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The Pharmakon of Democracy: General Will and the People in the Context of the Greek Referendum

Kivotidis, Dimitrios


Dimitrios Kivotidis


© The Author(s) 2017. 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.


Kivotidis, D. (2018). The Pharmakon of Democracy: General Will and the People in the Context of the Greek Referendum. Social and Legal Studies, 27(6), 755-775.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 23, 2017
Online Publication Date Sep 21, 2017
Publication Date Dec 1, 2018
Journal Social and Legal Studies
Print ISSN 0964-6639
Electronic ISSN 1461-7390
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 6
Pages 755-775
Keywords referendum, Greek Referendum, general will, people, Marxism, Pharmakon, Katechon
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : © 2018. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications


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