Tragedy against tyranny

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Aristotle's Poetics continues the project of The Politics and The Nicomachean Ethics by encouraging interrogation of the regimes and the habits they instill. Leading citizens to examine their own habits, tragedy can impede the slide of extreme democracies into tyranny. Aristotle held that tragedies such as Oedipus the Tyrant and Iphigenia among the Taurians encouraged such inquiry. Those plays spoke to the popular piety of their day. Tensions among contradictory elements of that piety posed thought-provoking puzzles to their audiences. The Poetics was directed at encouraging playwrights to actualize the interrogative potential of tragedy. The content of popular piety in today's Western democracies, the limited aspirations of today's nonteleological social sciences, and the dependence of mass communication on pressures of the marketplace require us to find different strategies for a civic education that bridges the gap between enculturation in necessary habits and interrogation of the regimes that instill them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)254-265
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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