The Pharmakon of Democracy: General will and the people in the context of the Greek referendum

Kivotidis, Dimitrios. 2018. The Pharmakon of Democracy: General will and the people in the context of the Greek referendum. Social and Legal Studies, 27(6), pp. 755-775. ISSN 0964-6639 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article examines the role of the Greek referendum of 2015 in the context of the Greek socio-economic and political crisis. The analysis of the mediating role of referendum in the process of class struggle leads to a more general argument relating to fundamental concepts of public law, namely, ‘general will’ and the ‘people’. Central to the analysis is the question of whether referendums are a remedy for the problems facing the institutions of representative democracy. By analysing the process of the Greek referendum, with a focus on the formulation of the question and the interpretation of the verdict of the Greek people by the executive power, a more general argument is constructed regarding the mediating role of the referendum in a crisis and the legitimating role of such concepts in a class-divided society. In a context of rising inequality and furthering distantiation of the popular strata from decision-making processes, the referendum is shown, on the one hand, as a remedy for the failings of representative institutions on behalf of capital and necessary for the reproduction of capitalist relations. On the other hand, on the background of a discussion of the relation between democracy and capitalism, it is argued that the referendum acts as a different kind of poison for the people themselves and the struggle of the popular classes.

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referendum, Greek Referendum, general will, people, Marxism, Pharmakon, Katechon

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28 August 2017Accepted
21 September 2017Published Online
December 2018Published

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14 Dec 2023 15:06

Last Modified:

14 Dec 2023 15:37

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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