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A discussion on the transition from ancient democracy ti present democracy

In the Republic and the Laws, he totally reverses the Greek conception of justice p 22. He imposes the order of the universe on human affairs, thus concealing human creativity and the self-institution of society. In other words, for the Greeks there is nothing after death. Only the gods are immortal. Immortality is introduced for the first time by Plato and to validate it he has to banish from his Republic all talk of the bearer of mortality i.

For Castoriadis, Plato is the total negation of Greek thought and indeed of political thought, something which is clearly exemplified in his seminars on the Statesman. Indeed, the theory of evolution of man and society prevailed in the fifth century, underpinned by the idea of human self-creation and the self-institution of society.

Thus this conception accepts gradual humanisation and the human evolutionary process, according to which the xreia made people promithesterous kai provoulephtikoterous. We also find this belief in other writers like Xenophanes [8] and Protagoras [9]. The opposite view expressed by Plato, not just in the Statesman but in other works too [10] and which has its origins in Hesiod [11] states that there was a Golden Age, of the reign of Cronos, according to which there was an abundance of goods and happiness, there were no poleis, and women and children did not belong to anyone.

In the Golden Age the gods were herds of people who survived only because of the gods. After the Golden Age of the reign of Cronos comes the reign of Zeus, during which deterioration, disorder and decadence are introduced.

But the god returns, bearing skills for man, fire and so on, in sum all the wherewithal of existence. In other words, all that was created by man — skills, poleis, institutions and so on are represented by Plato not through evolution, not gradually, nor by a regular historical process, but in cycles which repeat themselves, sometimes straightly, sometimes reversely. Thus, Plato introduces a non-historical view with the aim a discussion on the transition from ancient democracy ti present democracy bringing history to a halt.

There is no history, there are only eternal cycles which occur throughout time p 139. Another basic premise of Plato in the Statesman and other dialogues Republic is that the statesman is identified with the king. Here again Plato distorts and violates accepted and widespread views in the Greek world. The identification of the statesman with the king, which is arbitrary and not unargumented, petitio principi is unacceptable and outrageous for the Greeks, as for Athenians.

In the age when Plato wrote, there were no kings in Greece, except for two kings in Sparta, who did not, however, have much power, since real power was exercised by ephoroi and gerousia. Nor were the tyrants called kings in the Greek world.

As for the Macedonians, who had kings, they were not really part of what was considered the Greek world, because firstly they spoke a Greek dialect which classified them as "barbarous" as Dimosthenes publicly states, and moreover they did not have poleis like the rest of the Greek world, but kings. The second identification of the statesman with the scientistwhich is the main point of the Statesman, is purely a Platonic invention and sophistry, according to Castoriadis pp 57, 156.

The "science" of politics is not for the many, the masses, but rather it is the prerogative of the oligarchy and of the few, of the basilikou andros. This view of Plato does not occur anywhere else in Greek classical writing, and conceals the true character of politics: Similarly, in democracy, politics is the free conflict of opinions, free discussion in the ekklesia tou dimou and voting by all citizens for the final decision bouleusis.

In the democratic viewpoint there is — nor can there be, anyway — no "science" of politics but only opinion doksa and due to this, it is the care, aim and definition of democracy that all citizens participate in the formation and ratification of decisions, so that all are considered politically equal. In practice this is expressed through participation in power, the real possibility all the citizens have to participate in all forms of power.

  • He also criticises rhetoric because it tries to persuade the masses through myth instead of teaching and counterposes it to the supposedly true polics, science 304d;
  • All opinions count equally, whence also political equality;
  • This is the great deception, the illusion of any idealist philosophy, instigated by Plato;
  • It emerges again in western Europe before the Renaissance — around the 13th century, according to Castoriadis — and it creates a liberatory movement which once again calls into question the existing institution of society and makes way for another social institution.

Political competence in democracy is derived solely from experience in political matters, with free discussion, true participation in political life and power and these lead to the acquisition of true political education, true knowledge of political matters and of the way in which society and power function. This view is also foreign, unthinkable for the Greek world p 145, 157.

Greek writing and real political life advocate the importance and stabilising role of laws from Heraclitus [15] and Pindar [16] to Herodotus [17] and Aristotle. Plato is rather the philosopher of the Hellenistic world and as such his views were the theoretical basis and ideological safeguard of Hellenistic absolute monarchies.

It is an axiom of Plato's that there is one and a discussion on the transition from ancient democracy ti present democracy one orthi politeia defined by "science", the science of the whole. On the basis of this ideal construction, reality and the existing polities are judged, and are found to be unoriginal, imperfect and imitations mimimata of this supposedly correct polity.

This is the great deception, the illusion of any idealist philosophy, instigated by Plato: This is so, because there is always a deflection, a mismatch, between the general and universal rule and the particular reality, something which Plato is well aware of and is the first one to establish and analyse it in the Statesman.

This mismatch is not accidental nor is it symptomatic but is fundamental and innate to human reality. No law can ever express the continual change in social and historical reality.

Plato takes it out of its true context and into the theoretical and abstract context, transforming it into theory and science. Therefore, every Utopia must be definitively condemned, that is, any attempt to define and achieve the so-called perfect society, the perfect polity.

So if we are looking for the way towards a better society, we must not try to determine it once and for all but rather always look for the one which allows in the best possible fashion a continually changing socio-historical reality to find its corresponding legislation, in.

As in many other works of his [22] on this point, Plato not only criticises and rejects the Athenian democracy but is ironic about it, distorts and slanders it. He again criticises the sophists, calling them cheaters and counterposes them to the real politicians, the king scientists 291c.

He also criticises rhetoric because it tries to persuade the masses through myth instead of teaching and counterposes it to the supposedly true polics, science 304d. In other words Plato criticises politicians and politics as practised under democracy. His hatred is not only against contemporary democracy but mainly against the instituting democracy of the 5th century and against Pericles, whom he accuses expressly and by name. Vidal-Naquet also notes in the prologue to this book p. The people at no time took such decisions.

The people chose General Nikias and it was Nikias who was responsible, not the people, for where, how and when battle would take place. The Parthenon was built by Iktinus and Pheidias, not by the people. Castoriadis rightly notes at that point the "theatricality, rhetoric and sophistry of Plato" p 189.

A discussion on the transition from ancient democracy ti present democracy

While, in other words, Plato criticises the dramatic writers, the sophists and the rhetoricians, he himself is proved to be a great dramatist, a great sophist and rhetorician in order to devalue democracy, to attack its very essence, to distort its basic meaning: And this is Castoriadis' basic criticism of Plato, that Plato concealed that ability of the many to govern themselves and presented democracy as the regime of the amorphous masses, where ignorance, evil, unbridled passion, selfish interests reign and so on, rather than "science" and "goodness".

To this end Plato uses all means, just and unjust, philosophical and theological: So Plato is responsible for the concealment of basic Greek concepts and significations and played an important role in the destruction of the Greek world at a theoretical level. That is, he presented a historical fact, the end of democracy, not as a historical tragedy but as intrinsic philosophical justice p.

This slander against the people and democracy was carried over in the following centuries. It influenced and still influences views; it constituted the ideological armour of all the enemies of the people and of democracy.

Thus, Castoriadis clears up a widespread misunderstanding, whereby Plato is believed to be the cornerstone, or the foundation of Greek political thought and its representative par excellence. Actually he constitutes only one aspect of it; in fact he greatly distorts and negates Greek political thought.

There is another Greek political view, which has to be sought out, in certain sophists Protagorasin Democritus, Thucydides, in the three tragics [24] etc. The historical facts are bearers of ideas more significant than the ideas of philosophers and the institutions are bearers and embodiments of imaginary significations of a society. He also shows its dichotomy into two grosso modo currents, antithetical to each other in many aspects mutually exclusive: The great rival of democracy is the rival of Castoriadian conceptions.

Castoriadis' opinions on politics and democracy simultaneously refute Plato's political views. First of all, his search is not for the politician, as in Plato, but for politics.

In the individual he opposes collective initiative and creativity. In fact for Castoriadis politics is the conscious, critical and self-critical, rational, collective activity and inquiry, regarding the institution of society in whole or in part.

In this sense, politics emerges when the question of the validity of the institutions is posed, i. Is our Constitution just? Good in relation to what? On these eternally open questions the object of true a discussion on the transition from ancient democracy ti present democracy is constructed, which therefore presupposes the questioning of existing institutions — even if it means their acceptance in whole or in part. Through politics, in this sense, man questions, and perhaps transforms, his way of being and his being as a social man".

The object of politics is defined as the creation of institutions, which, assimilated by men, permit and facilitate their personal autonomy and the possibility of their true participation in all forms of explicit power in society.

This transformation of institutions leads to democracy, which is the regime of explicit, illuminating, collective self-institution.

This view and this practice are to be found in ancient democracy, the basic characteristics of which can be summarised as follows: This means real participation in all forms of power, jurisdiction, legislation, government. All citizens are designated judges, members of the council bouleutes and magistrates through the drawing by lot.

A discussion on the transition from ancient democracy ti present democracy

Magistrates requiring particular knowledge and skills - generals, treasurers stratigoi, tamiai etc - are chosen through voting in the people's assembly ekklisia tou dimou. All magistrates are under constant control dokimasia, euthunaand give a reason for and account ofall their actions and can be removed at any time, while their service is annual.

Social life is governed by rules of general validity, debated and made into laws directly by the community, that is, there is the rule of written law. There is no hierarchy or state kratos in the contemporary sense, as a mechanism of power separate from the body of citizens and over the citizens. All opinions count equally, whence also political equality. There is an open public space which is not the property of anyone, in which all the important information is circulated and discussed and where all important decisions are taken by the people.

Even today, mutatis mutandis, democracy is concealed, even today political problems are distorted, because analyses revolve around which party is fit to govern, which political leader is good enough, or which party programme is better in order to be voted for, which modifications — always the secondary ones — should go into the Constitution, the priority of the economy, and so on.

That is to say the meaning of politics in the Ancient Greek sense, in the sense of Castoriadis, is concealed, as is the capacity of the people for self-government. The original political problem of how people become fit to govern themselves is concealed. This fact is of great significance, given that the Marxist ideology trapped and guided millions of people all over the planet for more than a century, as a result of which their disillusionment and consequent withdrawal into the private sphere.

Castoriadis denounced and revealed the totalitarian and unfree character of the communist countries and the communist parties as well as the theoretical, economic and political impasses of marxist theory. The concealment is also to be found in modern political practice [33] and thought [34] as well as in contemporary thinkers.

  • This transformation of institutions leads to democracy, which is the regime of explicit, illuminating, collective self-institution;
  • For Castoriadis, Plato is the total negation of Greek thought and indeed of political thought, something which is clearly exemplified in his seminars on the Statesman;
  • That is to say the meaning of politics in the Ancient Greek sense, in the sense of Castoriadis, is concealed, as is the capacity of the people for self-government;
  • Castoriadis also criticises post-modernism, which relativises everything and attributes the same value to all things, thereby concealing the specificity and meaning of democracy;
  • In the individual he opposes collective initiative and creativity;
  • In the individual he opposes collective initiative and creativity.

Castoriadis criticises these views, which present democracy as a set of procedures [35] and not as a regime. Castoriadis also criticises post-modernism, which relativises everything and attributes the same value to all things, thereby concealing the specificity and meaning of democracy. Characteristically, he says that it is a joke to say that political equality exists between a scavenger and an ultra-rich businessman.

It emerges again in western Europe before the Renaissance — around the 13th century, according to Castoriadis — and it creates a liberatory movement which once again calls into question the existing institution of society and makes way for another social institution. This project cannot be founded rationally, philosophicallly, ontologically, economically or in any other theoretical way.

We cannot pass from ontology to politics, nor can we extrapolate a politics from philosophy. The opposite view was the delusion of Marx and Marxism with its enormously catastrophic consequences. Without will we not only cannot have praxis but we cannot have thought. Its roots lie in historical and social reality and experience, as already mentioned, and Castoriadis gives us so to speak its general principles, and therefore the general principles of an autonomous society: