politics and theory."

--John R. Wallach, Professor of Political Science, Hunter College and The Graduate Center, CUNY

"In this lively and thought-provoking study, Avgousti calls attention to the ways in which philosophy is shown to appear to the many in Plato's works, and to how philosophers and non-philosophers alike care about their appearance in the eyes of others. This work showcases Plato's relevance to contemporary debates about honor, demotic power, and the whole field of esteem."

--Melissa Lane, Class of 1943 Professor of Politics, Princeton University

"This book provides a deeply interesting exploration of the ancient idea of reputation-as-doxa, and does so by offering a series of original and unusually stimulating readings of Apology, Gorgias, Theaetetus, Republic and Laws. In the process, it places itself in serious and even exhaustive conversation with the recent literature. The result is a truly splendid contribution to the study of Plato's political thought."

--Peter Steinberger, Robert H. and Blanche Day Ellis Professor of Political Science and Humanities, Reed College