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From Fleece to Fabric: Weaving Culture in Plato's Statesman

Ruby Blondell. "From Fleece to Fabric: Weaving Culture in Plato's Statesman." Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy. 2005. 23-75.

This paper focuses on an interlinked set of themes in Plato's Statesman, arguing that they provide the dialogue with a dynamic unity. In defining the ideal statesman, the dialogue begins with herding--which supplies wool--and ends with weaving, the wool-working craft par excellence. These two poles in fabric production provide us with a passage from the solitary, marginal world of the herdsman--with his transient way of life and tangential relationship to culture--to the settled, complex world of civilization.  The weaving model locates the ideal statesman and his mode of rule firmly within culture, thereby distancing him from the savagery of the tyrant.  It does so, however, at the expense of women, who serve only as an indispensable medium for reproduction--an erasure that reflects not only the ideology but the history of democratic Athens.

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