The article thematizes the actuality of despotism through a double reading of Xenophon’s Hiero and Dave Eggers’s Circle. A key text on despotism, Hiero is interesting to reconsider in a contemporary context because of its explicit focus on the economic element in the nexus of despotism, economy, and voluntary servitude. Discussing this nexus in an ancient context, the article turns to The Circle, a dystopic novel from 2013, which elaborates on how the attempt at creating a transparent society results in the perversion of democracy to the point where a despotism fueled by economization and voluntary servitude becomes immediately evident. Notwithstanding the significant differences between the two perceptions of despotism that proliferate in Hiero and The Circle, their shared focus on the nexus of despotism, economy, and voluntary servitude testifies to an interesting case of convergence in divergence. Offering an account of this continuity, the article ends with reflecting on this nexus itself, arguing that it should be rethought in a new way today. The concept of use is suggested as a key concept for such reconsideration.
The Despotic Imperative: From Hiero to The Circle
Bülent Diken teaches social and cultural theory in the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University and in the Department of Radio-TV and Cinema at Kadir Has University. His research fields are social theory, political philosophy, urbanism, cinema, and terrorism. His books include Strangers, Ambivalence, and Social Theory (1998), The Culture of Exception (2005, coauthored with Carsten B. Laustsen), Nihilism (2009), Revolt, Revolution, Critique—Paradox of Society (2012), God, Politics, Economy (2015), and The Cinema of Nuri Bilge Ceylan (2018, coauthored with Graeme Gilloch and Craig Hammond).
Bülent Diken; The Despotic Imperative: From Hiero to The Circle. Cultural Politics 1 July 2019; 15 (2): 184–201. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-7515042
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