I just finished up the last in a trilogy surrounding the implementation of Plato’s Republic. I, myself, have not read The Republic by Plato (though I will be picking it up soon, inspired by the ideas within the trilogy), but it got me thinking about what such a society/culture would look like and if it is even possible for the human species to uphold.
Being ignorant to the entirety of The Republic and going off only what was described in The Just City trilogy, individuals all live in an “equal” society. I put “equal” in quotation, as the youth within the books are divided into classes of Gold, Silver and Iron, putting them into roles/occupations based off of an assessment decided by a company of Masters. One may choose to class down, but not class up, upon the decision made on their assessment (though the book acknowledges the flaws in this system). There is no economic structure – everyone fulfills their roles/occupation with the knowledge that someone else is fulfilling theirs, in turn supporting everyone as a whole. Money does not exist. The sole goal of the city/society is for its citizens to strive, pursue and actively work toward increasing their excellence. All citizens are taught the same things - art, philosophy, mathematics, wellness, etc. – everything is basically even. Everyone wears the same outfit, they eat in their food halls (though they are free to eat at others on invitation), they sleep together in sleeping houses, enslavement is strictly foreboden, etc. While there are many things missing within the fiction story of The Just City, the concept of this society was highly interesting to me.
It made me think about the concept on a smaller scale. For instance, the library. Apart from libraries playing a significant role in such a city/society (what better place to improve your excellence than a library!?), a library could be viewed as a microcosm of this idea. For one: there is no money involved (Ignore the late fine thing - which we don’t dig anyway - and the paying for the replacement of damaged materials as that is not an everyday occurrence. You all generally respect the materials you borrow). You are issued a free card in which to use to borrow materials or use technology that is shared by everyone within that community. As stated above, the majority of citizens do not abuse or destroy the shared materials. The citizens whose role it is to maintain the functioning of the library do so with care for what they are doing and the good of the community in mind. And, of course, our main modus operandi is increasing the excellence of our community and encouraging further pursuit of said excellence. Nothing is done “for” the exclusive goodness of the library, everything is upheld for the goodness of the community. Excluding difference of opinion on the need for libraries, leading to lack of support, the system of exchange within a library is smooth and highly beneficial to everyone.
Is it not possible to extend such a concept into the rest of our institutions?
This, of course, calls for a collective evaluation of what is truly necessary for us all to function. For example, do we *really* need 6-inch Christian Louboutin’s or John Lobb bespoke loafers? Is superfluous clothing seriously a must? What about fast-food restaurants or restaurants in general, really? And money? Is not money truly the root of all that is corrupt? How do we apply that to the various industries? Are our cities too large for it to work? Because, does not Denmark’s universal healthcare system work rather smoothly for the commonwealth? Isn’t the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” wholeheartedly true as an entire community must provide for and interact positively with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment?
I suppose I am just intensely curious as to how such a concept would play out in our world today. We have numerous examples currently in place to prove that a community supported system is entirely possible that can eliminate the use of money as a hierarchy divider. I think that it is possible, it will just not work out 100% the way it is laid out in all its hypothetical glory. It will take much time to get there, for sure. But! Think of how much waste we would be eliminating and how much fulfillment the community would be gaining from holding roles that they truly enjoy doing and excel in. Think of how many separating factors would be shattered when everyone is raised, taught and respect in the same principles and taught to pursue excellence to enrich themselves and toward the good of others. I may be living in an idealistic fantasy, but I *do* think it is possible to direct ourselves to a version of Plato’s Republic (flaws and kinks examined and worked out). The library is proof that we can.
-Samantha Hanchett, Marketing Coordinator
*Please note that the opinions of “Thoughts” are just that and do not necessarily represent the views of the Thomas County Public Library.