Professor Josiah Ober, Mitsotakis Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University, delivered this year’s Tasmanian Chapter of Hellenic Australian Lawyers Association’s Sir John Demetrius Morris Oration.
Professor Ober spoke on the topic “Lessons from the ancient Greeks on relations between States – the limits of rational behaviour”.
The Oration was held on Tuesday 26 November 2019, at the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts in Hobart, and was followed by a reception.
Guests included the Honourable Alan Blow, Chief Justice of Tasmania and Patron of the Tasmanian Chapter of HAL, members of the Morris family, guests from the Tasmanian legal fraternity, as well as representatives of HAL from the national body and other states.
The Professor works on the history of institutions and on legal and political theory, with an emphasis on democracy and on the political thought and practice of the ancient Greek world.
Synopsis of Professor Ober’s Oration
Thucydides’ great history of the Peloponnesian War is much more than a brilliant year-by-year narrative of a terrible and lengthy conflict.
It is also a profound meditation on international relations. Thucydides has often been read as a simple sort of “Realist” – a theorist of power relations under conditions of inter-state anarchy. But that characterization misses his deep exploration of the non-zero-sum bargains struck between great and small states, and the tragic consequences of bargaining failures.
Thucydides probes the motivations that lead small states to acquiesce to the hegemonic authority of a great power, and the motives that lead the residents of a small state to resist incorporation into an empire.
Thucydides wrote his work “as a possession for all time” – and indeed, his analysis of rationality and irrationality in relations between states offers timeless insights into how multi-state systems flourish and fail.
Professor Ober has provided source material relating to this Oration:
- Slides of his presentation “Lessons from the ancient Greeks on relations between States – the limits of rational behaviour.”
- Handout material on “Lessons from the ancient Greeks on relations between States – the limits of rational behaviour”