Sokrates among the Shoemakers

by Robert Sobak

Hesperia, Volume 84, Issue 4
Page(s): 669-712
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2972/hesperia.84.4.0669
Year: 2015


The Socratic interest in the technai (τέχναι), “crafts, trade,” and their practitioners was a reaction both to the political realities of the Athenian democracy and to the challenges that a polis run by nonexperts faced in recognizing problems, forming solutions, and making decisions. The economic activities of nonelite Athenian citizens and noncitizens alike, however, helped overcome these challenges by creating a robust and epistemically diverse network of political participants. This study of day-to-day economic and social interaction on the streets of Classical Athens shows that democratic politikē technē was not a discrete and bounded individual endeavor, but rather a collective, emergent intelligence refined through usage in and outside of the institutions of the state.