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Ernest Barker and Greek Political Thought: Plato

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For much of the twentieth century Ernest Barker was the most frequently cited authority on Greek political thought in the English-speaking world. The centenary of his first publication, The Political Thought of Plato and Aristotle, provides a fitting occasion to commemorate his seminal and enduring contribution to the subject. In the first of two articles, I explore Barker's treatment of Plato, particularly as a foil for developing his own synthetic brand of neo-idealism. With a focus on the Republic, Barker crafts an erudite yet lively account that leaves little of Plato's political thought left standing. Yet for all this damning criticism, Barker remained under the 'spell of Plato' insofar as he saw in his organic and ethical conception of the polis a foundation for the state far superior to the mechanical and legalist orientation of classical liberalism. In fine, Barker provides an engaging, if occasionally anachronistic reading of Plato's politics, one marked by an eclecticism and ambivalence that would characterize his own political commitments over the course of a long career.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-01-01

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