The Good Old Days: The Concept of the Golden Age in Greek Political Thought
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Why are visions of “the good old days” such a prevalent part of political life? This dissertation investigates why the golden age—the idealized utopia of the past—has been employed so frequently by political thinkers and movements throughout history. By examining how ancient political thinkers utilized the concept of the golden age, I identify the unique power and attraction of the idealized past. First, I analyze Hesiod’s myth of the metals to define the golden age as a political concept and identify its core elements. Next, I turn to Plato, who demonstrates how a political thinker can use the golden age to open possibilities for political theorizing and praxis. Lastly, I examine the comedies of Aristophanes, which illustrate how golden age thinking inevitably surfaces in actual politics as a polity endures over time. In the end, I argue that the golden age has the unique ability to blur the line between idealism and realism by placing a normative ideal into the past, raising important questions about the role of fantasy, idealism, and the power of the past in politics today.
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