Structured Skepticism and the Production of Trust

  • Apostolis Papakostas
Part of the Palgrave Studies in European Political Sociology book series (PSEPS)


There are all kinds of devices invented for the protection and preservation of countries: defensive barriers, forts, trenches, and the like … But prudent minds have, as a natural gift, one safeguard which is the common possession of all, and this applies especially to the dealings of democracies. What is this safeguard? Skepticism. This you must preserve. This you must retain. If you can keep this, you need fear no harm.

The quote above is taken from the Second Philippic, a speech to the Athenian demos given by Demosthenes in 344–343 BC with the purpose of highlighting the dangers awaiting democracy in Athens if the Macedonian King Philip gained ground. Even though the words of Demosthenes are an elegant rhetorical overestimation of democracy’s ability to defend itself — and in a cynical way history has probably reminded us of this — it should be stated without reservation that skepticism is conceived of as a basic constituent for democracy’s functioning ever since democracy was founded in the cities of ancient Greece. Indeed, most of the forms of democracy and its practice are institutionalized forms of skepticism. That those in authority are elected and re-elected, that a number of democracies have formal limits as to how many times a person can be re-elected, that there are constitutional principles and controls for the division of power — these are all examples of democratic principles and practices founded on the distrust of power and its consolidation, or intended to protect against the abuse of power.


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Copyright information

© Apostolis Papakostas 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Apostolis Papakostas
    • 1
  1. 1.Södertörn UniversitySweden

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