Democracy and Conspiracy: What conspiratorial thinking in classical Athens reveals about democracy

In recent years, writers around the globe have declared the twenty-first century a golden age of conspiracy theory and democratic instability. But few have addressed a pressing question that precedes and complicates this position: What if thinking conspiratorially about democracy could offer new strategies for understanding and practicing it? Are there narratives about democratic power from earlier moments of epistemic crisis that might help us be less presentist? This lecture exposes the frequent, but often overlooked, engagement with conspiratorial thinking, secret plots, and subversive hidden networks in the prose and poetry of Athenian democracy to demonstrate how thinkers like Plato saw a creative and permanent entanglement between the idea and practice of conspiracy and the idea and practice of democracy.


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