Professor K. Qualls
First Year Seminar 2012
Comparing The Relationships Between The Rulers And The Ruled In Thomas Mores and Platos Utopian Societies
Both Thomas More and Plato believe that Utopian societies must have class systems; however they have different views on responsibility in their respective Utopias. While Plato argues that a select and limited group of people should rule and have the important responsibilities, More argues that responsibilities are to be more spread out amongst the people.
Both Plato and More believed that in their respective Utopias the relationships between the rulers and the ruled would be positive simply because everyone in a Utopia must contribute the same amount in order to maintain equality. This means that regardless of the position or class, everyone will contribute equally, and thus the relationships between the rulers and the ruled will be positive, as it won’t be the rulers leeching off the working classes efforts.
Plato and More disagree on the subject of how the ruled in a society would feel about the rulers. Plato argues that those ruled in society would be happy to be ruled, and would not revolt. He argues that everyone is fit for their individual civic duties and they would not have an issue with being the ruled. On the other hand, More disagrees and argues that there must be collaboration between the social classes, as the people could revolt because of opinions of inequality of power. While both arguments have their strengths and weaknesses, More seems to have a more realistic opinion of human nature. A minority, with all the power, making decisions in a society with no collaboration with the masses is likely to have much more tension between the rulers and the ruled as opposed to a democratic society where the people are very involved in decision making.
Plato and More also do not see eye to eye when it comes to trusting the people. Plato believes that in his Utopia, the people in it cannot be trusted to live justly. Plato argues that the soul has more unjustness to it than justness, so the people have to be looked over more by the rulers. On the other hand, More argues that the people in society can be trusted and that the rulers do not need to oversee them.
In a society where everyone has to be watched over and observed, there is higher chance of tension between relationships when there is no trust. Mores Utopia is therefore more likely to have positive and strong relationships between the rulers and the ruled, as people are more free to live as they see fit and not only act as pawns in the society.