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The state or the republic comes immediately after the rise of democracy though sometimes democracy comes as a need in a republic. In Athens, no public official will be as great as Pericles will. We remember him for his great work in philosophy that influenced our thought about freedom as human beings. Apart from his literature we remember him for the role he played in making Greek realize perfection. All this perfection is reflected from Athens the Greek city and through Pericles work, Athens became the perfect city. Pericles not only believed in democracy but he also believed in change and therefore he worked tirelessly to change Athens to perfection status. Prosperity in the city resulted directly from his work and democracy in its most pure form closely followed it.
Democracy is the right path might be true and at the same time, it might be a false statement. Do we hold democracy for lack of an alternative? If there is an alternative, what will it be? Are we ready to abandon our democracy for the unknown? As humans, we need to be free however, freedom comes with a price tag and therefore any of the above choice will work only if we are ready to meet the cost. The reasons for us being unsatisfied with democracy according to pedicles are that we are unaware of its value and therefore we do not strive to maintain our freedom on the foundation of democracy. Democracy however does not give us the freedom that we need most in our lives. This essay looks at the values of democracy according to Pericles and his critics on the same. The essay will then look at the effectiveness of Pericles critics on democracy.
1. What are the values of a democracy according to Pericles in his "e; Funeral Oration & quote?
According to Pericles, democracy comes with a price and sense of duty towards the state. If we have duty towards the state then we have the obligation of choosing the leaders we want and the form of leadership that best suit our state. If we have the power to choose the government that we want, then we have a people's government and therefore we become involved in the states leadership. Pericles must have been aware of all these values and therefore he strived for to achieve them by creating awareness in people. However, it is "true that they are not convinced and there is something in their objection, though not as much as they think" (CEPHALUS 3). From this statement, Athenians do not want to earn democracy and instead they want it to be given to them. This is however not applicable and therefore they need to work in order to achieve democracy. Democracy is a duty and a role and therefore there is no freedom in democracy.
Pericles continues to emphasize that it is only through democracy that Athens will have responsible men to both themselves and the state. If men are to be responsible towards the state and towards their fellow citizens then they do not have the freedom. However, through democracy we hoped to find our freedom. Democracy is therefore making the countrymen to be servants by giving responsibility to the leaders to guard those that they have enslaved (Plato 242). From this statement it is true that democracy offer freedom neither to the leaders nor the subjects.
The value of the law and justice is the next item in the list of values of democracy. Law defines what we should do and what not to do, in the same law, there is a provision for failure to keep or preserve the law. The basis of our relationship as human beings is therefore planted in do and does not in the law. Our relationship as people determines the scope of our life and therefore law limits our scope. In addition, the law calls for equality among all people independent of their social status. Democracy therefore makes us equal although some of us want to be better and on the other hand, it limits our lives. From this argument, the freedom given by democracy is questionable and if there is freedom in democracy then it only exists in books of law. "Oh nothing. However if we discover the nature of justice, should we also expect the just man not to differ from justice itself in any way" (Socrates 65)
2. What are Plato's critiques of democracy in the Republic?
Democracy is all that we need to achieve for success of our state, a democratic state on the other hand according to Plato assists its citizens to find truth. A state that fails in these obligations fails its citizens and criticisms not only go to the failed state but also to democracy. Plato's republic as the most outstanding and influential philosophical work in western civilization presents the best critique for democracy. Plato analyzes various forms of governments and his unusual conclusion ranks democracy as the lowest of them all by noting the following in his criticism.
To begin with elections are vital for the existence of any democracy, there is nothing wrong with electing leaders however the process makes the leaders to forget their diplomacy obligations. Above being leader of a democratic state leaders are also diplomats and this comes before their leadership duties. In a democratic state, it is obvious that leaders go for popularity in expense of their diplomacy and the result is unbalanced administration. As voters, we decide on whom we want to be our next leader and therefore we always go for a person who gives or promise attractive returns. Due to this behavior among voters, getting a good leader in a democratic government is just by chance since we vote out of popularity. The choices we make therefore depend greatly on good and bad lack.
Secondly, leadership is doing what is right and not what the people want, which is not the case in democratic leadership. In a democratic leadership, our leaders strive to do what we as voters think that is right instead of doing what the law of the land describes. These leaders act this way since they are aware that they will not remain in their current positions forever and therefore there is the need to plan for the future election. The leaders are not free because they have to keep striving to maintain their positions.
Through democracy, we earn democratic leaders and from these leaders we earn the fruits of democracy. Democratic leader focus on short-term instead of long-term goals that lead to development of the state. This is of no benefits to us since our happiness depends on satisfaction, which is long-term (pp xxv). Our leaders however are aware that their term of employment terminates at the end of every voting season and therefore there is no need to make a long-term investment. If we do not find a long-term solution for the problems affecting our state then we as the citizens will never be free from these problems.
Finally, a democratic state has no fixed laws and the constitution needs to be revised regularly. Sometimes our leader take advantage of this constitutional review to make laws that protects their interests. As stated by Socrates "each type of rule makes laws that are advantageous for itself: democracy makes democratic ones, tyranny tyrannical ones and so on with the others" (15). From this statement, it seems that we will never be free from poor leadership and policies.
3. Do Plato's critiques speak to democracy as Pericles conceived it?
There is a big difference between how Pericles perceived democracy and how Plato's critique speaks about it. Pericles perceived democracy as the most needed ideology that will bring unification between us as Athenians. Pericles continues to argue that it is through democracy that we shall be able to experience the true freedom and prosperity. Democracy makes both the people and their leaders responsible towards the state and other people.
According to pedicles, it is only through democracy that people will realize the rule of law and justice for all, which shows that justice and law does not exist in other forms of governments. Pericles also present Athens as an example of a well governed state and urges other states to follow its steps.
According to Plato's critiques, democracy will not provide us with the leadership solution that we needed most. To add on to that, finding good leadership in a democratic state is only by chance since election only favors leaders who are most presentable to people. Democratically elected leaders only focus on the coming elections and therefore they are not true to the state or the country. Socrates noted that a democratic city that thirst for freedom often elect leaders who are not concerned of the city's welfare (Plato 260). The critiques go on to add that our democratic leaders only focus on the short-term development goals for their own interest. Justice does not prevail in democratic leadership since our leaders can bend the same laws that they are meant to protect to fit their own interests. The critics go on to add that in democracy we will never realize freedom.
4. Are his critiques of democracy effective?
In their role of criticism, the critics of democracy are effective. The reason why the critics are effective is that they touch on issues that are of public concern. In their criticism the critics presents a social or a political problem that concerns us as the public and voters and proceed to prove how democracy has failed to meet our needs. The critics are also aware that the reasons why we fail to realize the negativity of democracy is that our leaders present it as our only way out and therefore the source of our freedom
According to Pericles, democracy gives us the power to make choices in the running of our state. Through democracy, we are able to choose the leaders we want and the way to govern the state. The rule of law and justice are a direct result of democracy and they lead us to prosperity. Democracy requires that every person should have responsibility towards the state and the constitution. Democracy however requires so much than we can provide as public officials and therefore it is a failure according to critics of democracy. We want to be free people however; through democracy, we shall never be free.
Reeve, C. D. C. Plato Republic, Translated From The New Standard Greek Text, With Introduction, By C.D.C. Reeve. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 2004.