His Environment and Method of Work:

Aristotle was born at Stagira in Thrace in 384 B.C. and died in 322 B.C. He studied in Plato's Academy for about seventeen years, served as Alexander's tutor and then kept his school in the Lyceum for about twelve years. He was profoundly influenced by the prevailing political degeneration of the Greek city-states as evidenced by Philip's easy victories over them. Aristotle was the greatest of Plato's disciples and he took his inspiration on many things from his celebrated teacher. But there is an essential difference between the two political theorists. If Plato was pre-eminently a radica1-thinker, Aristotle was decidedly conservative m his political speculation. Again, while Plato is a deductive thinker, Aristotle follows the inductive method. This is clear if we compare the methods of the two. Plato started with abstract notions of jus­tice and virtue and on the basis of these setup an ideal state. Aristotle reasoned inductively by comparing the working institutions of a large number of city-states actually existing in his own time. The intellectual make-up and reasoning, pro­cess of the two was different. Plato proceeded from the Uni­versal or the Ideal to the particular, while Aristotle's process was from    the particular and concrete  to the universal, Plato believed that reality lay in the ideal i.e. the idea of a thing while Aristotle held that it lay in the concrete manifestation of a thing. Aristotle regarded himself more as a systematizer of already-existing knowledge than as a propounder of new philosophy. The reasoning of Aristotle is less imaginative and more logical and scientific than that of Plato and his specu­lations and judgments are sounder than those of his master. With him, ethics and politics are not so inextricably intertwined as with Plato. If Plato subordinated politics to ethics, Aristotle gave the pride of place to politics.

Aristotle's knowledge was encyclopedic and he wrote on ethics and metaphysics, on art and poetry, on economics and politics, on physics and mechanics, on physiology and medi­cine, on astronomy and logic. In his writings Aristotle showed much regard for popular opinions and current practices, for he was essentially a realist philosopher. His chief work, the Politics, is really a justification of existing institutions like the state, slavery and family or is calculated to suggest reme­dies for the ills of the body-politic of the city-state. It is an unfinished treatise in the form of a monologue and represents 'thought at work and not the finished product of thought', as shown by its constant digressions. The Politics is divisible into three parts. Book I, II and III give us Aristotle’s view of the nature of the state, its origin and its internal organiza­tion (Book I), his examination of states projected by thinkers like Plato or of existing states (Book II), and his classifica­tion of states with a view to finding out the ideal state (Book III). This gives rise to two constructions independent of each other. Books IV, V and VI, hanging together, repre­sent the first construction, explain the nature and classification of constitutions and deal with political dynamics i.e. changes in states due to revolutions. In the second construction i.e. Books VII and VII, Aristotle portrays his ideal i.e. the best State.

Natural Origin of the State:

Aristotle believes that a man by nature a 'political animal’. He finds the origin of the state in the innate desire of an individual to satisfy his economic needs and racial instincts. For the realization of this desire the male and female on the one hand and the master and slave on the other, come together, live together and form a family i.e. a household which has its moral and social use. So long as the needs and desires of the members of this entity are simple, it remains a separate entity. But when the urge to seek a fuller life seizes the different households, they come together and form a city or state which is big-enough to be self-sufficing. It is in the household that the three elements originate and develop which are essential to the building of state viz fellowship, political organization and justice. The state develops as naturally as a household. The human faculty of speech suggests the naturalness of the state.

Nature of the State:

The state is a Koimonia i.e. a community of some kind. Every community is established to realize some good. The state, being the highest of all communities, aims at the good. The state is a natural association for it develops organi­cally from the earlier natural associations i.e. the household and the village. It is the end of them. It is the culmination of a natural development. "Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature and that man is by nature a political animal." Further, "the state is by nature clearly prior to the family and to the individual, since the whole is of necessity prior to the part". The naturalness of the state and its priority to the individual is evident from the fact that a man outside the state is not self sufficing. He finds his perfection only in the state which is his end and of which he is a natural, integral and organic part. As an organic part of the state, the indivi­dual is a political animal.

The state, to Aristotle, is a kind of association of indivi­duals with "a functional unity of varied parts made one by the pursuit of a common aim in which their nature, their habits and their training lead them all to join". Or again, the state is conceived as 'an association of individuals bound by spiritual chains about a common life of virtue, while yet retaining the individuality of separate properties and separate families'. The state, to Aristotle, has an organic growth and performs a moral function. Its end is to give a perfect, self-sufficing and fully developed life to the indivi­duals living in it. Man is a man i.e. he is better than a brute, only if he lives in a state. Without the civilizing influence of speech and organized association, he would be merely an animal, not a rational animal. The state being, therefore, neces­sary to make a man a man, the state is prior to him. A man may be able to satisfy his economic needs within his house­hold but he must satisfy the cravings of his moral and intellec­tual self outside the limits of his household i.e. through the medium of the state.

The Ends of the State:

Aristotle believed that man was essentially good and the function of the state was to develop his good habit of good action. The function of the state, therefore, was positive and not negative as would be implied by a concep­tion of the state as a mere punishing agency. Aristotle's organ­istic conception of the state did not destroy an individual’s identity. ''Man, as having his nature supplemented by the state, rather than the state as controlling man's every faculty, is the pivot of his thought”. The function of the state was the promotion of good life among its citizens and, therefore, the state was a spiritual association in a moral life'. Aristotle saw a good deal of identity between the individual and the state. The state, like an individual must show the virtues of courage, self-control and justice. "As a self-contained ethical society, the state lives the same life as the individual; like him, it acknowledges a moral law, and like him it forces itself (its members) to conform to that law. It has the same end and it attains the same happiness in pursuing that end."

Aristotle's Defence of Slavery:

While discussing the origin of the state, Aristotle men­tions the institution of slavery. He finds slavery essential to a household and defends it as natural and, therefore, moral.  A slave is a living possession of his master and is an instru­ment of action. "For he who can be and, therefore, is an­other's and he who participates in reason enough to appre­hend, but not to have reason, is a slave by nature". A. man cannot lead a good life without slaves any more any more than he can produce good music without instruments. Men differ from each other in their physical and intellectual fitness. Those who are intellectually more advanced than the others are designed by nature to lead the others. The intellectual must control and rule the physical. “For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing, not only necessary but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule”. If the master do not tyrannise over the slave, slavery is advantageous to both the master and the slave. Slavery is good because the slave gets the derivative virtues and excellence of his master. Aristotle, therefore, appeals to the owners be merciful to their slaves and suggests that those who are cruel to their slaves ought to have due punishment meted out to them. Aristotle holds that prisoners of war should be enslaved only if they are intellectually inferior to their captors. It was, to the patriotic mind of Aristotle outrageous that the Greeks who were intellectually the most advanced people should be enslaved. A Greek could at least could be made a casual not a natural slave. Aristotle did not believe in racial, human or sex equality. Aristotle’s defence of slavery rests on two assumptions i.e. (1) men are divided by nature with respect to capacity for virtue, and (2) it is possible to categorize people on the basis of their capacity for virtue.

We have no reliable and fixed criterion to determine who is a natural slave and who is not? Aristotle agrees that the difference between a free-born master and a natural slave is not always apparent and yet he holds that as a rule, there are not only intellectual but also physical and, therefore, tangible differences between the two. Can a slave have the freedom and grace of movement of a free-born Greek trained in gymnasium? If Aristotle approves of the institution of slavery, he does so under definite conditions. He makes out, for one thing, a distinction between slave by law and slave by nature i.e. between casual and natural slaves. Slaves by law include prisoners of war. He admits that the child of a natural slave is not always a natural slave. He does not approve of slavery by mere right of conquest in war because superior physical force does not always mean superior excellence. Besides the cause of war may be unjust and conquest immoral. Then again a Greek should not enslave a Greek. He asserts that the interests of the master and the slave being the same, the master should not abuse his authority over the slave but be­ friend his slave. He, should, on occasions, reason with him. All slaves should be given the hope of emancipation.

Aristotle's Realism:

Aristotle lived at a period when slavery was a universal institution and a necessary part of social structure. On the other hand, the sophists declared slavery to be unnatural. Aristotle took a realistic attitude on the question of slavery. He justified slavery to secure the necessary leisure to the free born Greeks for participation in public affairs. Besides emancipation of all slaves would have revolutionalized the whole social structure in the city-states and upset of all social values. It must be realized that if Aristotle permitted slavery, he also placed low in the social scale those Greeks who were actively engaged in commerce. Inspite of his denunciation of wealth producing activities, particularly usuary, Aristotle like a realistic that he was, had to admit the wealth played an important part in politics, that a character and distribution of wealth is determining factor in fixing the form of government, and that revolutions were due to the discontent of the poor against the rich.  


Aristotle’s defence of slavery sound very convencing and unnatural. He does not give any reliable and fix criteria for the determination of who is and who is not a natural slave. His definition of slavery according to which some men are, by nature, born to issue orders and others to obey them without reasoning would reduce the majority of men in this machine age to the position of slaves. An industrial worker, with little initiative of his own, is very like Aristotle’s in­strument of action i.e. a slave according to his description. Aristotle's assertion that some men are born to rule and others born to obey would reduce the society into two parts arbitra­rily. The fact is that, in society, there are countless grada­tions with respect to moral and intellectual endowment which would point to, not slavery, but a very complex system of subordination and authority. Aristotle's definition would reduce domestic servants and even women in backward countries to position of slaves.

Aristotle gives undue importance to heredity by saying that some people are slaves by nature. He admits that a slave is not a mere body and, unlike animals, he can comprehend reason. Can not a man who can comprehend another man reason develop his own rational potentialities if given proper facilities and environment? The slave being a man is essen­tially incompatible with his being a mere instrument of action. Aristotle conceives of a slave as an animate instrument of action and yet he admits that 'slaves have sometimes the bodies of freemen, sometimes the souls'.

Aristotle on Citizenship:

Book III of the politics brings us to its most fundamental question i.e. Aristotle's idea of the citizen and the state. What is a state? begins Aristotle, and says that viewed objec­tively the (state is an assemblage of citizens). Neither residence in the state, right of suing or sued, franchise, nor yet descent from a citizen, represents the essence of citizenship. Aristotle analyses the conception of citizenship into its essential and non-essential attributes. The essential attribute of citizenship which a citizen must and a citizen alone can pos­sess is neither residence, descent nor legal privilege but per­formance of civic function, not for a limited but for in­definite period. To Aristotle, a citizen is one who participates in the administration of justice and in legislating as a member or the governing body, either or both, these two being the essential features of sovereignty. Aristotle's citizen, therefore, was one who partook of the active sovereign in the state, taking part in the deliberations of the state assemblies and in the juries of the state. The essence, therefore, of citizenship lay in the enjoyment of political rights and duties. It must be kept in mind, says Aristotle that the definition of citizenship, given above applies to a democracy not to all the various  kinds of states and governments. In oligarchies, for instance, not all citizens but a few, holding certain definite offices, legislate or serve as jurors. Aristotle holds that the virtues of a good citizen are not necessarily the same as of a good man nor are the virtues of citizenship in different forms of state of the same type. Excellence of citizenship in a demo­cracy demands virtues different from those in the oligarchy.

Qualifications of Citizenship:

To Aristotle, the essence of citizenship is that a citizen must be a functioning member of a city-state, not a mere adherent nor a mere means to its existence. The prime qualification for citizenship is the capacity to rule and be ruled in turn. This rules mechanics and labourers out of considera­tion because these working people are too dependent on the lead of others to be able to develop the capacity to rule.

Besides, freedom from economic worries is essential for proper discharge of duties of citizenship. An essential qualification for citizenship, therefore, was the holding of property which alone could ensure leisure necessary for participation in civic duties. Manual work, to Aristotle, deliberalizes the soul and renders it unfit for political speculation and discharge of civic duties. Working classes, therefore, have neither the ability nor capacity for citizenship. This is like cutting the society with a hatchet into two parts which was Aristotle's chief point of criticism against Plato's ideal state. Aristotle discards the Platonic view that the capacity to rule is the exclusive possession of a few individuals. But the equality of opportunity to rule he restricts to the citizens only. And yet Aristotle's citizen body is practically co-extensive with Pato's guardian classes. Aristotle is more reactionary than Plato for whereas the latter makes the producing class an organic part of the state, the former relegates them to the position of instruments and not members of the state.

Criticism of Aristotle's Conception of Citizenship:
Aristotle's conception of citizenship is extremely aristocratic and illiberal for modern application. He was conceiving of citizenship in terms of a small city-state with direct demo­cracy whereas modern country-states have indirect democracy. Aristotle's citizen is a juror and a legislator. But there may be systems of government which do not provide for a jury system. In a modern nation-state, every citizen cannot be a legislator. He can, at best control legislation through his elected representative. Aristotle failed to realize the possibi­lities of a representative government. Nor is Aristotle's idea, of citizenship applicable to colonies. By excluding all leisure less working classes from citizenship, Aristotle denies them the educative value of political privileges attached to citizen­ship. He reduces them to the position of a mere means of existence for the state, not an active part of the body-politic. Aristotle's definition of citizenship creates a large disenfranchised and discontented class which goes against the solidarity of the state. It is the duty of the state to secure social and political rights for its humblest members. Aristotle's defini­tion of citizenship does not take into consideration the com­plex gradation of capacity and leisure of members of the society.

If the end of the state is to serve the greatest good of the greatest number, it must be able to utilize the experience of the largest number of people as well as their differences. Again, if citizenship is to be reserved only for a class of people who are rich enough not to have to work for their living, we might well be certain that the governing body, based on rich citizenship, would first and last think of passing legislation to ensure the stability of the rule of its own class and would, therefore, identify the interests of its own class with the public interests of the state. Laws would be passed to preserve for the ruling class their large incomes.

It must, however, be admitted in justification of Aris­totle's limited citizenship that citizenship in his days connoted something much more than citizenship nowadays does and did require leisure which the working class people did not enjoy. Aristotle realized this and, like a realist that he was pre­ferred the practical to the ideally perfect. Like a realist again, he held that a good citizen in a democracy had virtues different from those of a good citizen in an oligarchy.

Aristotle on Law and Justice:

Aristotle holds that law though created like the state by man is not conventional but natural because it is moral. Law is 'dispassionate reason' and its content is the same as that of morality. It has the character of the universal. To Aristotle as to all Greeks, general principles of conduct which are ascertained by reason are natural laws. Canons of right and justice are eternal and universally binding and their sanction comes from their essential rationality. Laws represent social experience and ripened collective wisdom of a people. The principles of natural law were to be applied only by the legislator. A citizen had no right of withholding his obedience to law. Aristotle believed in ‘natural law' but not natural rights'. He agreed that laws were relative to the constitution of the state. A bad constitution meant bad laws. The absence of law in a state meant lack of a constitution. Law was superior to the government because it checked the latter's irregulari­ties. Rule by law was better than personal rule because law had an impersonal quality which the ruler lacked. Aristotle set a great store by the stability of laws.

Justice to Aristotle as to Plato is virtue in action. Jus­tice means that every member of a community should fulfill his moral obligations towards the fellow-members of his com­munity. Justice may be conceived in a wider and in a narrower sense. In the wider sense justice is identifiable with moral virtue and general excellence. It is comprised of all virtues. Complete justice is the whole of moral virtue in social relationship.

Distributive Justice:

Justice in the narrower i.e. political sense has two sub-varieties viz (1) distributive and (2) corrective justice. Corrective justice is mainly concerned with voluntary com­mercial transactions like sale, hire, furnishing of security, etc., and other things like aggression on property and life, honour and freedom. Distributive justice consists in proper allocation to each person according to his worth or desert. This type of justice relates primarily but not exclusively to political privileges. From the point of view of distributive justice, each type of political organization has its own standard of worth and, therefore, of distributive justice. In a demo­cracy, the standard of worth is free birth, in an oligarchy it is riches, in aristocracy of birth it is descent while in true aristocracy it is virtue. Distributive justice assigns to every man his due according to his contributions to the society. It minimizes strife and confusion by countering inequality of the equals or the equality of the unequals. Distributive justice is identifiable with proportionate equality i.e. a man's rights, duties and awards must correspond to his social performances and contributions.

Aristotle insists that offices and honours must not be con­fined to the fit and the virtuous few only to the neglect of the many because the many, collectively, make an important contribution to the state and must be proportionately re­warded. Aristotle's concept of distributive justice does not apply to modern conditions. Based on the notion of award of offices and honours in proportion to a man's contribution to society, it could apply to a small city-state and is not applicable to big nation-states of today. Our notion of distributive justice is based on duties rather than rights, particu­larly the duty of paying proportionate taxes to the state.

Aristotle on Education:

Like Plato, Aristotle was very keen on education. Accord­ing to him, education was meant to prepare the individual for membership of the state and as such had a political as well as an intellectual aim. Aristotle held that education must be adapted to the constitution of the state and should be calculated to train men in a certain type of character suitable to the state. To him, the building of a particular type of character was more important than the imparting of know­ledge, and, therefore, proper educational authority was the state and not private individuals. The state should set up an educational machinery of its own. Aristotle, too, drew up a curriculum of studies based on music and gymnastics dividing the entire period of education of an individual into smaller periods of seven years but his views on education, on the whole, were less complete and less systematic than those of Plato.

 Distinction between State and Government:

With scientific precision, characteristic of him, Aristotle showed a distinction between the state which was the assem­blage of the body of citizens, and the government which consisted of those citizens alone who held the supreme political power and administered the state. The government is a tangible means of executing the ends and performing the moral and political functions of the state. While the govern­ment might change with the overthrow of those who occupied the highest political offices, the state changed only when the constitution of the state was changed. With Aristotle, there­fore, the identity of a state depends upon the identity of its constitution which is defined as an arrangement of the offices of a state, determining their distribution, the residence of sovereignty and the end of political association. The end of the state is the primary concern of the constitution while the residence of sovereignty determines the particular nature of the constitution. To change the constitution, according to Aristotle is to change the state itself. This would seem to imply that after the constitution of a state is changed, the new state as the moral sanction to repudiate the liabilities of the prev­ious state. Bolshevik Russia and a number of republics in South America seem to have followed the Aristotelian line of thought in repudiating their obligations. Aristotle did not believe in the sovereignty of the state. Sovereignty belonged to the de facto government of the state.

Aristotle on Government:

The government in a state could be constituted on the basis of (1) birth, (2) wealth, and (3) number. A govern­ment based on birth has the defect that whereas one monarch may be a wise and efficient ruler his Successor may prove to be a moral or intellectual degenerate. Again a government based upon wealth may not be good or efficient because wealth is no criterion of a man's moral or intellectual worth. The third basis is one of number. Now Aristotle believes that the aggregate virtue and ability of the mass of the people is greater than the virtue and ability of a part of that mass. Though the bulk of the citizens may not be fit to give any valuable judgment on the technical details of administration, still they would have the sound commonsense of deciding to whom they would delegate political power and the authority to make laws. They have sense enough to choose their own rulers and should be able to bring to book their rulers if the latter mis­behave. Aristotle was, therefore, in favour of a vague sort of democracy. He would give ultimate sovereign power to the mass of the citizens though the best citizens only would represent the actual governing authority and machinery.

Sovereignty of Law:

To prevent the abuses of the sovereignty of people, Aris­totle placed above it the sovereignty of laws. Aristotle held that law had qualities which were fundamental to the life of the state. He believed in the virtue of law because law represents the application of a body of rules which have been determined beyond the passions of man. Law is, therefore, free from the influence of human passion. Law represents the rule of reason. Law is stable and introduces the element of stability in the constitution of a state. Law, in so far as it represents the practical wisdom and experience of the past is essential for the proper living of a man and for the proper working of governmental machinery. Aristotle holds that “where laws have no authority, there is no constitution. Aristotle classifies the law ought to be supreme over all and the rulers should judge the particulars”.

Classification of Government:

Aristotle classifies different forms of government in two-fold basis i.e. (1) according to the number of persons who hold or share the sovereign power; (2) according to ends the governments have in view. This basis enables us to distinguish between the pure and the corrupt forms of government. This is because the true end of the state is the perfection of its members and the degree of devotion to this end is the criterion to judge whether a government is pure or corrupt. Judged according to the two-fold basis given above, there are six kinds of government as under: ­

Pure Form

Corrupt Form

  1. Monarchy – with supreme virtue as its guiding principle.
  2. Aristocracy – representing a mixture of virtue and wealth.
  3. Polity – representing material and medium virtues, power resting with the middle class people.
  1. Tyranny – representing force, deceit and selfishness.
  2. Oligarchy – representing the greed of wealth.
  3. Democracy – representing the principle of equality with power in the hands of the poor. 

In the table given above, monarchy represents the rule of one man for common good with tyranny as its perversion. Monarchy is the ideal or pure form but is impossible of realization or at least perpetuation, for, even if we can find an individual who possesses all the necessary qualifications and virtues fully, we cannot expect him to pass on his virtues in all their fullness to his successor. So a monarchy gets perverted into a tyranny which is the rule of one, not for com­mon good but for selfish purposes. In all, Aristotle recognizes five kinds of monarchy i.e. the Spartan type, oriental hereditary despotism, old heroic kingship elective perpetual dicta­torship, and the philosopher guardian. Aristocracy is the rule of the few for the common good. Aristocracy, too, is difficult of realization and gets perverted into an oligarchy which means the rule of the few for selfish purposes and not for common good. Polity means the government of all for the good of all but because the poor must always be more numer­ous than the rich, polity gets perverted into democracy which to Aristotle means the rule of all for the good of the poor only. Aristotle suggests that out of the really practical forms of government, polity based on the rule of law is the best.

Economic Basis of Government:

Aristotle with his native shrewdness, points out that in the case of rule by more than one man, the real distinguishing factor is wealth, for if you have an oligarchy-aristocracy always degenerates into oligarchy-it will always be the rule of the rich and if you have democracy-polity always degene­rates into democracy-it will always represent the rule of the poor. Thus we have an economic basis of the classification of government too. Aristotle observes that in a state four ele­ments always struggle for power viz. (1) Birth, (2) Virtue, (3) Wealth, and (4) Liberty.  

Best Constitutions:

Plato portrayed an ideal state because he believed in the unlimited perfectibility of human nature. To Aristotle, human nature was perfectible within limits. He, therefore, visualizes the best possible state. Aristotle refuses to return a direct and positive answer to the question he poses himself, namely, what is the best constitution or state? He points out that in a polity there is the happy combination of the elements of liberty and wealth, in tyranny there is the element of birth alone, in oligarchy element of wealth and in democracy the element of liberty alone. He adds that one must consider not only what is the best form ideally or absolutely but also what is the best attainable in practice and what is best under a particular set of conditions and circumstances. In an ideal state, there must be the rule of ideal virtue i.e. the government must be in the hands of the best. If one man is super­ excellent in virtue, the form of government should be monar­chy; otherwise pure aristocracy. But it is not possible to maintain such a government for a long time, both monarchy and aristocracy having a tendency to degenerate, after some time, into tyranny and oligarchy respectively. To Aristotle that constitution is best which is best attain­able under the circumstances he realizes the necessity of moderation and stability in the constitution follows the rule of the mean and points out that polity is the best attainable constitution ordinarily. He rules out other forms of govern­ment as representing extremes. For instance, oligarchic wealth promotes arrogance and lack of will to obey and democracy breeds egalitarian license etc. That form of government is best in which the element desiring stability is the strongest. Ordinarily polity in which the middle class is the strongest is the best attainable form of government. In Books VII and VIII of the Politics, where he discusses the form of the best state, Aristotle does not say explicitly whether he is dealing with the ideal or the best attainable state. He mixes idealism with practicality and instead of giving the detailed structure of the state, he confines himself to pointing out the best favourable conditions for the best state which are partly inspired by the Laws of Plato and which are based on Aristotle's doctrine of the golden mean. These external conditions calculated to promote stability of the state are: ­

1. Population:

There must be a certain minimum of population to make the state self-sufficing as also a certain maximum beyond which orderly government becomes diffi­cult. Aristotle, however, does not give the minimum or maxi­mum figures. He lays down that the population should be such that citizens know each other to be able to elect right persons to different offices. This naturally points to a city-state.

2. Size:

The size of the state should be such as to ensure a leisured but not a luxurious life i.e. it should be neither to large nor small. It should be small enough to permit of the holding mass assemblies for deliberative purposes and to be taken at a single glance. The unity of purpose and interest that comes from personal knowledge and active personal intercourse with one’s neighbours is best for the best state. The modern states are so big that there is a sharp distinction between the government and the state, opposition which to a Greek mind, detrimental to the unity of the state. The territory of the state should be hard of access to the enemy and easy of egress to the inhabitants. It should be near enough the sea for necessary imports but not to near it to encourage foreign trade or a sea-going class.

3. Character of the people:

The population should in character and ability resemble the Greeks who combine the spirit and courage of the northern races with the intelligence of the Orientals.

4. Classes in the State:

The classes in the sate necessary to make it self-sufficing are agriculturists, artisans, warriors, well to do people, priests and administrators. The fist two of these are in but not of the state i.e. they are non-citizens. The citizens who hold most of the land on individual basis perform different functions at different periods of life i.e. fighting when young, administrative work when older and that of priesthood when very old. 

5. Education:

Aristotle holds that character of the people and the tone of the society depends to a considerable extent on education which cultivates intellectual, moral and physical excellence and enables a citizen to perform his duties properly. He lays down a system of uniform, compulsory and public education for the leisure classes which is more cultural than practical.
Aristotle mentions other things about his best state i.e. best means of defense against foreign attack, topography, water-supply, arrangement of streets and fortifications etc. his description of the governmental organizations for his best state is very cursory. He lays down that three institutions are necessary to perform the three main functions of govern­ment i.e. a popular assembly, for deliberative work, which should be composed of all citizens and to whom the ultimate decisions of the government must be submitted, a system of magistracy and a system of judiciary.
In extreme democracy all the three organs of government mentioned above are open to all bonafide citizens which endangers the stability of the state. This danger of instability is obviated in a polity by lying down that a citizen must possess a certain minimum of property, before he is eligible to hike to take a share in the work of government. This would mean the rule of the middle class. There must be a reasonable equality of property ownership and property-rights between the citizens. There should be none extraordinarily rich or poor because there can be no harmony of interest between the very rich and the very poor. The best state should eschew all aggressive wars because the true ideal of a state should be a virtue and not power. The end of Book VIII leaves: the subject of the best s ate rather unfinished.

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Aristotle on Revolutions:
Frequent changes in the governments of the city-state in Greece, due to deterioration and decadence in political life, gave food for serious thought to Aristotle who formulated his views on Revolutions and their causes. In Book V of the Politics he shows amazing power of sifting historical material and of masterly analysis in dealing with the causes of the revolutions and displays ripe political wisdom in suggesting preventives for them.


Varying Degrees:
Aristotle points out that there are varying degrees of revolutions. A revolution may take the form of a change of constitution of a state or the revolutionaries may try to grasp political power without changing the constitution. Again, a revolution may make an oligarchy or democracy more or less oligarchic or democratic respectively. A revolution, lastly, may be directed against, (not the entire system of govern­ment but a particular institution or set of persons in the state.


General Causes of Revolutions:
In order to diagnose a revolution we must consider (1) the temper of the revolutionaries and their (2) motives and (3) the, causes and occasions of the revolution and (4) the state of mind of the revolutionaries. Revolutions are generally traceable to the one-sided and perverted notions of justice of revolution-minded people. The most general cause of revolutions is men's desire for equality. But equality has different meaning for different people. The democratic masses want absolute equality of all whereas the oligarchic few favour proportional equality based on considerations of wealth, abi­lity and worth. The objects of a revolution are gain, honour and. Equality. The most important general cause of revolu­tion is the discrepancy between the cultural political ability and the actual political power held by different classes of citi­zens. All revolutions are ultimately due to the innate desire in citizens to have equality of opportunities and rights. A ­state will be stable i.e. not given to revolutions in proportion to the satisfaction of this craving for equality. A mixed form of government, containing both oligarchic and democratic ele­ments, is the best from the point of view of avoiding revolu­tions.
Particular Causes:
Particular causes of revolutions, to be distinguished from occasions of revolutions, as stated by Aristotle are love of gain, love of honour, insolence, fear, undue prominence of individuals in. public life, disproportionate increase in some part of the state, election intrigues, carelessness in granting offices to disloyal persons, neglect of small changes and dissimilarity of elements in the state.
Causes in Particular Kinds of States:
Aristotle also examines causes of revolutions in particular kinds of states. In democracies, revolutions break out due to the excess of demagogues making the rich oligarchs to combine against them. Oligarchies are overthrown due to the oppres­sive rule of the oligarchs or due to rivalry between the oligarchs themselves. In aristocracies, revolutions are due to Jealousy created by restricting honours of state to a small circle. Foreign influence, too, produces revolutions in a state.
Prevention of Revolutions:

Aristotle suggests a number of useful preventives for revolutions. The most essential thing is to inculcate the spirit of obedience to law especially in small matters and to watch th beginnings of change in the constitution. Too much reliance should not be placed on devices to deceive the people. Too much power should not be allowed to concentrate in the hands of one man or one class of men and various classes in the state should be treated with consideration. No man or class of men should feel that they cannot hold political power. Great political offices should be outside the reach of unknown strangers and aliens. Holders of offices should not be able to make private gain, by bribery and gratification etc out of their offices. The administrative machinery particularly financial administration should be open to public scrutiny. Offices and honours should be awarded on considerations of distributive justice and no class of citizens should have a monopoly of political power. The citizens should be educated in the spirit of the constitution. The highest offices in the state should be given only on considerations of loyalty to the constitution, administrative capacity and integrity of character but each citizen must have his due. The government of the day should keep before the public the danger of foreign attack in case of internal revolution. A revolution to Aristotle constituted more a political than a legal change. It had the effect of reversing ethical, social and economic standards.

Aristotle on Tyrants:

While dealing with revolutions Aristotle paid some atten­tion to the tyrants and their peculiar vices. These vices were common to all tyrants, whether Greek or barbarian.The tyrants, according to Aristotle, maintained themselves in power by: ­

  1. The employment of a large number of spies. An effi­cient system of espionage is most essential in a tyranny. .
  2. Pursuit of a policy military aggression abroad. A foreign war is the best means adopted by a tyrant to divert attention of the people from the irregularities of home life and the ugliness of the domestic policy of the government.
  3. Promotion of distrust and of a spirit of hostility between different classes of the community and maintenance of self-confidence.
  4. An attempt to destroy the intellectual life of the citizens because, otherwise, some would indulge in political speculation which is dangerous to a tyrant. Death of intellectual life in the community is one of the most characteristic signs of a tyranny.
  5. The most efficacious of all the methods of a tyrant is his successful disguise of his tyranny by a semblance of beneficent rules. A tyrant shows concern for the people, respects art and religion and avoids display of regal magnificence.

Aristotle on Democracy:

Aristotle holds that two principles characterize democracy i.e. freedom and majority rule. Democrats, says Aristotle, hanker after equality but equality of what? Aristotle condemns the belief of the democrats that freedom and equality mean doing as one likes. People do not want to be ruled or else they want to rule and be ruled in turn. Aristotle was not opposed to democracy in the same measure as Plato was. To him, democracy is a form of government in which supreme power is in the hands of freemen. Aristotle believed that the aggregate virtue and ability of the mass of the people was greater than the virtue and ability of a part of the population. If the mass of people do not understand the technicalities of administration, they have the sound commonsense of appointing right administrators and legislators and of checking any misbehviour on the part of the latter. Aristotle was, therefore in favour of a vague sort of democracy. He would vest ultimate sovereign power in the mass of citizens, though only the best citizens would represent the actual governing authority and machinery. Aristotle’s democracy means aristo-democracy of free citizens, because the large body of slaves and aliens can have no share in the government of the day. It means direct democracy is possible only in a small city-state. Modern representative democracy to Aristotle would mean not democracy but oligarchy.

Aristotle’s Criticism of Plato:

Aristotle devotes the first part of Book II of the Politics to a severe and unfair, even hostile, criticism of Plato. He particularly criticizes the ideal state of The Republic with the help of his sound commonsense and inductive method though the Statesman and the Laws of Plato, also, do not escape his critical notice. He severely criticizes Plato for the latter's (1) conception of the unity of the state, (2) communism of property and wives, and (3) comparative neglect of the lower classes in the ideal or the sub-ideal state.

Aristotle does not agree with Platonic view that the greater the unity of the state the better because such a unity may become so excessive as to destroy the very character of the state which consists in plurality of composition and interests. Similar do not constitute a state. Excessive unity would tend to reduce the state into a family and then into an individual. A state, to Aristotle must represent plurality of dissimilar. Real unity arises not from leveling down distinctions and reducing thins and men to a uniform pattern but from proper organization of relations among individuals differently endowed and trained. Aristotle’s criticism of Plato’s conception of the unity of the state was, obviously, a little too severe because Plato did recognize the need of diversity of functions and of functional specialization in the state. Plato crated three distinct classes in the state and the charge of excessive unity may and that too only to a limited extent, apply to the numerically very small upper two classes only.

Aristotle did not agree with Plato's communism of property and wives as creative of organic unity and harmony in the state. Spiritual medicines were needed for spiritual ills. Unity of the state is best achieved not by abolishing the hoary institutions of private family and private property but by organizing and training individuals of various types and capacities according to the spirit of the constitution of the state. Every individual must be allowed a certain minimum of possessions and of liberty of action to best express his individua­lity in the service of society. Organic unity of the state needed not a particular type or pattern of citizens through commun­ism, but proper utilization of individual differences in furtherance of social needs. (Aristotle criticized Plato’s communism as based on a wrong conception of human psychology. It was as impracticable as it was harmful in its consequences. It would lead to bad social ethics, loose morality and degenera­tion of the human race. Both private property and private were essential social institutions.

Aristotle expresses dissatisfaction regarding the vagueness of Plato's references to the non-guardian class i.e. lower classes representing the majority of the people in the state. Plato does not formulate any system of education for them nor does he fix up their position in the state. Will not Plato's division of population into the guardians and the non-guardians divide the state into two mutually hostile parts with a hatchet? It must be realized, however, that Aristotle's division of the population into the citizens represented hardly any improvement on Plato's position.

Aristotle's Indebtness to Plato:
In spite of Aristotle's criticism of Plato, as given above, there is a considerable similarity of ideals in the Laws of Plato and the Politics of Aristotle. Both holds that man is a social animal and must live in society. Both write on the basis of the city-state. Both are for the individual placing himself at the service of the society. There is a similarity in the views about education and the educational systems of the two. Both are in favour of state regulation of education. Both have an exalted notion of citizenship and disregard lower classes. Neither denounces slavery. The classification of government of the two is very similar. Both portray an ideal state. Both insist on unity and harmony of the state. Both denounce democracy and assign rule to virtue. Both take an organic view of society. Both believe in a mixed constitution in the Laws and the Politics as the most excellent. To both justice lies in the rendering of 'due'. Both believe in the natural origin of the state. Both believe that the state exists not only for life but for good life. Both establish an identity between the virtues of the individual and of the state and, therefore, correlate Ethics and Politics.

The Hellenic and the Universal in Aristotle:

THE HELLENIC - The political philosophy of Aristotle is essentially based on a detailed and systematic study of contem­porary Hellenic thought and practice. His inductive method and his realism contributed powerfully to give a Hellenic colouring to all that he thought and wrote. The basic princi­ples of his thought, namely, the superiority of the city-state over other forms of government and of the Greeks over other races of mankind, the justice of slavery as a necessary social institution, the importance of leisure in public life, the necessity of a state-directed and state-controlled system of educa­tion and his hatred of commerce and usury are typically, Hellenic in conception. The Politics of Aristotle is really an   attempt to rationalize existing Greek ideas and institutions.

THE UNIVERSAL - A deeper study of Aristotle, however, reveals a series of concepts of abiding interest and universal application. The eternal problem of the reconciliation between liberty and authority was properly emphasized by Aristotle. The modern notion of the sovereignty of law is clearly traceable to Aristotle to whom law represented the rule of ripe and dispassionate reason and was necessary for the pro­per working and stability of the state. Aristotle is refreshingly modern in his emphasis on the value of public opinion. The mass of the people had sound commonsense and were good judges of public policies. Aristotle also realized the importance of a determinate human superior and was thus the forerunner of the Austinian theory of legal sovereignty. By dividing the functions of the government into the deliberative, the legislative and the judicial, he gave support to the theory of separa­tion of powers. Aristotle also showed the eternal relationship between economics and politics and was thus the source of inspiration to writers like Montesquieu and Karl Marx. His doctrine of the golden mean finds its development in the modern notion of political checks and balances. Aristotle may also be said to be the father of modern Individualism as well as the modern theory of popular sovereignty.

There is both the conservative and the democrat in Aris­totle. As a conservative he rationalizes existing institutions even though as a progressive and rules out traders and artisans from citizenship. As to the democrat in him, Aristotle is not a proletarian democrat and does not believe in mob-democracy but he is a liberal democrat opposed to all forms of dictatorship, even of the philosopher-rulers. He does no believe in the class-rule of Plato or Marx. He realizes the soundness of the political judgment of the common man. “It is possible that the Many, of which each individual is not a man of talent, are still collectively superior to the few best persons."

Estimate of Aristotle:
 It is no exaggeration to say that practical political philo­sophy in the West began with Aristotle. While Plato soared in the heights and aimed at the ideal, Aristotle's objective was not the ideally best but the best attainable. By his keen and practical political insight and systematic treatment of the subject Aristotle laid the foundations of real political science. Politics, with him, assumed the character of an in­dependent science. Undoubtedly, he like Plato, combine the ethical and the political but he always gave the pride of place to the political. Aristotle was more individualistic than Plato as shown by the fact that whereas the latter dealt with both ethics and politics in one treatise, Aristotle dealt with the two in two separate treatises i.e. the Politics and the Ethics. He considered the individual important enough to be a subject of treatment in a separate work.

In spite of his, sometimes, severe criticism of Plato, Aristotle differs from his master more in the form and method than the content of his political philosophy. He is analytical and logical and realistic and his theories represent definite and clear-cut dogmas. He may be called the scientist of Politics because of his empirical study of and his method of approach to a problem. He collects his data with infinite care and minuteness, categories and defines it and draws rationalistic conclusions.

Aquinas was Aristotelian in his method and much of the content of his thought. To both Aristotle and Aquinas, law was identical with reason. To both the best governments were monarchy and aristocracy, based on the rule of virtue. Both favoured mixed governments. Aquinas harmonized the political theory of the Church with the forms of Aristotle’s politics. Aristotle influenced the imperialist as much as the ecclesiastical thinkers. Both the defensor pacis of Marsiglio and the De Monarchia of Dante show traces of indebtness to the politics, Machiavelli, too, borrowed from the Politics. The Prince is opined to be a commentary on the Aristotelian theory of revolutions. But, whereas, Aristotle established a close relation between ethics and politics, Machiavelli divorced his politics from ethics.

Even the modern age is not uninfluenced by Aristotle. Montesquieu in the form as well as the content of his philosophy is evidently indebted to Aristotle. His theory of separation of powers is inspired by Aristotle. The Hegelian theory of the constitution of a country representing ‘the expression of the self-consciousness of the state’ is, in some measure, in agreement with Aristotle’s views on the subject. The close relationship between economics and politics established by Karl Marx is also traceable to Aristotle. The Politics of Aristotle still remains one of the greatest classics on political science because it contains much of universal validity.

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