In the Laws, Plato describes in fascinating detail a comprehensive system of legislation in a small agricultural utopia he named Magnesia. His laws not only govern crime and punishment, but also form a code of conduct for all aspects of life in his ideal state - from education, sport and religion to sexual behaviour, marriage and drinking parties. Plato sets out a plan for the day-to-day rule of Magnesia, administered by citizens and elected officials, with supreme power held by a Council. Although Plato's views that citizens should act in complete obedience to the law have been read as totalitarian, the Laws nonetheless constitutes a highly impressive programme for the reform of society and provides a crucial insight into the mind of one of Classical Greece's foremost thinkers.
Plato (c.427-347 BC) was one of the shapers of the whole intellectual tradition of the West. He was disgusted by the corruption of Athenian political life, and the execution of his teacher Socrates. He sought cures for the ills of society in philosophy, and became convinced that those ills would not cease until philosophers became rulers, or rulers philosophers. Trevor J. Saunders has translated many volumes of Plato for the Penguin Classics.