Sunday, 30 August 2020

Democracy as a tragic regime

Ancient Greece: The Greatest Show on Earth is a documentary from the BBC and the Open University on Greek drama, presented by Michael Scott, whose two-part series Who were the Greeks? I posted on here and here. In this programme – the first of three in the series – Scott looks at tragedy and democracy, arguing that the two are intimately connected and it is no coincidence that tragic theatre emerged at the same time as democracy in Athens. It’s not a bad programme, despite the appearance of a number of leading British classicists, who are a bland lot with nothing particularly exciting to say.

The Greek philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis is also concerned about the connections between tragedy and democracy, asserting that democracy is a ‘tragic regime’ and that tragedy is so connected to the rise of democracy in Athens that it makes more sense to refer to Athenian rather than Greek tragedy. Castoriadis arguments on tragedy and democracy are contained in two of his essays. One is The Greek Polis and the Creation of Democracy, contained in Politics, Philosophy and Autonomy; and the other is Aeschylean Anthropogony and Sophoclean Self-Creation of Man, which is from the collection of essays Figures of the Unthinkable, which is available to download here.

There’s also an essay critical of Castoriadis’ work on tragedy and democracy by Nana Bilu┼í Abaffy, which can be read here.

* See part two of the series here and part three here.