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ARISTOCRACY, OLIGARCHY AND DONALD TRUMP

Arthur Eckstein

By Arthur Eckstein  | H-Diplo

In “Aristocracy, Oligarchy and Donald Trump” Arthur Eckstein looks to ancient Greek and Roman literature for lessons about the current political and social climate in the United States. The essay was published on H-Diplo, H-Net’s network on Diplomatic History and International Affairs as part of their "Policy Series: America and the World- 2017 and Beyond."

“In influential recent essays, both Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine and Paul Krugman in the New York Times have reacted to the rise of Donald Trump by alerting us to warnings coming from thinkers long ago concerning the fragility of democratic politics. This essay undertakes an evaluation of those ancient warnings and their relevance for the American republic in the age of President Trump. It seems to me that Sullivan and Krugman are on to something.

“Ancient writers had plenty to say about how democracies and free republics fell apart into chaos or despotism. Intellectuals in the ancient Mediterranean world engaged in serious political analysis concerning the various types and categories of states in existence and the transitions that sometimes occurred from one form of state to another. 'Monarchy,'  'tyranny' and 'despotism' are all Greek terms of political analysis; 'aristocracy' and 'oligarchy' are as well; so is 'democracy' itself; for that matter, so are the terms 'political' and 'analysis.' 'Republic' is a non-Greek word, but it comes from the Romans: res publica."

According to their website, "H-Net is an international interdisciplinary organization of scholars and teachers dedicated to developing the enormous educational potential of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Our edited networks publish peer reviewed essays, multimedia materials, and discussions for colleagues and the interested public. The computing heart and main office of H-Net resides at the History DepartmentMichigan State University, but H-Net officers, editors and subscribers come from all over the globe." 

Read the complete essay online at H-Diplo.

Date of Publication: 
2/3/17