Plato's Critique Of Democracy

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Plato: Question 1
In his most famous work, The Republic, Plato outlines his distaste for democracy, a system which he saw as ineffective and corrupt. He then puts forward his idea of just government – that the ruling class should come from the top of a stratified society, the guardians and then for philosopher rule. Plato believed that democracy allowed for the unjust and least virtuous in society to rule for their own gain rather than the common good, an idea that was extremely important to the participatory politics of Ancient Athens. Furthermore, it gave rise to two systems Plato saw as being even worse than democracy - tyranny and anarchy – caused by people being given too much license under the democratic system. As an alternative to this,
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Ancient Athenian democracy was extremely unstable, with a constant, often violent, class war between the oligarchs (many of whom Plato was related to) and the democrats. Democracy arises from aristocracy, or the rule of the wise few when this ruling class is corrupted by people being born into it who are not virtuous or just and are no longer putting the common good first. These people then begin to desire private property and status, which leads to timocracy, or rule of the warrior class who strive for honour above all else. They are then corrupted as ‘when riches are honoured in a city, virtue and the people are less honoured than the rich.’ This then creates a rich/poor divide, and the two aforementioned systems of democracy and oligarchy are created. Because the poor are greater in number, they will triumph over the rich, resulting in mob …show more content…
Just government, Plato argues, comes when the guardian class rules. He believes that a just society is one that consists of order, and that specialisation of roles is key to maintaining this order. For society to be free of conflict, people must stay in the various tiers of society that they were born into (there are exceptions for those born into the wrong class who are then moved out of it), with the guardian class being in the top tier. The guardians are educated to be morally right, those who can tell the difference between good and evil, despising the latter. This elite class is also kept from temptation that could lead to the kind of corruption seen in democracy. Women should be held in common and the guardian class must not own private property as this can lead to them caring more for personal gain rather than the good of the whole community. This system, known as aristocracy, is the one that Plato advocates in his ideal state. Aristocracy can, however, become corrupted. Despite educating those born into the guardian class separately from other children, censoring the information that they learn in order for them to only be taught about the good gods, so as to not undermine their commitment to civic good - some can slip through, eventually becoming rulers. Once they become part of the ruling class, they will start to couple people who do not produce the best future guardians, children who

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