Plato's Republic in My Little Pony

My Little Pony

It is understandable that the less bronified among you may think that My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is just a children's cartoon with a somewhat eccentric fan base. But this image has no more reality than a shadow projected on a wall. In truth, My Little Pony is a sophisticated exploration of human society and experience. Starswill the Goateed argues that the cartoon is an explanation of the philosopher Plato's seminal work The Republic.

PlatoIn Kallipolis, Plato's ideal society depicted in The Republic, people are divided into different classes that provide for a specialization of labor. Starswill describes at length how the three major types of ponies (Earth ponies, unicorns and pegasi) exhibit these classes. The unicorns are, from a modern and especially Marxist reading, Plato's Guardians:

The greatest challenge with connecting the pony sub-species with Kallipolis’s three classes comes with the Unicorns. Twilight Sparkle, a Unicorn, is clearly undergoing training and education akin to that of one of Kallipolis’s Guardians in training; like a Guardian, she lives in a publically owned building that was temporarily given to her, the Ponyville Library. However, as far as has been revealed, she is alone in her training for future leadership. Equestria has two heads of state, and they are of the few living members of the mysterious Alicorn race. Other Unicorns, like Fancy Pants, occupy positions of importance in society, but they hold private property and receive no special treatment from Celestia.

While much of Republic is timeless, certain parts describe a social order that only existed in Classical Greece. There will always be under Plato’s system a producer class, a civil servant and military class, and a ruling class, but the specifics change with the times. On Earth, the industrial revolution allowed labor power to be collected into a small area; this made it far easier for businessmen to control the production of goods. A factory owning class, termed the bourgeoisie by Karl Marx, acquired much wealth and soon became the dominant social class. The limited presence of machines seen in the show, like the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy, suggests that Equestria is beginning a period of industrialization.

The Unicorns of My Little Pony hold most of their power through business, acting as the Equestrian bourgeoisie. Only Unicorns can run newly invented magical machinery. A few, like Flim and Flam, try to industrialize agriculture with their more efficient methods of production. The combined cultural and economic elite in Canterlot high society mirror the bourgeois elite of the 19th century. In this way, Unicorns are rulers, but in a more modern sense.

Link | Images: The Hub, Marie-Lan Nguyen


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Starswill is addressing generalities, not absolutes. Yes, Applejack is a strict producer, but Pinkie Pie's work in the bakery is just for income. Her talent and passion lies in partying -- clearly the entertainment function that Starswill attributes to Earth ponies.

I agree that Fluttershy is atypical of Starswill's depiction of pegasi as Auxiliaries, but she's not normal by pegasi standards. The pegasi city of Cloudsdale is an intensively competitive place. The Wonderbolts -- the pinnacle of pegasi society -- is an explicitly military organization with its own regimented training academy. At both locations Fluttershy's identity as a true pegasus was treated with skepticism.
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Very interesting, but incomplete in that it really only addresses four of the Mane 6, simply ignoring the two who don't fit his model. Functionally, Rarity's role in Equestrian society seems not that different from Applejack's or Pinkie Pie's -- she's more a producer than a ruler. I think you'd have to push his Marxist model pretty far to include her in the bourgeoisie and not the others. And where in Celestia's name is Fluttershy? Rainbow Dash certainly bears out his analogy between pegasi and Plato's Auxiliaries, but he doesn't even mention her polar opposite Fluttershy. Discrepancies can exist, but with only six characters to address, they need to be accounted for. Fun though!
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