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What Role Does the Method of Governance in the Republic Assume in an Analysis of the Viability of Plato’s Political Constructs? How Does This Relate to a Discussion of the Republic as a Utopian Political Ideal?

  • Date Submitted: 11/26/2012 10:33 PM
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What role does the method of governance in The Republic assume in an analysis of the viability of Plato’s political constructs? How does this relate to a discussion of The Republic as a utopian political ideal?

Plato’s The Republic is one of the most influential philosophical, political and literary texts in the history of Western thought. The Republic’s system of governance is of considerable moment to an appreciation of the relationship between Plato’s political philosophy and practical political activity. In the system of governance Plato envisages as the most effective and beneficial for a particular population, an elite ruling minority controls and manages a (seemingly) docile majority. The socio-political implications of this particular system of governance have been interpreted and evaluated in numerous ways over time.[1] Whether or not this system of governance should be interpreted as a utopian political ideal is one of The Republic’s most contested features and contributes significantly to its relationship with practical, viable politics. Accordingly, these particular aspects of The Republic’s political constructs remain relevant to contemporary political discussions.

For Plato, the exclusive rule of philosophers constitutes the best system of governance for a given population. In the famous passage detailing the reasons as to why philosophers must rule in The Republic, Plato says that:

      The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands.[2]

In Plato’s conception of society, only a select few are biologically capable of assuming the offices...


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