The Republic The Republic question

Where are we? (United States)
Philip Bateson Philip Oct 18, 2012 09:01PM
So i just finished the book, and could have posted this question a week ago, but blah blah.

1)Looking at the state of affairs that our country is currently going thru, where do we fit into Plato's societies?

2)What evidence do you find to support that?

3)What stimulated those actions? (i.e. if you state that we are tyrannical, and then point at bills like the NDAA-2012, what can you find to be motivation for that bill passing)

4)Although the book did not describe a way back from the lesser governments, do you think its possible?

5)How would you see it implemented?

I think we have many of the characteristics of an oligarchy. Our aristocracy are those who graduate from such places as Harvard Business School.

I think we have many of the characteristics of an oligarchy. Our aristocracy are those who graduate from such places as Harvard Business School.

Well, even I read this book about 5 or 6 years ago, I still remember ut quite well, and should agree that according to Plato's classification, US is a kind of oligarchy.
But I would like to recommend you to read another classic ancient text on this matter - Arisotle's "Politics", whicn contains much more strict and (at the same time) deep classification of regimes. According to Arisotle, USA is more like of combination of democracy (all people could participate in politcal life) and oligarchy (elites comes mostly from businness). In fact, US could be a form of what Aristotle called a "polity" (best form of government, contains elements of a democracy, oligarchy and aristocracy).

Strictly, I agree with Modi on the oligarchy matter. However to use a 2000 year old political treatise on a modern nation might be misleading. Just consider how much society has changed since Plato wrote this, not only in size, but also composition.

As for progressing out of a regression, this would open a whole can of worms, but I can only see it as being done by a 'reorganization' (to be polite) of some sorts. This, of course would have to be preceded by a change in how people think, and a means to implement this change.

Alec (last edited Dec 13, 2012 10:36AM ) Dec 13, 2012 10:36AM   0 votes
Well we're obviously still a democracy, which interestingly enough Plato deemed only higher than tyranny. Evident in Socrates' death, the concept of people melding the the law for their own gain can be inherently flawed. Those are some massive questions you've got there, which I'd like to answer, but i'll leave just saying in our capitalist society, anything other than a democracy would essentially crumble it, and because of this; things won't change anytime soon, at least not in the west.

Philip Bateson but we are not a democracy, we are a republic. Both by definition derived from this book and in the US's practice of government.

I think that we should
Dec 29, 2012 12:54PM
Ken We are a republic I agree not a democracy
Jun 10, 2013 09:25AM

1) In terms of its actual governance, I would say America most closely resembles Plato's oligarchy, because, though citizens vote for their representatives, it is only the representatives that have a vote in the actual decisions that matter. Therefore it would seem that political equality on the individual level is largely an equality, in principle, of opportunity to become a representative oneself – though in reality this is so conditioned by one's socioeconomic position, that it can hardly be deemed a meaningful form of equality. In terms of cultural attitudes, so far as it is relevant for Plato, I think many facets of mainstream American culture are trending towards more "democratic" lifestyles, where people are less interested in the accumulation of capital per se and are taking pleasure in a great variety of activities – but I'm in no position to say to what extent this is the case.

3) The controversial provision in NDAA-2012 that authorizes indefinite detainment of persons suspected of terrorist involvement would be a very practical measure, I think, in Plato's ideal Republic. But that is only because, in such a republic, we are told there would be absolute faith in the motivations of those in power, as the condition of their being in power would there seem to preclude all possibility of tyranny – whereas the American system has no such de jure ethical guarantee beyond the so-called checks and balances of congress and senate, the majority of whose members might themselves be quite corrupt. Because there seems to be no definite guarantee against their misuse of power barring the intrepidness of journalists whose reportage might lead to public outrage, it seems to me that the power afforded by a bill like the NDAA-2012 could easily be perverted to serve tyrannical ends.

4) I do think there is a way towards Plato's higher forms of government, and that is via the development of technology. Poverty is still a huge problem in American society. The necessity of making ends meet prevents most people from having the time or energy to contribute to the public good of politics. If we were somehow able to develop our means of harvesting and using resources so sustainably that either scarcity isn't a driving force in the market anymore, or we have robots or what-not who will do all necessary labour, then people will be free to pursue the good, and by their action constitute a truly free and public forum that fosters honest, practical discussion with one another about the way things ought to be done. An important thing to note about Plato's day, is that all free men who pursued philosophy or participated in politics only did insofar as they owned slaves whose labour allowed them to spend time on such pursuits. Now all of us to an extent enslave and are enslaved by wage-labour and the provision of our own means of survival. If this necessity could be overcome (and merely redistributing the means of production is not the answer, as Marx thought, for poverty would still not be eradicated, and thus there would still be a necessary power divide between ruler and ruled, without any Platonic guarantees of the rulers' inherent wisdom) then it seems to me that a republic much like Plato's would be possible and quite preferable to the current state of American governance.

This sounds like an interesting book. I will have to get it and read it.

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