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Athens – An Incidental Democracy. A case of unintended consequences of institutional change




Around 600 B.C., Athens was ruled by a birth aristocracy. Some 150 years later, the city-state was a “democracy”. A rational-actor perspective, as perceived in the new institutional economics, sheds additional light on this intriguing transformation by focussing our attention on the incentives of individual actors, for example. Furthermore, it illustrates the unpredictable nature of the long-run consequences of institutional change. Repeatedly, a result of the intra-elite competition for power was that members of the elite unwittingly contributed to the changes that eventually undermined their own dominant position as a group.

Suggested Citation

  • Lyttkens, Carl Hampus, 2004. "Athens – An Incidental Democracy. A case of unintended consequences of institutional change," Working Papers 2004:19, Lund University, Department of Economics, revised 19 Nov 2004.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:lunewp:2004_019

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    Cited by:

    1. Lyttkens, Carl Hampus, 2010. "Institutions, taxation, and market relationships in ancient Athens," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(04), pages 505-527, December.
    2. George Tridimas, 2011. "A political economy perspective of direct democracy in ancient Athens," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 22(1), pages 58-82, March.

    More about this item


    institutional change; unintended; democracy; Athens;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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