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David Ben-Gurion and Plato

By Sam Gelman
Straus Center Communications and Program Officer

Dr. Rogachevsky

On Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, Dr. Neil Rogachevsky of the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought presented the paper “David Ben-Gurion and Plato” at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Northeastern Political Science Association (NPSA). The paper was presented during the “Plato’s Political Thought” virtual seminar, chaired and hosted by Alex Priou, teaching assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Here is a description of the paper:

It is well known that David Ben-Gurion, the founder of modern Israel, was a voracious reader of texts of political philosophy ancient and modern, east and west. Visitors to the museum at his “desert cabin” in the Negev Desert can see his drilling in ancient Greek and his notes on Thucydides. What is less well known is how Ben-Gurion sought to directly deploy lessons he learned (in part) from the reading of ancient texts, and especially Plato’s Republic, in the crucial years of 1947-1949 when Ben-Gurion, almost alone, crafted a path to Israeli independence and determined the trajectory of the country’s laws, institutions, and approach to constitutional questions. This paper gives an account of Ben-Gurion’s turn to Plato and his thoughts on the relationship between politics and law at the founding of the state. In so doing, it reflects on broader questions of the relationship between theory and practice in modern politics and modern political thought.

Other paper presentations included “Beauty in Plato's Phaedrus and Statesman” (Catherine Craig, Baylor University), “Law and its Second Sailing in Plato’s Statesman” (Cynthia Ma, Tulane University), “Plato's Unified Account of Political Obligation” (Sam Koreman, University of Virginia), and “The Interlocutor and the Regimes of Plato’s Hipparchus" (Ashok Raj Karra, Dallas College).

Dr. Rogachevsky is associate director and assistant professor at the Straus Center, where he teaches and researches Israel studies and the history of political thought. His first book, which addresses the political theory of the founding of Israel, is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press in 2022. He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Cambridge in 2014.

The Northeastern Political Science Association is one of the leading regional professional organizations in the United States for the study of politics. Every year, at its annual conference, the NPSA brings together hundreds of political scientists from all fields of study and from all parts of the United States and the world for the purpose of enhancing and expanding their knowledge of politics. It also organizes a book exhibit and offers awards for the best papers presented at the conference. Its website, besides its focus on the upcoming conference, offers also useful information on research and job opportunities, a newsletter, a gallery of photos of past conferences, and more. NPSA publishes the distinguished peer-reviewed journal Polity.

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