Political Office and the Rule of Law in Plato’s Statesman

In: Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought
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  • 1 Durham University, Department of Classics and Ancient History, 38 North Bailey, Durham DH1 3EU, UK

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Abstract

The article discusses the relation between political office (archē) and the rule of law in Plato’s dialogue Statesman. Taking its starting-point from an observation about the Statesman’s peculiar approach to constitutional analysis, the article argues that what Plato is concerned to show is how the reconceptualisation of the role of law in government proposed in that dialogue has important implications for what we take the role of the institution of office-holding to be. While Greek political tradition held the main aim of archē to be the formal circumscription and control of official power within a constitutional order, Plato insists that it should primarily be understood as ensuring that the exercise of political power approximates, by means of law, the ideal rule by a political expert. The article ends by pointing out how this reading complements another recent discussion of office-holding in the Statesman.

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