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Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 30 May 2000 16:08:46 EDT
text/plain (32 lines)
somewhere Plato (I think through Socrates) says that "democracy is the best
form of bad government."


In a message dated 05/30/2000 2:05:15 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:

 You really should read Ellen Meiksins Wood, *Peasant-Citizen & Slave:
 The Foundations of Athenian Democracy* (London & New York:
 Verso, 1989). You are of course correct about the sources of our
 knowledge of Athenian democracy -- and without the hatred that
 democracy inspired in its opponents "western philosophy" as we know
 it would not exist. Just once, and once only, did Plato allow an opponent
 to speak -- in the reply of Protagoras to the proto-fascist Socrates,
 in the dialogue of that name. Plato's usual (deliberate?) distortion or
 subversion of his opponents is best illustrated in that (in)famous debate
 between Thrasymachus and Socrates in the *Republic*. It would be
 hard to recognize from the words Plato gives to Thrasymachus that
 the latter is a defender of Athenian democracy -- the key point of which
 is that it was won by peasant struggle *against* an aristocracy, not
 created by by an Aristocracy (as was u.s. democracy) for the specific
 purpose of preventing the development of popular struggles. One might
 say without too much exaggeration that the heart and soul of the U.S.
 Constitution is to prevent the occurrence of such events as Shay's
 Rebellion. Read Madison's Federalist No. 10 and its hatred of
 "faction" (i.e., democracy in the Athenian sense).