The Ideal Leaders of Plato, Thomas Jefferson, and Fascism

Discussion in 'Your Shitty Projects' started by Dr. Rice, Dec 30, 2012.

  1. Dr. Rice

    Dr. Rice
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    This essay was my final essay for my political philosophy class this semester. My intention is to eventually turn this into a doctoral thesis (or something of that nature) as I can easily expand this argument into dozens of pages, but I had to limit myself to the 10 pages I did. I do plan on occasionally updating this essay for the reading pleasures of other EDF2 fascists: @Stormtrooper @Solution @Akula @VX Salesman
    The Ideal Leaders of Plato, Thomas Jefferson, and Fascism
    In political philosophy, the quest for the ideal government has been an objective of philosophers of various time periods from all over the world. This was a line of intellectual inquiry for the ancient Greeks, philosophers living in “caste” systems such as Imperial China and Japan and traditionalist India, Christian and Islamic theologians, enlightenment and modernity era philosophers, and more contemporary thinkers. This debate for what is the ideal government has resulted in violence manifesting in events such as jailing and torturing political dissidents, state sponsored terrorism, ruinous civil wars, and the collapse of empires. What is not a debate among political philosophers of various strains of ideological thought is that those who should rule are to be the best among us—the only debate is who among us are considered as the best. The various governments that have existed throughout history have devised reasons of legitimacy for their right to rule. Often such arguments manifest through the legitimacy of might or philosophical logic—often with the government implementing both means—arguing why the people who make up their respective government compromise the best among their respective society. Three radically different regimes have emerged which try to create a political system that facilitates the success of the natural elite: Plato’s dictatorial caste system, Thomas Jefferson’s representative democracy, and the various thinkers of different philosophical backgrounds who influenced the final product known today as Italian Fascism.

    Do these three regimes acknowledge the existence that there are individuals who would be considered as the natural elite? Plato argues in The Republic that there is inequality between individuals in terms of abilities: “Would you say that all men are equal in excellence, or is one man better than another? The latter” (Jowett, 184). Plato argues that in his caste system that the best of us, known as the guardians, have the role of ruling: “And the higher the duties of the guardian, I said, the more time, and skill, and art, and application will be needed by him? No doubt, he replied. Will he not also require natural aptitude for his calling? Certainly” (78) and “Whichever of the two are best able to guard the laws and institutions of our State--let [sic] them be our guardians” (219). Here Plato argues that these individuals whom he calls the guardians have a “natural aptitude” for their “calling,” that such individuals are the natural elite among the general population, and that the individuals who constitute as members of the natural elite should rule society. Plato goes on to argue that the guardian caste is compromised of the best among us: “Well, and may we not further say that our guardians are the best of our citizens? By far the best. And will not their wives be the best women? Yes, by far the best.” (184).


    Thomas Jefferson makes a similar argument to that of Plato’s—that among us there are individuals with a “natural aptitude” for leadership. In a letter to John Adams, Jefferson argues this: “For I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents” (Somerville, 266). Here we see, that despite Jefferson’s commonly perceived egalitarian declaration that “all men are created equally,” that in private, Jefferson has different views on the subject. Jefferson goes on to argue that there is an inequality of attributes in “virtue and talents” among humans. That there exists a natural aristocracy whose members are to be valued beyond that of normal men for they are capable of governing society: “The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society” (267).

    The Fascists, like Plato’s guardians and Jefferson’s natural aristocracy, also believe there are individuals who would be considered as the best among us—that there is a natural elite among the human population. The Italian Revolutionary Syndicalists, which was a strain of heretical Marxism which would eventually assimilate into the Fascist regime, were inspired by Karl Marx’s views on the subject:
    In the Communist Manifesto, Marx had spoken of “theoreticians” of communism as sharing identical interests with the proletariat, but seeing father and with greater clarity. They would constitute a professional intellectual class leadership essential to the making of revolution. Seizing on that idea, syndicalists argued that without the decisive intervention of such an elite, the working masses would lapse back into the indolence of compromise and the venal bargaining of trade unionism. (Gregor, 36)
    The Revolutionary Syndicalist theoretician Sergio Panunzio articulated this concept of Marx even further:
    [Panunzio] argued that select workers among those organized into syndicates (which at that time counted as members no more than 10 or 11 percent of the peninsula’s workers) constituted a “new aristocracy.” Among the members of the syndicates, an elite emerged to distinguish themselves by their abilities and their virtues, superior to their confreres in the self-affirming struggle against their oppressors. They were the select of their community, around whom the general proletariat, with sacrifice and selfless heroism, would accede to revolutionary power in Italy. (66)

    On the opposite end of the spectrum of proto-Fascist groups, the Nationalists led by thinkers such as Enrico Corradini and Alfredo Rocco argued something very similar: “found expression in a variety of fashions—influenced by surrounding external conditions and given instrumental specificity by meneurs—those capable of articulating emotional and reasoned arguments supporting the identification of the individual with one or another specific “community of destiny” (39) and went as far as titling this natural elite as “the ‘productive aristocracy’” (49). Giovanni Gentile, a neo-Hegelian Idealist and the “philosopher of Fascism” argued for the existence of such a natural elite: “Such leaders would be those who would represent their people as heads of state, or leaders of revolutions—manifesting a will not limited to his or her own individuality, but which would encompass the general will of all” (87) and “Gentile frequently spoke of historic individuals who had impacted their time specifically because they had the faculty of sensing, acting on, and subsequently shaping popular opinion” (123). So it is clear among proto-Fascist groups and Fascists themselves the belief there is a natural elite, much like Plato and Jefferson argue exists.

    All three regimes recognize the existence of the natural elite among the greater population, but do these same regimes recognize in order for the natural elite to rule, that their respective regimes must facilitate the education of the natural elite? Plato argues an extensive program of education for the guardians: “And what shall be their education? Can we find a better than the traditional sort?--and [sic] this has two divisions, gymnastic [sic] for the body, and music for the soul.True.Shall we begin education with music, and go on to gymnastic [sic] afterwards?By all means.And when you speak of music, do you include literature or not?I do” (Jowett, 82). Here we see that Plato’s elite cannot simply be intellectually fit to rule, but also must be physical fit. Ultimately, the natural elite of Plato’s regime must be leaders in war (the implied duty of Kings in most caste systems) and the mind:
    Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils,-- nor [sic] the human race, as I believe,--and [sic] then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day. (208)
    It is clear that Plato recognizes the existence of a natural elite whose abilities are to be facilitated by extensive education in both body and mind in order to bring about an ideal ruling elite.

    Thomas Jefferson’s representative democracy, like Plato’s caste system, is designed to facilitate the education of the natural elite:
    It was a bill for the more general diffusion of learning. This proposed to divide every county into wards of five or six miles square, like your townships; to establish in each ward a free school for reading, writing and common arithmetic; to provide for the annual selection of the best subjects from these schools, who might receive, at the public expense, a higher degree of education at a district school; and from these district schools to select a certain number of the most promising subjects, to be completed at an University, where all the useful sciences should be taught. Worth and genius would thus have been sought out from every condition of life, and completely prepared by education for defeating the competition of wealth and birth for public trusts. (Somerville, 269)
    Here Jefferson doesn’t merely discuss creating a system that facilitates the education of the natural aristocracy, but implements an educational infrastructure that would actively seek out the members of the natural aristocracy and educate them for the benefit of society. Jefferson believes that the state should facilitate the education of the natural elite so they can develop their “virtues and talents” to the fullest in order to benefit society as a ruling elite.

    The Fascists, like Plato and Jefferson, also believe in an educational infrastructure designed to facilitate the education of the natural elite. The proto-Fascist Nationalists argued that for Italy to compete in a global economy, besides developing an industrial base that was competitive in a world of hegemonic plutocracies such as England, France, and Germany, Italy must use the surplus gained from a rapidly expanding industrial base to facilitate the education of the “productive aristocracy” in Italian society:
    The demand for increased productivity would place a premium on ability and competence—and would commensurately reward both. Increasing abundance would enhance the life circumstances of all and allow for the education and skill training of the least qualified members of modern society—resulting in a constant infusion of new talents into the ranks of prevailing functional elites. That would enrich the “productive aristocracy” of the nation to the benefit of all. (Gregor, 49)
    The proto-Fascist Nationalists recognize that it is necessary to facilitate the education of the masses in order to root out the natural elite so that they can rise up and become part of the ruling elite: “In the course of its development, the new nation would generate new elites and new aristocracies—in a circulation of elites and aristocracies that would ensure a continuous reaffirmation of talent and competence” (49). In order for Fascist Italy to develop a “productive aristocracy” and a “circulation of elites and aristocracies,” an educational infrastructure wasn’t enough to facilitate this:
    Over time, it became evident to [Camillo] Pellizzi himself that if Fascism was to generate and sustain such an “aristocracy,” it would be necessary to fashion some procedure that would assure the regular and predictable production of suitable candidates. Allusion to the personal properties he would have such an elite evince was clearly not enough. He became involved in a sustained exchange with other Fascist intellectuals concerning what might be an appropriate selective procedure to accomplish Fascism’s self-sustaining purpose. Formal education, and institutional syndicalism and corporativist organization, would provide the test beds for the selection of those who would serve as the ruling political class. (173)
    The Fascists went further than Plato or Jefferson did in maximizing the capabilities of the natural elite into their specific fields of their “natural aptitude” within society whether it be among the ruling elite or the productive aristocracy.

    So Plato, Jefferson, and Fascist thinkers acknowledge the existence of a natural elite and facilitate the “virtues and talents” of such individuals through education, but do their respective educational infrastructures create a similar final product—the paragon example of a properly developed member of the natural elite? Plato argues for a specific kind of individual for the guardian class:
    Men and women alike possess the qualities which make a guardian; they differ only in their comparative strength or weakness. Obviously. And those women who have such qualities are to be selected as the companions and colleagues of men who have similar qualities and whom they resemble in capacity and in character? Very true. And ought not the same natures to have the same pursuits? They ought. Then, as we were saying before, there is nothing unnatural in assigning music and gymnastic to the wives of the guardians-- [sic] to that point we come round again. Certainly not. You will admit that the same education which makes a man a good guardian will make a woman a good guardian; for their original nature is the same? Yes.” (Jowett, 183)
    Here we see Plato argues that either gender can receive an education to become a member of the guardian caste. Plato argues that the natural elite, when they fulfill their role in his caste system, they become part of the ruling elite in which all members are required to be in top physical and mental conditioning as being necessary to fulfill their societal role as philosophical warrior-kings and queens.

    Jefferson’s views on the attributes of the natural elite are not as clear. Given the gender neutral language of his bill for a “more general diffusion of learning” one cannot rule out that Jefferson is talking about both genders. While Jefferson doesn’t make clear if the natural aristocracy can compromise of both genders or only consists of males, he does make clear the other qualities of the natural aristocracy: “My proposition had, for a further object, to impart to these wards those portions of self-government for which they are best qualified, by confiding them the care of their poor, their roads, police, elections, the nomination of jurors, administration of justice in small cases, and elementary exercises of militia” (Somerville, 269). While Jefferson doesn’t have as strict a criteria for the attributes of individuals belonging to his natural aristocracy (but rather their societal functions), he argues that these wards—through the education of the local population—are to create individuals with many civic-related skills, such as the capacity for warfare. This is demonstrated by Jefferson’s statement that individuals who are educated in these wards are to be able to defend themselves by serving in the militia. This suggests that an attribute of Jefferson’s natural aristocracy is some level of physical prowess in combat. This view is further supported by Jefferson’s statement: “Formerly, bodily powers gave place among the aristoi. But since the invention of gunpowder has armed the weak as well as the strong with missile death, bodily strength, like beauty, good humor, politeness and other accomplishments, has become but an auxiliary ground of distinction” (266). Jefferson argues that “bodily strength” is an “auxiliary” attribute for the natural aristocracy, the primary attributes being “virtue and talent.” Jefferson’s natural elite have many roles, first being civic-minded citizens, who if need be, can fight in order to defend their local community or nation.

    The Fascists have a similar end goal with the development of their natural elite. Unlike Jefferson, whose views on the role of women in the natural elite is uncertain, the Fascists have no problem with facilitating the education of women to root out individuals who would benefit the state through “the circulation of elites”:
    Girls who desire a secondary education may take either the regular courses in ginnasi and licei, or a three year’s cultural course in girls’ finishing schools (licei femminili). Entrance to these institutions presupposes a four years’ preparatory course, which is usually obtained in the in the preparatory course of the normal schools. The institution of these girls’ finishings [sic] schools is an innovation. After the secondary schools the student may continue his education in a university, where the length of course varies according to the studies pursued. (Schneider, 90)
    Despite the phrasing of that passage (the student may continue his education…) and the commonly misconceived notion of the role of women in Italian Fascism as baby-makers and housekeepers, does not mean that women didn’t actively participate in “the circulation of elites” or as part of “the productive aristocracy” in Fascist Italy:
    The regime’s efforts to increase the birth-rate basically failed, and so did the attempt to exclude as many women as possible from paid employment. In 1936 it has been estimated that 28 percent of the industrial work-force was female, 38 per cent in agriculture (the ‘rural housewives’ were, in fact, farm labourers!) [sic] and 34 percent in the tertiary sector. Excluding women from education from was more successful, with only 25 percent of place in the classical secondary schools being occupied by girls and only 10 per cent in the industrial schools; they provided 75 per cent, however, in the istituti magistrali—the teaching schools. In 1938 15 per cent of students in universities were women—up from 6 per cent in 1914, so despite the odds they had done well in this area; there were also 200 more women graduates than men from the faculties of letters, philosophy and teaching. (Whittam, 72)
    While discrimination towards women in professional and academic settings was common in Fascist Italy, this attitude towards women was universal in the West during this time period. In terms of the individual who was part of the natural elite in Fascism, much like in Plato or Jefferson’s regime system, was to be developed in body and mind: “Out of the crucible of class combat would emerge the ‘sublimely heroic’ worker, warrior, and producer of the anticipated syndicalist future” (Gregor 66); “By 1919, Panunzio conceived the producer-warriors marshaled around the guidons of the first Fascism to have been the “new men” envisioned by revolutionary proletarian syndicalism before the great war” (80); and “Mussolini changed the subtitle of his newspaper, Il popolo d’Italia, from ‘A socialist newspaper,’ to ‘A paper of combatants and producers,’ to reflect the national syndicalist conviction that the revolutionary future would belong to the ‘warrior-producers’ early anticipated by the proletarian syndicalism of Georges Sorel” (81). The best example that demonstrates the similarities of Fascism’s natural elite to Plato’s philosophical warrior-kings and queens and Jefferson’s natural aristocracy of civic-minded citizen-militia is a slogan of Italian Fascism: “Libro e moschetto—fascista perfetto” (cronologia) which translates as “Book and Musket—Perfect Fascist.”

    Despite the radical differences between the regimes of Plato’s dictatorial caste system, Thomas Jefferson’s representative democracy, and the various schools of philosophical thought that went into the creation of Italian Fascism these regimes have something profoundly in common: the recognition there exists a natural elite, similar means to develop this natural elite through education, and a similar final conception or product of the individual—the warrior-intellectual—who is part of this natural elite.



















    Works Cited Page
    cronologia leonardo. Triboo, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.
    http://cronologia.leonardo.it/storia/tabello/tabe1531.htm

    Gregor, James A. Mussolini's Intellectuals: Fascist Social and Political
    Thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005. Print.

    Jowett, Benjamin, trans. "Plato's Republic." The Literature Page. N.p., n.d.
    Web. 14 Dec. 2012. http://www.literaturepage.com/read/therepublic.html

    Schneider, Herbert W., and Shepard B. Clough. Making Fascists. Chicago: The
    University of Chicago Press, 1929. Print.

    Somerville, John, and Ronald E. Santoni. Social and Political Philosophy:
    Readings from Plato to Gandhi. New York: Doubleday, 1963. Print.

    Whittam, John. "Fascist Italy." Google Books. Google, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.
     
  2. Akula

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  3. VX

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    Straight to the heart of the matter. What meaning does a system of governance hold if it's leadership is left undefined? Know the man; then one may know his tools.
     
  4. Dr. Rice

    Dr. Rice
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    My objective is to write various essays about how American Libertarianism is "Fascism" for "plutocratic nations" and to merge the ideologies of Libertarianism and Fascism into something I call "Libertine Totalitarianism."
     
  5. Dr. Rice

    Dr. Rice
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    Much like Enrico Corradini (my intellectual role model) argued for the merging of (revolutionary) Nationalism and Revolutionary Syndicalism into National Syndicalism, which later became Fascism.
     
  6. Baya Rae 4900

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