Timocracy

economic-dictionary

A timocracy is a form of government, in which power is held by those who have a prominent level of income, property, or other assets.

Timocracy is a concept that, etymologically, comes from the Greek. Time, which means honor or value, and Kratos, which means Government. Therefore, timocracy, literally, means the Government of those who have value or honor. Although the meaning that has been given to that value or honor is that of income, either through money or goods.

This type of government is one of many that have developed in the past, specifically in ancient Greece. Solon of Athens was an Athenian legislator, whose reforms were based on the timocratic idea. And, academically, it was Plato who further developed timocracy as a political concept and idea, in his work «The Republic«. The concept refers to the fact that only those with a certain level of income or properties are truly able to participate in public life and make decisions regarding what concerns the State.

Solon of Athens and timocracy

Solón was a legislator, whose reforms were approved and developed at the beginning of the 6th century BC. C. The creation of the timocracy is attributed to him, due to the social division that made in Athens based on wealth.

Medimno was established as a general unit of measurement. Thus, the number of medimnos would depend on the social class and the functions they could perform. These classes were as follows:

  • Pentakosiomedimnos: They were citizens with more than five hundred medimnos, and their political participation was full.
  • Hippeis: They were the knights, and they exceeded three hundred medimnos. They could be archons (magistrates) and access the archon.
  • Zeugites: They were the hoplites, shield and spear soldiers, whose wealth exceeded two hundred medimnos. His political access was more limited.
  • Thetes: They closed the Athenian social division, considered the lowest ranking group. His wealth was less than two hundred medimnos. They could be members of the Heliea, the people's court.

This was the composition of the Athenian people after Solon's reforms. The first two classes could hold the position of archons, be on the council and on the court. The third class could access the council and the court. And the last one only to the court. Thus, each citizen had political rights proportional to their economic contribution.

Plato and timocracy

For him, as for other classical authors, every form of government degenerates into another similar but corrupted one. The timocracy is the degeneration of the aristocracy. This is born from the split of the rulers, from the differences that arise between them. For the author, this is a temporary form of government between the aristocracy and the oligarchy. The latter, characterized by marketing and the main role played by wealth and money.

It is relevant to note that, for Plato, unlike the meaning that timocracy acquires in other authors and contexts, it has a different meaning. It supposes the government of the military, those who have the most value. But it is still an undesirable form of government. For the author, the best Government is the aristocratic one, headed by the philosophers, who are the ones who possess the most wisdom and knowledge.

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