Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Plato's ideal government is often referred to as the kallipolis in secondary literature: this name comes from the Greek "kallos" (beautiful, noble, fine) + "polis" (city-state). His kallipolis consists of three classes: the ruling philosopher kings and queens, the auxiliary warriors, and the moneymaking artisans and merchants. At birth, they are all told a noble lie and only the philosopher kings and queens are privy to the truth; the others are told that they were all born into a certain 'metal' and thus destined to occupy the place that they do. This prevents any kind of class struggle or uprising. In Book IV of the Republic, Plato describes justice as each class doing what it ought to do and not meddling in the business of the other classes. Thus the philosophers rule, the auxiliaries aid them and take care of military matters, and the moneymaking class consents to being ruled by the other two. This most closely resembles an aristocratic state in its original sense—in ancient Greek "aristos" merely meant excellent. Thus, Plato's ideal society is one where the most excellent people (the philosophers) rule the rest. Further, this is not a rule by subjugation, but a harmonious state (courtesy of the noble lie) where the other classes are content to be ruled.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Plato was not a democrat.  He did not believe that all people are equal or that the people are able to know best how to govern themselves.  Instead, his ideal form of government was one in which everyone knew their place in society.  It was a government in which the best people ruled while the others obeyed.

Plato says that human society is at its best when people are doing the thing at which they are best.  Therefore, a society is at its best when it is ruled by the best people.  The best people are those who are naturally fitted to ruling, not those who can gain enough votes to win an election.

In Plato’s idea society, government is run by a class called the guardians.  These are philosophers who know what is good and what is bad.  Because they know these things, they can set up society in the correct way.  They are people who love truth and knowledge above all else and apply what they learn to society.  They have to be chosen at a young age and developed so they will be worthy of ruling.

Below them is a group called the auxiliaries.  These are people who love honor above everything else.  They are brave and patriotic.  They defend the state.  Finally, there are all the other people.  They are called the producers and they are good at making things.  They want material comfort and wealth above all else, which makes them good at economic activities.

In this society, everyone does the thing that they are best at.  This is not democratic, but it is what Plato thought the ideal government would be like.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team