Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Political Science

Content Description

1 online resource (iv, 164 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Peter Breiner

Committee Members

Torrey Shanks, Bruce Miroff


democratic theory, political philosophy, political theory, republicanism, Republicanism, Political science, Excellence, Virtue

Subject Categories

Philosophy | Political Science


Despite renewed interest in republicanism as a political and theoretical alternative to liberalism, much of contemporary republican scholarship emphasizes the ways that republican principles - liberty, rule of law, political participation - fit within a liberal framework, sharing its institutions and commitment to individual liberty. This project, in contrast, extracts a radically democratic republican theory of politics from two founding republican thinkers - Aristotle and Machiavelli. Using an analytical approach, I argue that a concept of human excellence or flourishing is central to a democratic interpretation of these texts. I show, in an analysis of the Ethics and Politics, that Aristotle demonstrates a significant interest in the excellence of all citizens, though his commitment to the mean and his rejection of conflict as a political mechanism for change limit his ability to achieve that excellence for his citizens. In an analysis of the Discourses, I show that Machiavelli places conflict at the center of his politics and, even though he attempts to excise moral virtue and character from that politics, I argue that he actually articulates a Roman form of excellence in the form of virtù, which is just as central to his republican theory as flourishing is to Aristotle's. This project, at its core, is a critique of the value pluralism which both contemporary liberal and republican thinkers ascribe to. I argue that these two concepts, eudaimonia and virtù, while theoretically opposite, are politically intertwined. Together, they offer a new model for republican citizenship, one that does not fit within the procedural bounds of liberalism, but which embraces a substantive view of the good and which requires that conflict between the few and the many - class conflict - be central to democratic politics.