Plato’s open secret

Contemporary Political Theory 15 (4):339-357 (2016)
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The Republic’s noble lie is widely read as an endorsement of political difference that opposes the democratic ideals of its Athenian setting. Once the text’s exclusionary political realities and rhetorical structure are attended to, however, the passages no longer appear as the template for an essentialist politics or the act of political deception they are typically taken to be. What they do is lay bare the ‘artifice’ (mēchanē) by which regimes – including classical Athens – produce membership status as a ‘natural’ category. Plato presents the regulatory fiction that one’s political ‘kind’ (genos) expresses a pre-given status as an open secret. Given the privileged awareness he affords the reader, the noble lie may be fruitfully read as revealing – not concealing – that the ‘natural’ distinctions of an exclusionary citizenship politics are the effects of willful political power. This narrative strategy takes on specific significance in the context of the blood-based membership politics of Athens, which had its own noble lie. Accordingly, Plato’s text is shown to provoke insights into questions of democratic difference usually assumed beyond its purview. The Republic is read as exposing the workings of an essentialist politics it is typically thought instead to originate and prescribe.



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Origin stories: Wonder woman and sovereign exceptionalism.Elizabeth Barringer - 2020 - Contemporary Political Theory 19 (3):430-452.

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The Open Society and its Enemies.Karl R. Popper - 1952 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 142:629-634.
The Open Society and Its Enemies.K. R. Popper - 1946 - Philosophy 21 (80):271-276.
The city and man / Leo Strauss.Leo Strauss - 1964 - Chicago,: Rand McNally.
Plato the myth maker.Luc Brisson - 1998 - Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Gerard Naddaf.

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