Reading the republic: Is utopianism redundant?

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The aim of this article is to present a reading of Plato's utopianism, as expressed mainly through the 'big letters' of the Republic, which will lead us beyond Karl Popper's and Leo Strauss' modernist understandings of Plato and of his world, The author argues that, despite the 'transcendent' aspects of Platonic utopianism, the ideal city should be understood neither as a blueprint to be realized through some totalitarian political project nor as a mere fiction that cannot by definition give rise to a viable existential prospect. The power of Platonic utopianism lies in its articulation to a value-laden cosmological continuum, which may be understood in terms of the self -instituting (through political persuasion and story-telling activites, among others) capacities of the ancient Greek city. The utopian perspective is marked by shareability of political reason and by mutuality between participants in a common discursive venture rather than by individualist authoritarian projections or by harmless (that is, nonpolitical in its orientation and ideological in its repercussions) day-dreaming. Even if Plato's philosophical project aspires to transcend the boundaries of the ancient Greek cosmos, Platonic politics cannot be separated from its historical context, that is, the circumstances that gave rise to philosophy as a silent perhaps, but revolutionary in it intentions, political act.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-584
Number of pages20
JournalHistory of Political Thought
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008

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