This is a summary of chapters 4 of The Open Society and Its Enemies by Karl Popper, where he goes through what Utopia looked like to Plato.
The phrases ” “arrest all change” and “change is evil and that rest is divine”, summarise the view that Plato had on a Utopian society.
Popper describes the variety of potential systems of society. First there is the “rule of a noble that seeks fame and honour”, then there is oligarchy “rule of nobles who seek fame and honour”, then there is democracy, which due to the liberty leads to chaos and loss of order and finally there is tyranny which is the worst of all systems.
This is in the “historicist tradition”, which makes historical periods and hopes to define and explain them – governed by the “law of evolution”. Plato says the first level of decay is the presence of a degrees of instability, which is what then also leads to the oligarchy. The “once united patriarchal class ruling class in now disunited”
This leads to competition and rivalry which lead to those less well off being bared from office, when the rich of the oligopoly try to preserve their power.
Democracy then occurs when the poor and the oligarchical classes fall into civil war and the poor win and establish a level of equality. Democracy is the start of societal decay.
Instead, Plato lays out a “perfect state”, where there is a strong military class that has complete control over the working and poorer classes. In his utopia, the right and educated class do not mix with the poor and uneducated as it would disturb the social order.
He wants people to be vicious through the practise of sport, but also kind through the playing of music. The rich must be great friends and very close, and lead the poor well. He supports slavery and the idea that neither prosperity or poverty should be changed so as not to disturb the balance of power and society.
There is also a rigid class structure, which forbids different classes from mixing with each other.
Popper deplores this society as a totalitarian, closed society that is not able to reform. he says such a society would be terrible to live in. However, what do you think about such as society? Feel free to add it to the comments section and be part of the group discussion.
By Gabriel Daudy