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Demos – ethnos – laos

Balibar, Étienne

This article sets out to reconstruct the genesis of the concepts of demos, ethnos and laos, the three Greek lemmas constituting the current idea of “the people.” The definition most in use today inextricably links it to the concept of nation, starting from the supposed opposition between ethnos as a tribal structure and demos as the multitude of citizens. It seems clear, however, that the concept of “the people” in the modern state refers mainly to the Homeric laos, which is more suited to the canons of the Judeo-Christian tradition. This article investigates the genesis of this double lineage and applies it into the current political discussion of the united Europe.

Italian translation by Alessio Lembo (University of Urbino) of the English paper published in "Dictionary of Untranslatables. A Philosophical Lexicon", ed. by B. Cassin, Princeton University Press, Princeton-Oxford 2004, pp. 201-204.
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