Kallipolis: Is Plato for Real?

In trying to define justice and injustice, Plato creates–in theory–a “good” or “just” city, the Kallipolis. This city in his mind expands as the dialogue goes on, with a class structure, education, a constitution (or, as Plato details later on, a Philosopher-King) and even how to deal with children and women.

What drew me further into the text was the complexity of this governance that did not fit with neither right, left, or centre. On one hand, Plato thinks that power within the city should lay only within the Philosophical Rulers and that stories and music should be controlled; suggesting a more of a right wing governance. However, he also suggests the sharing of land (& to stretch it even further, women and children), which is more of a left wing governance (though to be fair, Marxism, or Communism, only suggest sharing of land as well as personal belongings). Another fair point of Communism was when Plato said that everyone would get things according to their needs being met. He also mentions that men and women should be treated as equals–and while in the USA women were being shoved back into their roles as housewives even though they helped in the war effort of WWI, USSR allowed women to work alongside men (Communism: ANYONE can WORK).

The Republic was one of most foundational texts in Western Philosophy, so it struck me as strange when it seems to me that, while most constitutions today has implemented parts of the Kallipolis whether consciously or not, Plato’s Kallipolis as a whole itself has not been attempted to be bought into existence.

Karl Marx, the philosopher who penned the Communist Manifesto, had his Kallipolis bought to life by Lenin, 69 years later after its publication at the first attempt at a communist government. It was a failure as it never reached the fourth and final stage: the leader stepping down and allowing the People to rule themselves. As time passes, communism never surpasses its third stage–with the likes of Cuba and China–therefore one cannot call these countries to be 100% communist.

As I read The Republic I’d desperately done just what Glaucon had questioned & what Lenin probably thought as he read through the Communist Manifesto, to attempt to see Plato’s Kallipolis in real life, or perhaps, in the modern world. I wonder how it’d work out, every last bit of it. While Plato was correct when he said that the type of constitution he’d described so thoroughly would be hard–but not impossible–to be brought to existence, there has to be some flaws, right? I became frustrated with the text, trying to dissect where it could go wrong if it was brought into existence, but how could I when such a constitution has never been attempted?

When I brought this up to my sister, who’d studied Plato before, she brought up the fact that one of my favourite books, The Giver (also, did you know that this is A SERIES?), was based upon Plato’s Kallipolis. The Giver was the Philosopher King, who is able to see the “real” world (to relate, Plato refers to this as the Sun), children were birthed from fertilization & assigned a specific role in society once they reach a certain point in their lives, and it was a very controlled society (remember when they were like, “You’re hungry, but you’re not starving,” when this one kid was like, “Man, I’m starving,” at lunch). Much of the general public in The Giver were in the cave Plato described in Book 7.

But The Giver, while perhaps posing some questions and problematic things that could occur should Plato’s Kallipolis comes to fruition, is still just a fictional novel and does not completely paint Plato’s dear city exactly.

Will Plato’s Kallipolis ever be realized? If so, then what kind of governance does it categorize as?




Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply