The Fable of Arachne, or The Spinners by Diego Velazquez (c. 1657)


Forthcoming book from Andreas Avgousti uses Plato to evaluate relationship between democracy and reputation

November 12, 2021

In the age of cancel culture and twitter feuds, work which reflects on ancient uses of rhetoric and manipulations of appearance may be best poised to evaluate the function of reputation in modern democratic settings.

The SNF Centre for Hellenic Studies is pleased to announce that affiliate member, Andreas Avgousti, will publish his first monograph, Recovering Reputation: Plato and Demotic Power, with Oxford University Press this coming February.

Avgousti completed his manuscript while working at the SNF Centre as the 2019/2020 Hellenism's Past and Present, Local and Global Postdoctoral Fellow, a position offered annually to scholars working on comparative approaches in the fields of humanities and social sciences. In his new book, Avgousti relies on Plato's dialogues to expand the understanding of reputation's potential in democratic contexts. In describing his upcoming book, he writes:

"Reputation matters. This is the general consensus among social scientists on matters ranging from judgments about the character of political candidates to the image nation-states project to domestic and foreign audiences. And this is as it should be in democratic polities which run on opinion, for reputation is a species of opinion. But reputation is also a cause of concern for democratic citizens. We worry that political appearances are highly artificial, stage-managed affairs and that the rhetoric of people power is mere window-dressing for what is in fact rule by elites. Our concerns find an echo in the fourth-century BCE democratic Athens and, specifically, in the dialogues of Plato (427BCE-347BCE). This book works with and through Plato’s writings to proceed from an initial and rather cynical view of reputation as a concern of the few, to a more optimistic one about its potential in a democratic context. It shows Plato’s interlocutors engage the many by either undermining their judgment or by challenging it. Whereas prominent Athenian citizens such as Socrates in the Apology and Gorgias undermine demotic judgment and diminish its value, marginal citizens such as the philosopher in the Theaetetus and non-citizen residents such as Cephalus of Syracuse challenge the many while still seeking their praise, thereby permitting reputation’s demotic potential to emerge. The non-democratic constitutions Plato outlines also bear witness to the demotic power of reputation, an ancillary to philosophical rule in the Republic and central to the mixed constitution of the Laws."

The front cover of Andreas Avgousti's upcoming book set to be published in February 2022.


"In this lively and thought-provoking study, Avgousti calls attention to the ways in which philosophy is shown to appear to the many in Plato’s works, and to how philosophers and non-philosophers alike care about their appearance in the eyes of others. This work showcases Plato’s relevance to contemporary debates about honor, demotic power, and the whole field of esteem.”—Melissa Lane, Princeton University

 “In a series of closely observed studies of key parts of several major texts, Avgousti shows that a healthy respect for popular opinion shapes Plato’s political philosophy. He does this by tracking the way Plato portrays characters, including Socrates, and regimes, including the kallipolis, pursue their aims by deftly negotiating, not subduing, the power of the many as arbiter of reputation. The result is a striking argument for approaching Plato as a repository of insight into practical politics.”—S. Sara Monoson, Northwestern University

 “This insightful book, based on deep readings of Platonic texts, uncovers the seldom acknowledged but pervasive role of reputation that courses through Plato’s political dialogues. It deserves to be read by all who care about the viability of democracies.”—Arlene W. Saxonhouse, University of Michigan

 “This book provides a deeply interesting exploration of the ancient idea of reputation-as-doxa, and does so by offering a series of original and unusually stimulating readings of Apology, Gorgias, Theaetetus, Republic and Laws. In the process, it places itself in serious and even exhaustive conversation with the recent literature. The result is a truly splendid contribution to the study of Plato’s political thought.”—Peter Steinberger, Reed College

 “‘Reputation’ combines fashionable opinion with a public registry of social worth. Andreas Avgousti offers here a groundbreaking study of this phenomenon by carefully studying its roots in the ancient Greek idea of doxa and its branches in contemporary politics and theory.”—John R. Wallach, Hunter College and The Graduate Center, CUNY

Andreas Avgousti studied political science at Columbia University, where he received his PhD in 2015; he holds a BSc in Government and History (First Class) and an MSc in Political Theory (Merit) from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He was the inaugural Hellenisms Past and Present, Local and Global Postdoctoral Fellow at the SNF Centre for Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Portland State University, and Lecturer in the Core Curriculum at Columbia University. His research programme spans the ancient Greek world from Plato to John Chrysostom and focuses on questions about opinion and oratory. 

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