Leadership and Transformative Ambition in International Relations
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Leadership and Transformative Ambition in International Relations

Mark A. Menaldo

This enriching book explores a theoretical gap in international relations and the role of leader ambition. It presents the idea that some leaders transcend political constraints and as a result, they fundamentally reshape their domestic polity while introducing change to the international system.
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Chapter 6: Pericles’ transformative ambition (1): regime politics and character

Mark A. Menaldo


Pericles was Athens’ premier democratic statesman at the height of its empire. He showed transformative ambition on three levels: in policy decisions that brought the city’s democracy and empire to fulfillment, in his inspirational rhetoric to inspire citizens to live up to their greatest ambitions, and in a wartime strategy he implemented against Sparta that aimed to solidify Athens as Greece’s preeminent power. Pericles neither founded the democracy nor was he responsible for establishing the empire. He did, however, bring the democracy and empire to their peaks by inexorably linking domestic and foreign policy. His domestic agenda to increase democracy and embark on a grand building project relied on his reorganization of the Athenian Empire. Most significantly, he implemented a policy that siphoned off allied tribute for Athenian purposes. Pericles spearheaded a massive construction campaign that fortified Athens’ defensive walls, beautified the city, and put the citizens under public pay. The use of these funds allowed Athens to blossom into an expansive democracy and cultural mecca, strengthening its position as the center of the Greek world.

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