Utopia Theory in History The Republic

About the theoretical utopia The Republic devised by Plato, about the social and economic structure.

Leading Theoretical Utopias throughout History

Name of Utopia: THE REPUBLIC

Who Created: Plato (427?-347 B.C.). He was 23 when the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens came to an end, leaving Athens, where he lived, in a state of political and economic depletion.

Described in: The Republic (c. 370 B.C.).

Population: 5,040--the number conveniently addressed by an orator.

Political and Social Structure: a meritocracy having:

--Guardians, or rulers. Chosen on the basis of good stock, physique, mind, and education. Main virtue is wisdom. The rule of the guardians is justified to themselves as well as others on the basis of the "noble" or "medicinal" falsehood that God put gold in them while he put silver in the auxiliaries and iron and copper into the workers.

--Auxiliaries, or warriors. Made up of young guardians not yet ready to be rulers and others from the guardian class who have a violent, rather than philosophical, nature. Main virtue is valor.

--Workers. Farmers and artisans.


Property and Distribution of Goods: Guardians and auxiliaries share houses, meals, and various goods in common. Each receives a fixed yearly stipend that provides for no luxuries. Not allowed to possess or even be near gold or silver.

"We shall tell them that they have the divine metals always in their hearts." The working and merchant classes are left to work things out for themselves. "They will easily find for themselves most of the legislation required."

Production: Manual work is thought of as narrowing and the mechanical arts as servile. Economy based on agriculture and artisanship.

Family/Marriage/Sex: A community of spouses and children for the guardians and auxiliaries. "No one is to know his own child, nor any child his parent." Only the "best" of both sexes are to be brought together to have children, and if the "worst" have children, these children are to be "put out of sight in secrecy and mystery." There are certain ages for childbearing, and if children are born other than in this prime period, they are "disposed of." Children born outside of wedlock are declared "unauthorized and unholy." Love, as opposed to mere sex, takes place between men but in a temperate manner so that a lover might kiss or embrace his beloved as a son, but "never be suspected of going beyond this."

Place of Women: In the guardian class, at least, men and women share in the same education, in child care, in guardianship of other citizens, and in war.

Education and Culture: Children are brought up in a state nursery. They are taken to war as observers to "have their taste of blood like puppies." As they grow up they learn gymnastics, military training, music, the intellectual and aesthetic disciplines, and finally the mathematical sciences and dialectic, "the power of seeing things as a whole." The best, at the age of 35, are selected to command in war and in the practical activities of life, and at the age of 50 become full-fledged rulers.

The arts must conform to ethical standards. Music and poetry are especially subversive and so must conform to special esthetic rules and portray only "the image of the 'good.'"

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