In his Republic, Plato suggests that in an ideal state, the members should be divided into three different classes: philosopher-king (ruler), guardian and merchant. Philosopher-king is to rule the whole state, guardian is to keep the order and maintain security within the state or fight the war with another state, and merchant is to satisfy the material needs of the members of the state.Moreover, Plato suggests a rigid hierarchy between the three classes: Philosopher-king is the highest class, which is to rule, the guardian is obliged to unconditionally comply with the philosopher-king, and merchant is the lowest class, and must comply with the philosopher-king and the guardian.People inne class cannot interfere with the affairs of another class, because Plato believes that people have different skills and innate aptitudes as he says ".no two of us are born exactly alike", We have different natural aptitudes, which fit us for different jobs. This is one of the points that Plato criticizes democratic regime; in democratic regime, one person can interfere into another's affairs, this would cause injustice.
In his Republic, Plato always criticizes democratic regime. He claims that democratic regime is an unjust regime, the regime by opportunity, but not by capacity, the regime that causes upheaval and confusion among the people. Democratic regime is like a toy regime: people can change administration all the time and too much choice would lead people to confusion. Democracy makes the poor poorer and the rich richer.Ideal state, for Plato, should be fairly small and justly adequate.
Too big state would be very hard to govern. By justly adequate, Plato wants to mean that the material needs should be equally shared by the three classes of the state, private property is not allowed to all the three classes. Though merchant is to earn the material needs, Plato does not allow this class to embrace all of their earnings. It must be equally shared.
Enough food, family, and satisfactory sanctuary is enough for everyone, we don not need more than this material need. The more we have, the more injustice and corruption we become.Moreover, we can assume that women is not allowed into the philosopher-king and guardian class, because in his entire political philosophy, Plato does not suggest any women's involvements into these two vocational categories.Because of his suggestions on what he calls the idea or utopian state, Plato is largely criticized of initiating totalitarianism. Did Plato really intend to introduce totalitarianism?.
I would say yes that Plato's political philosophy does indicate some notions to totalitarianism, but he does not predominantly suggest totalitarianism.Firstly, there is no need of election in totalitarian regime, but in Plato's ideal regime, philosopher-king is obliged to struggle across rigid and protracted education, until he becomes mentally philosophized. This is an indirect or unconscious indication to election and competition, which are two of the most important elements of democracy.Secondly, Plato doesn not suggest succession. In totalitarian regime, anyone can become the next leader if the ruling leader wants him to be.
Plato, on the other hand, states that anyone can be the leader, but through serious conditions. Present leader cannot hand over his leadership power to anyone he likes. Mostly in the totalitarian regime, the next leader usually has blood relationship or been loyal to the present leader. In Plato's regime, anyone can not become leader, unless he has leadership capacity.
Thirdly, Plato does propose separation of power. Plato recommends that people of the three classes cannot interfere with another class' affaires. Each class has its own obligation and sovereignty. Genuine totalitarian regime, in contrast, the leader can interfere into any affair of every institution or individual in the state. As we can see, Hitler's totalitarian regime, he could meddle into all the three institutions: legislative, executive and judicial institution.
The purpose of Plato's regime is to bring justice, peace and stability within and beyond the state. Leader of such patriotic mentality cannot be considered as totalitarian.Moreover, democracy during Plato's time is absolutely different from our 21st century democracy. At that time, Athenian people had too much freedom; they can change the form of government whenever they want. Democracy at Plato's time is unchecked democracy.
But even 21st century democracy also opposes these political elements. People in democratic regime today, cannot change whatever regime they want, this would cause upheaval and I also oppose this. Today democracy is needed to be checked, in other words, transparent.
Additionally, 21st century democracy is also consisted of rule of law, equity before law, free and fair election, transparency, accountability, leadership capacity, etc. Plato did not oppose any one of these values at all in his Republic..Need more information about Cambodian politics, laws, history, humanity, culture, LAY VICHEKA: Contact: vichekalay@yahoo.
com, 855 11 268 445. Posting address: 221H Street 93, Tuol Sangke quarter, Russey Keo district, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia.
By: Vicheka Lay