Session 6: Politics and Democracy

The Politician and Politics - Plato and Castoriadis
Y. Oikonomou, Athens

In his last book Sur le Politique de Platon, Castoriadis analyses The Statesman of Plato in order to show the role that Platonic philosophy has played in the political concepts of the ancient world and its successors. Castoriadis holds the view that Plato concealed many political ideas of the ancient Greek world, and that for historical and ideological reasons these Platonic ideas predominated, thus giving rise to a different picture of Greek ideas, which in the main still holds today. These ideas, distorted by Plato, are:

The rational view for the evolution of mankind as it exists in Democritus has been replaced by an ahistorical view in which mankind is the recipient of God's bounty.

The concept of politics, which after the Greek view is not science, is identified precisely by Plato with "science".

The statesman is identified with the king, an unacceptable concept for the Greeks of the polis.

The rule of law, a fundamental Greek belief, has been sharply criticised by Plato.But the main idea that Plato tried to demolish was the democratic idea of the people's capacity for self-government, that is, the essence of democracy.

From this analysis and criticism made by Castoriadis also ensues his own view of politics and democracy, which is inspired by ancient Greek democracy and is the antithesis of Plato's. His peoccupation is not the statesman but politics in the sense of the explicit collective action concerning the global radical institution of society. His view is complemented by his other works.


Law Making And Law Makers in Athens.
(With reference to the verses 368-370 in Sophocles' Antigone)
C. Spantidakis, Athens

In the middle of the 5th century in Greece and particularly in Athens the law, in its everyday practice at least but as well as in its theoretical content, had lost its divine character. The law, provided initially by Zeus or by legislators who were inspired by Zeus himself or by other gods, constituted in democratic Athens one of the most tangible and important expressions of the polis regime.

In his famous stasimon in Antigone, verse 332 sq., a hymn to the human potential and to the human self-creativity, Sophocles points out that the man who interweaves (παρείρει) the laws of the city with the divine retribution is ?ψίπολις as he gains distinction by his city and at the same time he attributes distinction to it. Given the situation of the law during that age, an age of tense creativity in all the fields, and of Sophocles' position into it, it is examined in the context of stasimon, where the man is praised as more "terrible" than gods themselves, whether the traditional and ordinary interpretation of the verses referring to the conflict of two poles, of the divine and human law, of the natural and positive law, of the family and the State etc, is completely justified.

When Sophocles refers to θεών ένορκον δίκαν he speaks by using the significations, the representations and the language of the era about that element which transcends the occasionally established institutions, the positive law and, on the whole, the determinations of the instituted society. He speaks about something that Castoriadis calls the anexhaustiveness of society in anything which is occasionally instituted, about the distance between social imaginary or instituting society and instituted society. The essential παρείρειν consists the link of the law to an element which can surpass the former and has in general to do with being as to-be, as the permanent creation of world from chaos, a chaos which is at the same time a forming ability, vis formandi, an ability which can provide the appropriate Stimmung to the positive institutions and can modify them recreatively.


Ancient Citizen and Modern Subject: Classical Problems in New Mythologies.
K. Simopoulos, Athens

  1. Revolution, innovation, imagination and tradition.
  2. The Machiavellian reactivation of ancient citizen.
  3. The theoretical exploitation of the concept of ancient citize Lock's Treatises on Government.
  4. German Idealism and especially Fichte's theory of Pure (completely autonomous) Ego and the modern commercial State as an aesthetic-moral reactivation of ancient Polis.
  5. The adaptation and reformulation of Fichte's theory by Kastoriadis. Radicalization of Fichte's productive imagination and it's transformation to pure creative imagination.
  6. Latent theological presuppositions for the legalization of the modern historical subject. Aesthetical ideals as substitution of rational normative rules.
  7. The psychoanalytical bent, man and nature.
  8. The antinomical character of modernity. Individual and society, the unresolved tense.
  9. The endurance of the ancient citizen's figure as revolutionary armed citizen and lawmaker.
  10. The classical question of power and justice, the modern problem of productivity and distribution and the great difficulties of their resolution by theories of modernity.