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My research focuses on political institutions and practices and the historical, conceptual, and normative questions they raise. Much of my research is on ancient Greece, which offers theorists models of politics that are at once seemingly familiar and strikingly different from our own, from institutions of accountability to practices of public speaking and rhetoric to methods of voting and forming collective judgments.
My book, Dangerous Counsel: Accountability and Advice in Ancient Greece, will be published in September 2019 by the University of Chicago Press. In the book I argue that in ancient Greece the analogy between the demos and the tyrant was no mere metaphor, nor a simple reflection of elite prejudice. Instead, it highlighted an important structural feature of Athenian democracy. Like a tyrant, the Athenian demos was an unaccountable political actor with the power to hold its subordinates to account. And just as with a tyrant, counselling the demos could be dangerous: the orator addressing the assembly was always accountable for the advice he gave.
The problems and opportunities associated with counselling powerful political actors were therefore comparable across regimes. Problems of distrust, manipulation, misaligned incentives, and the knowledge burdens attendant on the exercise of accountability functions were not regime-specific. The ancient Greek theory of political counsel was a strikingly portable one, traveling across political boundaries in surprising and enlightening ways. Throughout the book, I offer new interventions in a number of central debates in ancient political theory, including controversies surrounding the relationship between tyranny and democracy, the nature of democratic discourse, and how to understand the responses of philosophers, historians, and dramatists to the Athenian democratic experiment.
“Democratic Theory and the Athenian Public Sphere.” Polis, Vol. 33, No. 1, 2016.
“Democracy, Voter Ignorance, and the Limits of Foot Voting.” Critical Review, Vol. 27, Nos. 3-4, 2015.
“The Idiotes and the Tyrant: Two Faces of Unaccountability in Democratic Athens.” Political Theory, Vol. 42, No. 2, April 2014.
“Parrhesia and the Demos Tyrannos: Frank Speech, Flattery and Accountability in Democratic Athens.” History of Political Thought, Vol. XXXIII, No. 2, Summer 2012.