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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/12343/the-politics-of-plunder-in-platos-republic/

The Politics of Plunder in Plato’s Republic

March 31, 2010 by

Plato’s Republic is an exposition of the logical consequences of basing civic and personal life on injustice. It condemns political life based on institutionalized injustice — specifically theft and plunder. FULL ARTICLE by Anders Mikkellsen


Stephen Grossman March 31, 2010 at 9:30 am

>Plato’s Republic can be seen as an exposition of an unjust social order, one that uses plunder, ostensibly to benefit the people.

_The Republic_ is a method to benefit people as a whole, not as individuals, based on an undefined, intuited justice. It is collectivism, based on an implicit sacrifice and an explicit
concern with death.

Brutus March 31, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Plato’s Republic is the first totalitarian manifesto. It is based, just like any other later totalitarian program, on the critique of the principles of the free society. Plato’s critique of what the author called “Glaucon’s Luxurious Polis” (Plato’s name for that Polis, or the State, is very indicative: “the city of pigs”, or “the city for pigs”; 373 d) is just an example of that totalitarian rejection of the free society as based on the pursuit of selfish material goals and mere acquiring the luxuries. And as such, it amounts to what is today usually called a fascism, rather than to a critique of “injustice”. This type of criticism is very common for totalitarian thinkers and politicians from Plato to Marx and Stalin (Stalin was very ascetic in his personal behavior, and he didn’t care much for family, house, money, and such bourgeois things. Plato will be very proud of him!). Only communists and fascist understand Platonic philosophy as a noble opposition to “social injustice”.

I think that this is not emphasized enough in this article. One more thing – what emerges from the division of labour is not classes but castes, and the idea of castes is important for Plato as a means of alleviating “bad” and “antisocial” consequences of the division of labor. His idea of “justice” is just another and similar example of this distortion, and should not be uncritically parroted by our author. What Plato calls a “justice” is just another name for the fascistic, corporatist control of the society by the elite, or the system in which everybody remains in the same place in the social hierarchy. Plato wants, as all totalitarians always do, to “fix” the alleged injustices which emerge from a free and open cooperation of the individuals by subjugating the people to the totalitarian rule, using the nice words as a cover for that – eg “justice” meaning “tyranny” or “absolute control”. We could find this kind of terminological sleight of hand on every page of Plato’s texts. My opinion is that the author didn’t take care of this, so his article is not clear on the terminological level, and consequently, reaches the wrong conclusions.

El Tonno April 3, 2010 at 11:30 am

So… you are advocating taking Plato/Socrates at face value, which means that “The Republic” is not “The Road to Serfdom as explained by a Sarcast” but actually an early version of “My Struggle”? This is rather hard to believe, it sounds like a deconstruction that a state-sponsored author living in the DDR would indulge in. Needs references for further study.

Anders Mikkelsen April 8, 2010 at 11:58 am

I’m not sure you read my article. Socrates defines justice as respect for property rights, which is the opposite of communism.

Glaucon is the one who is unhappy with the outcome of justice.

Plato is definitely critiquing Athens, and Athens was a relatively free society and more charming than the other. However all Greek cities including Athens were collectivist to the core as Burckhardt, Rothbard, and Benjamin Constant have noted. (As van Creveld notes there was no ‘state’ in our sense.) There was institutional injustice in real life. There was also institutional injustice in the hypothetical city Socrates uses to point out that corrupt Athenians really want to live in what is essentially Sparta.

Plato would definitely reject corrupt republics “based on the pursuit of selfish material goals and mere acquiring the luxuries” where the elite is living high on the hog off pilfering the public and the treasury. Just because people are making money doesn’t make them free societies. That said I’m much happier living in a corrupt republic than a communist one – but that is because there is some lingering respect for justice and property rights.

jeffrey A. March 31, 2010 at 4:16 pm

This is interesting, the author drew the conclusion that Plato/Socrates was being ironic in the stretching of Glaucon’s assertion to its totalitarian conclusion thereby demonstrating its absurdity after already asserting in Book 2 that Justice is not using force for personal means. That Plato really wasn’t advocating the totalitarian ideal city with censorship and classes and the elimination of family, that he was using that extreme “ideal” to make the point that it is an absurdity to make assertions such as Glaucon’s. Though I am not sure about the extent to which Plato valued individuals against the collective or vice versa, I certainly remember thinking as I read the Republic that surely Plato was being sarcastic and absurd when it came to his description of this Polis. I also remember that Socrates was satisfied with his answer in book 2 but it was his companions that drove him to develop the ‘ideal’ city. It has been a couple years since I read it but I mostly remember that Socrates/Plato’s goal is always to expose the fallacies in the logic of others rather than actually propose thoughts of his own, which he eventually does but he usually takes a great deal of time breaking down other’s ideas before forming anything constructive. So I suppose the point of contention here is, is the ‘ideal city’ part of the breaking down of the ideas of Socrates’ audience, or is it his own solution to the question?

Anders Mikkelsen April 8, 2010 at 12:03 pm

You definitely understand what I was driving out.

> So I suppose the point of contention here is, is the ‘ideal city’ part of the breaking down of the ideas of Socrates’ audience, or is it his own solution to the question?

The first ideal city seemed to be a solution. Since the second feverish city is unjust, unhealthy, and different from the first ideal, I don’t see how it can be a solution. There may be elements of the feverish city that Socrates approves of, but since Socrates is trying to make the best of a bad situation the whole city is suspect.

fundamentalist April 1, 2010 at 10:20 am

Thanks for this fresh evaluation of Plato and Socrates. My philosophy teacher in college completely missed your insights. I’m willing to give the Republic a second read now. It seems that Plato came up with “Road to Serfdom” very early.

nos corps April 6, 2010 at 7:19 pm

This article does not take into account the subtlties involved in Plato’s ironic, dramatic presentation.

Austrians, read up on your Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom.

Anders Mikkelsen April 8, 2010 at 11:47 am

There are no doubt many subtleties in Plato that can be discussed.

I also left open the idea that The Republic is fundamentally incoherent. I’m not an expert. My goal was to document as solidly as possible that The Republic is about Justice and that the luxurious city is not just. This doesn’t mean Plato’s Socrates doesn’t contradict himself and offer a conflicting vision.

randy January 13, 2011 at 3:17 am

I think it’s dangerous to put Plato’s texts through a strong libertarian filter. All you will be left with is that Plato is a no good “statist” who advocates using “aggressive coercion” to meet social needs, and that’s that. There’s much more to the story…
Also, I’m curious to know what Rothbard thinks of Plato’s concept of the “strongman”. Plato says that society needs some kind of government to prevent this personality type from satiating his desires. Augustine later paraphrases this in his Civitate Dei when he writes, “remota itaque iustitia, sunt regna nisi magna latrocinia? Quia et latrocinia quid sunt nisi parva regna?”I’ll translate this as “if justice is not respected, will the state not be overtaken by a band of thieves? What are the band of thieves if not little states?”
Hoppe talks about natural leaders, but doesn’t seem to offer any solution for dealing with people like, say, Silvio Berlusconi.

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