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What Is Plato's Critique of Democracy, Critically Evaluate His Account with Reference to Other Thinkers

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In this essay I will examine Plato's critique of democracy and hence his view on the construct of society. In analysing his evaluation of democracy, I will endeavour to challenge his position by the use of counter arguments in particular incorporating the work of Popper and Marx.

Plato was interested in the search for the good and the just. This was at a point where the paradigm had shifted away from the pre-socratic view of natural philosophy that was interested in life. This was from a position that was more in keeping with understanding the ethical political and metaphysical nature. His search was one of ethics. Some of his ideas came from the Spartans who were a military aristocracy living amongst a subject population 'the healots'.

The state was considered to be easier to define than the individual. Plato in his work on the Republic was concerned on how the masses were lead by a few i.e. the political state. In ancient Athens democracy was a collective, where everyone regardless of their social status had an equal investment in the upkeep of their society.

Plato draws upon the time that he lived in, where city states were small communities which consisted of a city nucleus. Characteristic within the theme of Plato's critique, is liberty 'every individual is free to do as he likes' (Plato: 2001, 557b). Whilst this is an attractive presupposition a social disintegration occurs, as social cohesion is not present. Society becomes morally permissive as the differences in social class become clearer.

The rich aim to seduce the poor by creating roles that are 'just' and rewarding in that by perpetuating poverty they seek to replicate the view that the poor are doing their best for society.

Plato is not actually talking about the creation of a Republic, he was writing about the mechanism of the state. Plato considered the state as an entity. Society had implied roles for individuals, in the creation of what was morally just and good for all. Marx critiqued Aristotle's idea for democracy all citizens had the right to participate in government due to Aristotle who in his writing on democracy 'excluded slaves and all members of the producing classes ... as they must not work nor earn any money' (Popper, 2003a:5).

This is somewhat contrived and paradoxical given that Plato's idea formed Aristotle's theory of the best state, which in turn was modelled from both the Republic and the laws. There was no evident discussion of the construction or exploitation of people by Plato who viewed people wanting fulfilment of happiness and the good as their main goals. Considering the concept of democracy and the role of individuals in that societal context we would be remiss not to consider the role of class.

People's social definition within society meant that there was a clear role for those individuals. The idea that the ruling class are those with the ideas in every epoch, those that 'know better' and has the material force of that society i.e. can control that group control the ruling intellectual force. Whilst Marx focused on the subject of class, we can consider a wider interpretation of his work.

Few are enforced with the mindset by such methods as commodity fetishism, whereby ownership of labour and goods are seen as a true meaning to happiness. This leads our democratic society to where we currently stand. Some people who have plenty may well be 'happy'. The majority are not those that can succumb to such successes within itself. This contempt is not to be akin to anything we have ever known (Popper, 2003b).

A further criticism of the state is one where Plato's idea of a utopian state is based on challenging the sheer crudeness of the authoritarian leadership. Good is something that is searched through the process of reasoning therefore using the component of logic, there is no personal gain in good. Where as within a state that is run in a dictatorial manner the ruling minority oversee the majority with contempt. They vocalise democracy in order to meet their own agendas, not for the good of humanity or by the process of logic, but out of the thirst of power or for capitalistic gain.

Plato said that 'the hallmark of democracy was the commitment to political equality and liberty and the basis of its most regrettable characteristics (Held, 2006) This can be critiqued in itself as it does not afford the maintenance of the state through authority, stability and social order. When individuals are free in the short term this creates diversity and commonalities with fetishism of social ownerships. In the long term once individuals have such freedom they may have to be reined in, as to not allow social order to decay and anarchistic subversion which could destabilise the state.

The state is considered to require legitimization. If such control was not present there is a Platonic view that anarchy would be prevalent and the moral fabric of society would be destroyed.

Popper criticised Plato as a totalitarian, in that he viewed Plato's idea that a utopian construct of society opposed all liberal and humanitarian ideals.

Politics could not be reduced to an exact science. It is not to say that there is an absence of power or control. These can be used to subvert the true greater good of a society occasionally under the veil of democracy. Politicians cajole the majority who actually have the greater power by their sheer volume, with a seduction that by voting for them they will have a just and rewarding society. Plato's predisposition that 'the good benefited from what was good and just', returns to the forefront here.

There comes a point, where by trying to legitimize the ultimate goal of the capitalist



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