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A Democracy of Distinction

Aristotle and the Work of Politics

Offering an ancient education for our times, Jill Frank’s A Democracy of Distinction interprets Aristotle’s writings in a way that reimagines the foundations, aims, and practices of politics, ancient and modern. Concerned especially with the work of making a democracy of distinction, Frank shows that such a democracy requires freedom and equality achieved through the exercise of virtue.

Moving back and forth between Aristotle’s writings and contemporary legal and political theory, Frank breathes new life into our conceptions of property, justice, and law by viewing them not only as institutions but as dynamic activities as well. Frank’s innovative approach to Aristotle stresses his appreciation of the tensions and complexities of politics so that we might rethink and reorganize our own political ideas and practices. A Democracy of Distinction will be of enormous value to classicists, political scientists, and anyone interested in revitalizing democratic theory and practice.

208 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2005

Ancient Studies

Philosophy: Philosophy of Society

Political Science: Classic Political Thought, Political and Social Theory


"Jill Frank elucidates the substantive arguments in what have looked like paradoxes in Aristotle’s thought. She excels at connecting Aristotle’s political arguments to current discussions in political theory. Best of all, she elegantly moves beyond the liberal-communitarian debate with an Aristotelian account of politics that not only recognizes the interdependence of individual identity and civic institutions but also respects the human activity of self-creation."
--Danielle Allen, University of Chicago

Danielle Allen

"Jill Frank has written a very important book arguing that Aristotle’s framework for social inquiry can enhance our understanding and appreciation of democratic institutions and practices. She develops an innovative, sophisticated, and persuasive interpretation of how Aristotle’s understanding of nature reveals an emphasis on the centrality of human and civic agency. Frank combines a keen interpretive eye that respects the intricacies of Aristotle’s texts with a sharp analytic sense that appreciates the resources of social theory. The result is a remarkably clear and extraordinarily valuable contribution to a variety of discussions in political theory and beyond."

Gerald Mara, Georgetown University

"Jill Frank’s Aristotle is not the natural law moralist or the dry, positivist scientist you might remember from school. More Nietzschean than Straussian, Frank’s Aristotle is alive with insight, paradox, and, yes, sometimes even wit. Frank rethinks all of democracy’s basic institutions-membership, property, justice, the rule of law, and constitutionalism--and forces our habits of linear thinking to yield to dizzying circularities that are incredibly productive. This remarkable achievement is a must read not just for classicists but also for anyone interested in contemporary political theory."

Bonnie Honig, Northwestern University

"One of the best studies of Aristotle to appear in a long time, wide ranging yet still clearly focused-a truly distinctive and consistently thought-provoking approach to his political philosophy. Frank develops a variety of promising new ways of approaching the most persistent problems of modern democratic politics."

Stephen Salkever, Bryn Mawr College

"I have not read a better account of the pluralism in Aristotle’s Politics
than the account I find in Jill Frank’s book. I have not read a more
convincing explication of Aristotle’s view that property should be held in
private hands for common use, nor a deeper reconciliation of the themes of
legality and virtue in The Politics. This is a subtle, graceful, and
impressive piece of work."

Jeremy Waldron, Columbia University

"Frank’s thesis is novel and controversial, adn will, doubtless, spark renewed study and engagement of Aristotle’s relevance for contemporary political thought."

Eric Thomas Weber | Review of Metaphysics

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
1. The Nature of Identity
The Force of Nature
The Nature of Nature
The Work of Man
2. The Use of Property
The Activity of Use
The Virtue of Property
The Politics of Property
3. The Virtue of Justice
Good Judgment
Justice and Virtue
4. The Rule of Law
The Laws of Citizens
The Laws of Polities
5. The Polity of Friendship
Unity and Difference
Friendship and Faction
The Middle Class
The Work of Politics
Works Cited

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