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Does the Republic depict a conspiracy? The ostensible impetus for Socrates’s discussion of profound political change behind closed doors is a desire to consider the meaning of justice, not to replace a political order with a new one. But the dialogue takes place during the Peloponnesian War, when fears of plots sporadically consumed an eroding Athenian democracy. Arguments about political instability and instances of plotting reverberate throughout the dialogue that takes shape in this suspicious climate. Whether Socrates makes us privy to a conversation about a political world that does not exist or presents us with a strategy for talking about revolution undetected remains unresolved. The chapter argues that Athenian fears of secret power and revolution express themselves in the style and arguments of the Republic and suggests that already at the origins of democratic practice, critics like Plato were concerned with theorizing the subtleties of democratic erosion.

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