Wasps articulates a struggle between the individual oikos ("household") and the polis that threatens to subsume it. This tension is the direct product of material conditions that emerged in the classical period, the appearance of a monetary economy, and, in Athens, the growth of an empire, whose revenues gave money an aberrant power. Aristophanic discourse textualizes this conflict according to its own internal logic.
The first section, "Transgression and Material Reference in Aristophanic Discourse," locates Aristophanic poetry within the larger framework of Greek poetry as a whole. The poetics of transgression in Aristophanes' Wasps goes far beyond scatalogical and sexual language, and includes the detailed references to material culture and to the peculiar aspects of the Athenian polis, which mature Panhellenic poetry would not tolerate in such densely concentrated form. The following section, "From the Archaic to the Classical Agora: Filling the Empty Center," contrasts the archaic agora with the civic center of centralized, redistributive societies such as that best known to, and most feared by, Greeks of the classical period, the Persian Empire. It argues that the archaic polis required an "empty" civic center that no individual or family could appropriate (hence, the unpopularity of tyranny, which threatened to do just that). The third section, "Money, the Athenian Agora, and the Wasps," discusses the way in which the classical Athenian agora differed from this archaic model: it