25 mai 2021
18:15  - 20:00

online via Zoom

Fachbereich Alte Geschichte, Sabine Huebner

Events, Public event, Guest lecture / Talk, Colloquium / SHi

The Limits of Despotism: Bureaucracy and Self-Governance in the Hellenistic East

Vortrag von Andrew Monson (NYU/Basel) im Rahmen des Kolloquiums «Zur neueren Forschung in der Alten Geschichte» im FS 2021

Since antiquity scholars have been fascinated by the apparent contrast between oriental despotism and ancient Greek (or later European) self-governance based on participation and consent. Hellenistic historians have developed both a liberal version, which identifies political and economic freedom with the spread and influence of the polis in the east after Alexander the Great’s conquests, and a Marxist version, which emphasizes the continuity of an Asiatic or tributary mode of production under Macedonian rule; an offshoot of Marxist theory, articulated by Karl A. Wittfogel, traces oriental despotism to the bureaucracy of hydraulic irrigation. Despite all the counterevidence (e.g. local autonomy, private ownership, markets), this east-west political dichotomy remains remarkably resilient. In this paper, it is argued that the potential for non-despotic organization is not unique to ancient Greek or western culture but rests on what James C. Scott calls the “legibility” of society and its tax resources. Geographic and economic factors are not deterministic but they can illustrate the correlation between legibility and state domination. Bureaucracy helps reduce information asymmetry but where it fails societies achieve a greater degree of self-governance and the state depends on their consent for authority and fiscal capacity. Examining regional diversity as well as specific cases of participation by local councils or assemblies in the Hellenistic kingdoms, even within the royal domain, will add historical specificity and cultural context to this model

Zoom-Link: https://unibas.zoom.us/j/96576237250?pwd=dnpGdVgxQ0FOVDRHTUI3RnpPcXRxQT09
Meeting-ID: 965 7623 7250
Kenncode: 906007

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