The Platonic Political Art

A Study of Critical Reason and Democracy

By (author) John R. Wallach

Paperback - £33.95

Publication date:

15 February 2001

Length of book:

480 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271020761

In this first comprehensive treatment of Plato’s political thought in a long time, John Wallach offers a "critical historicist" interpretation of Plato. Wallach shows how Plato’s theory, while a radical critique of the conventional ethical and political practice of his own era, can be seen as having the potential for contributing to democratic discourse about ethics and politics today.

The author argues that Plato articulates and "solves" his Socratic Problem in his various dialogues in different but potentially complementary ways. The book effectively extracts Plato from the straightjacket of Platonism and from the interpretive perspectives of the past fifty years—principally those of Karl Popper, Leo Strauss, Hannah Arendt, M. I. Finley, Jacques Derrida, and Gregory Vlastos.

The author’s distinctive approach for understanding Plato—and, he argues, for the history of political theory in general—can inform contemporary theorizing about democracy, opening pathways for criticizing democracy on behalf of virtue, justice, and democracy itself.

“An ambitious and instructive work, which explains the development of Plato’s political thought as a critical reflection on the relation between ethics and power in Athens. Few books on Plato have both the sense and the scope of this one.”

—Melissa Lane, Cambridge University