Review of R. H. S. Crossman: Plato Today

Review of Plato Today, by R. H. S. Crossman, Social Research, Vol. 8, No. 2 (May 1941).  Reprinted in What is Political Philosophy?


The intention of this book is described by the author in the following terms: “I am a democrat and a Socialist who sees Fascism rejected and democracy defended on quite inadequate grounds; and it is because I realize that our greatest danger today is not the easy acceptance but the easy rejection of Totalitarian philosophy, that I have tried to restate the Republic in modern terms” (p. 296). By making
use of the teaching of the Republic the author is enabled to grasp with unusual clarity the shortcomings of present-day democracies as well as of the political creeds and institutions of the Right and the Left. Yet he vigorously denies that Plato’s work can supply us with an acceptable alternative to the solutions suggested by present-day movements: “The more I read it [the Republic], the more I hate it” (p. 292). The perfect government in the Platonic sense, the “dictatorship of the virtuous Right,” is of necessity” transformed into a polite form of Fascism” (p. 285), and Plato himself was “a reactionary resolutely opposed to every principle of the Liberal creed” (p. 130). Accordingly, the last word of the author is: “It is Socrates, not Plato,
whom we need” (p. 308).