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Chapter 2 - Democratic Eleutheria as Positive Freedom

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 April 2024

Naomi T. Campa
Affiliation:
University of Texas, Austin
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Summary

Chapter 2 surveys phrases with the verb boulomai that describe the ability to do “whatever one wishes” or to live “however one wishes” as freedom in order to demonstrate that democratic freedom was understood as the ability to bring one’s will to fruition. These phrases are found in a wide range of genres, including history, philosophy, oratory, drama, and epigraphy. By defining themselves as free in contrast to slaves, Athenians perceived their actions and decisions as emanating from themselves rather than a master. Freedom was thus defined as not simply a prerequisite status for citizenship, in contrast to birth or wealth, but a personal capacity for action. This positive freedom was a central aspect of citizen identity, rendering scholarly accounts focused on negative freedom incomplete. The distinctive feature of democratic freedom was the insistence on the self as master of action; as a citizen, one did what one wished. Positive freedom gave rise to procedural components in Athenian administration and law, notably voluntarism and accountability, as well as served as a distinctive core marker of identity in contrast with other states, such as Sparta and Persia.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

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