Plato reviewed the condition of the Greek city-states at that time. He observed that they were full of anarchy and tyranny. After his observation, he prepared the outline of an ‘ideal state’ to establish national strength, harmony prosperity, and unity among the people. Plato created his ideal state and discussed the relationship between man and the state. A good nation can develop good qualities in its citizens. The human soul is primarily composed of conscience, attitude, and appetite. He believed that this would create an ideal state and the country would move on the path of progress. The purpose of this Ideal State was actually to give direction to the nation and government of Greece. Plato’s ideal state has some important features, which are the highlight of this theory.
Features of Plato’s ideal state
1. Rule of the Philosopher King:- Plato’s state is ruled by the King, who is also a philosopher, who has the role of head of state. It is the rule of the philosopher-king. It is the rule of knowledge and wisdom. The Philosopher King is the embodiment of wisdom and knowledge.
2. State-Controlled Education System: A state-controlled education system can raise philosopher kings and establish them in a better position. It can also develop inherent qualities in every individual, and this was the ultimate objective of this education system. The state is an educational institution and training is essential in all government-controlled educational systems. The training will help in gaining higher knowledge as well as in state management. Higher education courses include science education, mathematics, astronomy, logic, etc. In the primary education system, the child’s body and mind are kept healthy by giving physical education and music education. To build an ideal, education system of Plato play an important role.
3. Communism of Wives and Property: In Plato’s view, the philosopher king would not care about anything other than the national interest. The philosopher king can be free from family disputes and concentrate on the welfare of the state and gaining greater knowledge. Feminism and money communism only apply to the ruling class. They can personally dictate all of their actions without recourse.
4. Justice: The main idea of Plato’s ideal state is justice. In an ideal state, justice should be established at the highest place. The correctness of justice and the school of law is known only to the philosopher king. Promoting, spreading justice, and making every person aware of his duty represent the practice of the true wisdom of the Philosopher King. He will represent knowledge itself and maintain the unity and harmony of the country. Since the ideal state and justice are inseparable from each other, the king must implement its results. Justice means the duty of citizens and the duty of the person who is appointed to do his duty properly.
5. Functional Specialization- According to Plato, there are three classes in the state. The first is the philosopher’s king or ruler, who would represent wisdom. Since they are experienced in politics, they will spend their time on the welfare of the country. The second class is the military. They are engaged in the security of the country by carrying out its military tasks. The third class is producers. People in the third category will naturally try to prevent hunger and engage in productive work. Plato believed that they could not rule. Therefore, when the philosopher-king organizes his work, then people of other classes will also be able to organize their work. This is called Plato’s system of division of labor or the principle of performance. While the ruling group was acknowledged as gold, the defenders were acknowledged as silver, and the producers were acknowledged as copper. Most importantly, these three classes should not interface with every class’s work.
6. Equality between men and women: Plato has given equal places to both men and women in his ideal state. In his opinion, the day women’s liberation or independence comes, it will be said that a real ideal state has been built. Keeping women in the corner of the house is like depriving half of the country of their right to vote. This type of system can not provide proper justice to every individual. So he introduced an equal education system for both men and women.
7. Control of art and literature: According to the Platonic state, art and literature are under the control of the ruling class. There should be a way to prevent cheap, wrong ideas from reaching people. People need to read only literature that is morally sound and wise in its content.
CRITICAL EVALUATION OF PLATO’S IDEAL STATE
1. It is tyrannical.- Plato favors the absolute rule of the philosopher king. He believes that those alone who know make his rulers absolute and concentrate unlimited authority in their hands. The truth that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts is bound to reflect on the philosopher king. Degeneration of moral values among philosopher rulers will surely make them tyrants.
2. It ignores the law.- Plato’s ideal state is based on the basic premise of knowledge. He establishes the sovereignty of knowledge. But the problem with his theory of the ideal state is that he completely forgets about systems legal, administrative, and judicial, which are so strongly required to run a state. In his emphasis on knowledge, he completely ignores this and leaves it undefined.
3. It is utopian.- Plato’s ideal state is an ideal only. It is too idealistic to be practical. Plato is hardly a political thinker. He is a moralist, an idealist whose concept of the ideal state is entirely utopian. He imagines a ‘city of nowhere’. It is the dream city of Plato, which cannot exist on this Earth at least.
4. His communism is not practical.- The communism of property and families, which he expects his guardian’s class to practice, is not only unwanted but also impractical. It is against basic human psychology and therefore almost impossible to implement.
5. It restricts Human Growth.- Plato favors a strict division of work in his ideal state and believes that this alone will establish justice. Men have to perform only assigned jobs and do not have to meddle in the sphere of others. Now such a division will not allow other traits of human beings to develop. Human personality will be a victim of partial growth in such a system.
6. It is against Democratic Values.- The absolute and tyrannical rule of knowledge gives no space to liberty and equality. These values are virtually sacrificed for the sake of the dominance of knowledge and reason. Artisans and toiles, who constitute a large chunk of society, are completely neglected. So this view of the ideal state is completely opposed to democratic values.
There is hardly any doubt that Plato’s ideal state is a dream city and can be found in clouds only. Plato, who had learned from Socrates that beauty cannot exist without a beautiful thing, and like him, he too believed that the idea is real, had conceived this ideal state as only an ‘idea’. This was his idea of ‘good’. He knew about its instability and that is why he talked about his second-best state in his later writings like Statesman and Laws.