Plato's Republic

A Dialogue in Sixteen Chapters

Alain Badiou. Translated by Susan Spitzer and Introduction by Kenneth Reinhard

Columbia University Press

Plato's <i>Republic</i>

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Pub Date: May 2015

ISBN: 9780231160179

400 Pages

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Plato's Republic

A Dialogue in Sixteen Chapters

Alain Badiou. Translated by Susan Spitzer and Introduction by Kenneth Reinhard

Columbia University Press

Plato's Republic is one of the best-known and most widely-discussed texts in the history of philosophy. But how might we get to the heart of this work today, 2,500 years after its original composition? Alain Badiou breathes life into Plato's landmark text and revives its universality. Rather than producing yet another critical commentary, he has instead worked closely on the original Greek and, through spectacular changes, adapted it to our times. In this innovative reimagining of Plato's work, Badiou has removed all references specific to ancient Greek society—from lengthy exchanges about moral courage in archaic poetry to political considerations mainly of interest to the aristocratic elite—and has expanded the range of cultural references. Here, philosophy is firing on all cylinders: Socrates and his companions are joined by Beckett, Pessoa, Freud, and Hegel, among others. Together these thinkers demonstrate that true philosophy endures, ready to absorb new horizons without changing its essence.

Moreover, Badiou—who is also a dramatist—has transformed the Socratic dialogue into a genuine oratorial contest. In his version of the Republic, the interlocutors do much more than simply agree with Socrates. They argue, stand up to him, put him on the spot, and show thought in motion. In this work of dramatic scholarship and philosophy, we encounter a modern version of Plato's text that is alive, stimulating, and directly relevant to our own world.

The hypertranslation serves on one level as a readable rewriting of one of Plato's most significant texts while on another it serves as a novel articulation of Badiou's consistent interests and sources of inspiration.

Eleanor Kaufman, University of California, Los Angeles

Here is something really remarkable: a complete reimagining of the founding text of philosophy. This book calls itself a hyper-translation, but it is also a repetition with a difference: an utterly contemporary transposition—and even sublimation—of Plato's Republic. It is always our task to breathe life into the ancients. They feed on our blood. Badiou shows himself a master of vampirism.

Simon Critchley, New School for Social Research

Badiou's translation of Plato follows the ancient habit of pre-copyright times: it freely changes the original to make it fit contemporary conditions. So instead of sophists, we get corrupted journalists; instead of soul, we get the subject; and instead of Plato's critique of democracy, we get... well, a critique of today's democracy. The result is a resounding triumph: Plato comes fully alive as our contemporary, as someone who directly addresses our issues. This, not aseptic scholarly work, is the mark of true fidelity to our past.

Slavoj Žižek, author of Living in the End

A lively rendering.... Those familiar with Plato's Republic will still hear Plato's voice in this engaging rendition.

Library Journal

A highly entertaining intellectual exercise.

France Magazine

A must read for students of Badiou.


[An] amusing, erudite, and intelligent book.

John Vignaux Smyth, Consciousness, Literature and the Arts

What Badiou's translation of Plato leaves us with is a resounding passion for the truth. It leaves us with a rare sense that politics can once again be associated with courage and justice, and that we have an agency at our disposal that comes in the passionate work of bringing the idea of equality (communism) into existence.

Daniel Tutt, Berfrois
Introduction, by Kenneth Reinhard
Translator's Preface
Author's Preface to the English Edition
Prologue: The Conversation in the Villa on the Harbor (327a–336b)
1. Reducing the Sophist to Silence (336b–357a)
2. The Young People's Pressing Questions (357a–368d)
3. The Origins of Society and the State (368d–376c)
4. The Disciplines of the Mind: Literature and Music (376c–403c)
5. The Disciplines of the Body: Nutrition, Medicine, and Physical Education (403c–412c)
6. Objective Justice (412c–434d)
7. Subjective Justice (434d–449a)
8. Women and Families (449a–471c)
9. What Is a Philosopher? (471c–484b)
10. Philosophy and Politics (484b–502c)
11. What Is an Idea? (502c–521c)
12. From Mathematics to the Dialectic (521c–541b)
13. Critique of the Four Pre-Communist Systems of Government. I: Timocracy and Oligarchy (541b–555b)
14. Critique of the Four Pre-Communist Systems of Government. II: Democracy and Tyranny (555b–573b)
15. Justice and Happiness (573b–592b)
16. Poetry and Thought (592b–608b)
Epilogue: The Mobile Eternity of Subjects (608b–621d)

Read Kenneth Reinhard's introduction, "Badiou's Sublime Translation of the Republic (to view in full screen, click on icon in bottom right-hand corner)

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About the Author

Alain Badiou is emeritus professor of philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. One of the most well-known philosophers of our time, he is also a novelist, playwright, and political activist. He is the author of The Incident at Antioch/L'Incident d'Antioche: A Tragedy in Three Acts/Tragédie en trois actes.

Kenneth Reinhard is associate professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the coauthor of The Neighbor: Three Inquiries in Political Theology and After Oedipus: Shakespeare in Psychoanalysis.

Susan Spitzer is a frequent translator of Badiou's works, most recently, Five Lessons on Wagner, and the play, The Incident at Antioch.