Plato, Hegel, and Democracy

Brooks, Thom (2006). "Plato, Hegel, and Democracy," Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain 53/54: 24-50. Revised edition in Brooks, Thom (2013). "Democracy" in Hegel's Political Philosophy: A Systematic Reading of the Philosophy of Right, 2d edition (Edinburgh University Press).

44 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2006 Last revised: 17 Feb 2013

Thom Brooks

Durham University

Date Written: September 25, 2006

Abstract

Nearly every major philosophy, from Plato to Hegel and beyond, has argued that democracy is an inferior form of government, at best. Yet, virtually every contemporary political philosophy working today - whether in an analytic or postmodern tradition - endorses democracy in one variety or another. Should we conclude then that the traditional canon is meaningless for helping us theorize about a just state? In this paper, I will take up the criticisms and positive proposals of two such canonical figures in political philosophy: Plato and Hegel. At first glance, each is rather disdainful, if not outright hostile, to democracy. This is also how both have been represented traditionally. However, if we look behind the reasons for their rejection of (Athenian) democracy and the reasons behind their alternatives to democracy, I believe we can uncover a new theory of government that does two things. First, it maps onto the so-called Schumpeterian tradition of elite theories of democracy quite well. Second, perhaps surprisingly, it actually provides an improved justification for democratic government as we practice it today than rival theories of democracy. Thus, not only are Plato and Hegel not enemies of modern democratic thought after all, but each is actually quite useful for helping us develop democratic theory in a positive, not negative, manner.

Keywords: Thom, Brooks, Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, Hobbes, Plato, democracy, totalitarianism, legal philosophy, political philosophy, philosophy, jurisprudence, legal theory, Schumpeter, Popper, democratic, ancient philosophy, authoritarianism

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K19, K30, K39, K40, K42, K49

Suggested Citation

Brooks, Thom, Plato, Hegel, and Democracy (September 25, 2006). Brooks, Thom (2006). "Plato, Hegel, and Democracy," Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain 53/54: 24-50. Revised edition in Brooks, Thom (2013). "Democracy" in Hegel's Political Philosophy: A Systematic Reading of the Philosophy of Right, 2d edition (Edinburgh University Press).. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=932555 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.932555

Thom Brooks (Contact Author)

Durham University ( email )

Durham Law School
Durham University
Durham, County Durham DH1 3ET
United Kingdom
+441913344365 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.dur.ac.uk/law/staff/?mode=staff&id=11140

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