Anton Karl Kozlovic

 Plato and Political Power in the Republic:

A Satirical, Marketing Critique



       Using 20th century management principles to explore the classical world is relatively new, but not unheard of. For example, Greg Latemore and Victor Callan (1998) used Homer’s The Odyssey to illustrate leadership lessons, while conventional histories of management thought routinely examined the ancient world’s contributions (George Jr., 1972). It is argued that insights from the business discipline of marketing can be used to re-examine Plato’s Republic and gain new understandings about the blueprint for this ancient political institution. The following interdisciplinary explication is an attempt to humorously explore the extent of Plato’s astuteness, particularly his engineering of the Academy as the linchpin institution of his sociopolitical utopia.


I. Platonic Philosophy: Insights and Issues

       The Republic has been acclaimed a “masterpiece” (Solomon & Higgins, 1996, p. 53), “the original source of the rationalist tradition in Western civilization” (Lavine, 1989, p. 65), and the “most famous dialogue among the educated public at large” (Ferre, 1996, p. 47). Supposedly, “the whole of Western philosophy is but a set of footnotes to Plato” (Danto, 1990, p. 18) who is “the greatest writer in philosophy” (Solomon & Higgins, 1996, p. 49) and “the father of all rationalist philosophers” (de Bono, 1976, p. 22). Because of these impressive accolades, it is somewhat disturbing to find others claiming that “the Republic preaches totalitarianism...the ideal describes is a police state” (Reeve, 1988, p. xi), and that Plato “the fascist” (de Bono, 1997, p. xvi) is “an absolute bastard no better than Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot” (De Crescenzo, 1990, p. 63)! Particularly intriguing is Plato’s use of the fictional character Socrates (based on the historical Socrates) to explore the nature of justice within his idealised society.


1. The Ideal Political State: Utopia Before Utopia

 Plato rooted his ideal society in a metabiological metaphor: the State was man writ large. Therefore, like the ‘just’ man who harmonised the rational, spirited and appetitive elements of his warring nature under the governorship of his intelligence, the ‘just’ State would harmonise its societal nature via three counterbalancing stratifications. Namely: (a) the guardian/ruling class (kings/governors), (b) the auxiliary/military class (soldiers), and (c) the working/producing class (farmers, businessmen, the man-on-the-street, but not slaves). All three were to be governed by the guardians, the “king-bees in a hive” (Plato, 1978, p. 324).1 This semiorganic, tripartite caste system was roughly characterised by the Thracian Sophist Thrasymachus (representing intellect), the warlord Polemarchus (representing courage and spirit), and the retired businessman Cephalus (representing the appetitive). For Plato, the “Ideal State is presented as the social embodiment of justice. The division of functions in the state is the principle which expresses the nature of justice” (Melling, 1987, p. 84). Therefore, the “Republic is not merely a political tract; it is an allegory of the government of a man’s own soul” (Lewis, 1969, p. 41); a hive-society at peace by organisational design. State harmony was to be achieved through five social engineering tactics, namely:

  •         Regulated sexuality via marriage festivals, aka “state-run orgies” (Green, 1995, p. 4), involving State-rigged (i.e., non-random) mating lotteries.

  •         Controlled breeding to maintain class purity (via abortion, infanticide and eugenics).

  •         Educational streaming.

  •          Rigorous guardian selection criteria and associated weeding-out processes.

  •         But most importantly of all, the adoption of a non-interference policy.

       Why such a barrier policy? Because “Interference by the three classes with each other’s jobs, and interchange of jobs between them, therefore, does the greatest harm to our state, and we are entirely justified in calling it the worst of evils” (p. 206). It was the ancient Greek equivalent of the “granfallon” political propaganda device, that is, “a false an arbitrary sense of belonging to a group...[which] creates a false sense of ‘we’ and ‘they’” (Bednall & Kanuk, 1997, p. 576). In essence, Plato’s ideal State is a dogmatic, semi-benign dictatorship, an oligarchical aristocracy of merit, a hierarchically structured, organisationally static, non-evolving, anti-democratic, communised society. It was “the Athenian idealisation of the Egyptian system of castes” (Nersesyants, 1986, p. 113) where the intelligence of the (elite) few control the passions of the (mundane) many.


2. The Noble Lie as Political Myth-Making

         Plato’s sociopolitical blueprint had a major hurdle to overcome. He had to convince the inhabitants of his brave new world that they were fit for only one of the three classes of jobs available. Being astutely aware of human nature, and of the resistance to eschewing social mobility, Plato and his guardians therefore had to resort to a “magnificent myth” (p. 181). This myth was alternatively translated as “fine fiction” (Melling, 1987, p. 84), “well-bred lie” (Craig, 1994, p. 202), “beautiful lie” (Blankenship, 1996, p. 70), or “noble lie” (Reeve, 1988, p. 211). In reality, this (ig)noble lie was political propaganda that took the form of a foundation myth of metals. This myth proposed that the three stratified classes represented palpable differences between the essential natures of men, which the gods had deliberately moulded. Plato likened these differences to gold (guardians), silver (auxiliaries), and iron-bronze (workers), in effect, an ancient form of Taylorism which “gave to the economic sciences their first theory of specialization or the division of labor” (George Jr., 1972, p. 15).

 This myth also embodied the concepts of corporate-culture-as-sociopolitical-culture, managerial meritocracy, and most worryingly, management-by-deceit. That is, “establishing superiority and winning support by misrepresentation and chicanery--luring employees into compliance and agreement by artful dodges and tricks” (Iuppa, 1985, p. 70), the very behaviour of corrupt politicians today. Indeed, Plato’s utopian social hierarchy is an example of what Nicholas Iuppa (1985) called Cosmic Management, namely:

       "Controlling people by appealing to their need to belong to an orderly system ...this metaphysical approach to control is the cornerstone of many Oriental disciplines and religions. It’s part of the Communist ideology and philosophical systems ranging from Plato to Teilhard de Chardin...recognize it for what it really is: Management by Seduction" (p. 125).

       It was also management-by-hypocrisy because Plato sincerely argued that “we must value truthfulness highly” and avoid “falsehood” (p. 144), except for Plato and the guardians who could do so freely, for the good of (Plato’s) society!


3. Plato, Philosophers and Kings: One and the Same?

        Plato “came from families of the ruling aristocracy at the height of the Periclean glory” (Buchanan, 1979, p. 30), so naturally, he considered the social apex to be the gold-like guardians whose “prestige is greatest” (p. 182) because it was the rational component of the State’s body. These master class guardians with high aspiration levels were to be educated as philosophers, the science of rationality itself, in a life-long quest for educationally-based political authoritarianism. As Plato tellingly argued:

"The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands" (p. 263).

     In short, philosophical competence should be the prime qualification for political authority. Naturally, philosophers should comprise the ruling elite because they were the best candidates for the job due to their unique preparatory training, their synoptic vision of interrelationships, and in accordance with their divinely-given, gold-like natures. James Feibleman (1975, p. 53) considered this social engineering intent was pure. Plato “was looking for balance and perfection, and hoped for a structure in which each individual could do what it is best for him to do.” Others, however, were not so sure. As Douglas Woodruff (1926, p. 98) argued in his satirical parody Plato’s American Republic: “in the end the guardians will control the central government, and then they can do what they like with the country, and make brave changes and substitute a noble rule for an ignoble one.”


4. The Guardian Position Statement: Wanted, Supreme Ruler!

         Presumably, to generate feelings of guardianship aversion and dissuade dissatisfied citizens who felt a loss, Plato highlighted the less positive aspects of the top job. The philosopher-kingship was not supposed to be a position of wealth, ease, hedonistic privilege or reckless abandon as potential imagined. Rather, it was to be an austere position entailing:

  •             Copious “strenuous exercises in their physical training” (p. 174).

  •             Arduous mental training (e.g., music, mathematics, science, dialectics).

  •            Abstinence from alcohol: “A guardian is the last person in the world to get drunk and not know where he is” (p. 166).

  •            Simplistic eating which excluded “seasonings...the luxury of Syracusan and Sicilian cooking...[or the] delights of Attic confectionery” (p. 167).

  •           The eschewing of “Corinthian girl-friends” (p. 167).

  •           And poverty: “they shall have no private property beyond the barest essentials” (p. 184).

           No doubt, the lazy, gluttonous, selfish, possessive, lecherous, rich and materialist job-seeking candidates would have been suitably appalled by these specified prohibitions. One suspects Plato of imagining job rivals whose above-defined predilections he cunningly factored out. Especially Corinthian sex considering that Plato acknowledged the normal “persuading” (p. 239) power of eroticism, and because “Of love between the sexes, so far as we know, he [Plato] had no experience, nor would have valued it highly” (Desmond Lee, p. 46). Or as Douglas Woodruff (1926, p. 79) impishly implied in his parody, women “are not so attractive as our Grecian youths.” Only a non-sexual or gay philosopher could seriously imagine that philosophy was better than heterosexual sex! Plato was obviously describing himself in this guardian position profile.


5. Plato as Political Heir-Apparent

        Not surprisingly, some considered the Republic was “a handbook for aspiring dictators” (Crossman, 1971, p. 1). Or like Sir Karl Popper, thought that Plato’s ideal State was essentially anti-enlightenment, anti-progressive, anti-justice, totalitarian in intent, and in the final analysis, the embodiment of Plato’s personal power aspirations. That is, personal politics motivating public philosophy while creating an intimate compact between education and political policy. As Popper (1966) argued:

 "Thus we see that nobody but Plato himself knew the secret of, and held the key to, true guardianship. But this can mean only one thing. The philosopher king is Plato himself, and the Republic is Plato’s own claim for kingly power - to the power which he thought his due, uniting in himself, as he did, both the claims of the philosopher and of the descendant and legitimate heir of Codrus the martyr, the last of Athens’ kings, who, according to Plato, had sacrificed himself ‘in order to preserve the kingdom for his children’" (p. 153). 

       Plato being Codrus’s obvious child/beneficiary/political successor: “Here am I, says Plato, your natural ruler, the philosopher king who knows how to rule. If you want me, you must come to me, and if you insist, I may become your ruler. But I shall not come begging to you” (Popper, 1966, pp. 154-155). “I think we must face the fact that behind the sovereignty of the philosopher king stands the quest for power. The beautiful portrait of the sovereign is a self-portrait” (Popper, 1966, p. 155). There is considerable substance to Popper’s assessment, especially if we take a human resource management view on how Plato cunningly defined the prerequisites for the top job (forthcoming). Equally insightful however is a marketing flavoured text-as-reader-construct analysis that can be profitably read into the Republic as an acknowledged “labyrinthine book” (Craig, 1994, p. 290). The following is a satirical explication of this novel viewpoint.


II.   Analysing Plato: A Marketing View of Political Power

          Unlike Popper’s Plato-as-tyrant assertion, maybe Plato was not that ambitious in wanting to be the philosopher-king himself. Rather, he was aiming for the best (Kingship), trying to avoid the worse (Socrates’s deathly fate), and was prepared to take anything influential in between (sociopolitical power). Why? Because Plato was a disillusioned politician: “the restored democracy put Socrates to death, and Plato gave up any ambitions he might have had for a political career” (Irwin, 1989, p. 85). He was also a failing public educator surrounded by professional rivals. So, he quickly reorientated his strategic marketing plan to account for a second unexpected setback: “After having been deeply influenced by Socrates, Plato originally intended to become the educator of Athenian youth after the example of the Pythagorean community. When his plans fell through he founded the Academy” (Brugger & Baker, 1974, p. 310). Murphy’s Law was alive and well in ancient Greece.

           Therefore, Plato quickly changed market demographics, became a missionary salesperson, and then repackaged himself before launching into a new career as an educational entrepreneur with a hidden political agenda. Namely, “Plato proposed to eliminate the vulnerability of the intellectuals by having them control the whole of political life in the city-state” (Perkinson, 1980, p. 14). He achieved this new goal via a seven step process involving: (a) product provision, (b) status enhancement, (c) hook manufacture, (d) creating exclusivity, (e) strategic targeting, (f) applied enculturation, and (g) transnational, transgenerational penetration.


1.0   Providing a New Value-Added Product


What Sir Karl Popper minimised in his analysis was the significance of Plato as the founder of a new school, the Academy. This was “the first university in the ancient world” (Thomas, 1962, p. 95), or at least “the first university to emerge in the history of Western Europe” (Stumpf, 1993, p. 49) permanently devoted to research and teaching. Therefore:

  •            The natural desire for Plato to have a continual supply of students   to maintain its existence and enhance its reputation.

  •            To allow Plato to keep on doing what he was doing without the need to support himself in some other less desirable fashion. As Douglas Woodruff (1926, p. 83) cynically argued: “many embrace teaching not from any high-minded aloofness to commerce or love of knowledge, but because it is the easiest employment they can find and they shirk the labour of business life.”

  •            To seek status and respect for the Academy and himself for “establishing the first professorship” (Popper, 1966, p. 155), and “the first person to formulate what we should today call a university course” (Desmond Lee, p. 37).

  •            To exercise influence amongst the powerful rulers, especially considering that Plato “regarded his Academy as a school for statesmen” (Desmond Lee, p. 281).

  •            And of course, to get a jump on his philosophical competition in a very competitive ideas marketplace.

             After all, Plato was relatively powerless (if well connected), and was personally troubled while writing the Republic (Flew, 1979, p. 251), which was “the product of Plato’s early years in the Academy” (Desmond Lee, p. 19). So, what better way to improve his life, maximise Maslowean security needs, gain power indirectly, enhance his psychic income, and advertise his new school than to argue that it was indispensable. Indeed, the Republic “is a statement of the aims which the Academy set itself to achieve” (Desmond Lee, p. 19), it being the combined business prospectus, personal selling instrument, and embodiment of Plato’s resume for the kingship position.


2.   Status Enhancement: Making the Product Indispensable

        Plato’s educational products were indispensable for training and sustaining political rulers. In fact, so necessary that it was only available to the gold-class rulers because of its uniqueness, relevance, and potency (which could not be responsibly given to lesser silver and iron-bronze mortals). Plato had thus engineered the idea of an exclusive clientele, the first gold card members! In that very act, anything that was deliberately restricted from the general public is automatically desired by those wanting to create, legitimate and maintain status differentials. Plato also hid behind a folk hero of his day (the real Socrates) in the same way that 20th century folk heroes (e.g., sports, TV and movie stars) are used to endorse anything from underarm deodorant to financial services. Why? Because the product is automatically enhanced by association with the famous, the powerful and the successful; the usual trinity of business gods.

       Such laudatory star endorsements being the modern equivalents of Plato’s “magnificent myth” (p. 181) and having the effect of “witchcraft” (p. 179). Alternatively, “‘Propaganda’ would be a somewhat free translation...the operations of the ad-man and the mass-media are not a bad modern parallel. They are the spell-binders of the modern world” (Desmond Lee, p. 179). Indeed, both Luciano De Crescenzo (1990, p. 73) and David Melling (1987, pp. 11-12) noted that Plato’s fictional Socrates was substantially different from the real Socrates, and that Plato’s closed-society proposal replaced the real Socrates’s open-society practice. In effect, Plato-the-aspiring-politician had sold out to the rich and powerful. As Douglas Woodruff (1926) perceptively noted in his Republic parody:

 ...‘with all the colleges competing for the gifts of rich men will not those colleges obtain most whose teachers teach what the rich men like to have believed? ‘Naturally’. ‘And where a college has much to hope from wealthy persons will it not hesitate to lose large sums of money rather than discourage free inquiry into everything?’ ‘I think it will do more than hesitate, it will sacrifice the inquiries for the gold’ (p. 82).

       No matter, the positive image of Socrates (amongst intellectuals) served Plato’s purposes admirably in the best traditions of public relations-cum-spin doctoring. However, amongst those Athenian politicians who had put the real Socrates to death, and because Plato could not disassociate himself from his old (tainted) master, he had to play another more deadly, self-serving game. Namely, to “allay the suspicions of his fellow Athenians about his own loyalty to Athens, Plato had to convince them that they had an erroneous opinion of his teacher, Socrates” (Perkinson, 1980, p. 16).

       Plato also evoked the concept of instrumental rationalism (‘science’) and referred to the literary greats of his day (e.g., Homer, Hesiod, Pindar), just like a master consumer psychologist. He was also an accomplished marketing strategist for tailor-making his product to the needs and aspirations of the rulers (it also being a muted reflection of his own personal power aspirations). Likewise, Plato was an ancient advertising genius/ propagandist for trying to turn a previously undervalued product (political philosophy) into a status property (guardian stuff) using the selling media of his day (Socratic dialogue). He succeeded by employing a stunning promotional trick worthy of today’s professional spellbinding manipulators.


3.   The Female ‘Hook’: Plato’s Novel Marketing Idea

       Like any power-seeking politician, Plato had to increase the number of his supporters-cum-power base and attract lots of public attention for his proposals. In short, he needed a marketing gimmick. Why? Because there “is no hope of selling a product unless you first get the prospect’s attention” (Manning & Reece, 1998, p. 156). Plato found this attention-getting gimmick in the idea of female guardians, which he considered was a “novelty” (p. 229). Or as Douglas Woodruff (1926, p. 78) perceptively suggested in his Republic parody, “we will make women guardians, for we are desperate.” These philosopher-queens were “a daring suggestion in those times” (Solomon & Higgins, 1996, p. 54), even “revolutionary” (Reeve, 1988, p. 217), but clearly an ancient form of political bait advertising. Indeed, the entire “Republic is meant to startle and shock” (Annas, 1981, p. 2). For many Plato scholars, the idea of philosopher-queens was “not only paradoxical but basically amusing, absurd, ironic, and intended as a joke” (Bluestone, 1987, p. 41). Especially considering that:

       One major problem for feminist critics lies in reconciling the proposals of the Republic for equality among male and female guardians with the constant derogatory references to women scattered through the dialogues, which routinely belittle and exclude women and depict female nature as fallen (Plumwood, 1993, p. 76).

       The answer to this puzzling feminine debasement dilemma is obvious. It is another politically motivated ‘magnificent myth,’ only this time undeclared. Plato was an unregenerate misogynist, possibly gay, who did not sincerely believe in women’s rights, or the creation of gender-neutral androgyny, nor the desire to usher in a golden age of sexual egalitarianism. After all, he was not female, and so his catchy proposal could not directly advance his masculine power cause in a rampantly patriarchal society. Especially considering that Plato thought women were intrinsically lesser men and “the weaker of the two” (p. 235). What he was actually proposing was “phallogocentrism” (Green, 1995, p. 8), the fusion of phallocentrism with logocentrism. In real politique terms, Athenian women led suppressed and powerless lives and so their threat value to Plato was minimal. Women:

    "...took no part in politics, and did not attend symposia, exercise in the palaestra, or engage in the philosophic discussions which were a part of those activities...She received little formal education beyond such refined housewifely tasks as ‘weaving, baking cakes, and cooking vegetables’" (Reeve, 1988, p. 217).

          Plato could politically afford to look favourably upon the concept of female guardians because by the time women rivals were eligible, arduously trained, and over the required “fifty” (p. 354) years of age, he would be long retired or dead. Plato was acting like contemporary Judas-goat CEOs hired just before their retirements with carrot-dangling promises of huge performance bonus for razor-gang deeds. They could therefore reek as much ‘change’ as possible to please their employers because they were not going to be around to deal with the consequences or nasty backlashes. This offer was a cut-throat business strategy which Scott Adams (1996, p. 86) facetiously called a false sacrifice. Namely, an “essential part of being a team player is the willingness to make false sacrifices that other people perceive as genuine. Offer to give up things that you know won’t be accepted or won’t be missed,” or in Plato’s case, won’t be around to bother you with!


4.   Rationalising the Political ‘Hook’

                Plato is certainly no champion of women’s liberation. He “never advocates the view that men and women are equal,” and his female guardian argument “is not valid against anti-feminists, it is irrelevant to facts about women’s desires, and it is irrelevant to the injustice of sexual inequality” (Annas, 1979, p. 33). One suggests that Plato advocated female guardians for six selfish reasons, namely:

  •             To look fair and just in the (alleged) pursuit of a just society (as a thematically consistent plank in his image management strategy).

  •            To reduce female sales resistance to his radical proposals, particularly about restructuring the family unit which was a “provocative (not to say scandalous) suggestion” (Craig, 1994, p. 189), and actually “a recipe for misery”(Craig, 1994, p. 221).

  •           Family restructuring and the bestial mode of procreating had the added advantage of dissuading women that genuinely loved their emotional and family lives from aspiring towards guardianship. This was a sugar-coated disincentive clause. Especially as Plato wanted “the abolition of the natural family, and acceptance of polygamy, incest, and infanticide...eliminating the very ideas of adultery and marital fidelity...No woman of the higher classes in the city in logos is to have home, hearth, husband, or children of her own” (Craig, 1994, p. 220).

  •          Likewise, Plato’s requirement of nude coed exercising: “their excellence will be all the clothes they need” (p. 236). This was used to dissuade women who were embarrassed about public nudity and “who would look pretty comical when they’re several months pregnant” (Craig, 1994, p. 191). It is probably why Plato referred to nude women as “the most ridiculous thing of all” (p. 229), or to old women as “wrinkled and ugly to look at” (p. 229), and to “the clever jokes that are bound to be made” (p. 229) about them. Women’s modesty, their beauty-based vanity, and the understandable fear of public ridicule was a natural self-limiter which Plato cunningly exploited in a political move worthy of Machiavelli.

  •            To make women’s working life easier by giving female guardians lesser duties commensurate with their inherently weaker nature, and more interesting work than their current mindless domesticity. Plato is thus dangling a sociopolitical carrot before vegetable peelers. In an attraction-repulsion fashion, they were also quickly discouraged by the torturing regime of self-sacrifice guardians were supposed to endure. This was coupled with Plato’s end-product vision of mannish women who displayed super-masculine excellence (but in reality, only produced aberrant or inferiorised women).

  •            Plato is being deliberately sexist by tapping into the behind-the-scenes nuisance support of 50% of the eligible Athenian population in the naked power game of getting his ideas sold. He is giving women a stake in his brave new world as a stepping-stone towards his own supreme power. Therefore, Plato would be one of the very first manipulators of ‘the female vote’ (albeit, unofficial), and thus he is unworthy of feminist canonisation.

           Like any self-serving, politically savvy manager, Plato also played a balancing act. He provided enough anti-feminist comments scattered throughout his Republic sales pitch to allow the patriarchy who were concerned about his gender heresy to selectively perceive what they wanted too in his Kallipolis proposal. Indeed, Plato’s ‘feminism’ has itself become a 20th century ‘magnificent myth,’ but understandable because consumers “want myths; they create them, enjoy them, and perpetuate them” (Ambler, 1996, p. 35), whether they be women, philosophers or purchasers.


5.   Creating Exclusivity: Having Sole Agency

        In the best traditions of product differentiation, his select clientele and exclusivity strategy-cum-psychological hook gave Plato immense influence as controller of this unique philosophical product. Since the Practicing Professional Philosopher (PPP) service was theoretically designed to last forever (like CPA services today), it would have greatly elevated Plato’s own sense of personal worth, pride and social status. This was akin to being an officially approved, multi-generational supplier of goods to the British royal family. Although Plato had a vested interest in tailor-making the specifications for guardianship to suit himself with respects to age, education, training, experience, skill etc., he was also politically astute enough to avoid charges of being a Socratesean usurper. He learnt serious lessons from that past business failure.

       Plato cunningly argued that suitable others could theoretically get the philosopher-kingship position. He created manipulable hope by tapping into the personal power aspirations of apprentice rulers via his Academy, just like educational institutions today who promote themselves as the gateway to career and financial success. Plato could supply that unique specialist training, much like success coaches who promise the world if you buy their book, attend their workshop or commit to their program. Plato was trying to sell success in the ancient world with his scientific humanism prescription, while simultaneously setting himself up as a sociopolitical guru, either way, Plato was always a winner!


6.  Strategic Targeting: Securing a Firm Market Segment

          Plato had surgically targeted elite student-consumers for the Academy, namely, that ruling class market segment who were status-rich, influential, politically powerful, and wealthy. This superior clientele comprised “the most brilliant scholars of the time” (Buchanan, 1979, p. 31), and automatically ensured market desirability through exclusivity and talent screening, which certainly value-added his school, products and himself. This act of product positioning ensured even higher status and future immortality for Plato as the Academy’s foundation chairman. Indeed, the “Academy, that city in the sky, lasted a thousand years, presiding as much as could be over the affairs of our early forebears in government, in science, in spirit” (Buchanan, 1979, p. 32). Indeed, do we not still study him today?! This sort of prestigious outcome was in accord with Plato’s repeated hopes for respect and millennial glory. For example, he argued that: “he shall be honoured during his lifetime and when he is dead shall have the tribute of a public funeral and appropriate memorial” (p. 414). Later, he more tellingly argued: “like the victors in the games collecting their prizes, we receive our reward; and both in this life and in the thousand-year journey which I had described, all will be well with us” (p. 455).


7.  Applied Enculturation: Deep Market Penetration

         Not only were Plato’s philosophical products to be desired by the rich, the powerful and the political, but he astutely welded the need for them into the very fabric of society itself. He succeeded admirably to the point where the idea of a society without a University (the modern day Academy) is unthinkable, and un-tutored politicians, unpalatable. Plato had craftily ensured the Academy’s survival for as long as society existed, knowledge was valued, and politicians were in charge. His radical educational concept found a bull market response with Aristotle who followed in his footsteps by founding the Lyceum. In reality, it was a break-away organisation because “Aristotle had expected to inherit Plato’s Academy, which went instead to Plato’s nephew, Speusippus” (Feibleman, 1975, p. 54). That schism process was a classic example of evolutionary entrepreneurship, the Academy-Lyceum rivalry being the IBM-Microsoft war of its day.

         Conversely, Plato’s Academy also experienced happy merger proposals because of their success. For example, it prompted “the famous mathematician Eudoxus to bring his own school from Cyzicus to unite with Plato’s Academy in Athens” (Stumpf, 1993, p. 50), and over the centuries, with its apostolic succession style of heads, the Academy changed philosophical direction. This in turn prompted Fundamentalist backlashes. For example, in “the first century BC Antiochus (? c.130-c.68) revolted from the Sceptical Academy to found the ‘Old Academy’, reviving the dogmatic movement in Platonism begun by Speusippus” (Irwin, 1989, pp. 113-114). This battle was the equivalent of the New Coke versus Classic Coke controversy of its day.


 Transnational, Transgenerational Penetration: 

Globalisation Before Globalisation

         The success of Plato’s political marketing endeavours exceeded his wildest expectations. His philosophical product, educational institution, and political legitimisation strategies transcended Athenian time, place and culture. It subsequently become:

  •       A universal phenomenon (the educational equivalent of McDonald’s).

  •       A successfully ingrained social institution (the State-run tertiary sector is now a ubiquitous franchise), with its still firmly entrenched rigid learning hierarchy (i.e., professors, administrators, students, the untutored).

  •       And Plato’s generic brand name stuck. The ‘Academy’ is now a cultural icon for intelligence.

         Marketeers today also thank him for his contributions to brand name theory because: “Plato, two and a half millennia ago, figured out that reality is all in the mind” (Ambler, 1996, p. 32). His brand name was so successful that lecturers today are called ‘academics,’ and the entire Western knowledge industry is generically labelled ‘academia.’ Aristotle did not fare as well with his Lyceum brand names. In fact, Plato’s product is still being promoted by the modern Platonians (Vice Chancellors). They promise knowledge, money and career advancement in the same way that Coca Cola keeps promoting its beverage behind images of youthfulness, sexiness and excitement. If only Plato had invented trust funds and royalty payments back then! Vice Chancellors are also forced to imitate Plato for eternity, because as Douglas Woodruff (1926, p. 82) cynically noted: “they are driven to associate with the men of commerce and to flatter them for their great wealth.” Even today, who would seriously argue that rationality and clear thinking, the keystones of the philosophic enterprise, has no place in human endeavour. Or that the need for educational money and political patronage is no less pressing, or that politicians have no use for the highly educated? It is unthinkable.



         This speculative marketing analysis is legitimate. The Republic is just as amenable to a business flavoured text-as-reader-construct analyses as it is to traditional sociopolitical or philosophical deconstruction. Like the Bible and Shakespeare, it can be mined for new insights time, and time again. Indeed, “the impression it makes on us depends to some extent on the eyes with which we look at it” (Desmond Lee, p. 55). The ideas it contains, and the variety of perceptions generated also helps explain why “Plato has been seen as a revolutionary, a conservative; a fascist, a communist; a fiercely practical reformer and an ineffective dreamer” (Annas, 1981, p. 1), and now a political marketeer. These perceptions are all reflections of their reader’s mindsets.

         If fame and respect is measured by being on the lips of other men, then Plato is famous and respected, especially if longevity and frequent usage of his texts and ideas are the tests of classical stature. If Plato’s aim was to elevate the status of philosophy and ensure the Academy flourished, then he succeeded stunningly, if being time-honoured, achieving deep market penetration, and ensuring global diversification are legitimate measures of success. As an aspiring political dictator, Plato mercifully failed, but he triumphed as the founder of modern academia, and where his ancient business tactics are still being deployed centuries later (and well into the foreseeable future). Overall, the business perspective is a worthy addition to the scholar’s analytical toolbox that can be just as easily applied to other on-going ancient debates, but this is not too surprising, for Plato really meant business.




 1.      The 1978 edition of Plato’s Republic will be referred to throughout. To avoid redundancy, only the Republic page numbers will be quoted hereafter. To avoid confusion, Plato will be attributed as the source of all textual quotes, not necessarily the dramatis personae involved, while translator Desmond Lee’s comments will be acknowledged separately by name and page number.


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