This is an interpretive study in the sociology of literature that explores Aeschylus’s trilogy of dramatic plays known as the Oresteia. The plays dramatize a normative argument that exemplifies the dialectical struggle between domination and democracy. Social relations are characterized by agon (struggle), domination, and contradictions brought about by learning through suffering. These social realities reflect the primary theoretical claim of radical interactionism (RI) that domination and conflict are profound, pervasive, and perennial. On the interpersonal level, the plays dramatize structure, agency, role-taking, and the Thomas Axiom. As the first drama to interrogate an inchoate polity as an object of the public’s gaze, the Oresteia anticipates the sociological importance of critical consciousness, collective decision-making, political institutions, moral and, ultimately, cultural transformation. Despite a social context of slavery, imperialism, xenophobia, ostracism, misogyny, exclusivity, and constant warfare, the Oresteia foreshadows Western civilization’s ideals of legal-rational domination, citizenship, human rights, persuasion, and justice that have been imperfectly institutionalized to reduce surplus domination. The West still struggles to realize those ideals.
I would like to thank Jeanine Rees who thoroughly read the manuscript and offered critical insights.
Musolf, G.R. (2014), "The Dialectic of Domination and Democracy in Aeschylus’s A shorter version of this chapter was presented in the session on Radical Interactionism at the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction, August 10, 2013, in New York City.
A shorter version of this chapter was presented in the session on Radical Interactionism at the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction, August 10, 2013, in New York City.
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