Navigating Leadership Choices Through the Wisdom of Plato and Machiavelli

In the unfolding landscape of 2024, the world is witnessing more than just another election year; it is undeniably an election year of unparalleled global significance.

In the unfolding landscape of 2024, the world is witnessing more than just another election year; it is undeniably an election year of unparalleled global significance. Across at least 64 countries, constituting nearly half of the world’s population, voters are engaging in a democratic exercise to determine the course of events for years to come.

As January drew to a close, three Asian nations—Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Taiwan—already marked their presence on the electoral map. The impact of great power rivalry, particularly between the United States and China, resonates within these nations. Looking ahead, Indonesia, the fourth-largest democracy globally, gears up for polls on February 14. The uniqueness of this election lies in its potential to shape geopolitics, with China’s international role echoing into national political dynamics.

Taiwan, facing repeated threats of invasion, anticipates a crucial presidential election to shape its future and determine Beijing’s strategy toward this self-governed island.

However, conducting elections fails to guarantee fairness, as exemplified in Bangladesh. Despite the expected reelection of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in January, the conspicuous boycott by the main opposition party signals a protest against a prolonged crackdown on political dissent.

Amidst the global electoral spectacle, all eyes turn to Russia, where Vladimir Putin’s seemingly assured reelection campaign is underway. The March presidential election, however, holds significance beyond the predictable, with the potential revelation of the valid vote breakdown serving as a crucial gauge of public support for the strongman and the Russian public’s stance on his enduring military endeavors.

Americans will vote in November 2024 to elect the next US president. The election outcome determines the direction of the country’s policies, domestically and internationally. The president significantly shapes economic, social, and foreign policies, impacting citizens, businesses, and nations worldwide.

Shifting from the political battleground to the philosophical arena, In the intricate dance of politics, where the present often stands on the shoulders of the past, the timeless wisdom of ancient philosophers beckons, casting a discerning light on the nuanced art of choosing leaders or presidents. Let us explore the profound insights offered by two philosophical giants, Plato and Machiavelli, as their teachings echo through the corridors of time, resonating in our considerations for selecting leaders.

Plato’s Call for the Philosopher-King:

Plato, the venerable luminary of ancient Greece, envisioned a utopian governance model in his magnum opus, “The Republic.” At the heart of his counsel lay the concept of the philosopher-king – a leader not swayed by the transient currents of public opinion but driven by an unwavering love for wisdom and justice. Plato’s vision posits that the ideal leader possesses virtues that transcend the ordinary, anchored in a commitment to the pursuit of knowledge.

In the modern context, Plato’s wisdom encourages us to rise above the allure of charismatic personalities and ephemeral popularity. The philosopher-king, in Plato’s realm, is a leader whose governance is rooted in intellectual depth and moral character. In a world grappling with intricate challenges, Plato’s philosophy prompts us to look beyond the surface, urging us to champion leaders who embody the virtues of wisdom, education, and a profound sense of justice.

Machiavelli’s Pragmatic Realism in Leadership:

In stark contrast to Plato’s idealism, Niccolò Machiavelli, a shrewd observer of Renaissance politics, bequeathed “The Prince.” His treatise, born out of a pragmatic understanding of the ruthless realities of political life, provides a playbook for leaders navigating the complex tapestry of governance. Machiavelli’s counsel is pragmatic, emphasizing the importance of political acumen, strategic thinking, and a readiness to make tough decisions, even if they are morally ambiguous, for the excellent stability and welfare of the state.

Machiavelli’s perspective, while often challenging, underscores the necessity for leaders to possess the courage to confront difficult choices. In a world where challenges are multifaceted and unpredictable, his advice resonates as a call for leaders who can navigate the intricate dance of power with a keen awareness of the practicalities involved.

Relevance in the Modern Political Arena:

As we stand on the cusp of the 21st century, facing unprecedented global challenges, the relevance of these ancient philosophical insights becomes more pronounced. The pressing need for leaders with a judicious blend of wisdom, virtue, and strategic vision is evident across diverse societies.

Plato’s call for a philosopher-king reminds us of the enduring importance of intellectual depth and moral character in our leaders. Simultaneously, Machiavelli’s pragmatic advice prompts a realistic assessment of leaders’ complex challenges in our rapidly changing world.

In the modern political arena, where information flows rapidly and societal expectations evolve, the collective wisdom of the ages can guide us. The philosophies of Plato and Machiavelli converge on the idea that leadership demands a careful balance of virtues and pragmatism. It beckons us to seek leaders capable of navigating the complexities of our world with wisdom, virtue, and a keen understanding of the practicalities of governance.

As societies grapple with decisions about the future, we find ourselves at a critical juncture where the lessons of these ancient sages can illuminate our path. In drawing upon the teachings of Plato and Machiavelli, we embark on a journey that honors the rich heritage of philosophical thought, shaping our perceptions of leadership and forging a path toward a future guided by wisdom, virtue, and a judicious understanding of the realities of governance.

Claudia Syarifah
Claudia Syarifah
Claudia Syarifah, One of the Winner of Many Languages, One World 2015. Currently serving as a Lecturer of International Relations at Wahid Hasyim University in Semarang. Teaching International Humanitarian Law, International Politics, Negotiation and Conflict Resolutions, and Foreign Policy Analysis.