Josiah Ober

Democratic Lessons: What the Greeks Can Teach Us is based on an in-depth filmed conversation between Howard Burton and Josiah Ober, Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Professor in Honor of Constantine Mitsotakis Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University. This extensive conversation includes topics such as the serendipitous factors that led him to study the classical world, the insights that examining rhetoric provide about ancient Athenian society, and how social media might help us fruitfully recreate aspects of the past.

Prof. Ober discusses his insights that the ancient Athenians didn’t just happen to stumble upon the idea of democracy—they somehow managed to make it work in practice for the better part of 200 years, all the while facing many of the same divisive societal pressures that we are currently grappling with. 

There is nothing quite like it that I know of. Ideas Roadshow should be of value both for contemporary takes on major issues in the social sciences and humanities and as an archive of senior scholars whose work has had substantial impact, reflecting on their major accomplishments across the course of a career. The intellectual content is very high from all I have seen.” — Josiah Ober, Stanford University

This carefully-edited book includes an introduction, Back to the Future, and questions for discussion at the end of each chapter:

  1. Cutting One’s Wisdom Teeth – How a girlfriend’s dental work leads to Thucydides
  2. Digging Deeper – Contrasting wars and lurking contradictions 
  3. Battling Iron Laws – Athenian democracy as a counterexample
  4. Feet to the Fire? – Using new and old media to keep politicians on point
  5. Why Athens? –  Addressing elite capture and economic and political equality
  6. Dissent – Critiquing our system or our values
  7. Enter Aristotle –  The perils of being a cat in a box
  8. Increasing Eudaimonia – Improving democracy
  9. Dignity – An essential ingredient of a flourishing democracy
  10. Keeping It Real – Engaging the general public with scholarly insights




Available in electronic format on all major booksellers, including:





Democratic Lessons: What the Greeks Can Teach Us is also part of the five-part Ideas Roadshow CollectionConversations About Politics, which is available in both paperback and electronic format.