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In modern societies that operate under a system of liberal democracy, the political opinions expressed in Plato's dialogues can seem quite alien, even somewhat despotic. This argument was made most famously by the Austro-British philosopher, Karl Popper, in his book The Open Society and its Enemies. There, Popper examines the anti-democratic doctrines existing in Plato's works and, in an audacious rhetorical move, aligns Plato with Karl Marx in a philosophical tradition of repression that culminates in the catastrophic regimes of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. Since their first publication in 1945, Popper's views have been a source of great controversy amongst philosophers, and should certainly not be taken as authoritative. However, Popper's extreme position obliges us to examine carefully the political stances expressed in Protagoras.
When placed in the context of Popper's argument, the almost unopposed advocacy of democratic doctrines in Protagoras comes as something of a surprise. One of the crucial implications of Protagoras' story about the distribution of political skills to all people is that all people are entitled to participate directly in making collective decisions concerning how their community is governed. Protagoras fails to argue logically for the full force of what his fable entails. Nonetheless, he does vigorously suggest that—once it is accepted that all people have the basic skills necessary to take part in political activities—being human entitles someone to be a citizen, in the fullest sense, of the country in which they live.
Nowhere in Protagoras does Socrates directly confront this principle, which was far less acceptable in 5th-century BCE Greece than it is in the democratic societies of the 21st century. However, the tenor of Socrates's argument about sophistry hints at a line of argument against democratic politics that Plato will only develop fully in The Republic.