Recent discussions on this blog have focused on the need for ongoing political accountability in any sortition-based political system, so I thought this article by Farid Abdel-Nour and Brad L. Cook in the current issue of History of Political Thought would be of interest:
Abstract: The political unaccountability of ordinary citizens in classical Athens was originally raised as a challenge by ancient critics of democracy. In tension with that criticism, the authors argue that attention to the above challenge is consistent with a defence of Athenian democratic politics. In fact, ordinary citizens’ function in the Assembly and courts implicitly included the burden of justifying their own political decisions to an imagined authority, as if they could be brought to account. By means of practices that encouraged this self-scrutiny, Athenians marked the challenge of citizens’ political unaccountability as an unavoidable but manageable aspect of their democracy.
The authors argue that ‘one type of practice placed citizens’s political decisions under the external gaze of other citizens, another placed them under the gaze of the gods, and yet another placed them under the gaze of an internal imagined audience’ (p. 445).
The first practice was limited to votes in the Assembly (as opposed to the secret ballot in the courts and nomothetai); most modern advocates of sortition rule out public voting on account of the risk of corruption. The second practice was based on the Heliastic/Dikastic oath and would have been a significant constraint in a culture where religion played a strong role, but it would be hard to see this as relevant in modern, secular, multicultural societies.
So what about the ‘gaze of an internal imagined audience’? The authors argue that in small poleis such as fourth-century Athens, where many (most?) citizens would have known each other the fact that ‘the citizens who, though they are not now present, will nevertheless ask you what your verdict was’ (p. 447) would have contributed significantly to the accountability of decision-makers selected by lot. However
in our mass societies, the anonymity of citizens to one another renders their mutual gaze less effective at evoking shame in one another. . . . Whatever the effect of the [imagined] gaze of their fellow citizens had on the Athenians’ decisions . . . is one we can hardly expect under the conditions of social atomization and anonymity that characterize so much of modern life. (p. 455)
In Athens it was the politicians and advisers who were held formally to account and the arguments in this paper would suggest the ongoing need for this form of accountability in a modern sortition-based political system.