Plato’s ideal city-state & stubborn realities

“Stubborn realities”, how apt the phrase.

Last week I re-read Tracy Kidder’s Hometown, because I had not read it in years and it was lying about at one of my temporary house-sitting homes. This particular section struck me and I’d certainly not remembered it from my first reading and so I thought I’d share;

Reprinted here with no thought whatsoever toward obtaining permission.

“Thirty thousand souls. Plato’s ideal city state was about that size, Northampton’s size. To relieve the squalor and congestion of Renaissance Milan, Leonardo da Vinci devised a scheme for building ten new cities. Like Northampton, each was to have a population of thirty thousand. And thirty thousand was roughly the size of the famous “garden cities” drawn up by Ebenezer Howard at the end of the nineteenth century. Howard intended his ideal towns to serve as antidotes to the overcrowding of great cities such as London, and to the growing impoverishment of the English countryside. And his utopias were most unusual in that a few approximations actually got built.

Howard’s perfect garden city was neither quite a city nor a country town. It combined the best of both.  It wasn’t an American-style suburb, but a truly self-sufficient place, with farms and rural scenery, urban entertainment and variety. Northampton had become a place rather like that, where many people went weeks without leaving because they found some of everything they needed and wanted here. But Howard’s garden city depended on a collevtivist vision. The garden city itself would be the only landlord. And, Howard figured, his new city wouldn’t need more than a few cops, because, like Northampton, they would comtain only thirty thousand people, “who, for the most part, would be of the law-abiding class.” Utopias by definition ignore some stubborn realities. If a place is big enough to provide all the variety that the law-abiding want, it’s likely to be big enough to harbor most varieties of human nature unrestrained.”

And so you see, my dear Nyal, that great writers do begin sentences with “And”, making it perfectly acceptable for untrained hacks like myself to do the same.

4 Responses to “Plato’s ideal city-state & stubborn realities”

  1. mo, during Plato’s time there was 100 million souls on this rock, in Howards time a little more than 1 billion, today 6 & counting: how many garden cities does that make? my calculator won’t go high enough. but the notion persists with Shumacher’s ‘Small is Beautiful’ and transition towns, so who knows…

    great to have you ever so benignly back!

  2. Gnome de Pluen Says:

    Imagine finding my name buried in a text about Plato!

  3. Gnome de Pluehm Says:

    Imagine finding my name in an article about Plato!

  4. I am an And as sentence starter convert and I never thought it would happen.

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