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Ancient Greek History and Contemporary Social Science$
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Mirko Canevaro, Andrew Erskine, Benjamin Gray, and Josiah Ober

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474421775

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474421775.001.0001

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Majority Rule vs. Consensus: The Practice of Democratic Deliberation in the Greek Poleis

Majority Rule vs. Consensus: The Practice of Democratic Deliberation in the Greek Poleis

Chapter:
(p.101) 4 Majority Rule vs. Consensus: The Practice of Democratic Deliberation in the Greek Poleis
Source:
Ancient Greek History and Contemporary Social Science
Author(s):

Mirko Canevaro

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474421775.003.0005

Scholars have often identified the Greek polis, and Athenian democracy in particular, as the first example of majority rule. This chapter reviews the evidence for Greek deliberative procedures and reassesses how much they conformed to majority rule, and how much they made use of consensus‐deliberation, understood through engagement with current work on deliberative democracy. It discusses the evidence of Hellenistic decrees from the Greek poleis for which we have voting figures, to show that what we find is for the most part unanimity or near‐unanimity. It then discusses the Athenian evidence to reassess whether the deliberative system in Athens practiced strict majority rule, or left space for considerable consensus seeking and even unanimity. It argues that consensus‐ based forms of deliberation were a key element of Greek decision making, which secured the cohesion of Greek communities as well as the synthesis of wide‐spread knowledge.

Keywords:   Athenian democracy, deliberative democracy, consensus, Hellenistic inscriptions, majority rule

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