Aristotle Atirtotle’s Politics Aristotle’s Politics is a timeless examination of government structure and human nature that explains his ideas on how a utopian state can be achieved. In this work, Aristotle examines ubiquitous issues such as government structure, education, crime, property ownership, the honesty of occupations, and population control. He states in Book IV, Chapter Eleven .. the best form of political association is one where power is vested in the middle class, and secondly, that good government is attainable in those cities where there is a large middle class .. The polis is a partnership of citizens in a system of government that serves to achieve the common good.
It is not just a place where people live together for defense against enemies and for the exchange of goods. It is rather a partnership between households, clans, and villages for the sake of a fully developed and self-sufficient life. The polis gives those who possess wisdom and moral intellect a chance to move up to high positions Justice is the political good in the polis, and it must promote the common interest of the people. What is perceived to be good has to be distributive and regulative. The law is the regulating mechanism that emerges from free and equal people in civic associations.
It serves as the final arbiter of problems, and stands above individuals and binds their actions. Laws change habits and training, but are changeable through certain circumstances and procedures if it is believed to be unjust. The well-being of a society is contingent upon to what extent its citizens obey the law. A member of the polis can be defined as someone who can participate in judging (serve as a juror in the court system), and in governing (serve in public office). A good citizen must possess moderation, prudence, and justice, and must be able and willing to rule and be ruled. Aristotle defines a constitution as an arrangement in regard to the offices of the city.
By this arrangement the citizen body distributes office, either on the basis of the power of those who participate in it, or on the basis of some sort of general equality (i.e. the equality of the poor, or of the rich, or an equality existing among both rich and poor.) There must therefore be as many constitutions as there are modes of arranging the distribution of office according to the superiorities and the differences of the parts of the city (Page 138). He believes that the organization of a state’s constitution is directly related to the kinds of citizens that reside in the polis. The constitution has a direct root to the most powerful or most populated class. The middle class is where most of the power comes from because they are the majority, and therefore best reflect the common interest. The upper class is not fit to form the constitution because they, like the lower class, would base it on t heir own values and beliefs rather than the needs of the state.
There are problems with the lower and upper classes creating laws. The lower class constantly feels that the government is cheating them out of something because they do not have the wealth, stature, and possibly education that the upper-class possesses, thereby making it difficult for them to work towards the common good. Aristotle thinks that the upper class has too much ambition, and would only create laws that would further their economic and social well-being with little or no regard to the rest of the population. These classes consist of self-interested individuals that want to further their own needs and concerns. They create factions in order to go against the system. Factional conflict is the result of inequality, and the passion for equality is the root of faction (Class Notes). The middle class acts as the mean between the concerns of the rich and poor.
Goodness itself consists in a mean; and in any city the middle class is a mean between the rich and the poor (Page 156). Th e middle class is free from the ambition of the rich and the pettiness of the poor, which helps to ensure political cohesion. We can conclude that a constitution based on this class (i.e. a ‘constitutional government’ or polity) is most likely to be generally beneficial. It will be free from faction, and most likely be stable.
People who know how to deliberate and give instruction should be eligible for positions in the government. The best form of constitution would have the power vested in the middle class. The golden mean is correlated with moderation which can only occur when there is a large middle class population. Freedom is the defining principle of democracy. The main aspects of freedom are being ruled and ruling in turn, since every one is equal according to number, not merit, and to be able to live as one pleases.
The majority should have authority rather than those who are best fit to rule, and groups few in number. Although everyone in the polis may not be a political scientist, they can work better together with peers. With each individual having qualities of excellence and intelligence, they join to form a single entity. The real difference between democracy and oligarchy is between poverty and wealth. Oligarchy occurs when rulers owe their power to wealth whether or not they are the majority. Tyranny can be described as the worst of two potential evils. It is extreme oligarchy in its distrust of the masses and extreme democracy in its hostility to the noteables (Page 211).
Aristotle says the best form is one based on merit. A combination between oligarchy and democracy is constitutional government. Although people can agree on what justice is, they often fail to reach it because they can not stop from pursuing their own goals and desires. A good government can moderate between what people think is just and what is best for the common good. Aristotle’s theories are fundamentals of our current political system and earned him the title The Father of Political Science.