Front Page Titles (by Subject) Plato on Women and Property - Literature of Liberty, Spring 1980, vol. 3, No. 1
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Plato on Women and Property - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Spring 1980, vol. 3, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Plato on Women and Property
“Philosopher Queens and Private Wives.” Philosophy & Public Affairs 6(Summer 1977):345–369.
Plato’s enigmatic ideas on women can only be understood in the light of his views on the role of private property. Plato seriously contradicts himself by initially declaring that woman is equal in status and capabilities to man, and that she should be raised exactly like man. His later writings, however, prove that Plato changed his thinking on woman: she is to be viewed as the private property of man, having a different nature than man’s, and considered only a “legal minor” in the government’s eyes.
Plato’s dialogue on the Republic describes the need to abolish private property, and thus the private family. This dissolves women’s traditional role in society, freeing her to develop the talents and capabilities that had been previously suppressed. The difference between the sexes is reduced to their roles in procreation, thus the natures of man and woman become identical. Plato radically proposes education and lifestyle of men and women also to be identical. To achieve the good of this communal society, the abolition of traditional sex roles is more in accordance with nature than is the conventional adherence to them.
By contrast, in the Laws, Plato reinstates private property, requiring monogamy and private households. Women are restored to the class of “private wives” (as the Greek society dictates), with all that this entails.
Plato does not actually change his statements about women’s potential, in fact his beliefs on this subject are stronger in Laws than in Republic. However, because of the economic and social structure he has prescribed in Laws, he cannot carry out the revolution in the woman’s role that would seem to follow his beliefs.
The difference between the two dialogues follows from the abolition of private property and the family, in the interest of unity in the Republic, and their reinstatement in the Laws. When a female is once again perceived as a privately owned appendage of a man with her function defined by the needs of her family, the socialization prescribed for her must ensure that her “nature” is shaped and preserved to fulfill this role.