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Between Polis and Empire: Aristotle's Politics

  • MARY G. DIETZ (a1)
Abstract

Aristotle lived during a period of unprecedented imperial expansionism initiated by the kings of Macedon, but most contemporary political theorists confine his political theorizing to the classical Greek city-state. For many, Aristotle's thought exhibits a parochial Hellenocentric “binary logic” that privileges Greeks over non-Greeks and betrays a xenophobic suspicion of aliens and foreigners. In response to these standard “polis-centric” views, I conjure a different perceptual field—“between polis and empire”—within which to interpret Aristotle's Politics. Both theorist and text appear deeply attentive to making present immediate things “coming to be and passing away” in the Hellenic world. Moreover, “between polis and empire,” we can see the Politics actually disturbing various hegemonic Greek binary oppositions (Greek/barbarian; citizen/alien; center/periphery), not reinforcing them. Understanding the Politics within the context of the transience of the polis invites a new way of reading Aristotle while at the same time providing new possibilities for theorizing problems of postnational citizenship, transnational politics, and empire.

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Corresponding author
Mary G. Dietz is John Evans Professor of Political Theory, Department of Political Science and Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, Northwestern University, 303 Scott Hall/601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 (m-dietz@northwestern.edu).
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