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Showing posts from April, 2009

Polybius, Carthaginian Terror and The Roman Mixed Constitution.

In classical antiquity political theory was often organized around typological analysis of constitutions. Representative of this tradition, Aristotle delineated three types of “straight constitutions”: Kingship, Aristocracy and Polity. That is, rule by one, rule by the few and rule by the majority of citizens. These neat classifications of straight constitutions, considered inherently unstable, had their corresponding deviant forms. For some political philosophers, the threat of decay and decline innate in straight constitutions necessitated mitigating elements. In the classic Aristotelian argument, virtue is a mean between two extremes, and therefore when a state approached goodness in its constitution it was a compromise between two diametrical opposites. Expressed in practical terms, Aristotle’s concept of good governance lay in a compromise between rule by the one and the many, resulting not in a strict aristocratic regime but one tempered by a virtuous demos. Historically, the c…

On the dead and buried: Marx, Structure and Agency.

In The Rebel, Albert Camus locates Karl Marx within a 19th century tradition which attempted to “substitute, everywhere, the relative for the absolute”. For Camus, Marxism represents a revision and re-articulation of Auguste Comte’s evolutionary theory of society. This assessment of Marx characterized his philosophical disposition as an inverted bourgeois positivism. However, Camus’s general interpretation is not without competitors from both Marxists and Non-Marxists alike. There are a myriad of works, which attempt to explain Marx’s social thought and establish his exact position on countless points of controversy. Historical Materialism or the materialist conception of history has been one such point of controversy, especially with regards to the relationship between human agency and social structures implicit within the theory. Within the Marxian tradition itself, two broad perspectives on the structure-agency debate emerged after the suppression of the Budapest uprising in 1956 …