Guillaume Durocher’s The Ancient EthnostateJohn Gordon
The Ancient Ethnostate: Biopolitical Thought in Classical Greece
It almost goes without saying that any book written today by someone from the Dissident Right on the subject of Classical Greece will be more accurate to the spirit of antiquity and more honest about the racial realities that underlie it than anything that could be published in contemporary academia. This book gives a good survey of the history, culture, and ideas of key writers of various sorts in Ancient Greece. I can think of no better book for a beginner to start his journey into the study of Ancient Greek history or thought.
After an Author’s Preface and a Foreword by Kevin MacDonald, the book consists of ten chapters, including a conclusion. The book focuses on five main authors: Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus, Aristotle, and Plato. But it also discusses the relevant history of the period covered, in particular the Persian and Peloponnesian wars. We see the Greeks in turn opposing an aggressive foreign foe and then facing internal struggle between co-ethnics.
Durocher is focusing on those aspects in Ancient Greece’s history and its authors from “an evolutionary and biopolitical perspective,” relying “extensively . . . on academic sources” and ensuring “[his] interpretations are not at odds with the academic mainstream” (Preface). The basis for Durocher’s own claim to originality is his “evolutionary angle of perspective” (Preface).
Biopolitics is a new field, opened up by Michel Foucault. Since Durocher does not define the term, relying instead on citing references to other scholars in the field, a brief discussion may be useful for the reader. Biopolitics may be succinctly defined as a particular way of viewing politics, viz.: “. . . politics as the regulation of the living in the name of the security and happiness of the state . . . ” Plato and Aristotle discuss “all the central topics of biopolitics (sexual intercourse, marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, childcare, public health, education, birthrate, migration, immigration, economy, and so forth) from the political point of view, but for them these topics are the very keystone of politics and the art of government.” Consequently, the two philosophers are of central importance to Durocher, and his examination of them might be considered the heart of his book.
The biopolitical approach to politics may be contrasted with what Foucault called “the juridico-institutional model of politics, revolving around laws, legal subjects, contracts, liberties, obligations, rights, and duties.” In contrast, “[biopolitics] concerns the technologies of power over natural life. It aims at controlling and regulating human life — and does so by focusing primarily on the quantity and quality of the population . . .”
This, however, may be a superficial division, since any non-biopolitical approach may well presuppose (hidden, implicit, or unexamined) biopolitical premises.
Durocher does not dwell on the ancient Greeks’ racial background, focusing instead on their already-formed grouping out of their ethno-genesis and concentrates on their resulting evolutionary strategy, but the main points of the background can be briefly summarized: The Indo-Europeans, who swept through all of Europe starting around 2,500 BC, are now the primary ancestors of all extant northern Europeans (and their descendants). Sometime around 1,900-1,600 BC a proto-Greek speaking group of these Indo-European peoples descended into and occupied the Peninsula and surrounding islands of Greece, forming what we know as the Greek or Hellenic race. The Hellenic race was divided into three main ethnical divisions: Aeolian, Dorians, and Ionians. To simplify: The Athenians are a subgroup of the Ionians, and the Spartans are Dorian.
The Ancient World was very harsh. Groups of peoples were constantly on the defensive against aggressive outsiders, and the costs of defeat in war were very high. If your group was lucky, only all the men of the group were slaughtered and the women and children enslaved, along with the accompanying forced sexual submission; in other words, if your group was unlucky, your entire group was completely exterminated. Sometimes lesser devastation was inflicted, but often the defeated had no expectation of anything better than this frequently-dealt harsh reality. Empires could sustain partial losses, but tribes and towns could be completely wiped out.
Durocher describes the result of this harsh reality on the Greek’s primary political partnership, the city (polis):
Before anything else, a good city-state was one with the qualities necessary to survive in the face of aggressive foreign powers. This was ensured by solidarity among the citizens, each being willing to fight and die beside the other. Hence the citizen was also a soldier-citizen. The completion of military training and the ability to purchase the hoplite soldier’s armor for oneself were typical criteria for full citizenship. The city state was small, most numbering less than 50,000 people, and a minority of the population were citizens. This made politics a face-to-face affair between leaders and fellow citizens who knew each other personally. (p. 5)
Also that “[t]he polis was then unabashedly authoritarian and collectivist, the good lawmaker being he who could inspire good habits and morals in the citizenry,” and
kinship lay at the very core of the Greek polis, being the fundamental foundation for identity and solidarity. The Greek city-states were Herrenvolk republics, quite diverse in their internal organization and degree of enfranchisement, the exclusion of non-citizens and enslavement of foreigners being paired with a level of civic participation and popular self-government unmatched in ancient history. (p. 6)
Durocher also believes that this situation led philosophers to view justice in a particular manner: “Hence, Aristotle argued that ‘justice consists in what tends to promote the common interest’ (Politics, 1282b14).” (p. 5).
The Greeks were never a fully united political group, even when falling under the aegis of two rival empires or leagues (of Athens and Sparta), each polis was politically separate in voting rights and citizenship. The Greeks saw themselves as a common race and kin to each other: “the Greeks as a whole, whatever their internal divisions and dispersion across the Mediterranean, had a powerful and enduring sense of common identity, separateness, and superiority in the face of foreigners” (p. 7).
Durocher extends this to a claim of originality on the Greeks’ part: “Insofar as citizenship was genetically-defined through descent and the authorities took an active role in promoting reproduction, we can say that the ancient Greek city-states were indeed the first ethnostates, each with their own primitive group evolutionary strategies” (p. 12). But almost all prior societies were virtually ethnostates, especially the more primitive ones. Durocher runs the risk here of providing support for academics to claim the ancient Greeks as uniquely racist. Race is similar to an extended family, and a tribe (a sub-state community) is a group of one or more families. Usually the membership in the family is closely guarded, and Greeks followed the norm in this regard.
We know now with empirical certainty, thanks to the unlocking of ancient DNA by groups like the one led by David Reich, that not only does race exist, but that all modern Europeans are kin to each other. We are kin, even if we are not direct descendants; you do not have to be someone’s father or son to be related to them, as the kinship between all European peoples is very close. This extends back into Antiquity, and indeed to their foundation and confluence in Ancient Europe beginning around 5,000 years ago.
This is indisputable; only how much impact this politically significant fact has had on our thinking about history, culture, and politics is at issue. That academia has completely failed to address these matters in a rigorous and intellectually honest way, and that the politicians and journalists who rule us remain or act totally unaware, has contributed to our nations not being able to remedy the growing problems we face — and this failure has also created many of them.
The heritage of Classical Antiquity is European — that is, it is of the European race. To call it Eurocentric is a tautological fallacy, since it belongs to the heritage of European peoples. This is not to say that others cannot study it and reap rewards; the Japanese have a place in their higher education for it, and Japanese scholars have contributed to the academic study of Antiquity. In the past Islamic scholars, before philosophy was stamped out in the Islamic world, contributed to the continuation of Greek philosophy.
Race and identity have faded out of discussion in polite society over the course of the last century or so. Even the sudden reemergence of it in contemporary partisan politics has only been granted to select and privileged groups — except, of course, if one wants to vilify the common enemy of those groups racially, in which case the most slanderous and prejudiced of statements have been given free rein in Hollywood, the public media, and academia. This is no less true when speaking of the past history or achievements (especially if glorious or exalted) of the excluded racial group. Academia has been particularly derelict in its duty in this regard, being the entrusted inheritor of the highest traditions of the particular group under attack. Even the Classics departments have not escaped the Left’s totalitarian control over our institutions and have become willing participants in the promotion of racially-directed animus against their own creators.
We need an antidote or counter-poison to the toxic waste spewed by contemporary academics on these topics. It does not matter whether the toxicity is coming from those who lie while knowing better (show-pony academics like Edith Hall spring to mind) or from those ignorantly pursuing their own racial group’s advancement by disparaging a race foreign to them (diversity hires like Dan-el Padilla Peralta). There is a symbiotic relationship between cultural presentations in popular media (TV, movies, etc.) and academic authorities: “Hollywood” or the BBC create a fictitious presentation of the presence of sub-Saharan Africans in Ancient Greece (both Achilles and Odysseus have suffered this in what I call “spiritual blackface”), and a media company will cite academics like Edith Hall to substantiate it while a fact checker will cite her obfuscation as “evidence” (on closer examination, it is just an appeal to authority with no basis in reality, but the damage is done without authentic knowledge coming to the fore). It would be good to stop this mutually reinforcing racially hostile propaganda in its tracks, and this book makes a good (though partial) contribution towards that goal.
It is a remarkable but indisputable fact that the scholars of the nineteenth century have turned out to be more accurate in their racial assessments and characterizations than contemporary academics, despite the latter having available to them the ancient DNA and paleo-archaeological evidence for about two decades now. Some nineteenth-century scholars were so accurate it is embarrassing to compare present-day academics to them. Here is the celebrated Thomas Arnold of Tom Brown’s School Days fame, and the father of the poet and cultural critic Matthew Arnold, in the preface to his Thucydides translation. I will quote extensively from this because it is (very remarkably) directly relevant both to the book under review and to our own circumstances:
It seems to be assumed in modern times, that the being born of free parents within the territory of any particular state, and the paying towards the support of its government, conveys a natural claim to the rights of citizenship. In the ancient world, on the contrary, citizenship, unless specially conferred as a favour by some definite law or charter, was derivable only from race . . . Citizenship was derived from race; but distinctions of race were not of that odious and fantastic character which they have borne in modern times; they implied real differences often of the most important kind, religious and moral. Particular races worshipped particular gods, and in a particular manner. But different gods had different attributes, and the moral image thus presented to the continual contemplation and veneration of the people could not but produce some effect on the national character . . .
It is not then to be wondered at that Thucydides, when speaking of a city founded jointly by Ionians and Dorians, should have thought it right to add “that the prevailing institutions of the place were the Ionian;” for according as they were derived from one or the other of the two races, the whole character of the people would be different. And therefore the mixture of persons of different race in the same commonwealth, unless one race had a complete ascendency, tended to confuse all the relations of life, and all men’s notions of right and wrong; or by compelling men to tolerate in so near a relation as that of fellow citizens differences upon the main points of human life, led to a general carelessness and scepticism, and encouraged the notion that right and wrong have no real existence, but are the mere creatures of human opinion.
But the interests of ambition and avarice are ever impatient of moral barriers. When a conquering prince or people had formed a vast dominion out of a number of different nations, the several customs and religions of each were either to be extirpated, or melted into one mass, in which each learned to tolerate those of its neighbours, and to despise its own. And the same blending of races, and consequent confusion and degeneracy of manners, was favoured by commercial policy; which, regarding men solely in the relation of buyers and sellers, considered other points as comparatively unimportant, and in order to win customers would readily sacrifice or endanger the purity of moral and religious institutions. So that in the ancient world civilization which grew chiefly out of conquest or commerce, went almost hand in hand with demoralization.
These amazing passages accurately delineate the wicked motivations of ethnically hostile policies and practices carried out by contemporary commercial interests. The problem needs a solution, and Arnold goes on to claim that there is a non-racial way out of this situation: the universal adoption of belief in Christianity within the political community. He does not blame the Ancients for basing their citizenship on race, but he thinks it is now obsolete. Missing entirely from his presentation is the vilification of past practices which were based firmly on realities:
[This test of citizenship via race for the ancient commonwealths was] wise and good. And yet the mixture of races is essential to the improvement of mankind, and an exclusive attachment to national customs is incompatible with true liberality. How then was the problem to be solved; how could civilization be attained without moral degeneracy, how could a narrow-minded bigotry be escaped without falling into the worse evil of Epicurean indifference? Christianity has answered these questions most satisfactorily, by making religious and moral agreement independent of race or national customs; by furnishing us with a sure criterion to distinguish between what is essential and eternal, and what is indifferent, and temporal or local; allowing, nay commanding us to be with regard to every thing of this latter kind in the highest degree tolerant, liberal, and comprehensive; while it gives to the former that only sanction to which implicit reverence may safely and usefully be paid, not the fond sanction of custom, or national prejudice, or human authority of any kind whatever, but the sanction of the truth of God.
We need not dwell on the inadequacy of Arnold’s solution or the dubious claims upon which it is based. Arnold towers over contemporary academics by correctly characterizing the situation and being honest about what an alternate solution would entail and imply. Durocher provides much supportive evidence to confirm Arnold’s assessment (pp. 145-146).
I shall now go through the rest of the book indicating points of particular interest.
In the chapter on Homer’s Iliad, Durocher claims that “[t]he heroic values of Homer are by our standards extremely harsh, even barbaric. I will show however that these values are supremely adaptive: values of conquest, community, competition, and kinship.” (p. 24). Durocher emphasizes that “Homer’s Achaeans are not a civilized bunch. Their way of life is one of ‘vital barbarism,’ having the values of ruthless conquerors, prizing loot, honor, and glory above all” (p. 27). And, somewhat harshly (since Trojans are depicted as being more uncouth than the Greeks), he adds: “Reputation is paramount in this society of bandits and warriors” (pp. 27-28).
But it is not a situation of simple lawlessness, as Durocher elaborates:
One may draw political insights from Homer’s ideal of kingship and his portrayal of the failures of the Achaean alliance and the city of Troy. Each monarch being sovereign, the Achaeans are divided whenever any king’s virtue fails. Agamemnon takes Briseis, failing to respect Achilles’ status as the best warrior, while Achilles’ pride and wrath drive him to let the Achaeans fall to the brink of oblivion. The Trojans, for their part, are paralyzed by a corrupt Council of Elders, which has failed to order Paris to return Helen. In both cases, there has been a failure to enforce what would be a fundamental principle of the Greek polis: the subordination of individual interests to those of the community. (p. 34)
Durocher sums up his treatment of Homer’s Iliad as follows: “The Iliad is then a poem about the tragedy of vital barbarism and decadent civilization, ascending from one, falling from the other” (p. 37). And he relates this back to biopolitical themes:
The values of the Iliad . . . are highly adaptive, being focused on pride in one’s lineage, kinship as central to identity and entailing reciprocity and solidarity, subordination of individual interests to those of the community, the intertwined loves of family and fatherland, and finally the glorification of conquest and honor. (p. 37)
It would be more accurate to say that the Iliad shows the tragedy of Achilles, the inherent limitations of the aspirations of the Hero as such (the desire for immortality via the pursuit of immortal fame) and the successive modifications of motivation for both the war and for Achilles that lead to his tragedy and transformation. Arguably, Homer sets up in the Iliad what it means to be Greek, i.e. he shows the Greeks their own unique difference. This is not so much in contradiction to what Durocher says, but it shows that there is more in the text for the reader to go and explore besides its ethnopolitical aspects, and which are more central to the substance of the text.
With the Odyssey we enter the world of peace, in contrast to that of war in the Iliad. The difference in tone, foreshadowed in the Iliad, has led some scholars to postulate that a different poet is at work here (the theory that Homer was a woman has even recently been championed), but one need not multiply entities; only one poetic genius alive at the time is required. Fortunately, Durocher does not go down these fruitless paths of scholarship concerned with authorship and composition. He sees the Odyssey as “[t]aking place after the travails of the Trojan War, [and that] the tale is fundamentally about Odysseus’ struggle to find and reestablish his place in a chaotic world” (p. 39), and it has “an implicit political philosophy” and “a kind of implicit political theory and idea of what the good society would not contain”:
If the Iliad is about the tensions between individual and community in the savagery of wartime, the Odyssey suggests a more constructive personal and political project: the journey home and the restoration of a good country. Odysseus’ visiting various, often dystopian, societies and his quest to restore his Ithacan kingdom indeed suggest an implicit Homeric politics. (pp. 39, 55, & 45)
Durocher relates this back to the Iliad:
This order of law and generosity, ultimately benefiting the people, however can only be built by the hero’s embrace of kinship and violence. The Odyssey reaffirms the Iliad’s tragic message: that good order and the community can only be guaranteed by the willingness to fight and die for family and fatherland. (p. 55)
Durocher does not overextend his interpretation, but he feels it sets the groundwork for future theoretical examination of these issues:
Homer’s Odyssey does not present a fully-fledged ethnopolitical ideal, perhaps the latter is even less present than in the Iliad. The contrasts are between civilization and savagery, kin and strangers, rather than an ethnocentric idea as such. Furthermore, the work is more personal than political. The ideal and practice of the Greek polis, while hinted at, remains to be developed, as later recounted in the works of Herodotus and Aristotle. The Odyssey is however a tale fundamentally about kinship and identity, with politics and personal behavior reflecting a familial, aristocratic, and patriarchal ethos. (p. 55)
Durocher rightly emphasizes the importance of Odysseus’ less “exciting” Ithaca-based actions in the second half of the Odyssey. It is clear that Homer is there presenting a political problem’s resolution: both the restoration and the succession of rule (these issues are prefigured in the first four books, which concentrate on Telemachus and his search for both Odysseus and his own identity and legitimacy via patriarchal authority).
The Hesiod chapter discusses his two short works, the Theogony and the Works and Days. Just as in the Homer chapters, Durocher draws out examples of values and beliefs in them directly reflecting biopolitical and evolutionary adaptive strategies for the Greeks.
Durocher has two chapters on Herodotus, whose Inquiry (misleadingly translated as Histories in most English versions) marks the beginning of the discipline of history, not the simple chronology of events but something new. Going beyond the mere chronological listings (often boastful) in the Near East, in Herodotus — for the first time — one encounters a wealth of discussions outside of what we would consider merely historical: geographical, political, ethnographic, religious, sociological, and a lot of other subject matters. Durocher provides “an evolutionary analysis of the Histories, highlighting in particular the complex and dynamic relationship between environment, culture, and ethnicity” (p. 62).
The Persian Wars are usually what modern historians are interested in with regard to Herodotus, and it annoys them that in his account he strays far outside that restrictive focus. Durocher pays attention to the different racial groups (Persians, Egyptians, Scythians, and Greeks) and notes the peculiar nature of the Greek resistance to Persian domination, since “the Athenians justify their resistance to the Persians on the grounds of their Greek national identity, defined by shared blood, language, religion, and custom” (p. 64).
Durocher sees Herodotus as showing Greek freedom being what differentiates Greeks from all others:
The Histories are also a celebration of the Greek tradition of civic freedom, in contrast with Persian Empire and “slavery,” which Herodotus claims was the underlying cause of the conflict: in an escalatory cycle, the Persian custom of imperial expansion came crashing against the Greek custom of free civic self-government. In this respect, Herodotus considered hierarchical and disciplined Sparta to be as much an exemplar of freedom as democratic and dynamic Athens. The triumph of the Greeks is essentially the outcome of the successful collaboration of these two, often rival, poles of Greek civilization. (p. 89)
This specific difference of the Greeks was a “winning combination of their culture of civic freedom and [ethnic] solidarity” (p. 116). In contrast to the concepts of liberty and their proponents with which we are familiar (Libertarian, “Libtards,” etc.), the “Greek conception of freedom was fundamentally communitarian, ethnocentric, and virile” (p. 118).
Durocher (perhaps following Ojakangas) deviates from his (so far) chronological examination of texts to discuss Aristotle before Plato. The Aristotle chapter rightly focuses on Aristotle’s two central texts on political philosophy: the Nicomachean Ethics and the Politics. He maintains that Aristotle embraced “the ethnocentric, communitarian, and virile traditions of the Greek polis” (p. 120). The Politics is most closely examined, particularly that work’s last two books, where Aristotle provides a presentation of what a city which tries to approximate the best possible one would look like.
Durocher accepts the common scholarly notion that Aristotle endorsed slavery, but there is a distinction between natural and conventional slavery, which Aristotle spends most of the Politics‘ first book explicating. This is a large topic, so I can only briefly say that slavery is used by Aristotle conceptually to establish the foundations of just rule. He explicitly condemns conventional slavery as unjust, and the appearance of slavery in the best practicable regime later on in the seventh and eighth books points to the necessarily partial justice of even such a good arrangement.
This is also a problem on page 127, when Durocher relies on Stalley’s terrible revision of Ernest Barker’s translation of 1281b15. Barker originally had correctly translated the Greek, but Stalley inexplicably obscures Aristotle’s text. The original translation — reflecting the Greek — says: “Perhaps it may be said, ‘By heaven, it is clear. . .’ etc.” This clearly shows that Aristotle is here engaged in presenting a dialogue between two partisan positions, not his own view. Earlier, at 1281a16, a democratic partisan had expressed his position via an oath (“by Zeus”), and now an oligarch does the same using the same oath (Barker changes the original “by Zeus” to “by heaven,” presumably to trying to capture a rough English equivalent). At least Barker does not completely mistranslate it, unlike Stalley who makes him appear to by changing the translation to “Perhaps, by heaven. . . etc.” — removing the quotation marks and implying that this is Aristotle’s own view. This partisan oligarchical position cannot be attributed to Aristotle and cannot be used to bolster an interpretation of Aristotle favorable to conventional slavery.
Despite this, Durocher’s characterization of Aristotle’s best practicable regime is accurate:
This vision is in fact unabashedly communitarian and aristocratic: Firstly, the human species cannot flourish and fulfill its natural role unless it survives and reproduces itself in the right conditions; secondly, the society must be organized so as to grant the intellectually-gifted and culturally-educated minority the leisure to exercise their reason. (p. 124)
Durocher then sums up Aristotle’s view of the role of the legislator and citizen:
Aristotle’s discussion of population policy and eugenics reflects the view which the Greeks took for granted: that the biological reproduction and quality of the citizenry was a fundamental matter of public interest. The citizen had a duty to act and the lawmaker to regulate by whatever means necessary to achieve these goals. (p. 142)
And this leads up to his claim that Aristotle can reconcile a biopolitical conception in line with what we would want and the civic freedoms we would also expect a good society to have:
His politeia shows that there is no contradiction between a muscular and holistic biopolitics and a civic politics characterized by the rule of law and open debate. The politics of the Greek city-state is nothing more than that of the assembled family fathers and soldier-citizens, perpetuators and guarantors of the social order, come together to fulfill their sacred responsibility to protect, discipline, and educate their kinsfolk towards the good. (p. 151)
The Plato chapter is the most extensive and Durocher is at his most daring in his interpretations, straying well outside the comfortable boundaries and certainties of contemporary scholarship (and this is a good thing). Durocher’s daring is most shown by his willingness to interpret Plato across dialogues and to examine and incorporate the contents of Plato’s extant Letters. Usually in scholarship we get rehashed versions of a chronological development shoe-horned into a progressive falling away from Socratic skepticism to Platonic dogmatism, with ad hoc explanations (if provided at all) as to why some of the most searing criticisms of the Ideas and even of the possibility of any scientific knowledge occurs precisely in the late dialogues. And the Letters are usually dismissed out of hand. For this reason, Durocher’s approach is a refreshing change.
Durocher approaches Plato as a “great spiritual reformer” whose “spiritual quest” was “never divorced from biological realities” (p. 192). He proposes that Plato’s corpus of works explicates a “Platonic Group Evolutionary Strategy for Greece” (p. 251).
Durocher’s main focus is on the Republic, Statesman, Laws, and Letters.
Durocher does not fall into the trap of interpreting the Republic as a serious political proposal, and he sees the Laws as offering Plato’s practical political proposals:
The Republic is chiefly an exploration of human psychology and the nature of morality. The discussion of politics is presented as an analogy for the human soul: the ideal city-state is meant to serve as a macro-scale model to explore what the ideal human soul might look like. (p. 199)
In contrast to contemporary scholars who stand aghast at Plato’s approach (or simply pass over the references and decisive issues in silence), Durocher brings pointed attention to features which should bolster our conceptions of politics:
. . . it is comforting to know that such a great figure should take so seriously notions of race and nation: genetic influences on behavior and thus the composition of the gene pool as a self-evident matter of public interest, patriotism as an extension of family feeling and an obvious good, a respect for the sacred that advances the interests of the entire group, and the importance of solidarity among kin peoples. The goal of politics was to prevent the bad, defined as a society or individual who was of bad “breed” and “uncultured,” and to promote the good (559d-e). (p. 208)
Durocher sees the city proposed in Plato’s Laws, Magnesia, as “Plato’s sacred ethnostate” (p. 212), since Plato takes particular care for the city’s founding stock and “. . . argues for a vigorous ‘purge’ of the population through exile or execution, of inferior and crime-prone stock, drawing direct comparisons with animal breeders” (p. 234).
Durocher uses the Letters (particularly the Seventh and Eighth) to argue that Plato, when presented with the prospect of practical implementation of his political ideas in Sicily, strove to implement a conciliatory, Pan-Hellenic approach ensuring Greek unity and survival (pp. 245-246), then combines his understanding of the Dialogues with the Letters:
Taken together, the Platonic corpus describes and proposes what I would go so far as to term a Group Evolutionary Strategy for the ancient Greeks: for Greek city-states to form a great tapestry of non-grasping, virtuous, and solidary city-states, reproducing and perfecting themselves biologically and culturally in perpetuity, at peace with one another and allied against barbarian threats, as members of lawful federations under the leadership of the best city-states. (p. 251)
Durocher sums up his Plato chapter with this assessment: “Not until the age of Darwinism would Westerners again be so rigorously biopolitical” (p. 253).
As we saw at the beginning, the use of biopolitics as a term arose from Foucault. Biopolitics would probably appear as a tautology to Aristotle, since man as an animal and as an animal which tends to form political partnerships like cities are inseparable from each other. Perhaps, however, the term is useful to remind us of what the Greeks took for granted when they used the word “politics.”
According to Aristotle, human beings have logos (i.e. speech/reason), which elevates our political groupings to a higher level than other political groups like bees or herd animals, since we participate not merely in physical juxtaposition in an ordered pattern but in mutually-shared understandings like laws, customs, and what we would perhaps call “values” — i.e. opinions or valuations about good and bad, just and unjust, etc. We mutually share these with our minds and independently act on them. Our political participation is partly in a collective, self-aware mind. “Imagined communities” may be said to be the inferior modern (and obscurantist) take on this facet of biological reality: a disparaging half-denial of a fundamental political reality.
The political is the individual, particular differentiation between groups. The core of the political in Aristotle’s thought is the politeia (political regime), and his whole examination of this topic is done in the light of Plato’s own political philosophy concerning the best regime in the Republic. This is why it would have been better to treat Plato before examining Aristotle, as Plato’s Republic is the best introduction of the issue of the best regime. Aristotle discusses the best regime in the third book of the Politics and the best practicable regime in the seventh and eighth books. The highly condensed and oblique presentation in the third book is much better filled out by Plato, and seems to be presupposed by Aristotle.
Sometimes Durocher’s understandable approach to forestall haughty academic dismissal by relying solely on their own central scholarly texts and publications has two inadvertent negative effects. Firstly, the good secondary literature on these topics stretches in places far outside the approved secondary sources, and not to refer to or cite it deprives the reader of places to explore and contrast approaches. Also, not all the best English translations are from the most quoted academic versions (as shown above with Stalley’s “revision” of Barker).
Secondly, academic pieties tend to be entrenched in the approved sources, so that one reads such things in Durocher as: Aristotle’s central political treatises are “lecture notes” (p. 119), they represent typical Greek political notions (pp. 210, 120, and cf. p. 124), Plato is pious (pp. 192, 211, 224, and cf. p. 127), Plato’s Laws is an unfinished product of old age (p. 211), and so on. To each of these a contrary can be maintained; Aristotle’s central political treatises in the Greek are highly elliptic and concentrated, and not suited to the purpose of a series of lectures; Aristotle’s political philosophy is far from what the average ancient Greek thought about political things; Plato presents a Socrates knowingly putting forth fallacious arguments about the immortality of the soul in the Phaedo; Aristotle says that the Laws was written after the Republic, not the last work, and even if it were the last work, being set in wax is the ancient equivalent to sending off the final proof copies to the printer. These are minor quibbles in relation to Durocher’s overall purpose, but it would have been good for the reader to be exposed to a wider scope of interpretation.
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 Mika Ojakangas, On the Greek Origins of Biopolitics: A Reinterpretation of the History of Biopower (New York: Routledge, 2016), p. 6.
 David Reich, Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past (2018), p. 107.
 Durocher (2021) p. 12: “What we would call today pure and simple ethnic cleansing was not an uncommon fate for the losing side of a war in the ancient world—the winner physically often replacing his adversary with settlers. The struggle for life was central to Greek politics,” and cf. p. 65.
 Rachel Poser, “He Wants to Save Classics from Whiteness. Can the Field Survive?” New York Times (February 2, 2011).
 Thucydides The History of the Peloponnesian War, 3 vols. (London: Fellowes, 1845), Preface, pp. xi-xii.
 Ibid., Preface, p. xiii.
 Those wanting a more thoroughgoing treatment of slavery could consult Wayne Ambler, “Aristotle on Nature and Politics: The Case of Slavery,” Political Theory 15, No. 3 (August 1987): pp. 390-410.
 Aristotle, Politics, trans. Ernest Barker, rev. R. F. Stalley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).
 Barker, Politics of Aristotle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1946), loc. cit. on p.124.
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Excellent review Mr Gordon. I have read the book, and you are right: it is an outstanding piece of scholarship, and exceedingly refreshing in this deconstructionist age.
This book and review both look very promising, as do the few other CC contributions from John Gordon. I look forward to immersing myself in Mr. Gordon’s work this weekend.
Meanwhile, Dr. Johnson is mentioned at some length in this unintentionally hilarious rant from a ‘woke’ true believer:
The Left’s ability to ‘own’ the terms of moral denunciation is their key to success (beyond raw replacementism). We need to challenge and disprove the Left’s “ethics of race”, but we also must develop a new rhetoric that places them on the moral defensive. “It’s OK to be white” is a great start, but so much more is needed. The truth is that the Left really are the “real racists”, but saying that is already playing on their semantic turf.
I still don’t fully understand how we came to this topsy-turvy state of affairs.
This night make a good blurb:
“Johnson’s essay about white people rising up against a more equitable society looks pretty prophetic. … Johnson might be right, and … his movement, which so many people continue to describe as “far right” or “extremist,” might actually have widespread support…”
I’m about to read the last few pages of the book and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. With regard to the source information and the conclusively presented analysis, the book is a first-class academic work. Still, it’s easy to read, which suits people like me whose first language isn’t English. What makes it particularly valuable to me, however, is the fact that the author knows how to arouse and rekindle the reader’s enthusiasm for ancient Greece, the cradle of our civilization. And that’s why, right after Guillaume Durocher’s book, I’m going to look at other books on the subject, some of which I’ve already read.
Have you read “A Handbook for Dissidents” by Dominique Venner?
He also relies heavily on The Iliad as representing the spirit of our civilisation.
No, not yet, but I read Venner’s essay on Homer yesterday (Counter-Currents, 2010) and found it very inspiring. I’ll keep an eye out for the book. Thanks for your hint.
I’m confused about the uses to which the reviewer is putting the remarks of Thomas Arnold that are extensively quoted. What exactly is his (Mr. Gordon’s) point? I think Arnold in these passages is using “race” differently from our modern usage. Ours is biological; his is ethnic and cultural. Hence, he can speak of “Greek races”, whereas we only recognize the white race, black race, etc.
Otherwise, this review would have been well-served by a couple of careful proofreadings. There are an abnormally large number of typos.
Durocher seems to have written a very good book, one that can serve as a useful introduction, especially to Americans, to an entirely different way of political theorizing from the usual contemporary antipodes of individualist libertarianism and collectivist socialism, with both sides typically indifferent to traditional biopolitical concerns. This might be called “ethnocommunitarianism”, and is deserving of much greater theoretical elaboration. Durocher has made a good start of it by going back to the fountainheads of not merely Western biopolitics, but all Western political thought.
Can you please provide some examples of the “abnormally large number of typos”? Thank you.
A brief re-skimming shows the following, which are vocabulary or syntactical issues, not typos (though, strangely, I distinctly recall two particular typos which I now can no longer find; am I confusing these from another post? or has my second reading been too cursory?):
Durocher does not dwell on the ancient Greeks’ racial background, focusing instead on their already-formed grouping out of their ethno-genesis
The Hellenic race was divided into three main ethnical divisions: Aeolian, Dorians, and Ionians.
The city state was small, most numbering less than 50,000 people, and a minority of the population were citizens.
The Greeks were never a fully united political group, even when falling under the aegis of two rival empires or leagues (of Athens and Sparta), each polis was politically separate in voting rights and citizenship.
Durocher runs the risk here of providing support to academics to claim the ancient Greeks as uniquely racist.
We know now with empirical certitude, thanks to the unlocking of ancient DNA by groups like the one led by David Reich, that not only does race exist, but that all modern Europeans are kin to each other.
It is a remarkable but indisputable fact that the scholars of the nineteenth century have turned out to be more accurate in their racial assessments and characterizations than contemporary academics, despite the latter having available to them the ancient DNA and paleo-archaeological evidence for about two decades now.
the tale is fundamentally about Odysseus’ struggle to find and reestablish his place in a chaotic world”
In contrast to the concepts of liberty and their proponents with which we are familiar (Libertarian, “Libtards,” etc.),
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