In most descriptions of utopia, there is not the idea of equality that most of us feel would be there. Utopia is after all supposed to be a politically, socially and morally idyllic place but many descriptions of utopia are flawed in at least one of these three characteristics. Plato’s Republic is no exception.
In the Republic, Plato divides the population into three distinct classes. The lowest class is the Workers. These individuals perform the mundane activities of the state. They provide the state with civil services and food. The next class is the Fighters. The fighters are made up of soldiers whose job it is to protect the state from external enemies and internal rebellion. The highest and most powerful class is the Rulers. These individuals are known as “Philosopher – Kings” and are chosen for the position based on their virtue. In a state in which class boundaries are so well defined, true utopian equality among the citizens is impossible. There will always be some individuals, generally in the lower classes, which will be seen as less worthy and more expendable than those in the higher classes. When this is the case, there is an inherent inequality within the citizens of the state.
Besides this objection, Aristotle brings an objection to Plato’s Republic based on property. In the Republic, Plato describes the Philosopher – Kings as having to share all property in common. For the benefit of the state and its protection from corruption, the Rulers must not be allowed to possess private property. If they did, they would be much more susceptible to bribery or an egoism that would blind their virtue and take away their ability to rule effectively. Aristotle though, sees this as a problem. According to him, it is wrong to assume that sharing all property in common would cause no problems. If all people had to work, and some worked harder than others, then those that worked hardest would begin to wonder why they should not reap more of a benefit. They would question why they too should not be lazy if no matter how hard they work, in the end they receive the same.
Although Aristotle’s objection makes sense in a certain regard, it is based on an idea of an attainable utopia with all the modern amenities. However, for a utopia to truly succeed, it would have to be without many of the material objects that we have grown accustom to.
There has already existed a utopia in many parts of the world. This utopia lasted for millions of years before it was eventually destroyed, giving way to what we have today. In this utopia, men and women were equal, no one had to work beyond providing basic necessities, as there was no need for such materialistic possessions as televisions, iPod’s and perfumes. Of course it was not perfect, which, given the descriptions of most utopias, it does not have to be. There was death, sickness and disease, but these too would be in the kallapolis. The difference was that most people lived in peace and equality. It was not until resources were scarce that there was fighting. So to keep this utopia, the population would have to be controlled.
This utopia lasted until ignorance, in the name of religion, began to pervade. Attempts were made to rule people, but why would anyone listen? Why would anyone want to be ruled? It was not until rulers began claiming that they were ordained by god to rule that people began following them, doing their bidding and eventually wiping out a form of society which had lasted for millions of years and which we have not been able to reconstruct. However, now that people are educated, and know the sorts of things that cause ignorance, a utopia like this could again be possible.
Baird, Forrest E., and Walter Kaufmann. Eds. Ancient Philosophy. Fourth. Upper Saddle
River: Prentice Hall, 2003.
“Dictionary.com.” Utopia. 23 Feb 2005. 11 May 2006 <http://www.dictionary.com>.