Discussion on Democracy

The Pessimist and the Optimist

(Plato has invited Sir Thomas More in his abode for an intellectual discussion)

Plato(P)
Sir Thomas More(T)

T: Hello, and thank you for having me this evening.

P: Greetings to you too. The pleasure is all mine as I do enjoy having these discussions that contribute to our understanding of the world.

T: Even so, I mean, a person of your stature couldn’t possibly have the leisure to entertain a fellow like me.

P: Of my stature? Good man, in our form of study, we are all equals.

T: Speaking of equality: there were some aspects in your Republic that I thought I wanted to  clarify or rather, verify my understanding of it.

P: Ask away, my friend.

T: I am referring to the antidemocratic leadership that you had imposed in your ‘perfect State’. Would you not agree that people with their free minds will never stand for such subjugation? Would it not be better to work in co-operation rather than relying on one person’s ability to judge and govern? Born under the same sun, does everyone not have the right to have a say in matters which govern them? Furthermore, having a sole figure would attract rebellions, violate freedom hence, defy justice. Clearly, a violation of justice would mean a violation of people’s happiness that your ‘perfect state is supposed to provide. Equality to the extent that not even the leaders are exempt from any laws will provide a stage of independence. Whereas your ideas seem to suggest, if you would permit me inferring, a form of dictatorship.

P: Good man, I believe your words hold weight. However, they are optimistic and naive. People, from birth are driven by their selfish desires. Greed, lust, pride- time and time again civilizations have been crushed due to human nature. And you ask me to put faith in it?! You say, I flout justice? The justice you speak of is individualistic, a justice that accounts for societal happiness has to be achieved. I prefer lack of freedom by imposing rulers who are fit to rule, rather than the lack of any form of peace itself. An instance where the ignorant, unknowing people have elected a leader who is not capable must be avoided. If that is your definition of dictatorship, I confess guilty.

Now, I must question your democracy: assuming democracy is achieved, how do you attempt to prevent your leaders from falling into sins?

T: I believe that human nature is prone to lean towards malice. Therefore, I impose religion and practices of good faith from a very young in order to deter them from such malpractice. Furthermore, my utopia is segregated from the rest of society and cannot be influenced by it.

How do you suggest to find this ultimate leader who will have the skills to rule without falling for the sins himself?

P: I will select children out of society, teach them the subjects which will enhance their skills as leaders and finally choose the one who show the best results in their adult lives.

(Silence)

P: I believe, we have reached a stalemate. Since we are both prejudiced in some ways: you in your resentment of the Catholic church and the tyrannical English monarchy,

T: And you, in your lack in faith of the society that murdered your teacher, Socrates; we cannot reach a point of agreement.

P: Therefore, we must leave our works for the next generation of thinkers to comprehend its meanings and unveil right from wrong.

T: Fair enough. I hope our conversation has changed your pessimistic views on democracy to some extent.

P: Oh, if only…

Dialogue between Plato and More

Plato and More meet to discuss the idea of democracy as a form of government.

 

Plato: A democracy being a proper form of government – you cannot be serious Thomas.

 

More: Yes I am quite serious. It will allow for the country to prosper and for the citizens to elect officials and create a society full of happiness.

 

P: Democracy is a joke and does not work. Look at the state and Greece and Athens right now. Does it really look like democracy is working?

 

M: The democracy that Greece has is not a true democracy and is severely corrupted. A true democracy would never be run the way Greece is.

 

P: Thomas even if you create a democracy it will fail because over time it will become corrupted.

 

M: You really need to have more faith in the members of society. You make them seem so selfish and greedy. If a proper society is created individuals will want what is best for the overall community and not just what is best for them.

 

P: You are way too idealistic. Society needs rulers who have been trained their entire life. These individuals will be taken at a young age and learn what it takes to rule and how to rule a society. These individuals will be called philosopher kings and they surely will not have their minds corrupted by this idea of democracy.

 

M: That is the most absurd thing I have ever heard Plato you make people seem like they are sheep and need a shepherd to lead them. Your perception of man disgusts me. You must have more faith in people. People will work together so that they can have an overall better way of life. Democracy is a just form of government because not only is it “a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system” dictionary.com) but it is the way to forming a utopia.

 

P: You must have lost your mind. This is truly the most bizarre thing I have heard. I don’t understand why you have such a difficult time understanding that democracy will never work. Democracy leads to chaos because it creates class separation in which the classes will eventually clash and the poor will revolt against the individuals in power. In addition, democracy makes society veer further and further away from a utopia.

 

M: If you were truly educated as you brag that you are, Plato, than you would know from reading my book Utopia that a society is most happy when the government is not involved and citizens feel that they aren’t being ruled. Your idea of the philosopher king is creating an elitist society where only the strongest and smartest can rule. These individuals cannot relate to the common man and will not know how to rule common people because these “philosopher kings” have an unrealistic perception of society and expect more from people than they really can do.

 

P: Thomas you have made a very good point. I want to sleep on this new concept that you have made me think about. Want to meet tomorrow for lunch to discuss further?

 

M: Most certainly.

Two Old Friends Are Reacquainted

Thomas More and Plato, two old friends, run into one another at a Starbucks one day.

Plato: Is that—It can’t be… Thomas More?! Long time no see! How long has it been? Five years?

More: Plato! Wow good so see you, how have you been?

P: Not so good actually.  My teacher, Socrates was unjustly executed for his teachings, or as they put it “corrupting of young minds.”

M: Yeah man I heard about that. I’m so sorry. Why don’t you sit down? I’d love to catch up.

P: Sure, I’d love to! So, what are your views on democracy?

M: Very good question. I was just thinking about democracy. I, for one, think a representative democracy, with elected public officials is the way to go.  I believe that whenever an issue arises, the elected official should consult with his electors on how to proceed.

P: Hahahah oh Thomas, you always were so naïve. Haven’t you considered the implications of democracy?

M: Such as?

P: For one, with democracy comes corrupt, wealthy politicians who can practically buy their way into office.  A perfect society would function best with leaders who are educated from birth and know what is best for their country. The idea that all men are created equal is absurd. Some men are smarter and more apt than others, and clearly those should be the ones with authority.

M: But what about the majority of society and what they think? The people are the only ones who can determine who is apt to rule them, because they are the ones being ruled.  Also, how can you be so sure that everyone will be willing to fulfill their duties and contribute to society when they are not given proper representation?

P: Because everyone will work in the role best suited for him.  There is no reason to be unhappy when everyone contributes to and therefore, lives in a just and equal society.  Besides, with a democracy there is a huge imbalanced gap between the rich and the poor.  The rich people will rule and will want private property.  In democracies, people only value individual liberties and honor.  Everyone will be greedy!  There is absolutely nothing good about democracy ever.

M: Listen, I know your friend Socrates was executed and all, but get over it. There are positives to democracy that you’re completely overlooking.

(Short pause where Plato is taken aback by More’s inconsiderate and hurtful comment)

M: I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.  I was just trying to say that I don’t think you should let one event cloud your opinion. My point is, rulers who are elected by the people are bound to do what is right for the people. Not to mention, a man of the people is likely to better understand the people.

P: Hm, I guess we will never agree on this matter, best just to let it go, enjoy our coffee, and perhaps discuss less litigious subjects.

M: Yes I suppose you’re right. So, tell me, what are your views on education?

Plato and More

Two men are seated in the middle of a room. One of them- draped in a thick, fur coat with a silk sash resting neatly on the shoulders- appears to be at ease. Sitting up straight in his chair, he glances over at the other man and offers a soft, almost cautious nod. There is a pause, as his balding, toga-clad companion mulls over the gesture. He seems undecided. Then, after a long silence he lifts his chin and returns the motion.

These actions- small and seemingly trivial- ultimately set the stage for the rest of the conversation. The two discuss democracy among many other subjects, but though each man has an opinion on such, their views prove to vary quite a bit.

“Democracy,” Plato starts, smoothing down the wrinkled fabric of his toga, “is simply not efficient.”

Thomas More raises an eyebrow. “Why do you say that, good sir?”

“The right to leadership should be earned. One should not become ruler because they are elected by the majority; doing so might leave room for inadequate men to govern simply because of their popularity.”

“Interesting. I see your point, but wouldn’t this cause unhappiness amongst the people?”

“Perhaps- but it entirely depends on how one chooses to view the situation. If this utopia were to be as successful and functional as possible, then surely the people living in it would be very pleased with such! Having the fortune of residing in such a successful, ideal society would promote happiness and a thus a very positive outlook on life.”

More considers this. Slowly, he lifts one leg and crosses it deliberately over the other, his brow furrowed in thought.  “If you don’t mind me asking, what would determine this?”

“Intelligence in the skills of arithmetic and dialect.”

“Intelligence?” Both eyebrows arched now, More eyes Plato skeptically. “That seems biased, does it not? In my utopia, there is equality for all who deserve it. We do not discriminate based on uncontrollable aspects of oneself; the only discrimination that occurs is the type that they bring upon themselves.”

There is silence, so More continues.

“If one commits a crime, they become a slave and spend the rest of their life serving the community. Everyone starts with a clean slate- no matter how intelligent they are- but what defines one is their actions.”

Almost instantly this elicits a laugh from Plato, who is seated at the other end of the room. Shaking his head in bemusement, he glances over at the disapproving More, before up at the large, glass window to his left. They have been talking for such an extended period of time that the sun has shifted, thus leaving Plato sitting in a tiny sliver of light, as opposed to the rest of the room that is filled with darkness. Still chortling softly over More’s words, Plato stands and drags his chair over to the other man, so that they are now both sitting in the shadows. Then, he speaks once more.

“You really believe that a utopia could be successfully ruled by someone who is not of the highest caliber?”

“Yes,” More says confidently, intent on proving his argument valid. “I do. Caliber is not necessarily defined by intelligence at all. By letting the people select their leader, the person who wins the election will not only be universally liked, but will know the community well enough to make necessary changes. An intelligent man might only be familiar with other intelligent men; but an average, well-rounded man will no doubt have a wider breadth of knowledge.”

Plato folds his hands and rests them on his chest, leaning back in his chair.

“I cannot say that I agree with you,” he starts slowly, “But I respect your opinion just the same. I apologize for my behavior earlier- looking back, it was somewhat out of place- but it puzzles me as to how two utopias can be so different.”

“Plato, do not worry. I completely understand, because this conversation is just as foreign to me as it is to you, dear friend. It was fascinating to hear what you had to say, even if it was and quite honestly, will continue to be a struggle for me to understand. What did you say the leaders of your society were called?”

“Philosopher kings. They are, to put it rather colloquially, the best of the best. It takes years upon years to perfect the skills to become such, which is certainly not an easy task.”

“Oh, I’m sure. Interesting, very interesting.”

“As is your policy of democracy. I had not viewed it in such a way prior to having this conversation with you, and though I am certainly not in favor of it, your reasoning has made me less averse to such.”

“Why thank you, I appreciate your open-mindedness. I have to get going now- it is getting rather dark in here and seeing is becoming a struggle- but I hope to speak with you soon. Shall we get together again one of these days?”

“Absolutely. Speaking to you was a pleasure.

“As it was with you. Goodbye, Sir Plato.”

“Goodbye, Sir More.”

Plato vs. More

Lehrer: Good evening, gentlemen. Your first topic tonight is Democracy. Plato, you go first.

Plato: Thank you, Jim. I am not and have never been a supporter of Democracy. Democracy is the result of the poor overthrowing the rich and killing or driving them out. Afterwards positions will be handed out to everyone and their cousin with no thought as to whom is fit for which job. There is complete freedom for the people. This freedom to say and do as they please will result in the population being extremely diverse, with no one filling his or her role. Soon the people get a taste for freedom and start living a life of excess. Finally the people will want even more freedom and overthrow their democratic government. The leader of the coup will be made a tyrant.

More: Plato, where is your faith in humanity? Do you not trust the citizens to be able to run their own state?

Plato: The only people fit to rule must have been trained for years in order to handle such power.

Lehrer: More, what do you think?

More: Well, in Utopia the cities are run by rulers that are elected by a group of politicians who are chosen by the people. The leaders require no training because I trust them to act in the people’s best interest.

Plato: That is why your system will never work.

More: I do not require the rulers to be trained because then it becomes a small number of educated people holding control over many, which is an oligarchy. I seem to recall you saying in Republic that an Oligarchy is bad because it results in the poor staging a revolution and forming a democracy.

Plato: That is why you must keep firm control on them.

More: If you do not allow the people their freedom then they will rise against you just as surely as if you give them too much.

Plato: That is why you must have a Philosopher- King to keep them in hand. If the people are not ruled completely they will overthrow the government.

More: That is where you are wrong. The people are More capable than you give them credit for.

Plato: We shall see whose government is overthrown first.

More: Indeed.

Religion and Utopias

Religion and Utopias

 

In their works on utopian societies, Plato and More believe that religion is key to the function of a society. They suggest that religious beliefs affect the morality of a society’s members and thus the preservation of the society itself.  While Plato believes in “gods” and that society members should strive to attain the Form of the Good, a strict moral code, More believes that although many religious sects can exist in a society, society members should acknowledge one true deity. In the paper, Plato’s Republic and More’s Utopia will be analyzed to determine what role they believe religion plays in the overall function of their utopian societies. Then, their ideals will be compared to those of four religious communities that were founded in 18th and 19th century America.  These communities were created as “utopian” societies that were founded upon very different religious ideals. The ideals of these American communities, The Shakers, Brook Farm, the Rappites, and The Oneida Community, will be presented to highlight the way in which religious beliefs affect the overall structure and success of the community.  Finally, how Plato and More operationalize religion in their utopias will be compared to the way in which religious beliefs were implemented in the four American communities and eventually contributed to their demise.

 

This paper will look at how important religion is to the creation of Plato and More’s utopias.  Next, it will examine whether Plato and More’s religious ideals were realistic or too idealistic to be implemented into an actual society.  The Shakers, Brook Farm, the Rappites, and the Oneida Community were American communities that expressed their religious beliefs in different and radical ways for the time period.  The similarities and differences between the communities will be discussed.  One important question will be examined in relation to each community.  How did the practices of each community affect its longevity?  Were the religious ideals of these communities too radical for the times?  Is it possible for a religious community to continue to function if a core belief is celibacy?  Why did all of the American communities ultimately fail? Finally, how can the ideals of these communities be compared to those of Plato and More?  Would Plato and More’s communities be successful if their religious ideals were implemented in present day society?

 

Little research exists on the comparison of Plato and More’s ideas on religion and the ideals of religious communities in 18th and 19th America. Exploring this topic will allow readers to create connections between two of the greatest works of all time and the way in which different religious beliefs of early American religious “utopias” affected their viability. Analyses of the religious ideals of early American “utopias” that failed can provide us information about how to create an actual utopian environment that may succeed.  How religious views of a society’s members affect the morality and social structure of the community can also be examined. The study of utopias is still very important today because even though a true utopia is not attainable, if society strives to become better and uses the ideals of Plato and More and the four religious communities, society will be able to function better as a whole.

 

The concept of utopia is still relevant today because individuals throughout history have been discussing this idea, but have never been able to create a true utopia. Numerous books, articles, and websites will allow me to explore this topic in depth. I own both the Republic and Utopia. Using the library’s website I was able to find five books that I will use as secondary sources for my paper. The books are Brook Farm, Religion and Sexuality, Oneida Community an Autobiography, 1851-1876, and The Cambridge Companion to Plato. In addition, I have found a website that was created by the National Park Service that provides a lengthy description of the four religious communities I will discuss. The short annotated bibliography below gives a more in depth description of the sources I have listed.

 

Primary Sources:

 

Jowett, Benjamin. Plato The Republic. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2000.

This book discusses Plato’s ideas on creating a utopia and how he believes society must be structured and how individuals need to be trained to form his ideal utopia. In addition, it discusses his ideas on religion and what part he believes religion plays in society.

 

More, Thomas. Utopia. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1997.

This book discusses More’s ideas on society and how he conceptualizes a utopia. More discusses the island of Utopia where Raphael traveled.  He describes Utopia’s way of life and how they live. More also discusses his ideas on religion and what role he believes it plays in society.

 

 

Secondary Sources:

 

Swift, Lindsay. Brook Farm: Its Members, Scholars, and Visitors. New York,

New York: Corinth Books, 1961.

This book describes the Brook Farm community and details  how it is structured, the buildings and grounds of the community, the industries of the community, the household work, and the amusements and customs of the community. In addition, the book addresses the school system of the community, its members, and visitors.

 

Foster, Lawrence. Religion and Sexuality: Three American Communal Experiments of the Nineteenth Century. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

            This book discusses the Shaker community. The book explains the origins of Shakerism, early growth of the movement, organizing the movement, daily life among the Shakers, membership, and the spiritual manifestations: crisis and renewal.

 

Robertson, Constance N. Oneida Community: An Autobiography, 1851-1876.

Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1970.

 

This book discusses the Oneida Community. It goes into detail about where they lived, how they lived and worked, what they believed, their education, their idea of complex marriage, the role women played in the community, and stirpiculture.

 

Kraut, Richard. The Cambridge Companion to Plato. New York, New York: Cambridge

University Press, 1992.

This book tells us about Plato’s ideas on religion. It also compares Plato’s religious ideas to the ideas of religion that the Greeks had.

 

“Utopias in America.” National Park Service, n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2012

<http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/amana/utopia.htm>.

 

Kibbutzim Illustrating the Limits of Authority’s Power on Culture

I would like to examine where culture comes from. Plato argues that they come from education and government-organized social conditioning, and More seems to say that they come from leadership; it was, after all, Utopus that set the tone for a culture of acceptance and tolerance of different beliefs in Utopia. Marx, by contrast, argues that the economy is the root of all culture; every element of our culture and society is really a tool for and product of bourgeois power. I would like to argue that all three of these theories are wrong, and that culture is not as malleable under government’s or the economy’s hand as Plato, More, and Marx argue it to be. My paper will examine the limit of authority’s effect on culture, and point out what forces actually do shape societal attitudes; right now, it appears from my research that these forces are largely biological, and thus, it may be that culture is completely beyond authority’s control.

I plan to examine the success actual societies had in following Marx’s directions, since communism specifically sought to reinvent culture. Specifically, I will look at the success of socialism in kibbutzim. Kibbutzim are communities in Israel that are structured after communist ideology; even though modern kibbutzim have some deviations from the basic format, members of kibbutzim generally all work together on the kibbutz, live together, raise their children together, and share almost all property. Despite their long success—the first kibbutz was founded in 1909[1]–it appears that even kibbutzniks, residents of kibbutzim, have resisted the kibbutz tenets. There have been movements to create a wage system within kibbutzim, and parents have even resisted the kibbutz’s socialization of their children. In fact, in a recent article, “Discontent from Within”, Yael Darr points out the ways that literature overtly published by kibbutzniks for kibbutznik children and adolescents was actually a subversive weapon to voice dissatisfaction with the communal living model[2]. This dissatisfaction indicates the limits of the kibbutz government’s power in controlling kibbutz culture; though it tried to create a tightly controlled environment, it fomented a rebellious undercurrent. Even the generations that have lived their whole lives in kibbutzim are often discontent with the principles of collective property and collective living, according to Melford E. Spiro[3]. Thus, neither those who actively choose to live in kibbutzim (the parents of the 1940s and 1950s) nor the children who lived their whole lives in kibbutzim were able to fully submit to the kibbutz culture. There must, therefore, be an underlying force that opposed the kibbutz authority’s power over culture.

Spiro offers some guidance as to what these forces are. As he points out, the failure of kibbutz socialization may in fact be due to evolutionary psychology; the biological predispositions of kibbutzniks oppose kibbutz socialization. Spiro actually references one study that found that young children had difficulty sharing toys and caregivers’ attention with other children, even though sharing was the most important goal of kibbutz socialization; the biological predispositions of the children overpowered their socialization[4].

I would also like to examine the role of oxytocin, a hormone responsible for bonding, might have in forming an ideal society; one study[5] found that humans are more willing to help people of their own ethnicity. It is possible that the increasing heterogeneity[6] of kibbutzim has decreased a sense of bonding and unity among kibbutzniks, and so has made them less willing to live completely communally.

The fact that the socialization of children within the kibbutz is so limited by biological attitudes could be the downfall of Plato’s theory; the stability of his society relied almost entirely on socializing his citizens from birth in the proper attitudes and beliefs of his city-state. Marx and More similarly thought societal attitudes came from outside the individual; both believed that things as simple as the economy or leadership could revolutionize society, when it appears that values like greed are rooted deeply within each individual. Perhaps it is impossible that anyone can ever create an ideal society; that would require absolute control, as Kumar points out[7], something that biology is not willing to give.

Meanwhile, the studies coming out on oxytocin may show the impracticality of Marx’s communism; if even small kibbutzim are not bonded together tightly enough to live communally, then the large, international proletariat would never be able to hold itself together.

I believe my paper will be original. Spiro is the only article I’ve found thus far that looks at the relationship of evolutionary psychology to the failings of kibbutzim. My paper will be different from his because he did not consider the role of oxytocin in the unraveling of certain kibbutz values, nor did he use that unraveling to criticize the theories of Plato, More, and Marx.

The research for my paper will also be practical. All of the articles thus mentioned are available through the library website, and for more research on evolutionary psychology, I can use the free online journal, Evolutionary Psychology. The library many more available articles on kibbutzim, as well as commentaries on Plato, More, and Marx.


[1] Kerem, Moshe, et al. “Kibbutz Movement.” In Encyclopaedia Judaica, edited by Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, 121-138. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. Gale Virtual Reference Libraryhttp://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%…

[2] Yael Darr, “Discontent from Within: Hidden Dissent Against Communal Upbringing in Kibbutz Children’s Literature of the 1940s & 1950s,” Israel Studies 16 no. 2 (2011), 127-150.

[3] Melford E. Spiro, “Utopia and Its Discontents: The Kibbutz and Its Historical Vicissitudes,” American Anthropologist 106 no. 3 (2004), 556-586.

[4] Spiro, “Utopias and Its Discontents,” 564.

[5] De Dreu, Carsten K. W., Lindred L. Greer, Gerben A. Van Kleef, Shaul Shalvi, and Michel J. J. Handgraaf, “Oxytocin Promotes Human Ethnocentrism,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108 no. 2 (2011), 1-5.

[6] Kerem, “Kibbutz Movement,” 126.

[7] Krishan Kumar, Utopianism: Concepts in Social Thought (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), 19.

 

Bibliography

 

Primary Sources

Plato. The Republic. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2000.

Through the voice of Socrates, Plato outlines a design for an ideal city-state, where all the inhabitants are raised by the state from at least the age of ten, and rulers are chosen based on their success in the educational system. This dependence on socialization is up for criticism in my paper, as it does not seem to have succeeded in kibbutzim.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” In The Communist Manifesto and Other Revolutionary Writings, edited by Bob Blaisdell, 124-150. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2003.

Marx and Engels list the reasons why the proletariat, or working class, must rebel against the bourgeoisie, or the owners of the means of production. They call for an worldwide revolution that would eliminate all personal property and create a classless society. The Communist Manifesto serves as the backbone for kibbutz theory and culture; kibbutzim essentially create the society that Marx dreamed of, with no private property, and theoretically no class.

More, Thomas. Utopia. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1997.

Secondary Sources

Darr, Yael. “Discontent from Within: Hidden Dissent Against Communal Upbringing in Kibbutz Children’s Literature of the 1940s & 1950s,” Israel Studies 16 no. 2 (2011): 127-150.

De Dreu, Carsten K. W., Lindred L. Greer, Gerben A. Van Kleef, Shaul Shalvi, and Michel J. J. Handgraaf, “Oxytocin Promotes Human Ethnocentrism,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108, no. 2 (2011): 1-5.

Kerem, Moshe, et al. “Kibbutz Movement.” In Encyclopaedia Judaica, edited by Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, 121-138. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CCX2587511103&v=2.1&u=carl22017&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w

This article gives a brief history of the kibbutz movement. Despite its brevity, it gives crucial information regarding the changes in kibbutz culture, such as the movement in the 1980s to have children sleep with their families. These changes could give important indications of dissatisfaction with kibbutz culture, and thus the limit of the kibbutz in socializing kibbutzniks.

Kumar, Krishan. Utopianism: Concepts in Social Thought. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.

Schon, Regine A., “Natural Parenting: Back to Basics Infant Care,” Evolutionary Psychology 5 no. 1 (2007): 102-183.

Spiro, Melford E. “Utopia and Its Discontents: The Kibbutz and Its Historical Vicissitudes,” American Anthropologist 106 no. 3 (2004): 556-586.

Spiro examines the failings of kibbutzim, or, specifically, the discontentment of kibbutzniks with kibbutz rules. He hypothesizes that this discontentment is due largely to evolutionary psychology, a finding that could be useful to my paper because it illustrates the inability of authority to completely control culture as Marx, Plato, and More believe authority should; authority is at war with biology.

Comparison: Republic and Utopia

Sam Wittmer

One of the interesting characteristics of two fictional Utopian societies, Thomas More’s Utopia and Plato’s Republic, is that in these model societies there is a recognized inequality among the people.  In the setting we live in, one infatuated with the idea of equality, it may seem surprising to know that these philosophers believed that a perfect society would have people that were better than others.  The relationships of ruler to subject, in The Republic and Utopia, are based upon a group of the elite presiding, not forcefully, over another group that the society has been determined to be in a different position, with each party doing their duty for the gain of the State.

Although the statuses of the citizens of each state are not equal, there is not unrest among the classes.  Plato speaks of a metaphor that the people should be told to explain these different classes; humans are each comprised of a type of metal from birth that determines status; gold, silver, and iron or bronze.  Those of gold, the guardians or rulers, would preside over those who were simply not born to rule.[1]  In Utopia, as well, the state is structured with people who are higher, such as the prince and the priests. Its structure allows it to function.  Workers produce goods which are equally distributed to all—including the higher class—and from the rulers they receive protection. Each class relies on the other.

In Utopia, the act of manual labor or labor in general is not looked on with disdain as it often is in societies that esteem nobility, but is respected and even revered.  Some devotees to religion would dedicate themselves to laborious tasks that no others would want to do.  The state’s opinion of them is that “by their stooping to such servile employments, they are so far from being despised, that they are so much the more esteemed by the whole nation.”[2] This respect (from the ruling class) of labor comes from the understanding that labor is not simply the unsightly means to an end, but part of a system of cogs.  In The Republic as well, Plato speaks of the duty of the ruled to be productive in their best strengths for the good and for the rulers to govern justly and that this network is to be respected—that the system is a relationship of mutual understanding of duty.

The rulers of these two societies function as parts of their state and recognize their duty to lead instead of being tyrants.  Therefore, the lower classes work to serve the community to fulfill their duty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Plato, The Republic (Toronto: Dover, 2000), 86-87

[2] Thomas More, Utopia (Toronto: Dover, 1997), 76

 

 

The Relationship Between Ruler and Ruled

Plato’s “The Republic” and More’s “Utopia explore the possibilities of creating an ideal state. In an idea state however, there must be some sort of regulation among the masses, and this comes from a relationship between a ruler and those that are ruled. Although they each concede that it is necessary for their state to have a ruler and those who are ruled, it is Plato’s search for the perfect soul that compels him to create a rigid system of leadership under the philosopher kings and it is More’s desire to create a superior nation that drives him to construct a fluid class system allowing the rise of a ruler. These differences in motivation cause the different relationships between ruler and ruled in “Utopia” and “The Republic”.

Plato’s “perfect” state must also have a ruler that is equally as ideal. The philosopher king he describes through the voice of Socrates comes from a separate category from ordinary citizens. The philosopher king is an elite individual, trained from birth in mathematics, war, and the didactic method. This creates a distinct and rigid separation between the ruling class and the rest of the general population. Plato’s initiative is his search for the perfect soul, and through his belief that humans are inherently flawed, he concludes that it is in the best interest of the masses to be ruled under strict power. In this view the perfect soul is one which is just and happy, so in the analogy of the state, Plato believes that it is the duty of the ruler to rule and the duty of the citizens to carry out the tasks they are most capable of. This strict societal structure between the ruling class and the ruled stems from Plato’s belief that the soul is most happy when it is carrying out the task that supports the greater good.

Similarly, More seeks to create a society at peace with itself, but his ideology rests upon the idea that Utopian citizens will feel a collective sense of cooperation and justice. This more optimistic view of human nature relies on a general good natured attitude of his citizens in creating a less rigid relationship between the ruling class and the ruled. In Utopian society, there is no separation between the general public and future rulers. This allows for greater social mobility and the possibility of a capable ruler rising from the public, though Utopian leaders carry less power than those of “The Republic”. This is derived from More’s desire for equality and to create a superior nation, viewing humans as malleable and interchangeable therefore creating a more fluid relationship between ruler and ruled.

The societies of “Utopia” and “The Republic”  both necessitate the presence of a ruler and those that must be ruled, it is the motivation behind the ideologies however, that shapes the relationships of each society.

Comparing the Genesis and Content of Morality in Plato and More’s Utopias

In forming an ideal society, having common moral values among the population is a necessity.  In order to sustain an idyllic state, each citizen must have a strong moral compass that does not conflict with others. In both Utopia and The Republic, More and Plato emphasize education as an important factor in generating a common moral code. Both emphasize the importance of morality, but then describe deceptive and indecent strategies used by the state to manipulate citizens.

Both More and Plato recognize education and enlightenment as important in teaching their citizens moral values.  In The Republic, the allegory of the cave demonstrates the effect of education on the soul.  In the allegory, the sun represents the form of the good, and in order to reach it citizens must study arithmetic and dialectics (Plato, 196).  If the citizens master these subjects, they will truly understand the “good,” making them the most moral beings.  Like in The Republic, In Utopia, citizens must be trained in different subjects from an early age (More, 77).  Through education, Utopia’s inhabitants will form their own ethical values.  Both More and Plato believe that knowing “truth” is a key component in developing a moral code, and truth is discovered through education.

The irony in More’s and Plato’s emphasis on creating moral citizens is that the state is, in itself, very ethically wrong.  The way Utopians win wars is by going into other countries and issuing propaganda that turns the citizens of that country against one another (More, 66).  In The Republic, the state censors stories that portray gods as anything but perfect (Plato, 58). Although they consider truth to be the origin of morality, Plato and More develop cities in which the governments are actually dishonest and corrupt.  While the citizens are expected to be ethical, the rulers are expected to be dishonest and immoral. More and Plato contradict themselves many times in the course of describing a completely just and ethical state, proving that even the most idyllic society has corruption.