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Plato’s Idea of Communism and its Critique

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Plato’s Idea of Communism

and its Critique

Plato argued that most of the people in the city-state are motivated by the force of appetite and desire. This stratum of society constitutes most in the city-state. This class belongs to people of different artisans; physicians; shoemakers; farmers and musicians. Although the largest in a society, its role is limited to achieving economic goals and worldly pleasure. This class must acquire primary education till the age of 15 and then they should participate in their worldly chores related to economic means.
Plato’s communism argued that this class is allowed to have private property: land, women and children. Moreover, he categorized people into a sense of courage and spiritedness. Plato maintained that these kinds of people are fit to be part of military organizations. He calls them ‘Soldier-Guardians’ who protect the city-state from foreign interventions and make best efforts to maintain peace. Plato’s communism stressed that such people should not be given property rights. Property is a desire and desire can destroy the peace of the human mind and soul. Resultantly, it would destroy the equilibrium of a city-state that rests on justice. Soldier-guardians are to get 15 years of education in music, astronomy and mathematics; then the chosen ones would reach the pinnacle of the rulership. Furthermore, the class that is required to completely abstain from property rights is the ruler class. The ultimate goal of this class is to acquire knowledge and wisdom. These are the people, according to Plato, who are the most deserving ones to rule the city-state with justice. To Plato, justice is a product of class division and specialization of function.
Plato has advocated the implementation of his communist principles on the ruling class; he argued that the values of justice can only prevail if the philosophers would be free of maintenance of property and family. The urge for the property could destroy the delicate balance of provision of justice in a society, as desire is the foundation of evil practices. For the preservation of private property and family, a philosopher-king would go beyond his principles and virtues. The soldiers have enjoined to share their property and family. However, in the producer class, the right of property has been permitted.
Moreover, Plato negated the concept of excessive individualism, although it has been emphasized in modern political thought. The prime concern of the communist thought in the Republic was to abolish the system of the family completely; Plato abhorred the concept of marriage. Marriages were not allowed in the upper classes of the city-state. Breeding was to be regulated for the benefits and welfare of the society; the state was held responsible for the upbringing of the children. Plato has relieved the women from playing the role of mother; he perceived that women of upper classes of ideal city-state must join state services to play an equal role as men. No individual parent-child relationship was to be recognized. For parents would be parents of all and children, children of all. The state would maintain an optimum size of population. Similarly, men and women have to produce the best of offspring in their prime age. Plato stressed the quality of population rather than quantity. He argued that contraceptive measures would be used to maintain the quality of offspring: abortion and infanticide. Plato sought eugenic ends through state control of breeding.
Plato’s communism has political and moral ends rather than being based on economic ones. The modern philosophy of communism is based on the equal division of economic resources. The communism of Plato has implemented on the upper strata of society rather than being applicable on the society as a whole. The idea of Plato was to abolish the right of property and family only for the upper classes because it could lead to disharmony in the political realm in the context of favouritism, influences and corrupt practices.
The idea of Communism in the city-state given by Plato is highly idealistic; the idea of absolute abolition of property and family would make the rule of philosopher-king absolute. That absolute rule would require absolute obedience. The true wisdom, as perceived by Plato, could be attained but what is the guarantee that it would not become the permanent trait of philosopher-king? Because the urge and desire to hold and possess is something innate; it could not be erased from human psychology. Plato has denounced the institution of marriage in any form; he has given the concept of shared property especially among the soldier-guardians which reduced the value of women to a mere commodity.
Though Plato has propagated about the emancipation of women in terms of a political and military career, for the producer class, the women have been portrayed as property. He argued that women and men have quite little differentiations physically. Therefore, women should be permitted to perform tasks best suited to their abilities in order to be useful citizens of the city-state. Furthermore, in his teachings, he has negated a characteristic of womanhood. He has freed the woman from the responsibility of nurturing children, which is quite opposite of nature.
The ideas of Plato are undoubtedly striking and persuasive but they belong to the idealistic world. Ideas that are more theoretical than having any practical implementation in a realistic world.

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