Plato and the Biopolitical Purge of the City-State
Ojakangas, M. (2022). Plato and the Biopolitical Purge of the City-State. In J. Backman, & A. Cimino (Eds.), Biopolitics and Ancient Thought (pp. 38-58). Oxford University Press. Classics in Theory. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780192847102.003.0003
Published inClassics in Theory
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© Oxford University Press, 2022
This chapter argues that Plato’s mature political philosophy is essentially biopolitical, representing, in particular, what Foucault identifies as biopolitical state racism. A state racist mentality looks at the population as a gardener looks at her garden: without weeding, the garden does not flourish. In Plato’s view, this mentality is lacking in the Greek democratic city-state in which the weeds (the inferior many) repress the flowers (the superior few), but it is not altogether absent from Greek society, as Plato discovers it in a variety of practices from selective animal breeding to the medical art of surgery. From these practices, Plato argues, we learn that only the elimination or the expulsion of the incurable members of the community suffering from physical and/or mental defects or diseases enables the community to become happy and flourishing. For Plato, such a “state purge” (katharmos poleōs) is not a mere political option but the necessity of natural justice.
PublisherOxford University Press
Parent publication ISBN978-0-19-284710-2
Is part of publicationBiopolitics and Ancient Thought
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