Philosophers have forever been concerned with political and social matters. Not only have they asked how politics work but mainly, how they should work. These philosophers have been concerned with the nature and justification of political obligation and authority and the goals of political action. Although their doctrines have differentiated, and numerous have been utopian in concept, they have all shared the same ideas and convictions that it is the political philosopher’s duty to distinguish between what is and what ought to be, between existing political institutions and potentially more humane institutions. Throughout the centuries, philosophers have debated over the moral issues involved in the search for the ?ideal’ society. Three influential philosophers in this field have been Plato, John Locke and Karl Marx. Their philosophies and utopian states have continually influence political actions and thoughts throughout the ages.
One of the most powerful thinkers in history was Plato. As Socrates’ young pupil, he was the founder of ?the Academy’ and many philosophical theories and dialogues. His most important work was in political and social philosophy; namely in his most famous book simply called Republic. In this book, Plato was concerned with the question of justice and therefore with the questions “what is a just state?” and “who is a just individual?” According to Plato, the ideal state was composed of three classes: the workers and the artisans, the soldiers and the rulers. The rulers consisted of men who had reached their maximum educational potential and were complete and enlightened in virtues of reality, truth and goodness. The spectacle of his day brought Plato to the conclusion that only philosophers were fit to rule since they possessed all the necessary knowledge and wisdom. Plato named these rulers philosopher-kings. In the Republic, Plato’s ideal educational system was structured primarily to produce philosopher-kings. In its simplest form, Plato believed that the just state is one in which each class performs its own function well without infringing on the activities of the other classes. He believed that if the philosopher-kings helped train the military who, in return, would control natural unruly peasants, the Republic would be a sort of utopian state; the ideal society of which the world was in search. Although Plato’s ?ideal’ society influence many philosophers and many developed numerous ideas from Republic, it cannot be regarded as a perfect idea. Many flaws are entwined within Plato’s philosophy such as the rights of lower class citizens and the idea that asserts the supremacy of the state over the individual. Plato believed that philosophers were, indeed, superior to all others making the majority of citizens in a society outcasts and left with an impediment. Following Plato, philosophers continued to dream up their concepts of the ?ideal’ society. One of the most prominent political philosophers, especially in North America, would be John Locke.
John Locke, to this day, has had a great influence on political systems around the world, namely the United States of America. His theory of the ?ideal’ society, developed in his bookTwo Treatises on Government established a distinction between what he called ?the state of nature’ and ?the political state.’ By ?the state of nature’ Locke meant a moral state; a state into which all were born as humans and all were bestowed with certain God-given natural rights. “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges everyone: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that, being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.” Locke, however,came to apprehend that his doctrine would never function in practice because of his belief that human nature drives men into society. He then created a ?social contract’ in which all citizens would consent to be ruled by a government elected by a minority as long as that government would protect the natural rights. Locke’s philosophy is known today as Liberalism which is a movement that has as its basic concern the development of personal freedom and social progress. Liberalism took into position the importance of the individual over the state. In the United States, John Locke’s political writings greatly influenced the writing of the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In France, Locke’s philosophy was taken over by the leaders of the French Enlightenment, notably by the author and philosopher Voltaire. John Locke’s philosophy on the ?ideal’ state has its flaws yet numerous advantages out- weigh the imperfections. His theories clearly state the importance of human morals, freedom and dignity, important concepts in human understanding. Without a doubt, his philosophies will drum on in the hearts of millions around the world as one of the greatest political achievements in history.
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” Karl Marx was one of the most influential political theorists of the 19th century. His rational thoughts made one of the greatest impacts on social and political reflection around the globe. He sought to combine factual analysis and political prescription in a thorough survey of the modern economic system. His goal for his ?ideal’ society was to abolish all private property allowing for equality among all members of the state. Individuals could contribute to the society according to their skills, abilities, wants and needs. Society would be classless and wealth would be equitably distributed. Ultimately, he predicted that the government would be unnecessary and therefore, such a society would be without rulers. This theory was proclaimed in Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engel’s most successful book Communist Manifesto. Derived greatly from Plato’s Republic, ancient sources such as the earliest Christian communes and the German idealist thinker G.W.F. Hegel , Marxism shaped the world like non had ever seen before. Marx saw society as having become alienated in a capitalist society. He believed that his utopian world would allow the alienation to disappear and the state would be a fair and equitable place to live. Subsequently, Marxism had great consequences on many societies, namely because of the lost of liberty and freedom to succeed. In the end, Marx’s goal to eliminate alienation just replaced one type of alienation for another. Although his theory was great in concept, allowing for equality among mankind, it did not function well in practice because of human nature.
The ?ideal’ society is, in reality, a myth created in the mind of man. There never was nor will there ever be a utopian world in which we could all live harmoniously. Although many influential philosophers have shaped politics around the world, neither one of their theories has been perfect. Human nature plays a great role in creating our society and because we are not perfect, neither will our societies be. We must stop attempting to create utopian states and instead focus on changing the numerous flaws in our already existing politics. With our own hands we can shape our society and our minds.