Ruling Bodies

A Study of Coercion and Punishment in Plato's Republic, Laws, and Gorgias
by Robin Varma (Author)
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This book is about an epochal shift in ideas that changed the nature and meaning of coercion in modern political thought. It begins with a review of Foucault, Arendt, and Habermas, and points out a discrepancy in the way each thinker understood coercion in modern politics. From here, Varma examines Plato’s Republic, Laws, and Gorgias to provide a framework and context for thinking about this. As the author shows, each work demonstrates a particular style of Platonic statecraft that corresponds to the amount of power the philosopher holds in a city. The Republic demonstrates the philosopher’s rule as a monarch; the Laws demonstrates his rule when he must share power with a few spirited statesmen; and the Gorgias demonstrates his rule in a democracy where power belongs to the people. Ultimately, Varma argues that the philosopher used coercion as a supplementary tool to help harmonize man’s soul with the heavens. When Hobbes recast the cosmos as matter in motion, however, power became the highest ordering principle for political life.

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Publication date
May 23, 2022
Page count
Paper ISBN

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