NEH banner [Return to Query]

Products for grant FT-60065-12

Democracy and Virtue: Sisyphean Projects in History and Political Theory
John Wallach, CUNY Research Foundation, Hunter College

Grant details:

Platonic Power and Political Realism (Article)
Title: Platonic Power and Political Realism
Author: John R. Wallach
Abstract: Despite being condemned for having a paradigmatically unrealistic or dangerous conception of power, Plato expends much effort in constructing his conception of power. In the Gorgias and Republic I, Plato initially articulates conventional (Polus’s, Polemarchus’s), elitist (Callicles’s), and radically unethical (Thrasymachus’s) conceptions of power only to “refute” them on behalf of a conception of power allied with justice. Are his arguments as pathetic as many theorists make them out to be – from Machiavelli to contemporary political realists? This question has been surprisingly unasked, and it is one I address by asking Plato and his critics: What are the dialectical moves Plato makes in refuting Socrates’s opponents and constructing his own conception of legitimate (i.e., just) power? Exactly how does his conception of power reflect a kind of ethics? How does it compare to recent conceptions of political realism and the power/ethics relationship – e.g., after Marx and Foucault? While asking these questions I also attend to the issue of Plato’s historicity: to what extent do the limits of his language and world affect our reading of Plato and his political critics? Ultimately, I argue that and how Plato’s conception of power and its political dimensions realistically has much to teach us.
Year: 2014
Format: Journal
Publisher: POLIS: The International Journal of Ancient Greek Political Thought

Democracy and Goodness: A Historicist Political Theory (Book)
Title: Democracy and Goodness: A Historicist Political Theory
Author: John R. Wallach
Abstract: Citizens, political leaders, and scholars invoke the term 'democracy' to describe present-day states without grasping its roots or prospects in theory or practice. This book clarifies the political discourse about democracy by identifying that its primary focus is human activity, not consent. It points out how democracy is neither self-legitimating nor self-justifying and so requires critical, ethical discourse to address its ongoing problems, such as inequality and exclusion. Wallach pinpoints how democracy has historically depended on notions of goodness to ratify its power. The book analyses pivotal concepts of democratic ethics such as 'virtue', 'representation', 'civil rightness', 'legitimacy', and 'human rights' and looks at them as practical versions of goodness that have adapted democracy to new constellations of power in history. Wallach notes how democratic ethics should never be reduced to power or moral ideals. Historical understanding needs to come first to highlight the potentials and prospects of democratic citizenship.
Year: 2018
Publisher: New York Cambridge University Press
Type: Single author monograph
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes