The IUP Journal of International Relations
Democracy, Thucydides, China or Ideology?

Article Details
Pub. Date : Apr, 2020
Product Name : The IUP Journal of International Relations
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJIR30420
Author Name : Niccolo Caldararo
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : Management
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 31

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Abstract

A confused idea of Greek history has become a policy concept for many Anglo-American politicians and journalists. Based on an article by historian Graham Allison1, the idea asserts that in any historical context, a rising economic region or nation will come into military conflict with the earlier social entities. Allison argues that he extracts this idea from the historian Thucydides and that this was the underlying cause of the Peloponnesian Wars. This is an incorrect assertion and gross distortion of Greek history. Such deterministic ideas are simplistic and dangerous if they become models for policy. Athens was a mercantilist political entity that extended its power by conquest creating an empire. Sparta was an agriculturalist polity that formed alliances to balance Athens' aggression. The nature of power and how it is used is key to understanding history, and in the case of Athens, power led to aggression, conquest and challenge. The current political situation, especially with China, is discussed in this paper as well as the effects of colonialism.


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Toynbee often used ancient history as a means of placing contemporary events in context. The relationship of ancient Greek city-states was a favorite source from which he drew. In his 1958 book2, he goes farther, accusing the West of not only ignoring history, but of denying a role to history in the great crimes of colonialism, slavery, the failure to avoid two World wars and the development of weapons of mass destruction. He also addresses the ideological problems of complex society, the collapse of respect for law in the Greek and Roman case which led to the class wars among the ancient Greeks and destroyed the Roman Republic.3 Central to Toynbee's work, however, was his insistence on a process of challenge and response, both human response to environmental challenge and the response of peoples to others and their own divisions - economic, political and religious. Allison,4 in an article and a book, has reduced this elegant scenario to a simplistic opposition which presents a number of problems. Central to both Thucydides' work and to Toynbee's was the nature of human decision making and of institutions which define the function of forms of government like democracy.


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