Plato’s influence on Western child-protection laws of today

Plato’s influence on Western child-protection laws of today

By Dr Kaustav Bhattacharyya | | 24 February, 2018
Head of Plato. Photo: Bibi Saint-Pol/Wikimedia Commons.
Plato’s ideals for the ruling classes converge with today’s progressivist thinking about family and childhood, according to which children don’t belong to their parents but are the property of the state.

Searching for answers about the dysfunctional Western child welfare system, which is unjustly confiscating thousands of children from their families every year, I found a possible answer in Plato, whose profound influence on Western thought is well-known.

A lot of my understanding of Plato comes from the legendary thinker Karl Popper and his work The Open Society and its Enemies, which provided a rich resource for this article. Karl Popper, deliberating on the ideas, thoughts and ideals of Plato, found they corroborated with modern versions of communism or, as he lucidly expounds: “Plato’s description of the perfect or best state has usually been interpreted as the Utopian programme of a progressivist.”

Today progressivist thinking drives ideas about social welfare and the family in many democracies around the world, particularly those of Western Europe. In the progressivist view, the natural family must be placed under the supervision of the state for children to be raised into proper citizens.

Plato advocated a ruling classes-driven social order or what scholars call the “caste-state”. Such classist thinking would appear to contradict progressivist principles but, as we will see, Plato’s ideals for the ruling classes converge with today’s progressivist thinking about the family and childhood.

Plato saw the maintenance of peace, harmony and stability in society as the responsibility of the ruling warrior class. For the ruling warrior class to fulfil this responsibility, it had to conform to certain principles, chief among which were the dissolving of filial ties in allegiance to the state and the understanding of the child purely as a future warrior to be trained to become an able member of the ruling class. Plato said that unity among members of the ruling classes could only be achieved through common ownership of children and family. The family and children were to be seen asn “common property”, belonging to the state. Children did not belong to the parents and the extended families, but to the larger community, and in turn to the state.

In Plato’s vision of “common property”, children were analogous to chattel: “As to this condition,— whether it anywhere exists now, or ever will exist,—in which there is community of wives, children, and all chattels, and all that is called ‘private’ is everywhere and by every means rooted out of our life, and so far as possible it is contrived that even things naturally ‘private’ have become in a way ‘communised’.” (Plato, Laws, Book 5, Section 739c).So Plato’s is a communitarian model for women, children and the family, or what would be termed as nationalisation of family and children in contemporary leftist parlance. It is also nearly a version of the oft-repeated refrain in modern child rights discourse that children do not “belong” to their parents.

According to Karl Popper, Plato went so far as to propose that no member of the ruling class should be able to identify or connect with their children or parents. Echoes of such thinking lie behind state-sponsored child confiscation by today’s child protection agencies who are empowered to permanently remove children from their natural families to be raised in state custody or adopted by state-approved non-biological families.

Interestingly, Plato’s ideas about the family were influenced by Sparta, which he came to know through his military service in the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta (409-404 BCE). Democratic Athens had suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the oligarchic Spartans and, based on the principle that the victorious must be doing something right, Plato looked to Sparta in envisioning the ideal polity. He was particularly impressed by the Spartans’ political stability and single-mindedness. The Spartans had restrictions on the conduct of family life, and practices such as private meals within the family were banned. Instead, there was the practice of what Plato called “common meals”. 

Plato also had a blueprint for children’s education, namely that of moulding the future warrior class that would be ever-ready to strike against the foes of the state. This involved tight regulation of children, their  minds and upbringing through education. The education envisaged by Plato had both a physical and a spiritual component.  In rather gory terms Plato recommends that children of both sexes “must be taken on horseback within the sight of actual war; and provided it can be done safely, they must be brought into battle, and made to taste blood; just as one does with young hounds”. Plato saw children purely as future soldiers or warriors. Their education was to be tailored towards creating a class of professional warriors. A striking vision of society as being in a perpetual state of war mobilisation. The objectives of today’s welfare state and its progressivist ideologues are different but the doctrine of determined enlisting of children to their cause is the same; the warfare today is between welfare state ideology and its counter-narrative.

Plato saw familial feeling, ties and the accompanying loyalties as potential sources of discord among the ruling classes affecting the stability of the state. He says that “each should look upon all as if belonging to one family [i.e., that of the warrior/ruling class]”(cf. the summary of Republic in the Timaeus (18c/d)). This requires, both for Plato and the welfare state, that distinctions between families be erased: “That State and polity come first, and those laws are best, where there is observed as carefully as possible throughout the whole State the old saying that “friends have all things really in common” (Plato, Laws, Book 5, Section 739c). Plato proceeds further with this flattening vision of society, saying: “All men are moulded to be unanimous in the utmost degree in bestowing praise and blame, and they even rejoice and grieve about the same things, and at the same time” (Plato, Laws, 739c). In the same passage Plato advocates the statist ideal of “eradicating from our life everywhere and in every way all that is private and individual”.

This leaves little room for any celebration or acknowledgement of families as the kernel of individual personality formation or the source of morals or code of conduct. It is implicit in such a view that cultural diversity is inimical to social order. What Plato is calling for is social homogeneity, which is what Western child protection tries to achieve by standardising rules for the raising of children and the conduct of family life. So it is not surprising to see a rising pattern of conflict today between Western child protection authorities and immigrant families, or religious or cultural minorities.

Plato in his writings disparaged the role of family in educating children and was often wary of its influence in the formation of the ideal child and imparting the right education. Popper states that according to Plato: “The future of any State depends on the younger generation, and it is therefore madness to allow the minds of children to be moulded by individual taste and force of circumstances.” 

Plato’s radical and disruptive view of family merits distinct attention.  Once the idea of shared communal property in children and the family has been established, the role and understanding of families is radically different from what might be called the “natural family”. Filial ties are to be subordinated to the state or, at best, tolerated at the mercy of the state. This idea of family as a source of disruption to society and the mistrust of family, especially in its ability to raise “ideal” children, is a leitmotif in modern child-welfare discourse. Though dressed up in flowery language about saving children from the trauma of bad parenting, the ultimate justification of child protection advocates for state intervention in child raising is that if children are not raised in the proper conditions they will grow into unproductive and even dangerous adults, causing social instability and decline. This leaves little room for any flexible approach towards families rearing their children and distinctly calls for a heavy-handed interventionist approach by the state.

Dr Kaustav Bhattacharyya is PhD from Cass Business School, London; he is also an entrepreneur and commentator on Indo-European affairs


There are 4 Comments

Highly interesting. When I was young we were told about the Spartans at school. Fantastic warriors. A warrior-caste, perhaps, or at least an almost unconquerable warrior-clan. It was so exciting. What we weren't told was that the basis, the fundament for the Spartan warrior class, was (much like modern western society) the embracing of homosexuality. One warrior, around 40 years of age, would take a 12-year-old boy and beging shaping him, by raping him, destroying him, his soul and mind to rebuild him into a Cadaver Disiciplinary soldier, who would be the perfect warrior. A machine. A person without feelings. When he himself were 40, he would repeat it. This is called pederasty. No, I am not accusing the Child Protective Services of being homosexually driven, but they have clear Spartan "qualities", though I don't like to use the term "quality" much, as it gives the word a negative connotation. They rip children out of their natural setting, from their natural parents, away from their natural family, and place them into a new setting - called by a Norwegian CPS-opponent recently «designer-parents», «designer-mama» and «designer-papa».
It is equally unnatural as what the Spartans did. 
Catch my drift?
The connotations of most Western societies today pulls towards fascism. Not all are fascist, but their getting there. Just look at Mussolini, the author of fascism, and how he described fascism:

«Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State». This clearly is equal to the goal of most western countries CPS/CWS. 

Many people seem to think that «might makes right». That is to put it simply hogwash. The state shouldn’t own anything. The state should represent us, its people, and be our servant, not our master. That includes of course that the state does not own children. It means that the state does not have the right to grab a child becausr parents teach their children in a way that is not unidirectional.
Each single person is different. Unique. And uniformity is not the answer to solve problems. Thus the state is wrong when it follows Plato (a pederast) in skaping the modern society.
If you haven’t read The Pink Swastika, which will explain this issue as clear cut as possible, you really ought to. You can find it free to download on the web.
If you now consider that «but this has nothing to do with CPS/CWS» I urge you even more to read the book. There is quite the chance that you will change your mind.

Actually, the flop of the particular aspect of Israeli kibbutzes where children were herded together in communal quarters both for day and night living, and were only allowed to spend some 3 hours of "quality time" per day with their parents, seems very much like Plato in practice. Let's get an article about it!

Thanks for the excellent article and great comment by Lars-Toralf Utn. I totally agree that children belong to their parents and not to the state. It however needs to be made clear that the word "belong" indicates that a child's rightful place is with its parents, and NOT that it is its parents' property, just as the term "my wife" or "my husband" doesn't mean that husbands and wives are each others' property. Parents are however clearly their children's natural guardians. The confiscation of children by the state is consequently a gross violation of parents' fundamental right to raise their children which should not be tolerated. A concerted effort needs to be made to restrict state intervention to genuine cases of child abuse.

Interesting article about the philosophical background. Especially with respect to communism -- also mentioned hete -- I would like to call attention to the work of another (far more recent) philosopher, Michael Polányi and his work on "moral inversion". Let me quote the first chapter of his essay "Beyond Nihilism": "We are told that moral improvement has not kept pace with the advance of science, and that the troubles of our age are largely due to this disparity. I shall argue that this view is false, or at least profoundly misleading. For I believe that never in the history of mankind has the hunger for brotherhood and righteousness exercised such power over the minds of men as today. The past two centuries have not been an age of moral weakness, but have, on the contrary, seen the outbreak of a moral fervour which has achieved numberless humanitarian reforms and has improved modern society beyond the boldest thoughts of earlier centuries. And I believe that it is this fervour which in our own lifetime has outreached itself by its inordinate aspirations and thus heaped on mankind the disasters that have befallen us. I admit that these disasters were accompanied by moral depravation. But I deny that this justifies us in speaking of moral retardation. What sluggish river has ever broken the dams which contained it or smashed the wheels which harnessed it? We have yet to discover the proper terms for describing this event. Ethics must catch up with the pathological forms of morals due to the modern intensification of morality. We must learn to recognize moral excesses. " (History and Hope -- Tradition Ideology and Change in Modern Society, Edited by K. A. Jelenski, 1962, Routledge & Keegan Paul, Chapter: Beyond Nihilism by Michael Polányi). I highly recommend reading this essay. It is important to understand that the background behind the mad child welfare services is not amorality but a pathological and excessive moral. According to Polányi, excessive moral sensitivity combined with an utopian/messianistic goal can lead to immoral behavior even for masses of people. The messianistic goal (like building communism) is so important that it is justifying whatever and people trying to execute such an ideological agenda feel that they are beyond moral judgments -- exactly that has happened in Nazism and in Stalinism as well, and I think the same philosophy is behind the several scandalous cases of child welfare in the Western world. It does not really help to talk about amorality, the pathological moral and moral inversion is to be discussed. so people recognize that even for great goals in mind, the end does not justify the means.

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