The invocation of Plato in any article about Donald Trump might seem misplaced to most readers. How does one of the most brilliant philosophers of all times relate to an unqualified, opportunistic US presidential candidate? What can Plato possibly say about the current mess of American politics? Are we really so desperate that we have to fall back on philosophy? However odd, part of the public debate has turned to the ancient Greek philosopher in order to explain the unanticipated popularity of Trump – and with it the rise of populism in Europe and the US. Democracy may eventually lead to tyranny, as Plato argues, but it is even more interesting to see how he would prevent this process in the first place.
If you look around at universities, you are supposed to see the future elite. Even in the Netherlands, where there are currently over 250.000 enrolled bachelor- and master students, the image of students belonging to a relatively wealthy and talented class in society still prevails. Do I see myself as part of the elite? I don’t know. And to be honest, given the fact that the concept of ‘elite’ has become something of a swear word during the past few years, I’m not sure whether I want to consider myself elitist.