Volume 23, Issue 2, Spring 2019
The Political Border Inside
On Institutional Slavery in Plato’s Laws
The academic debate on institutional slavery in Plato’s has been limited so far to the question of whether or not it is present in his paradigmatic just cities. The answer is clearly affirmative for the city of Magnesia in the Laws, but things are not so clear with respect to the Kallipolis of the Republic: some believe that it contains slaves, while others deny it or at least report that it cannot be assessed with certainty. As legitimate as it may be, this debate remains very limited. My claim is that a close scrutiny of a specific passage from the Laws reveals that slavery is not present in Plato’s political thought (at least in the Laws) as a mere cultural element of economic origin: it rather fulfills the function of what I call an “inner political border” on which the civic space must be built if it is to have a true theoretical and practical autonomy, that the citizens embody and enforce.