Preferred Citation: Rocco, Christopher. Tragedy and Enlightenment: Athenian Political Thought and the Dilemmas of Modernity. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1997 1997.


1. Introduction

The Persistence of the Past

I do not know what meaning classical studies could have for our time if they were not untimely—that is to say, acting counter to our time and thereby acting on our time and, let us hope, for the benefit of a time to come.

We are much less Greeks than we believe. We are neither in the amphitheater nor on the stage, but in the panoptic machine.

Taking Leave of Antiquity?

We are much more Greeks than we care to admit.

I say this in full knowledge that current academic fashion tends to ignore, debunk, or otherwise dismiss classical Athens. Social scientists reject the idea(l) of Athenian democracy as more fantasy than fact, while deeming the moral claims made by Plato and Aristotle on behalf of the polis and its politics radically incommensurable with the realities of the large, structurally differentiated, functionally interdependent, modern nation-state. Social historians carefully reconstruct the practices of everyday life in order to debunk the “glory that was Greece” by reminding us, rightly of the cruel and objectionable practices and institutions upon which the ancient ideal of civic freedom rested: slavery, the subjugation of women, and acute xenophobia. Feminist critics reveal the deep structures of Greek literature and philosophy as irredeemably misogynist, while one recent investigation of classical Athens has endeavored to unmask the popular view of the Greeks as a construction of nineteenth-century racist historiography.[1]

But fashion changes. While Nietzsche’s observation that the value of classical studies lies in their untimeliness remains as appropriate as ever, recent developments make possible a new appropriation of the literary and philosophical works of classical Athens. A sea change similar to the one that recently reconfigured the global political map has begun to transform the study of classical Greece. While a conventional division of labor still holds sway at the core of the field, some rebellious scholars have breached disciplinary walls. In an intellectual disturbance remarkable for its innovation and daring, classicists have increasingly come to adopt historical, philosophical, and poststructuralist literary methods in their analyses of ancient texts. Conversely, scholars from such diverse fields as philosophy, comparative literature, historical sociology, and political science now move on terrain that was once the exclusive property of classical philologists.[2] These deliberate trespasses against the conventions of scholarly rectitude yield surprising results: epic and tragic poetry suddenly contribute to our understanding of concepts such as agency, responsibility, autonomy, and freedom, which are usually associated with the philosophical tradition; instead of being consigned to the “primitive” stage of archaic thought, Greek tragedy is now recognized as playing a constitutive role in the emergence of classical political theory and as informing the “tradition” of Western political thought. Meanwhile, the central moral and ethical claims of classical philosophy have been cast in a new light, and are now being studied with reference to Greek literature’s preoccupation with moral deliberation and choice.[3]

As traditional academic disciplines continue to redraw their boundaries, Greek poetry and philosophy find themselves at the center of some of the most important philosophical, political, and ethical debates of the present day (consider, for instance, the controversy over a multicultural curriculum and the relevance of “canonical” texts to education). This newfound immediacy requires as a condition for successful interpretation that scholars bring the past close enough to make the Greeks intelligible and yet keep them sufficiently distant to preserve their otherness. As a result, the barriers between the ancient and modern world have become more permeable, the archaic past has become a more frequent interlocutor of the modern (or postmodern) present, and the present less sure about “progress” and its own position of moral, political, and cultural hegemony over the past. Given such historical and cultural decentering, “later” no longer inevitably means better. These deliberate trangressions of both culturally and temporally constituted boundaries facilitate an appropriation of the classical past in ways that require it to speak to the most pressing problems of the present moment and avoid nostalgia for a world that perhaps never was. Such are the tasks of historical and cultural translation that take us from the modern (or postmodern) to the ancient world and back again. And although this labor is both difficult and necessarily always incomplete, it tells us that, by better understanding the Greeks, we can perhaps begin better to understand ourselves. I intend this book as a modest contribution to the search for political and theoretical self-understanding that motivates this most recent “classical turn.”

In the absence of a more finely detailed and richly textured survey of a rapidly changing field, my account of the recent (anti)disciplinary disturbances in classical scholarship necessarily remains incomplete. Yet the transformations sketched briefly here undoubtedly suggest alternative paths to the past: the drawing of fresh maps proclaims old territory now open for renewed exploration. These disturbances thus make possible an imaginative and critical reappropriation of ancient Athenian thought. A growing number of contemporary social and literary theorists, none of whom harbor sympathetic attitudes toward the classical past, have in fact already begun this work. Thoroughly modern (or postmodern) in their concerns and methods, these theorists nonetheless remain engaged, in some way or on some level, with the Greeks: Michel Foucault with the Sophists, Jacques Derrida with Plato’s Phaedrus, Jean-François Lyotard with Aristotle’s Rhetoric, and Jürgen Habermas with the classical conceptions of dialogue and deliberation.[4] Moreover, contemporary democratic theorists, interested in what they variously call the “public sphere,” the “public realm,” or simply the “political,” find themselves turning more and more to the central categories of Athenian political thought. Although the most current disputes over the constitution of political space, the public sphere, and the politics of identity and difference have been inspired by Habermas and Foucault, these discussions inevitably return (via Nietzsche and Hannah Arendt) to the deliberative and performative aspects of classical Greek politics. Feminists, who once excoriated those unredeemed (and presumably unredeemable) heroic aspects of the masculine polis, have now begun to theorize an “agonistic feminism.” Postmoderns still committed to democratic institutions and practices—yet who otherwise suspect as bad nostalgia a politics of place monumentalized in the memory of the “democratic” Greek polis—are tentatively formulating a concept of “agonistic democracy.” Even those moderns who defend rational discursive content against performative practice acknowledge the force and appeal of Athenian-inspired virtuosity and theatricality in politics.[5] Whether we want to fashion a postmodern agonistic subjectivity that disrupts the regulative ideal of rational consensus or to redeem the enlightenment promise of a society comprised of deliberating citizens, ancient Athens has ironically become a site of contest for thinking about the most current problems in theory and politics, especially for those most likely to resist its claims and reject its authority.

These struggles—fought on and over the theoretical and political topography of the ancient city-state—represent neither a petty war over academic turf of dubious value nor merely a passing fancy for things antique. They indicate, rather, the continued presence of a deep and abiding conflict. The present dispute over who shall control the meaning of the classical polis provokes some of the most important issues challenging us today. For encoded in the contest over how that past is to be interpreted, represented, and subsequently appropriated—as stable origin for a culturally hegemonic reason or as shifting site for a disturbing sophistic (ant)agonism—is a struggle over the legacy of the Enlightenment, and so over the very character and identity of modernity. Obviously, these disputes over the classical polis are as much, if not more, about who we are now, how we ought to live, and what forms our intellectual, social, and political institutions shall take as they are about the Greeks. Not so obvious is how these disputes are to be settled when the once seemingly immobile and solid soil of modernity has revealed its rifts, instabilities, and fissures—when that ground begins to shift under our feet. It is to this shifting terrain that contemporary theory responds, for what ultimately provokes this ironic turn to Athens—as paradigmatic precursor of rational deliberation or as instructive exemplar in agonistic virtuosity—are the profound social and political transformations wrought by modernity.

Postmodern Shifts

At the close of the twentieth century and on the edge of postmodernity, we are witnessing transformations as rapid as they are radical. The emergence of new and pervasive configurations of power, the contraction, systematic distortion, and inexorable displacement of public speech and space, the rise of politics as spectacle with the advent of mass-mediated publics, the increasing permeability of national “sovereignty” to the global movement and metabolism of capital, people, goods, information, images, and viruses, both biological and digital, together with the appearance of increasingly heterogeneous identities, practices, and forms of life—these are but a few of the most widely visible structural transformations currently reconfiguring the terrain of contemporary politics.[6] Such transformations have posed a fundamental challenge to the conceptual categories and political vocabularies of the modern enlightenment. As a result, the terms of debate have begun to shift away from “politics as usual” as new concerns are raised and new demands are issued that remained inarticulate within the confines of an older practice and discourse. Recent years have witnessed the emergence of a “new politics of protest” in the liberal democracies of the West that is both sign and symptom of modernity’s unstable foundations. Unchartable by means of the traditional coordinates of class, group, or self-interest, largely indifferent to the material goods distributed by the welfare state, suspicious of (or opposed to) electoral success and the official systems of party and parliament, the new politics challenges the very foundations of enlightened modernity and continues to provoke a fundamental rethinking of its grounds, goals, and practices.

Although the issues, scenes, and groupings transform themselves daily, these diverse challenges to enlightenment hegemony are obvious to even the most casual ethnographer of contemporary North American politics. In past decades, the peace, antinuclear, and environmental movements have actively resisted both the material affluence of consumer culture and the destructive potential of an administrative state and a global system of transnational capitalism locked into the logic of technical control, mastery, and domination. More recently, a politics of identity and difference has begun to assert itself against a hegemonic European cultural tradition advertised as universal history. For today’s cheeky consumers of culture, the West has lost its universal appeal precisely at a time when it can no longer appeal to universals. In a society increasingly fragmented by centrifugal displacements of once-centered authority and community, fierce struggles over local identities, although they hardly approach the violent intensity of the resurgent nationalisms that have recently swept the Balkans, pose a new and unruly challenge to the current politics of cultural hegemony. These radical dispersals continue to engender a rapid proliferation of new social codes, which are just as rapidly transformed into a micropolitics of difference based on supressed, submerged, or otherwise ignored narratives of ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexuality, class, and other cultural (and subcultural) affiliations. Such affiliations range from the now highly differentiated women’s movement to queer politics, from the hardcore urban scene, with its punks, gangsters, crack, and guns, to the more innocuous suburban landscape of shopping malls, MTV, designer drugs, television talk shows, late night movies, and alternative music scene.[7]

Whatever the social code or subcultural milieu, the new politics of difference presently asserts itself against the falsely universalized projection of a unitary European history, culture, and identity. In myriad locations and in strikingly inventive ways, resistant and rebellious selves continue to struggle against current enlightenment assumptions that define the “subjects” of politics. Through agonal acts of resistance to contemporary cultural hegemony, new subjects, selves, identities, and practices are presently being fashioned and refashioned. These most recent challenges to enlightenment hegemony endeavor to open up political spaces for contesting present forms of cultural exclusion, domination, and hierarchy.

In the academy, the current struggles against politics as usual have inspired (and been explained by) that loose alliance of feminists, multiculturalists, and poststructuralists suspicious of the universal categories that are the Enlightenment’s legacy. What this diverse group of critics threatens to uncover and unsettle are the founding fictions of the Enlightenment itself, its pretensions to, and promises of, truth, reason, and individual liberty, packaged as universal moral progress. Whether the issue is the recovery and deployment of suppressed and heterogeneous subject positions, the unmasking of universal concepts as differential markers of race, class, or gender, the deployment of rhetorical figurations as “governing representations” in contemporary politics, or the current struggles against newly intensified forms of discipline and the subsequent refashioning of resistant selves and alternative (political) spaces from the cultural materials at hand, these critics demonstrate that our fundamental enlightenment categories have been conjured from the acts of exclusion, subjugation, and repression that attended their origin. Attempts to unsettle these constructions reveal that the shifting terrain of postmodernity owes much of its instability to the already-present fault lines that traverse its enlightenment foundations.[8] The current contests are fought in and along these seams as attempts to disperse a singular origin, resist homogenizing categories, expose settled vocabularies, practices, and institutions as strategic deployments of power, and reveal the modern subject of enlightened reason as discursively and historically constructed, as the effect of a struggle over meanings as much as the author of those meanings.

Such struggles continue to redefine the contours of the present political moment, and they have provoked lively, often acrimonious, debates in recent years (and across a wide range of academic disciplines) about the meaning, status, and fate of modernity and the Enlightenment. Much of this controversy has been articulated through the juxtaposition of temporal categories, in terms of succeeding—and embattled—periods or eras: postindustrialism, postphilosophy, poststructuralism, post-Marxism, and posthistoire confront and attempt to replace their prefixless affiliates. But the central terms of this contest, around which the greatest controversy turns, are the categories modern and postmodern, and the crucial figures in that debate are Jürgen Habermas and the late Michel Foucault.

In articulating the dilemmas, disappointments, and aspirations of our time, Habermas and Foucault have largely defined the controversy over the origins, meaning, and future of postmodernity. Virtually every current theoretical reflection on politics takes its bearings from their coordinates and engages their positions, if not by way of agreement, then certainly by way of critique.[9] Yet these chartings of postmodern geography issue in two radically divergent cartographic projections of the present, two contending and ultimately irreconcilable maps, which leave little room for further exploration. The result has been a debate whose terms have congealed into rigid polarities. Are we to understand the recent shifts as instances of a reactive and pathological politics generated by the unresolved contradictions within modernity itself, or as the material out of which new political subjects, selves, identities, and practices are fashioned? Do the answers to such contradictions lie in the reconstruction of reason and the reaffirmation of such universal values as liberty, autonomy, and democratic equality, or must we deconstruct reason, radically redefine those values as projections of power, and overcome all forms of universality? Can we retrieve and reinstitutionalize a democratic public sphere from the materials left us by the eighteenth century, or shall we disrupt its normatively regulated democratic code with a performative and endlessly subversive politics of parody?

These questions do not admit of easy answers, and given a contest structured by such unyielding oppositions, it is unlikely that anything new can be said in its present terms. Yet such questions need answers, and finding them is the challenge confronting us. This study forges neither a modern nor a postmodern path through the disputed terrain, siding with neither Habermas nor Foucault. Nor does it seek to reconcile the contending sides through a mediation that would, in good Hegelian fashion, effect a grand synthesis of the two positions and so cauterize the dialectic of the debate. I want, rather, to resist the terms of the debate and disturb its projections, to plot an alternative route through this shifting landscape by mapping the alien thought of ancient Athens onto the terrain of postmodernity. This mapping intends to open up fresh possibilities for dialogue by prompting new and different combinations of tired patterns and tested paths, by unsettling present accommodations with ways of being and modes of knowing that are no longer familiar. But before I begin to trace the route taken by this book, it is best to survey the terrain already mapped out in the dispute between Habermas and Foucault.

The lines of that dispute were solidified, if not drawn, some ten years ago when Habermas took up the challenge issued by the neostructuralist critique of reason. Piqued by this Nietzschean-inspired attack on the emancipatory project of modernity, Habermas initiated the first serious dialogue between the German and French intellectual traditions in recent memory.[10] Foucault died before he could actively join the dispute, so it was left to others (of whom there has been no shortage) to advance his position. As a result, the controversy over the transition from modernity to postmodernity—the “debate” between Habermas and Foucault sketched here—represents less a chronicle of actual exchanges than a charting of the significant points that structure their differences. Those differences constitute nothing less than a struggle over terms such as enlightenment,truth,theory, and democracy, which are fundamental to securing—defining—the character of postmodernity and its fate. The meaning of enlightenment itself, the possibility of knowledge liberated from power or interest, the status of theoretical discourse, and the future of democratic culture and practice are currently up for grabs. Although the contest sketched here must remain something of a historical fiction, it accurately and usefully represents the oppositions and predicaments in which the dispute over postmodernity has entangled itself.

To the extent that Habermas looks to the unrealized potential of modernity, he allies himself with the progressive and emancipatory claims of enlightenment. The completion of cultural modernity means for him the realization of such liberal and universal bourgeois goals as autonomy, equality, liberty, and emancipation—in short, all the goals of enlightened reason. The problem with modernity is not, as his Nietzscheans claim, too much reason—an excess—but rather too little—a deficit. Enlightenment has not reversed itself; rather, rationalization has either not yet been achieved, has not been institutionalized, or has proceeded one-sidedly in favor of an instrumental reason embodied in technical-scientific enterprises, the capitalist economy, and the bureaucratic state. None of this means, of course, that the enlightenment project of emancipation is unsound or that its liberatory potential is in any way seriously diminished or threatened. It does mean that the modern enlightenment has not yet achieved its potential and must therefore complete its “project.”[11]

Foucault rejects the very assumptions on which enlightenment is predicated, ironically observing that the enlightenment rhetoric of liberation—whether it is bound up with the discourses of psychological, physical, or social therapies—insidiously contains and conceals its own subtle forms of coercion. Rational speech surely establishes communication, but it also establishes barriers to communication. The streamlined, functional, and efficient language of modern science—both natural and social—achieves a transparency of description that serves to exclude or silence the elements of experience that do not fit neatly into a preconceived schema. Run through the endless mills of speech, we are constantly in danger of falling prey to the various techniques of truth that promise to make us free, enlightened, autonomous beings, techniques that promise liberation even as they deprive us of our liberty. “The irony of this deployment,” writes Foucault, “is in having us believe that our ‘liberation’ is in the balance.”[12] Enlightenment thus paradoxically brings both liberation and slavery, freedom and constraint, self-conscious transparency and blind opacity about who we are and what we are doing.

To redeem the promise of the Enlightenment, Habermas elaborates a theory of communicative rationality as both diagnostic aid and normative ideal. A more differentiated concept of communicative reason allows him to preserve and pursue a selective critique of modernity, the spread of instrumental rationality, and the attendant colonization of potentially democratic political space, which further depends on the elaboration of an “ideal speech situation.” Uncoerced speech guarantees a strong normative standard, freed from the constraints of structural violence, inequality, and communicative distortion. Only under such conditions of “rationally motivated agreement”—the telos implicit in all human speech—can we distinguish between genuine and false consensus, the legitimate and illegitimate exercise of power, just and unjust regimes.[13]

But Habermas’s appeal to the “unforced force of the better argument” only works if he can specify a rationality that is truly universal, context-independent, and freed from every constraint of passion or interest. For Foucault, this quest for universal agreement is but the modern analogue of Socratic dialogue, which seeks to limit power by appealing to knowledge of the good. But since all discourse already contains its own politics of truth, there can be no truth exterior to any particular discursive regime. Power and knowledge are inextricably intertwined in a relationship of mutual constitution. The Socratic hope of a knowledge beyond the limits of power, which it would in turn limit, is a fiction. Power can neither be the manifestation of consensus nor the product of communication. Power, rather, is strategic. In the move and countermove of a game, power comes into play as “a relationship which is at the same time reciprocal incitation and struggle, less a face to face confrontation which paralyzes both sides than a permanent provocation.” Neither the pristine model of Socratic dialogue nor the ideal speech situations that issue in community and consent, but the sophistic “agonism” of constant contest, struggle, and resistance, “the endlessly repeated play of dominations,” best describes modern power relations, as well as Foucault’s own subversion of hegemonic discourses.[14]

Although Habermas wishes to distinguish his further differentiation of reason and the selective critique of modernity that follows it from what he regards as “total” theories, he is still engaged in explaining and criticizing a societywide phenomena. Is such a global discourse so bad? After all, a conceptual system such as critical theory interprets a complex world and in that regard is a necessary component of our everyday lives. Systems call for an orderly organization and presentation of experience, without which we could not survive. Moreover, critical theory hardly constitutes an apology or justification for present social and political configurations. Unlike that master of all systems-thinkers, Hegel, Habermas in no way offers another theodicean explanation for suffering. The difficulty for theory construction—critical theory included—is to make sense out of the world of people and things while doing it, and them, the least violence possible. All conceptual thought must negotiate the distance between too much unity and coherence and too little, between the system and the individual, between global and local discourse.[15]

Where critical theory universalizes the concept of reason by implicitly relying on the enlightenment narrative of progress, Foucault suspects all master narratives as “global” theories that attempt to unify the irreducible heterogeneity of the world. For the genealogist, it is precisely critical theory’s claim systematically to encompass the whole of reality that condemns it. Against a conceptual system like Habermas’s, Foucault’s genealogies consistently remind the reader of the tremendous and irreparable damage wrought by modernity, which the critical theorist is apt to overlook. Foucault continually invokes the lives that have been damaged, lost, or destroyed, the experiences that have been elided, subjugated, or repressed by the smooth, seamless functioning of hierarchically ordered systems of knowledge. This invocation of the suppressed contents of history—of individuals and their lives who do not fit into the system without remainder—aims to resist, disrupt, subvert, and otherwise contest the tyranny of globalizing discourses.[16]

Above all, Habermas and Foucault have underscored the dilemmas of democracy in the postmodern world. Originally construed as a radical, transformative force in modernity, democracy now appears tame, its revolutionary capacity (at least in eastern Europe) spent, channeled into the search for markets, consumer goods, and Western technology. At home, the imperatives of the accumulation of capital and power have all but eroded what democratic public space we might have had. Against this trend, critical theory aims at securing and maintaining a space for democratic speech and action that cannot be absorbed by the systemic constraints of material reproduction. This space would contain institutions to guarantee an effectively functioning democratic public sphere, in which the goals of society were submitted to public discussion and decisions made based on the rational achievement of agreement. Only in this manner will deliberating citizens, speaking and acting together, secure and maintain a viable democratic public sphere.[17]

Despite this genuine concern with consensus and democratic will formation, there is a blind spot in the theory of consensus that conceals democracy’s potentially normalizing effects. Although Habermas no longer posits the “ideal speech situation” as a transcendental category, his weaker claim that consensus is immanent in all speech still implies an ideal or norm that excludes other nonrational forms of expression as invalid because they fall below or outside the acceptable threshold of normality, of what counts as a reasonable or rational argument. That exclusion, of course, is all the more insidious because it is concealed by the promise of freedom. The very democratic norms that critical theory champions—in this case, those enabling the free, rational, and responsible agent to arrive at uncoerced consensus—function to delegitimate all that is “other” in self and society. Those feelings, motives, experiences, and desires that remain inarticulate within the schema prescribed by an ideal discourse subsequently become the objects of disciplinary control and normalization. What Habermas specifies as the distinctive characteristics of democratic character and culture seem to satisfy criteria of symmetry and reciprocity. Yet those necessary qualities obscure the very real power exercised by the politics of cultural hegemony. In his failure to ask which subjects and what forms of selfhood are privileged or empowered by this version of the democratic self, Habermas similarly fails to identify those selves that are silenced, subjugated, or disempowered by such a privileging. Foucault, to his credit, has taught us to recognize in the culture of democratic consensus the dangers of this drift toward those homogenizing and dividing practices that define, contain, and discipline the individual. But can postmodern democrats rest content with Foucault’s concept of “resistance”—of the local struggle against regimes of power/knowledge—as a viable contribution to a theory of democratic politics?

Such are the dilemmas of postmodernity sketched within the contours of the present controversy. This contest leaves us with a series of unsatisfying choices: either an enlightened modernity blind to its coercive effects or the renunciation of all forms of emancipatory practice as subtle forms of normalizing control; either the effects of a truth that naively conceals its debt to power or an endless struggle for position and dominance; either a foundational theory unaware of its own violent exclusions or the repudiation of all theoretical foundations; and, finally, either a democratic practice and culture resting on constitutive exclusions or the rejection of democracy as one more element in the ensemble of disciplinary technologies. What these choices ultimately suggest—and why they must be resisted—is a refusal to think the difficult dilemmas of postmodernity in tension, to imagine the contradictions within these categories (and within the Enlightenment itself) as fruitful ground for further exploration, rather than as obstacles to be removed. For the very impasse of the debate indicates that the unsettling dangers of disruption, contest, contingency, and resistance that disturb our lives can no more be displaced or avoided than the comfortable seductions of order, truth, reason, and democratic progress that make such disturbances both necessary and meaningful. Whereas critical theory succumbs too readily to the easy nostalgia of settlement and permanence (while remaining fearfully impervious to the liberating aspects of disturbance), genealogy celebrates the dangerous freedom of contingency and contest, while dismissing the force and appeal of order, center, and stability. I would like to think there are choices here, but I am not willing to concede that they are the ones offered by Habermas and Foucault. In a debate that has been constructed far too narrowly, its terms overly polarized, their responses constitute subtle evasions of the difficult task of negotiating the perplexing terrain of the postmodernity these theorists have themselves so painstakingly charted.

As a preliminary indication of my own direction of travel across that terrain, I would like to pose these dilemmas differently, perceptibly altering the frame of reference. Can we remain committed to the principles of the Enlightenment, yet resist its regressive tendencies toward domination? Is it possible to pursue the truth yet relentlessly politicize the conditions of its production? Can we satisfy our profound need to make sense of the world through the construction of theoretical wholes and still disturb such orderly representations so as to resist the seductive tyranny of globalizing discourse? Finally, what are the prospects for encouraging a democratic culture and practice that simultaneously resist democracy’s drift toward normalization and disciplinary control? These questions, while acknowledging the force of the dilemma, open up more room for thought, more opportunity for recombining old patterns in new ways. To think these oppositions in tension is the central object of this study, which does not rest content with either regulative reason codified as disciplinary norm or the endless subversion of all normative codes. But where shall we turn for help in negotiating the ironic reversals of the Enlightenment, the politicization of knowledge, the seductions and dangers of foundational theory, the dilemmas of democracy? My answer: the tragic poetry and philosophical dialogue of ancient Athens.

Whether we want to reconstruct an effectively functioning democratic politics or disrupt newly intensified forms of discipline, the classical past offers an alternative way of thinking about our present predicament that a thoroughgoing modern (or postmodern) perspective lacks. If, as Foucault suggests, we are indeed “normalizing” ourselves via ever more efficient mechanisms of surveillance, discipline, and subjectification, then Greek tragedy’s examples of virtuosic action, as well as its preoccupation with the “other,” with what falls below, behind, or beyond the threshold of the culturally and socially acceptable and intelligible, will provide an indispensable point of reference for identifying and disrupting modern forces of normalization and discipline from within a democratic tradition. If, as Habermas has argued, economic and bureaucratic forms of rationality are systematically eroding and replacing the communicative structures of public speech and action (upon which democratic politics largely depend), then the concern of Greek tragedy and philosophical dialogue with moral communication and debate—the deliberative aspects of the classical polis—can stand as a valuable resource for contemporary democratic theory and practice, even as they warn us of the potentially normalizing effects of democratic consensus. Greek tragedy and philosophical dialogue contribute most toward theorizing the present when their disturbing content is wrenched out of its original context and appropriated to disrupt the established norms and forms of democratically constituted selves and societies, even as they provide a democratic identity and practice against which to struggle.

Tragedy and Enlightenment

The theoretical and political predicament that our postmodern condition poses to contemporary thought provides the framework within which the following chapters pursue their arguments. In a series of staged encounters with four classical texts, I intervene in the current controversy over the character, legacy, and fate of the Enlightenment. Those encounters consider (1) the meaning of enlightenment, (2) the relationship between truth and power, (3) the nature and status of theoretical discourse, and (4) the dilemmas of democratic culture and practice. Yet these issues, and the political struggles that surround them, are neither unique nor confined solely to the present. Indeed, there is an instructive analogy here: the dilemmas bequeathed contemporary theory by the modern enlightenment are strikingly similar to those posed to classical thought by its ancient counterpart. Philosopher and Sophist, reason and rhetoric, the will to truth and the will to power, the search for ultimate foundations and the repudiation of such searches—these are a few of the recurring themes that inhabit the landscapes of enlightenment both ancient and modern. One of my aims is to press at the limits of this analogy by reading two classical tragedies and two dialogues in terms of these four “contemporary” issues. Chapter 2 considers Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannos in terms of enlightenment and its consequences. Chapter 3 elaborates a politics of truth as articulated in the Gorgias. Chapter 4 investigates the status of theoretical foundations with the help of Plato’s Republic, and chapter 5 turns to Aeschylus’s Oresteia for lessons in negotiating the dilemmas of democracy.

This book also aims to challenge the privileging of the modern (or postmodern) present over the premodern past, and so to disrupt the myth of history as progress, a goal it shares with Greek tragedy. That strategy is as evident in the form or architecture of the book—in its structural articulation—as in its overt argumentative moves. By bringing the theoretical and political power of the classical past “on stage,” so to speak, I hope to challenge our most deeply held assumptions about the superiority of the present associated with reason, enlightenment, progress, and democracy, and so to reveal the exclusions and acts of violence these values often conceal. The formal structure of the book reiterates this theoretical intention by reordering, and so disrupting, the usual historical (and moral) sequence in which tragedy gives way to the more theoretically “advanced” form of philosophy. I therefore order the chapters in a chiasmus (AB :: BA): tragedy and dialogue are followed by dialogue and tragedy (Oedipus Tyrannos,Gorgias :: Republic,Oresteia).

This structured destructuring of the conventional progression performs a reversal by privileging tragedy over philosophy. It also reflects the book’s juxtaposition of classical past to postmodern present, an appropriation of classical tragedy’s own staged confrontation between contemporary, democratic Athens and its mythical, aristocratic past. The tragedy and philosophical dialogue of classical Athens are read as expressions of the most recent political concerns, while the lineaments of the postmodern present are discerned in the contours of the most archaic past. The ancient thus appears meaningful in light of the present, while the most modern is associated with past antiquity. Such a juxtaposition disturbs both the conventional supersession of tragedy by philosophy and those comfortable teleologies that culminate in the present, thus interrupting the flow of progress by means of a device supplied by tragedy itself. The chiasmus is the structure of recognition and reversal so integral, if we are to believe Aristotle, to the power of tragedy. That structure and its sensibility inform my own attempt to read the present in terms supplied by the past, while still maintaining contemporary political and theoretical concerns.

The sophisticated literary structures of tragedy and dialogue, the way the formal elements of composition can be made to yield a critical reflection on history as progress—provide one reason for turning to these specific texts. But this book is not primarily about the literary achievements of the ancients, even if it does seek to wring out meaning precisely where dramatic structure and substantive argument intersect in complex articulation. To reiterate, my readings are intended to contribute to the contemporary struggle over the meaning of terms central to our theoretical and political discourse, terms that were as contested in fifth-century Athens as they are now.

I begin with Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannos as a paradigmatic articulation of the triumphs and failures of enlightened thinking, an exemplary (and tragic) tale of enlightenment and its highly ambivalent consequences. Sophocles asks us to reflect on the nature and certainty of our knowledge, on what we know, how we know it, and what such knowledge is worth. The play presents Oedipus as supremely confident, a man of native intelligence, skill, and wit willing to abandon all inherited custom, tradition, and limits in his single-minded search for the truth. In a typically ironic reversal, however, Oedipus’s upward path to enlightenment leads painfully back toward Thebes, his mother’s bed, and himself. The playwright thus reveals the double nature of enlightenment—its triumphant ability to disclose and command the secrets of nature while simultaneously subjugating the subject it meant to empower. Oedipus’s inquiry into his own birth reveals no happy origin, but rather the horror and violence of murder and incest. No lucky child of chance, Oedipus proves the slayer of his father and husband of his mother, the unhappy son of Laius and Jocasta, his all-too-human parents. Lurking just below the smooth contours of surface calm and light lie the rupture, turbulence, and violence upon which his identity rests. The “truth” behind Oedipus is not inviolable identity, but unutterable disparity. Oedipus learns that he is “double”—just as conscious of the powers that constitute his identity as his characteristic intellectual self-conceit allows. Enlightenment is thus both a blessing and a curse to Oedipus (and to us), revealing both the power and the limits of man’s rational intelligence. Sophocles certainly celebrates the accomplishments of enlightened reason—the ordered art of his text participates in that process—but he also issues a warning to the modern reader, whose privileged historical position and tested critical methods promise to reveal the ultimate meaning of the play in all its transparency. Like Oedipus, we too are constituted by forces beyond our control, even as we try to shape the forces that constitute us. With Sophocles’ hero, we seem destined endlessly to repeat incestuous beginnings despite the fact that we count ourselves emancipated, autonomous, and enlightened. This fundamental ambiguity—about the value of enlightenment—that structures Sophocles’ text renders Oedipus Tyrannos particularly helpful in thinking through the dilemmas of postmodernity. Sophocles is particularly good to think with, I argue, because his tragedy points to an ethos that combines, in rather uneasy tension, the drive to fulfill the emancipatory project of enlightenment with a relentless criticism of enlightenment’s conceits, a criticism meant to disrupt its normalizing and regressive effects. I therefore look to Sophocles for help in elaborating an epistemology of disruption, a post-Enlightenment sensibility that will reinstate a secular appreciation of the ambiguities, contradictions, and mysteries of a world that enlightenment, both ancient and modern, seems bent on suppressing.

Oedipus Tyrannos also concerns the relationship of truth to power. Does all knowledge, it asks, ultimately refer back to man himself, to his subjective purposes and plans, no matter how petty or how noble? Is Oedipus truly a self-taught, self-created man, the child of chance, able to confer meaning and produce truth at will? Is man the measure of all things, or is there an objective (in this case, sacred) order, a set of standards or an ultimate “truth” free from the manipulation of rationally ambitious humans and their quest for power? Sophocles’ chorus contemplates these possibilities, when, alarmed at a growing skepticism toward the truth of Apollo’s oracle, it fears for Oedipus and for itself. For if Oedipus is right, and such order as the world possesses is no more than the projection of the strong man’s will to power, then it makes no sense to “join in the sacred dance to honor the gods” (894–95). The chorus would rather Oedipus prove murderer of his father and husband to his mother than the oracle false. Luckily, the oracle proves true, and Oedipus’s suffering is not without transcendent meaning. There is an objective order to the world, Sophocles suggests, although knowledge of that order comes only after long and intense suffering, only in the end, and only to blind men exiled from family, wealth, and power. Truth there is, but it proves of no help in the affairs of men. That is the lesson Oedipus learns, but the play as a whole perhaps teaches the spectators something different—namely, a kind of self-knowledge that is sustained by the memory of Oedipus’s own ignorance about himself. Sophocles thus anticipates Socrates by teaching through the play what Oedipus learns so painfully in it.

Socrates, too, is concerned with the relationship between truth and power, and explores it in terms of philosophy’s (and the philosopher’s) place in the city. In the Apology, Socrates gives an account of his philosophical way of life and its role in Athens. The central part of that account, and hence of philosophical activity, concerns the extent to which “truth” exists independently of the influence and effects of power. Is there such a truth, Socrates asks, or is all knowledge created, produced, and shaped in and through the workings of power and interest, as his sophistic opponents claim? Like Sophocles, Socrates also believes in an objective order of knowledge, but it is one that we as mortals can never fully grasp. We can approximate that order, but as partial beings confined to particular places, times, and physical bodies, we shall never entirely be able to apprehend it. Such a limitation does not, however, deter the philosopher from his quest for knowledge of the good. Even in the face of death, Socrates remains committed to the belief that an objective order of knowledge exists, free of the constraints of power and interest. He further believes that such knowledge ought to guide the political affairs of the city.

Socratic philosophy also suggests that such foundational knowledge is intersubjective in an important sense, achieved neither in the mantic inspiration of prophetic divination nor in the privacy of theoretical contemplation, but rather in the give-and-take of moral communication and debate. This communicative aspect of truth does not, however, obviate the problem of power. Socratic dialogues are not merely paradigms of the “ideal speech situation.”[18] In fact, Plato introduces the problem of domination directly into those dialogues that aim to free themselves from just such an entanglement, and by means of a figure who professes to care more for the truth than for wealth, honor, and fame (or winning the argument). A series of questions arises regarding the aims of Socrates: is the “interest” of the philosopher in moral truth such that it transcends interest altogether? Does Socrates in fact care only for the good, or is he, as Callicles thought and Nietzsche firmly believed, concealing his will to power behind a rather thin metaphysical veil born of weakness and its accompanying ressentiment of the strong? The practice of Socratic philosophy, with all its claims to ignorance and the authentic search for “truth,” might in the end be structured by resentment and constitute a subtle strategy of domination. The Gorgias shows us the stakes involved in the struggle over who will set the terms of discourse, a struggle that suggests that the norms of society are decided politically as much as they are derived theoretically.[19] In terms elaborated by Habermas, the Gorgias asks us to consider whether Socrates truly seeks communicatively achieved understanding through the “unforced force of the better argument” or is simply a clever player in the endless game of domination, as Foucault suspects. I argue that the dialogue resists both these alternatives, adopting an ironic stance toward the politics of truth that both projects Socratic dialogue as the ultimate arbiter of politics and contests that projection through the agonistic struggle between Socrates and Callicles—an agon that leads not to annihilation but to the perpetual activity of contests.

In chapter 3, I thus turn to the Gorgias for help in negotiating the unstable terrain that lies between dialogue and domination, consensus and contest, philosophical discourse and rhetorical performance, polarities that structure much of the opposition between critical theory and genealogy. I argue that the Gorgias provides us with an alternative route through that terrain, as it tirelessly searches for the truth, all the while pointing out that even the most philosophical of questions are bound to struggles for position, that philosophy indeed presupposes a politics, and that these terms—philosophy and politics, dialectic and rhetoric, prosaic truth and poetic power—remain essentially contested in the agonistic economy of the dialogue. The Gorgias renders problematic its own (and our) tendency to eliminate the agon, to settle once and for all the meanings of such contested terms as virtue,justice,goodness and (political) health. I thus look to the dialogue to provide a post-philosophical sensibility that reinscribes a genealogical disturbance of all philosophical foundations within the humanist goal of securing such foundations as one of the preconditions for politics.

Plato’s Republic expresses a similar tension between the impulse to sink the foundations of politics in a ground beyond contest and a textual practice that persistently disrupts its bid for comfortable theoretical closure, between the tyranny of globalizing discourse and the genealogical mobilization of the margins against the center. In the language of tragedy, the Republic sustains a tension between “the search for a single form” and “the irreducible richness of human value” that attends its heroic attempt to order the world through the powers of human intellect. On the face of it though, Plato seems to reject such ambiguities and tensions. The philosopher of the ideal city controls the world, as well as the men and women in it, through reason alone. The Republic argues that a polis and a life can be properly ordered by knowledge of the Good so as to avoid the tragic failures of human progress adumbrated by Sophocles and suffered by his Oedipus. The Republic seems to banish, not only tragedy and the tragic poets, but the very conflicts born of intense human commitment to irreconcilable values. Plato so constructs a theory of the good and a hierarchy of life plans that the tragic choice of an Agamemnon would not arise as a possibility. But should we look upon this strategy as an enlightened advance over the “primitive or benighted stage of ethical life and thought” tragedy represents?[20]

There are two problems with this view. First, it fails to recognize tragedy’s own impulse to create a determinate solution to the problem of conflict, an impulse present within the form and structure of tragedy itself. Alongside the tragic view of human life, tragedies contain the origin of the denial of that view. Second, although the Republic contains a strong impulse to deny the tragic view and impose its own totalizing vision on the world, it reveals to us the seductive dangers involved in reducing the complexity and indeterminacy of human life. The ideal city resembles a Sparta partial to philosophy, it begins to decay as soon as it is constructed, and a philosopher like Socrates would be the first person banished from its gates, all of which should make us think twice about the “wisdom” of rejecting the tragic view. Plato’s Republic suggests (at least on this reading) that the attempt to order the world by means of a foundationalist epistemology runs the risk of a reductionism reminiscent of Agamemnon at Aulis or Oedipus at Thebes. Such grandiose schemes to assert mastery over nature, men and women, and ourselves display the fundamental ambiguity that attends even our best efforts to order and circumscribe our lives. If tragedy contains the possibility of finding “solutions” to the moral and political conflicts it explores, then the Republic voices its own suspicions about the very solutions to such conflicts proposed by philosophy. The Republic, on this reading, subtly refuses the opposition between a critical theory intent on securing its own normative foundations and a genealogical anti-theory bent on disrupting all totalizing forms of discourse. Plato’s dialogue thus gives voice to a post-foundationalist theoretical imagination that proves useful in negotiating the difficult terrain of theory construction by virtue of its simultaneous construal and denial of any systematic theoretical (and political) order. The Republic accomplishes this task by elaborating a “textual agonistics,” an orderly discourse that interrupts, subverts, and disturbs its own projections of order.

In chapter 5, I turn to the Oresteia of Aeschylus to confront the difficulties of democracy and to point toward the possibility of what William Connolly has called a “democratic politics of disturbance,” a politics that combines the democratic aspirations of critical theory with an attendant politics of resistance that disrupts and otherwise unsettles the normalizing tendencies of democracy’s stable order. Such a democratic politics would seek, like the Oresteia itself, to problematize the sedimentations and accretions of cultural practices and norms that constitute the self and order, even as it provides democratic norms and identities against which to struggle. In my reading of the Oresteia, civic discourse (centered around establishing a meaning for justice) and gender hierarchy (returning women to their “natural” places) are “normal” categories, which are disrupted and transgressed from the very beginning of the trilogy right through to the moment of their inscription on the body politic in the final and foundational act of the drama. The norms of language and the norms of sexuality, democratic politics and the politics of difference—these are the themes that govern my appropriation of Aeschylus for a contemporary politics capable of radically democratizing difference.

The Oresteia also broaches the themes of communication and contest, consensus and coercion, debate and domination, already raised in the Gorgias. Aeschylus’s drama directly confronts the multiple ways in which language can be (mis)used, how it establishes barriers to, just as easily as it enhances, communication. Language most obviously serves domination in and through Clytemnestra’s masterful deception of Agamemnon. A powerful king and fierce warrior, he is slain naked in the bath by a treacherous woman—a shameful death in the eyes of the Argive elders. Yet Clytemnestra’s duplicitous manipulation of words and their meanings only tells half the story of the linguistic disintegration that besets Argos. It is not only this queen with a man-counseling heart who transgresses the boundaries of speech. Everyone in the trilogy manipulates language in a way favorable to his, her, or their interests: Agamemnon claims justice for his sacrifice of Iphigeneia, Apollo (defending Orestes) likewise justifies the murder of Clytemnestra, while the Furies assert the justice of their prosecution of Orestes for his act of matricide. At stake in the Oresteia, then, is the meaning of justice itself, and the trilogy dramatizes the difficulties involved in reaching an agreement on the meaning of a word to which so many forces and interests lay claim. When Athena finally establishes the law court, she also founds a discursive order and space for the city and fixes the meaning of justice within it. That order defines which principles and which interests have the greatest voice, and which are relegated to relative silence.

Aeschylus’s trilogy would seem the ancient validation of Habermas’s enlightenment narrative, an archaic example of reasoned deliberation or discourse: the drama moves from chaos to order, darkness to light, perversion to normalcy, miscommunication to mutual understanding and reconciliation. This movement of progress occurs within the medium of a dramatic structure that reconciles conflicting forces and competing claims: chthonic with Olympian divinities, the older with the younger generation, Greek with barbarian, men with women. The trilogy thus traces the emergence of the democratic polis back to the foundation of a civic discourse rooted in rationally achieved consensus and dramatized in the trial scene of the Eumenides. Successful communication replaces the deceitful manipulation of language as the new world of the democratic polis triumphs over the troubled order of the dynastic past. The rational and creative principle of free consensus replaces what is local, natural, traditional, affective, and inherited. In the language of critical theory, the Oresteia attains its just and legitimate order, not through normatively ascribed agreement, but through communicatively achieved understanding.

Yet the conclusion of the Oresteia is far more ambiguous than this rationalist interpretation of the play allows. The trilogy certainly legitimates a democratic civic discourse and establishes a center that values what is new, democratic, rational, and masculine over what is traditional, filial, affective, and feminine. But it also disrupts its own comfortable teleology of progress, reason, and democratic justice in a “genealogical” movement of critique. The ambiguous establishment of the Areopagus by Athena complicates any easy attempt to read the Oresteia as a celebration of progress, successful communication, and democratic inclusion. The figure of Athena undermines the equation between masculine reason, democratic discourse, and the ultimate (celebratory) meaning of the drama through her own ambivalent status. This trilogy, already so full of transgressions and manipulations, ends not only with the achievement of clear and transparent communication, nor merely with the restoration of conflicting forces to their proper places. Consensus of a kind is achieved, but by a manipulative rhetoric, which the trilogy seeks to overcome, and through a sexually ambivalent figure who transgresses the very norms of gender she seeks to establish. The Oresteia institutes and legitimates a hierarchy of values based on subsequently valorized democratic “norms” that tend to normalize its subjects by establishing what “counts” as acceptable democratic practice and discourse. But the trilogy also shows us how difference can become domination and that the hierarchy it establishes is ultimately unjustifiable in the terms of the discourse that establishes it. The Oresteia is instructive because it reveals how the democratic subject relies on the constitution of sexual difference, and how that difference is “naturalized” or made essential through the production of a “feminine other” as that privileged subject’s founding repudiation. Aeschylus thus elaborates the contours of a democratic politics of disturbance that resists the sedimented norms of a consensually achieved self and order even as it provides democratic norms against which to struggle.

Reappropriating the Past

The seductions of nostalgia, of romanticizing a past that perhaps never was, threaten to disable even the most imaginative use of the Greek past. This study in no way entails a “return to the Greeks,” which is neither possible (inter alia, because we have not yet taken our full leave of antiquity) nor desirable. Needed here is a strategy of appropriation, one that neither ignores the importance of historical context nor succumbs to a thoroughly unimaginative use of the past forged from a rigid obedience to the present. The strategy I propose appropriates the Greeks by means of a “conceptual displacement,” a forced mapping of the Greek concepts onto our modern (or postmodern) context. Wrenching these concepts out of their ancient context does not reconcile them with contemporary social and political reality; rather, it underscores the differences between them. For to be dis-placed means to be badly or ill placed, to be placed where one does not belong, to be an ancient Athenian playwright or philosopher in a postcapitalist, postcommunist, postmodern society. It signals irrelevance. To be badly or ill placed also implies being out of place (atopos): to be strange, alien, or unfamiliar. To be displaced (as in physics), however, means to be placed or moved to one side, to make room or make way for someone or something.

These latter meanings are significant for my own strategy of displacement, where to be out of place or placed aside have their appropriate and useful virtues: Greek concepts and claims “inappropriately” mapped onto the alien terrain of contemporary politics and theory create visible differences, throwing into relief those practices and beliefs that routinely go unnoticed and unchallenged. By dis-placing the Greeks, we also place them alongside us, as an alien projection of what we believe we no longer are. Such a mapping enables us to see ourselves anew and stimulates fresh thought about familiar circumstances, while the juxtaposition of the Greeks as the “other” allows us to investigate questions crucial to the present, provoking us to reflect on the suppressed, ignored, or otherwise concealed aspects of our practices and identities. With Foucault, we can regard such conceptual displacement as an opportunity for “getting free of ourselves.”[21]

None of this is unfamiliar to Greek tragedy. Tragedy regularly appropriated the archaisms of the city’s ancient myths to illuminate and interrogate the contours of the present and its values. In its confrontation of opposites, the presentation of the strange, the alien, the unfamiliar, and the liminal, Greek tragedy called the greatest achievements and most important precepts of its civilization into question: it routinely juxtaposed heroic kingship to democratic citizenship, archaic lyric to contemporary prose, the violence of the past to the comforts of the present, all within the scope of a performance that challenged the efficacy of human progress, justice, and polis life.[22] Similarly, tragic performances created an “other” place, a city such as mythical Thebes constructed as a site of displacement, where Athens portrayed a city on stage that was radically other than itself. In that “other” scene, Athens would act out “questions crucial to the polis, to the self, the family and society” by displacing them upon a city “imagined as the mirror opposite of Athens.”[23] By projecting itself onto the stage and into the mythical past of a (dis)place such as mythical Thebes, Athens confronted the subjugations, exclusions, and denials that made up the normal life of the city.

A central argument of this book is that the tragedy and philosophical dialogue of the Greek polis provide a distinctive model for appropriating the past and its critical potential. Greek tragedy and philosophy themselves offer examples of how we might “use” the past to illuminate the contours of the present. Read this way, Greek tragedy and political philosophy help us exploit the improbable relationship between the ancient concepts and our modern context, making classical Greece an “other” place for us, a topos where we can confront the implicit patterns, structures, and practices of our own lives. My fundamental premise is that the classical past can stand to our present as the plays and dialogues of the poets and philosophers stood to the ancient city. Just as Greek tragedy and political theory provided the polis with a critical view of its public and private life, the classical past can provide us with a critical view of ours. A study of how Greek tragedy and classical political theory “use” the past can teach us how to “use” Greek tragedy and classical political theory in the present.[24]

My appropriation of the drama and dialogue of classical Athens entails a strategy of interpretation as well. Readers who insist on the canons of scholarly correctness will no doubt find themselves dismayed at my apparent disregard of interpretive probity. Although I am conscious of the political, cultural, and historical contexts in which literary and theoretical reflection occur, I am not overly concerned with identifying the discursive fields and vocabularies in which a particular utterance may be situated. While it would be foolish to ignore the debt Plato’s philosophy owes to the civic institution and cultural tradition of Attic tragedy, or to discount the influence of the sophistic enlightenment, the Athenian empire, or the plague on Sophocles’ tragedy, the context provided is instructive, but not determinative, for interpretation. I am even less concerned with discovering what an author “meant”—with ascribing, then uncovering, the “original” meaning of a text. Sophocles undoubtedly had some particular meaning in mind when he composed his tragedies, but such meaning eventually escapes even the most controlling and omniscient of minds, if only because our assumptions, prejudices, and commitments can never become fully transparent to us. The playwright’s Oedipus Tyrannos provides a case study in the seductions and dangers of recovering sovereign intention, for nowhere does an actor’s life (or a would-be author’s) more tragically betray the noblest of intentions than on Sophocles’ Theban stage. Discounting authorial intention in no way implies, as it perhaps might for Humpty Dumpty, that a text can mean anything one wants it to mean. There are limits to the interpretive imagination, and those are imposed by the text itself.

My purpose is to “use” these texts to illuminate the meaning of contemporary political and theoretical terms, to intervene in, and contribute to, the ongoing contest that constitutes our identity as modern or postmodern subjects. In the service of this cause, I sometimes read my authors and their works against themselves, often against their surface conclusions, and consistently against canonical conventions. There is complex and contradictory meaning to be wrung from these texts, and the adventurous reader does not shrink from exploiting the fissures in their seemingly smooth surfaces. To turn these texts to contemporary uses, it is necessary to turn them against themselves, to read them out of context, if not against their context, to search out the moments and places in and at which these texts (knowingly or not) subvert themselves, and so can be made to say more that they originally might have meant. I believe the texts of Greek tragedy and philosophical dialogue under consideration both invite and teach such a reading, that one respects a text or a tradition, not by enshrining it, and so killing it, but by using it so that it continues to live. The irony here is that the Western philosophical “tradition” contains within itself the means to think beyond the constraints it imposes, if only we are willing to refashion past stories for present purposes, as did the tragic playwrights. The chapters on Sophocles, Socrates, Plato, and Aeschylus that follow are exercises meant to push at the edges of those constraints.

I know of no contemporary theoretical work on the perplexities of postmodernity that deploys the resources of its own tradition to such good effect as Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. These critics of the modern enlightenment adopt and adapt elements of that tradition in order to think the contradictions of the present, and they do so in ways that directly recall the tragic playwrights. Indeed, a book that takes the tale of Oedipus’s own tragic enlightenment as emblematic of man’s blind attempt to assert the power of his reason appropriately ends with a reflection on the work of Horkheimer and Adorno. But there are other reasons—besides the shared trope of enlightenment—both internal to the Dialectic and to my own project, that invite, if not compel, such a reflection. Pairing a Greek tragedy with Dialectic of Enlightenment makes perfect sense when we recall Nietzsche’s importance to Horkheimer and Adorno, and tragedy’s importance to Nietzsche.[25]

It is therefore not at all coincidental that Horkheimer and Adorno brought sensibilities that shared much with Greek tragedy and theory to their analysis of contemporary crisis. Dialectic is a thoroughly modern book, which nonetheless transgresses our modern academic categories and distinctions: as poetic as it is theoretical, as philosophical as it is political, and as archaic in its tone and language as it is modern or postmodern, Dialectic of Enlightenment distinctly appropriates and displays the style and sensibility of Greek tragedy and theory, while still maintaining its own contemporary concerns and purposes.[26]

I am referring here to how Horkheimer and Adorno reinsert the ancient sense of the tragic into contemporary theorizing in a way that alerts us to the tremendous losses suffered in the name, and for the sake, of modernity—losses that liberal and radical theorists alike have largely ignored. Such theorizing, I argue, is incomplete, rather than wrong, in its assessment of modernity. Perhaps Greek tragedy can indeed help “modern man…to confront the darker side of his own existence and explore beneath the surface of his own highly rationalized, desacralized, excessively technologized culture,”[27] and so provide a useful corrective to the pervasive view of history as unmitigated progress.

This sense of the tragic is evoked in the title of the concluding chapter, a title that is not without its own ambiguities. It is ambiguous, because “The Tragedy of Critical Theory” suggests at least two meanings. First, it alludes to a heroic struggle fought and lost by the critical theorists against the regressive advances of enlightenment: what Horkheimer and Adorno saw to be the irresistible development toward total social integration. The story of critical theory, then, constitutes both a theoretical and political tragedy. Horkheimer and Adorno came to see social freedom and enlightened thought, not as moments of a reconciled totality, but as opposite poles of an irreconcilable dialectic. Nevertheless, the authors faced this pessimistic conclusion with heroic intransigence, themselves confirming that “critical thought (which does not abandon its commitment even in the face of progress) demands support for the residues of freedom and for tendencies toward true humanism, even if these seem powerless in regard to the main course of history.”[28] Against all theoretical and political opposition, Horkheimer and Adorno never stopped resisting forces of integration that appeared to them to be as implacable as archaic fate.

Critical theory, however, has more than just a tragic history to recommend it. It also has a tragic consciousness. Horkheimer and Adorno are thus more than tragic figures caught in a web of fate not wholly of their own making. They are also playwrights of a sort, composing a drama about the vicissitudes of enlightenment. The “tragedy” of critical theory thus refers to the tragic elements and the tragic sensibility that Horkheimer and Adorno bring to their theorizing. Dialectic of Enlightenment is a modern tragedy, even though its authors were convinced that the culture industry made tragedy impossible. That it is a work of tragedy in such an anti-tragic climate makes Dialectic untimely, and, if we are to believe Nietzsche, it is precisely this untimeliness that recommends it.[29]

A second reason for reading Dialectic has to do with how we might come to understand the classical and contemporary texts, each in the light of the other. Horkheimer and Adorno can help us read the works of tragedy and theory in a context and with an urgency and insight we would otherwise lack. Conversely, Greek tragedy and theory can teach us to recognize and appreciate the tragic components of fate, suffering, and human mutability, as well as detect the fault lines that traverse the seemingly stable foundations of our own modernized and technicized society—instabilities Dialectic exposes. Pairing a tragedy with a work of contemporary theory thus enriches our reading of the latter, while simultaneously disclosing neglected or ignored aspects of the former. Here is one way in which Dialectic establishes a dialogue between Greek tragedy (and political theory read in its context) and the thought of the modern enlightenment.

There is one last way in which Horkheimer and Adorno’s work promotes a dialogue between classical and contemporary theory, and thus one more reason for writing about it. In spite of the insistence (by Habermas and Foucault) on modernity’s distinctiveness and the obsolescence of premodern concepts and categories, which seals the past off from the present, Dialectic manages to maintain these two extremes in uneasy and fruitful tension, much as the polis and its institutions (including tragedy) maintained an uneasy tension between myth and enlightenment, heroic individualism and democratic community, romantic legend of the past and the harsh reality of the present. Horkheimer and Adorno are able to provide a link between an irretrievable past and an almost unlivable present that threatens to accelerate out of control. Yet their project is no more an attempt to recover the past than was tragedy’s. Dialectic of Enlightenment brings past and present together in an uneasy unity of opposites, not to accomplish the conservation of the past, but in order to use it all the more effectively for the sake of a better future.


1. On the devaluation of classical political thought by the behavioral revolution, see Sheldon Wolin, “Political Theory as a Vocation,” American Political Science Review [hereafter cited as APSR] 63, 4 (Dec. 1969). For a dismissal of the moral and political claims of the ancient polis, see Robert Dahl, Democracy and Its Critics (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1989), as well as Stephen T. Holmes, “Aristippus in and out of Athens,” APSR 73, 1 (Mar. 1979): 113–27. For recent social history, see Orlando Patterson, Freedom, vol. 1: Freedom in the Making of the Western World (New York: Basic Books, 1991). A few feminist examples are Kate Millett, Sexual Politics (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971); Susan Okin, Women in Western Political Thought (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1979); Jean Bethke Elshtain, Public Man, Private Woman (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981); Nancy Hartsock, Money, Sex and Power: Toward a Feminist Historical Materialism (New York: Longman, 1983), and Mary O’Brien, The Politics of Reproduction (Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981). On the construction of Greece by German classicists, see Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, vol. 1 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1987)

2. A few examples among classicists are Charles Segal, J.-P. Vernant, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Simon Goldhill, John J. Winkler, Froma Zeitlin, and Josiah Ober. See also John Peradotto, Man in the Middle Voice: Name and Narration in the Odyssey (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990), ch. 1, for an account of the influence of post-structuralism on classical scholarship. On the invasion of classics by nonspecialists, see Athenian Political Thought and the Reconstruction of American Democracy, ed. J. Peter Euben, Josiah Ober, and John Wallach (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994), introduction.

3. See Bernard Williams, Shame and Necessity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); J. Peter Euben, The Tragedy of Political Theory: The Road Not Taken (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990); Martha Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Literature and Philosophy (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1986).

4. See Foucault’s essay “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984); Jacques Derrida, “Plato’s Pharmacy,” in Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981); Jean-François Lyotard and Jean-Loup Thébaud, Just Gaming, trans. Wlad Godzich (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985); and Jürgen Habermas, Theory and Practice, trans. John Viertel (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973), and The Theory of Communicative Action: Reason and the Rationalization of Society, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984, 1987).

5. See, e.g., Dana Villa, “Postmodernism and the Public Sphere,” APSR 86, 3 (Sept. 1992): 712–21; Bonnie Honig, “Arendt, Identity and Difference,” Political Theory 16, 1 (Feb. 1988): 77–98; Chantal Mouffe, ed., Dimensions of Radical Democracy (New York: Verso, 1992), and id., “Democratic Citizenship and the Political Community,” in Feminists Theorize the Political, ed. Judith Butler and Joan Scott, pp. 369–84 (New York: Routledge, 1992). For feminist criticisms of Arendt, see, e.g., Patricia Springborg, “Hannah Arendt and the Classical Republican Tradition,” in Thinking, Judging, Freedom, ed. G. T. Kaplan and C. S. Kessler (Sydney: G. Allen & Unwin, 1989), pp. 9–17; Wendy L. Brown, Manhood and Politics: A Feminist Reading in Political Theory (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1988). On the concept of agonistic feminism, see Bonnie Honig, “Toward an Agonistic Feminism,” in Feminists Theorize, pp. 215–35. But see now also her recent book Political Theory and the Displacement of Politics (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993). Exceptions to this are Hanna Pitkin’s attempt, in “Justice: On Relating Public and Private,” Political Theory 9, 3 (Aug. 1981): 303–26, to rescue Arendt, not via Foucault, Nietzsche, and the politics of agonistic subjectivity, but via an appeal to justice and the Aristotelian category of deliberation, as well as Ann M. Lane and Warren J. Lane’s appropriation of the Aristotelian categories of praxis and phronesis for feminist thought. See their essay “Athenian Political Thought and the Feminist Politics of Poiesis and Praxis,” in Athenian Political Thought and the Reconstruction of American Democracy, ed. J. Peter Euben, Josiah Ober, and John Wallach, pp. 265–88 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994). On the concept of “agonistic democracy,” see William Connolly, Identity/Difference (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991), x. The Phantom Public Sphere, ed. Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), is another postmodern attempt to theorize the “public sphere” that relies, implicitly and explicitly, on the classical categories of republican virtue, public and private, and the agora (the public as a phantasmagoria, or phantom agora), if mostly by way of critique and in opposition. For a modernist acknowledgement of the Greeks, see Seyla Benhabib, “Models of Public Space: Hannah Arendt, the Liberal Tradition and Jürgen Habermas,” in Habermas and the Public Sphere, ed. Craig Calhoun (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992), pp. 73–98. Also see Nancy Fraser, “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy,” Social Text 8, 9 (1990), who tends to confuse discursive reason with theatrical space, most notably on p. 57.

6. On such transformations in the power of the state and economy, see, e.g., Sheldon Wolin, “Democracy in the Discourse of Postmodernism,” Social Research 57, 1 (1990): 5–30, and “Democracy and the Welfare State: Theoretical Connections between Staatsräson and Wohlfahrtstaatsräson,” in The Presence of the Past: Essays on the State and the Constitution (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989): 151–79; William Connolly, Politics and Ambiguity (Madison: University of Wisconson Press, 1987); Scott Lash and John Urry, The End of Organized Capitalism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987); Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–77, ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980); Jürgen Habermas, Toward a Rational Society, trans. Jeremy Shapiro (Boston: Beacon Press, 1970), and Theory of Communicative Action. On politics as spectacle and the general destabilization of once-settled categories, see Jean Baudrillard, In the Shadow of the Silent Majority (New York: Semiotext(e), 1983), and “The Precession of Simulacra,” in Simulations (New York: Semiotext(e), 1983), pp. 1–79, esp. pp. 3, 11–12, and 83, as well as Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality: Essays (London: Picador, 1986). A more concrete treatment of politics as spectacle is Michael Warner, “The Mass Public and the Mass Subject,” in The Phantom Public Sphere, ed. Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993). On the reconfiguration of political space and the increasing irrelevance of the democratic, territorial nation-state, see William Connolly, “Tocqueville, Territory and Violence,” Theory, Culture and Society 11, 1 (Winter 1994): 19–41, which fruitfully explores the tension between those elements adumbrated in his title. In a more radical vein, see Paul Virilio’s The Lost Dimension (New York: Semiotext(e), 1991), who seems to conclude that political space as we know it has been irretrievably lost. From a postcolonial perspective, see Arjun Appadurai, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy,” in Phantom Public Sphere, ed. Robbins, pp. 269–95. On the African diaspora as challenge to Enlightenment cultural hegemony, see Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993) and Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Cultures (London: Serpent’s Tail Press, 1993).

7. See Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,” New Left Review 146 (July/Aug. 1984): 53–92, and Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style (London: Methuen, 1979).

8. On the recovery of plural, counterhegemonic, and subaltern experiences in the construction of “the” Western “public,” recent revisionist historiography is particularly telling: in revolutionary France, the masculine public sphere constituted itself through the exclusion of women’s publicity as republican virtuosity; in England and Germany, “the public” represented itself as a universal category, conveniently concealing the particular class origins of its universality; while in the nineteenth-century United States, competing public spheres and counterpublics comprised of women provided a variety of alternative and competing routes to public life. During Reconstruction, a black counterpublic emerged and was partially successful in gaining access to official discourse and oppositional publics before it dissolved. See Fraser “Rethinking the Public Sphere”; Joan Landes, Women and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French Revolution (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1988); Geoff Eely, “Nations, Publics and Political Cultures: Placing Habermas in the Nineteenth Century,” in Habermas and the Public Sphere, ed. Craig Calhoun, pp. 289–339 (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992); Mary P. Ryan, Women in Public: Between Banners and Ballots, 1825–1880 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990); Anna Yeatman, “Beyond Natural Right: The Conditions for Universal Citizenship,” Social Concept 4, 2 (June 1988): 3–32; and Michael Dawson, “A Black Counterpublic? Economic Earthquakes, Racial Agenda(s), and Black Politics,” Public Culture 7 (1994): 195–223. On the concept of “governing representations,” see Anne Norton, Republic of Signs: Liberal Theory and American Popular Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

9. The most recent are Richard Peterson, Democratic Philosophy and the Politics of Knowledge (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996) and David C. Hoy and Thomas McCarthy, Critical Theory (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1994); but see also Mark Poster, Critical Theory and Poststructuralism (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989); Connolly, Politics and Ambiguity; David C. Hoy, “Foucault: Modern or Postmodern?” in After Foucault: Humanistic Knowledge, Postmodern Challenges, ed. Jonathan Arac (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1988); Martin Jay, “Habermas and Modernism,” Praxis International 4, 1 (Apr. 1984): 1–14, and the essays collected in Richard Bernstein, ed., Habermas and Modernity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1985).

10. The first of these “defenses” of modernity was given as “Modernity: An Incomplete Project” upon Habermas’s receipt of the Adorno Prize in 1980 and subsequently published as “Modernity vs. Postmodernity,” New German Critique 22 (Winter 1981): 3–14. But see also Jürgen Habermas, “The Entwinement of Myth and Enlightenment: Rereading Dialectic of Enlightenment,New German Critique 26 (Spring/Summer 1982): 13–20, republished in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures, trans. Frederick G. Lawrence (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987), itself a sustained defense of enlightened modernity. On the debate between French and German intellectuals, see Poster, Critical Theory and Poststructuralism.

11. See Habermas, “Modernity vs. Postmodernity” and also Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, pp. 336–67.

12. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978), 1: 159.

13. On this aspect of the argument, see Habermas, “An Alternative Way Out of the Philosophy of the Subject,” in Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, p. 315. But see also id., Theory of Communicative Action, vol. 1, “Intermediate Reflections,” for a detailed specification of the concept of communicative reason.

14. On power as a permanent provocation, see Michel Foucault, “The Subject and Power,” in Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, ed. Dreyfus and Rabinow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 221; on agonism, see id., “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” p. 85. See also id., Power/Knowledge, p. 52, and the essay “Truth and Power,” pp. 109–33.

15. On Habermas’s own criticisms of “totalizing” critique, see Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, pp. 336–38, where he conflates Adorno, Foucault, Heidegger, and Derrida.

16. On genealogy as a strategy meant to disrupt globalizing discourse, see Foucault, Power/Knowledge, pp. 81–83, and “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Foucault Reader, pp. 76–100.

17. Habermas, Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, pp. 362–65.

18. Although Paul Friedländer’s Platon (1928–30) predates Habermas’s concept of power-free speech, Friedländer’s interpretation of Socratic dialogue is remarkably similar to Habermas’s formulation. See Paul Friedländer, Plato, trans. Hans Meyerhoff (New York: Pantheon Books, 1958), 2: 154–70.

19. E. R. Dodds explicitly links Callicles and Nietzsche in the appendix to Gorgias:A Revised Text with Introduction and Commentary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959), trans. and ed. Dodds, pp. 387–91. On Socrates and resentment, see Friedrich Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Idols (1889), trans. R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Penguin Books, 1969), p. 476, and The Will to Power (1906), trans. Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Vintage Books, 1968), p. 519. But compare the Gorgias, 457e and 458a, where Socrates says he is interested in the truth, not in winning an argument. On the incommensurability of political and theoretical language games, a distinction drawn from Aristotle, see Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), p. 66, and Lyotard and Thébaud, Just Gaming, pp. 19–43, 28.

20. Nussbaum, Fragility of Goodness, p. 51.

21. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 2: The Use of Pleasure, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage Books, 1986), p. 8.

22. J.-P. Vernant, “Tensions and Ambiguities in Greek Tragedy,” in Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece, trans. Janet Lloyd (New York: Zone Books, 1988), pp. 32–33.

23. Froma I. Zeitlin, “Thebes: Theater of Self and Society in Athenian Drama,” in Nothing To Do with Dionysus? Athenian Drama in Its Social Context, ed. John A. Winkler and Zeitlin (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990), pp. 130–67.

24. This is an appropriate time to acknowledge my tremendous debt to those classicists who have most shaped my understanding of Greek tragedy and political thought. The works of Jean-Pierre Vernant and Pierre Vidal-Naquet, of Charles Segal, Froma Zeitlin, Martha Nussbaum, Simon Goldhill, and Josiah Ober have all been formative for me. I am not a classicist myself, and I could not have trespassed on such foreign terrain without their help. Such trespasses run the obvious risks of any amateur who steps outside the comfortable confines of his own discipline (in my case, academic political theory), and no doubt errors of a philological kind are scattered throughout this book. I can only hope that I minimally disappoint Gary Miles and John Lynch, who patiently taught me Attic Greek during my stay at Santa Cruz.

25. Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming (New York: Continuum Books, 1969). For specific discussions of Nietzsche’s influence on Horkheimer and Adorno, see George Friedman, The Political Philosophy of the Frankfurt School (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1981); David Held, Introduction to Critical Theory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984); Martin Jay, Marxism and Totality: The Adventures of a Concept from Lukács to Habermas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984); Nancy S. Love, “Epistemology and Exchange: Marx, Nietzsche and Critical Theory,” New German Critique 41 (Spring/ Summer 1987): 71–94, and Marx, Nietzsche and Modernity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986); James Miller, “Some Implications of Nietzsche’s Thought for Marxism,” Telos 37 (Fall 1978): 22–41; Peter Pütz, “Nietzsche and Critical Theory,” Telos 50 (Winter 1981–82): 103–14; Gillian Rose, The Melancholy Science: An Introduction to the Thought of Theodor Adorno (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978). For a negative assessment of Nietzsche’s influence, see Habermas, “Entwinement of Myth and Enlightenment.” All this attention to the Nietzsche connection should not obscure the affinities between Adorno and Walter Benjamin, whose Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels (trans. John Osborne as The Origin of German Tragic Drama [London: NLB, 1977]) had a profound and lasting effect on Adorno’s work. In fact, much of Adorno’s “tragic” sensibility comes from Benjamin. See Susan Buck-Morss’s The Origins of Negative Dialectics: Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin and the Frankfurt Institute (New York: Free Press, 1977), still one of the best books on Adorno’s version of critical theory. For the most recent scholarship on Nietzsche’s specific influence on Dialectic of Enlightenment, see Douglas Kellner’s “Critical Theory Today: Revisiting the Classics,” Theory, Culture and Society 10, 2: 43–60.

26. Despite its suggestive title, Paul Connerton’s The Tragedy of Enlightenment: An Essay on the Frankfurt School (London: Cambridge University Press, 1980), makes no systematic effort to connect Greek tragedy with critical theory. In “The Theatre of the ‘Other’: Adorno, Poststructuralism and the Critique of Identity,” Philosophy and Social Criticism 17, 3 (1991): 243–63, Samir Gandesha characterizes Adorno’s thought (including his collaborative work with Horkheimer) as a “retrieval of the structure of tragedy” and focuses on the category of remembered suffering.

27. Charles P. Segal, “Greek Tragedy and Society: A Structuralist Perspective,” in Interpreting Greek Tragedy: Myth, Poetry, Text (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1986), p. 23.

28. Horkheimer and Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, ix

29. For Nietzsche, the point in studying the thought of the classical past was its ability to act “counter to our time and thereby..on our time and, let us hope, for the benefit of a time to come” (“On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life” (1874), in Untimely Meditations, trans. R. J. Hollingdale [Cambridge: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983], p. 60).


Preferred Citation: Rocco, Christopher. Tragedy and Enlightenment: Athenian Political Thought and the Dilemmas of Modernity. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1997 1997.