The illusion of power and the disruption of moral norms: Thucydides' critique of periclean policy

S Sara Monoson*, Michael M Loriaux

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations

Abstract

Scholars in both international relations and political theory have been turning their attention to Thucydides with increasing frequency but with dissimilar questions. We draw on both traditions of inquiry to reexamine Thucydides' view of Pericles. We argue that antithetical reasoning is present in the treatment of Pericles and is manifested in the opposition between the statesman's brilliance and the infelicitous consequences of his statecraft, as become evident in the work as a whole. This antithesis undermines the claim advanced by certain figures in the History, as well as by contemporary realists, that states (statesmen) should not be held to the same moral standards as individuals because to do so subverts their capacity to conduct prudent policy. We propose that Thucydides' work suggests, instead, that it is precisely when the norms of moral conduct are disrupted that states and individuals find it next to impossible to chart a prudent course of action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-297
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Volume92
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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