The Republic – Summary

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates discusses the ideal forms of government. He does so by introducing his famous dark analogy: the cave. This is a perfect setting for describing inequality in society and the views of justice that must be considered when creating an ideal society.

In this article, we will explore The Republic by Plato, discussing the different types of governments explored in this famous book as well as its themes, characters, and message.

The Ideal Forms of Government

The Republic by Plato explores the different types of government, attempting to determine which is best. In the end, the author concludes that none of these is ideal, but that an entirely new government should be devised.

The ideal forms of government discussed include communism, democracy, and meritocracy, as well as a just dictatorship and a utopian society. We also see a critique of democracy, as well as an argument for a just dictatorship. Communism is explored both as an idealized society and as a form of government.


Communism involves the abolition of private property and a focus on the public good. In the Republic, Socrates and his interlocutors discuss communism as a form of society that he has heard about. He notes that it would be beneficial if communism were a practicable form of society. However, he also believes that it is not, since it would require people to change their natures completely.

He also sees a major flaw in the idea of communism as a form of government. He notes that in order for a government to function properly, it must be able to distribute goods to individuals. A communist government, however, would have no way of doing this.

In the end, communism is an admirable idea that is not feasible. In order for communism to work, people must have a different nature. They must be willing to forgo their own interests in favour of the interests of the public. As such, it is clear that people are naturally selfish and that communism would require them to change their very nature.

Democracy and Meritocracy

Democracy involves the rule of the majority.

In the Republic, Socrates explores the idea of a democracy, particularly a democratic city. He imagines a city in which people are free to pursue the occupations of their choice, marry whom they wish, live where they want, and have the freedom to do as they please.

In such a society, Socrates imagines that people would come together to deliberate about the interests of the city. He believes that each person would consider the interests of the whole city rather than just their own interests.

He notes that in a democracy, the majority would rule. However, he believes that the majority would rule justly since they would be thinking about the interests of the whole city rather than just their own interests.

Meritocracy involves the rule of the qualified. In the Republic, Socrates explores the idea of a meritocracy, particularly as a form of government. In this type of society, the government is run by those who are most qualified. However, Socrates notes that there are two ways of looking at this.

Just Dictatorship

Socrates notes that a just dictatorship would be the rule of a person who rules for the good of the people. He imagines that such a person would rule justly, not just for the people currently living but for future generations as well.

Utopia: Neither a Democracy nor a Dictatorship

In the Republic, Socrates explores the idea of a utopian society. He notes that such a society would be neither a democracy nor a dictatorship. Instead, it would be a more just form of government.

He imagines that such a society would not be ruled by an individual but by laws. These laws would be designed so that each person would be doing his or her proper work.

Those who were particularly wise and just would be in charge of making these laws, and those who were less wise would be required to obey these laws.

In his view, such a society would be more just than either a democracy or a dictatorship. In a democracy, the majority rules, often in an unjust manner. In a dictatorship, a single person rules, often in an unjust manner. In such a utopian society, laws would govern the people. This would allow a more just government than democracy or dictatorship.

If you want to read the opposite approach of Plato’s Republic check out this summary of The Prince by Machiavelli.

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