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SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS FROM SPARKNOTES

Politics by Aristotle

Context
The Greek world of Aristotle's time was made up of poleis (the singular of
which is polis), or small city-states, each with its own autonomous
government. The polis consisted of citizens, slaves, non- citizen manual
laborers (called "mechanicals"), children, women, and immigrants. The
citizens were adult males generally born to citizen parents. The citizens
governed the city, while the slaves, mechanicals, and women did all the work
to provide the necessary food, shelter, and equipment for society. Because
daily tasks were accomplished by others, citizens enjoyed a great deal of
freedom and luxury. The leisure they enjoyed was highly valued, and it made
possible one of the greatest periods of intellectual energy in human history.
That this system was exploitative is hardly debatable, but it also produced an
incredible array of philosophy, drama, art, and architecture.
The Greeks were fiercely proud of their accomplishments, and they coined
the derogatory term "barbarian" to describe anyone who was not Greek.
Citizenship was considered an essential part of personal identity, and thus
exile from one's polis was considered a fate worse than death. There were
few enough citizens in a given city that each would at least recognize, if not
know, the all other citizens, and all citizens were expected to take part in
public office. Unlike the modern Western system of representative
democracy, in which a populace elects someone to speak for it,
thepolis called for all Greek citizens to voice their own opinions in large
deliberative and judicial assemblies. There was a strong bond of kinship
created in citizenship, as they all lived together, governed together, served
in the army together, and enjoyed leisure time together.
Aristotle (384 B.C.322 B.C.) was born in Stagira, a northern Greek city in the
Kingdom of Macedonia, but he lived most of his life in Athens, generally
considered the greatest of all Greek poleis. From 367 B.C. to 347 B.C., he
was a student in Plato's Academy in Athens, and after twelve years abroad
he ran his own school on the steps of the Lyceum in Athens from 335 B.C.
until a year before his death. His admiration for the Greek polis shows itself
very clearly in the Politics.He argues that the polis is the highest form of
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human association, and all of his discussions of political theory are based on
the assumption that the polis is the best and only sensible political system.
Ironically, Aristotle was closely affiliated with the force that brought the
system of independent and self-sufficient poleis to an end. In his years away
from Athens, he served as a tutor for the young Alexander the Great. Within
Aristotle's lifetime, Alexander unified all of Greece and assimilated it into his
empire, thus effectively rendering the independent poleis extinct.
While a great many of Aristotle's recommendations are only applicable in the
context of the polis, there is still a great deal that one can learn from his
works. His remarks on the nature of justice, the goal of political association,
and the relationship between individual and state are as relevant now as
they were in his time.

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PLOT OVERVIEW
The polis, or Greek city-state, according to Aristotle, is the highest form of
political association. Only by being a citizen of a polis can a person fully
pursue a life of good quality, which is the end goal of human existence.
Because one can only achieve this goal through political association,
Aristotle concludes that "man is a political animal." As well as defending
private property and condemning capitalism, Aristotle notoriously regards
the institution of slavery as necessary to the workings of society.
Reviewing and criticizing other constitutions and constitutional theories,
Aristotle concludes that no present city or theory is ideal. He identifies cities
with their respective constitutions and categorizes six different kinds of
cities, three good and three bad. The three good kinds arepoliteia, or
constitutional government; aristocracy; and kingship. The three bad kinds
are democracy, oligarchy, and tyranny. A good constitution is formulated
according to the principle of distributive justice: equal people are treated
equally and unequal people are treated unequally. People are deemed more
or less valuable to society according to the contributions they make to the
life of the city. Though Aristotle states that a constitutional government with
a sovereign set of laws is ideal, he admits that in cases where there is an
outstanding group or individual, aristocracy or kingship might be preferable.
Books IVVI turn away from the abstract questions of political theory and
examine practical questions related to the political structure of the ancient
Greece in which Aristotle lived. Aristotle reviews the many different
manifestations of the different forms of government and remarks on the
value of a strong middle class that can mediate between the opposing
interests of the rich and the poor.
The government of cities is generally divided between deliberative, judicial,
and executive functions, and Aristotle discusses the different ways in which
these functions can be fulfilled. Regardless of who is in power, it is prudent
never to exclude completely those who are not in power. Moderation,
education, and respect for all will ensure stability. Constitutions change when
a large faction opposed to the present government arises and institutes a
different conception of justice and equality.
Envisioning an ideal city, Aristotle states that the goal of the city is to help
each citizen achieve happiness, which is found in the free exercise of
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speculative reasoning. All other goods are just means to this end. Aristotle
recommends keeping the city small, but large enough to be self-sufficient.
The citizens should all share in military service, government, religious
service, and land ownership, but they should leave crafts and food
production to non- citizen laborers. In terms of education, Aristotle
recommends a program of reading and writing, drawing, physical training,
and music. This education should be directed toward the end of achieving a
life of good quality, and should encourage life skills, moral goodness, and
cultivation of the mind.

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IMPORTANT TERMS
Polis - Though the word "city" is often used as a translation of polisin this
SparkNote's summaries and commentaries, there is no exact English
equivalent for the Greek city-state. The polis was a relatively small, selfsufficient, and independent region governed by its citizens, the elite class.
The workforce consisted of slaves, manual laborers, and women. Aristotle's
world was made up of city-states, and his political theories work from the
assumption that the polis is the most sensible form of government.
Koinonia - Roughly translatable as "association," koinonia is defined
literally as "a sharing in common." This concept is very important to
Aristotle's political philosophy and is integral to the nature of the polis:
the polis is an association not only in the sense of people living in the same
place, but also in the sense of a shared venture in which all citizens take
part. Aristotle thus perceives no conflict between individual and state.
Politeia - Aristotle uses this complex word in two different ways: first, it
translates quite directly as "constitution;" second, it describes an entity
translated here as "constitutional government" (other translations may
render it as "polity"). Aristotle considers constitutional government, in which
the masses are granted citizenship and govern with everyone's interest in
mind, one of the best forms of government. It combines elements of
oligarchy and democracy, finding a compromise between the demands of
both the rich and the poor.
Kingship - An idealized form of monarchic government in which the king
is an exceptional individual who governs with everyone's best interests in
mind. Aristotle acknowledges that finding such an outstanding leader is
difficult, but prizes the possibility nonetheless.
Oligarchy - Aristotle uses oligarchy, literally "the rule of the few," to refer
to a government controlled by a minority consisting of the wealthy. Unlike
aristocracy, Aristotle believes, oligarchy is a bad form of government, as the
ruling faction governs solely in its own interests, disregarding those of the
poor.
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Democracy - Aristotle disparages democracy, literally "the rule of the
people," as a type of government in which the poor masses have control and
use it to serve their own ends. This involves the heavy taxation and
exploitation of the rich, among other things. Among forms of majority rule
such as democracy, Aristotle prefers politeia, or constitutional government.
Aristocracy - Aristotle highly esteems aristocracy, literally "the rule of
the best," and considers it superior to oligarchy because it values everyone's
interests.
He
contrasts
aristocracy
with
oligarchy,
democracy,
and politeia by pointing out that these forms of government concern
themselves only with questions of wealth. Aristocracy, on the other hand,
confers benefits on the basis of merit, with the result that those who most
deserve to govern do in fact govern.
Tyranny - The rule of an individual interested solely in his own benefit. A
perverse form of kingship, tyranny is unpopular and usually overthrown. In
Aristotle's opinion, it is the worst type of government.
Demagoguery - The worst type of democracy, in Aristotle's opinion, is
mob rule is carried to an extreme. In demagoguery, everyone's voice is
equal, and the rule of the majority has greater authority than the law. As a
result, the will of the people supersedes law. Invariably, a charismatic leader,
or demagogue, takes control and becomes a tyrant. Because he speaks with
the voice of the people, and because the voice of the people is sovereign,
the demagogue is free to do what he wants.

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BOOK I SUMMARY AND


ANALYSIS
Aristotle defines the polis, or city, as a koinonia, or political association, and
he asserts that all such associations, like all deliberate human acts, are
formed with the aim of achieving some good. He adds that political
association is the most sovereign form of association since it incorporates all
other forms of association and aims at the highest good.
The different kinds of associations that exist are founded on different kinds of
relationships. The basic unit of association is the household, the next is the
village, and the ultimate association is the city, toward which end humans,
seeking to attain the highest quality of life, naturally move. Aristotle
concludes, "man is by nature a political animal." Only as part of a city can
people fully realize their nature; separated from the city, they are worse than
animals.
Aristotle identifies the three kinds of relationships that make up the
household: master-slave; husband-wife; and parent-child. He also identifies a
fourth element of the household, which he calls the "art of acquisition."
Aristotle views slaves as the means by which the master secures his
livelihood. He defends slavery by noting that nature generally consists of
ruling and ruled elements: some people are slaves by nature, while others
are masters by nature. It is thus unjust to enslave, through war or other
means, those who are not slaves by nature. Though being suited to mastery
or slavery is generally inherited, slavery is just only when the rule of master
over slave is beneficial for both parties.
Aristotle likens the relationship between master and slave to that between
soul and body: the master possesses rational, commanding powers, while the
slave, lacking these, is fit only to carry out menial duties. He also likens the
relationship between master and slave to that between a monarch and his
people and that between a statesman and free citizens.
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Aristotle examines the art of acquisition, which pertains to the satisfaction of
basic needs, distinguishing between natural and unnatural acquisition.
Different people go about satisfying these needs in different ways,
depending on their mode of life: some are farmers, some hunter-gatherers,
and some pirates or freebooters, etc. This securing of food, shelter, and
other necessities is called natural acquisition because it is an indispensable
part of the management of a household.
Unnatural acquisition, on the other hand, consists of accumulating money for
its own sake. Aristotle observes that goods such as food and clothing have
not only a use-value, but also an exchange-value. In societies where trade is
common, a monetary currency naturally arises as a facilitator of exchange.
The aim of exchange is the accumulation of such currencyi.e., the
production of monetary wealth rather than the natural acquisition of goods.
Aristotle further dislikes this accumulation of currency because there is no
limit to the amount of currency one can accumulate, leading people to
indulge in an excess of enjoyment.
Aristotle addresses the household relationships of husband-and-wife and
father- and-child. The former relationship resembles that of the statesman to
his people in that the husband and wife share the same free (i.e., not slave)
nature; that the male, by his nature, is more fit than the female to command,
justifies the fact that it is the husband, not the wife, who rules the household.
The latter relationship resembles that of the king to his subjects, as the
father rules by virtue of his children's love for him and their respect of his
age. The respective virtues of master, wife, child, and slave vary in aim and
measure according to the different roles these individuals fulfill.
Analysis
Much of Aristotle's political philosophy is based on the idea of teleologythat
everything in nature exists for a specific purpose. His ##Nicomachean
Ethics##, which in many ways parallels thePolitics, argues that the end goal
of human existence is happiness and that this happiness involves the human
faculty of reason. ThePolitics is largely an attempt to determine what kind of
political association is best suited for securing happiness for its citizens.
Ancient Greece was divided into small city-states, and these poleismeant
much more to their inhabitants than modern cities do to theirs. The interests
of a polis and those of its citizens were seen as identical, since both city and
man aimed for happiness. Thus, the concept of an opposition between
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individual rights or freedoms and the laws of city or state did not exist in
ancient Greece.
Aristotle's belief that man can only become fully human when he engages in
the political association of the city is a strongly communitarian view that
would meet with heavy opposition from libertarian thinkers. By asserting that
man fails to fulfill his ultimate purpose when he is disconnected from the
state, Aristotle is not simply arguing that the laws of the state should restrict
man's freedom; he is arguing also that life has no value outside the confines
of the state.
The polis that Aristotle so admires could only exist with the heavy
exploitation of slave labor, so Aristotle's defense of the institution of slavery
is not surprising. His arguments in support of slavery are a bit confused and
sometimes even contradictory, as he seems to attribute some amount of
rationality to slaves while simultaneously denying that they possess any. His
argument rests on the idea that there exist "natural slaves," people who lack
rationality and so cannot properly exercise their own freedom; it is beneficial
for such individuals to be enslaved, since their master can supply the
rationality that they lack. The problem with this argument, however, is that
slaves must necessarily have some kind of rationality if they are to follow
orders and respond to commands. Aristotle almost admits as much at,
though he doesn't seem to recognize the full implications of this concession:
if slaves have rational minds, then they are not "natural slaves" and thus,
according to Aristotle, should not be enslaved.
Aristotle's discussion of acquisition is particularly interesting from a capitalist
viewpoint. The modern global economy revolves entirely around the
accumulation and exchange of currency, practices which Aristotle abhors,
and the single-minded pursuit of money has come to be perceived as a
fundamental element of much of western society. ##Karl Marx## claimed to
have found similarities between Aristotle's discussion of acquisition and his
own theories, and the communitarian nature of Marx's thought seems to
draw from Aristotelian political philosophy.

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BOOK II SUMMARY AND


ANALYSIS
Summary
Before proposing his own theory of government, Aristotle examines other
theories of government and reviews existing constitutions of well-governed
states. He begins with an extended criticism of Plato's ##Republic##,
interpreting its main thrust to be that citizens should share in common as
much as possible, including wives, children, and property. The goal of this
community is to achieve as much unity in the city as possible, but Aristotle
counters that the city involves an essential plurality: different people must
make different contributions, fulfill different roles, and fit into distinct social
classes. Otherwise, a city will not be able to perform the many functions
necessary for it to remain self- sufficient.
Aristotle disapproves of Plato's suggestion that men share the women of the
city and that children be taken from their mothers at birth and raised
collectively in state nurseries. By this proposal, no child would receive proper
parental care, and the lack of family ties would render citizens less capable
of showing friendship and love. Aristotle also notes that Plato does not
explain how children can be transferred between social classes without great
discord.

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Aristotle also attacks Plato's remarks on the community of property, stating
that the practice of generosity, an important virtue, requires individual
ownership of property. The problems people often associate with ownership
of private property arise not from privatization but from human wickedness.
The solution is to share education, not property. Aristotle also points out that
Plato is not clear on exactly what kind of ownership the farming class should
have over its property. In any case, Aristotle finds none of the possible kinds
of ownership satisfying.
In a final comment on Plato's republic, Aristotle
leave the governance of the city entirely in the
Plato's system seems to deprive the guardian
whole republic, of happiness, thus defeating the

notes that it is dangerous to


hands of one class. Besides,
class, and by extension the
purpose of association.

Aristotle then details the faults he has found with Plato's Laws: (1) Plato's
proposed city requires a vast territory but makes no provision for safe
relations with neighbors; (2) generosity, like temperance, should be a guiding
principle regarding wealth; (3) Plato says that land should be divided into
even lots and distributed evenly between citizens but makes no allowance
for fluctuations in population; and (4) Plato seems to want a politeia, or
balanced constitutional government but ends up with an oligarchy.
Aristotle then criticizes the theories proposed by Phaleas of Chalcedon and
Hippodamus of Miletus. Phaleas's primary concern is the equalization of
property, but he does not realize that material equality alone cannot make
people good; rather, happiness arises out of moderation and education.
Hippodamus's class distinctions are confused, his legal reforms unsavory,
and his system of rewards dangerous.
Having dealt with these theoretical systems, Aristotle turns his attention to
existing constitutions and finds none that is wholly satisfactory. He finds a
number of problems with the much-admired Spartans' government: (1) the
system of serfdom leaves the ever-present danger of revolution; (2) the
undue freedom given to women presents many hazards, the worst of which
is a dowry system that hurts the economy and the military; (3) the Ephors, or
overseers, are elected almost at random from the general populace; (4) both
Ephors and councilors are susceptible to bribes; and (5) the state's two kings
are not elected on the basis of merit.
Aristotle is dissatisfied also with Crete and Carthage. The Cretan system is
elitist, susceptible to feuds, and has only remained safe thanks to its
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isolation from other states. While Carthage is superior to both Sparta and
Crete, it rewards the rich too much, which encourages greediness.
Analysis
Aristotle's goal in Book II is to demonstrate the need for a new theory of
government, since neither a perfect theory nor a perfect government exists.
As a result, this book reads more like a polemic than a balanced discussion.
Aristotle makes concessions here and there, but on the whole he is not
interested in the merits of the theories and constitutions that he is
discussing. The more flawed he can make these examples appear, the more
responsive his audience will be to his own theory. Rather than engage in a
balanced critique, Aristotle seems for the most part to isolate individual
points out of context and portray them in the worst possible light.
Aristotle's discussion of Plato's ideal republic had the potential to be one of
the greatest intellectual encounters of all time but is instead painfully
unsatisfying. Aristotle seems to be misreading Plato almost intentionally, and
he rarely levels criticism of any value. One might defend Plato on a number
of counts: (1) Aristotle's claim that Plato's desire for as much unity as
possible disregards the essential nature of the city is nonsensical, since
Plato's ideal republic is strictly divided into three distinct social classes; (2)
Plato proposes only that wives and children should be shared in common by
the ruling guardian class, so that children who grow up to be guardians are
loyal to the state first and are not distracted by family ties. He makes no
suggestion of eliminating family ties within the other classes; (3) Only the
guardian class is supposed to do without private property; and (4) Plato's
arguments for the happiness of the city are meant to ensure the happiness
of the individuals within the city.
Aristotle's attack on the Laws is even farther off the mark, and
commentators have suggested that perhaps Aristotle was referring to a
version of the Laws different from the one available to the modern reader.
The criticisms of the constitution of Sparta are more valid, though Aristotle
makes no reference to the many virtues of the respected Spartan
constitution. Little beyond what is stated in thePolitics is known about
Phaleas, about Hippodamus, or about the constitution of Carthage. It is
interesting that Aristotle reviewed Carthageand with a relative amount of
favor at thatsince it was a city in North Africa and thus outside the pinnacle
of civilization that was ancient Greece.

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In spite of the weakness of Aristotle's attacks, Book II is not without merit.
Most significantly, Aristotle sustains a defense of private property. Most of
the theorists he attacks that seek to abolish private property do so with the
intention of abolishing the greed and selfishness that accompany private
property. Aristotle argues that these vices result from human wickedness, not
from the mere existence of private property. Consequently, abolishing
private property is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for
eliminating vice. If people were equal and equally wealthy, for example, they
would become lazy in their luxury. If people were equal and equally poor,
they would quickly become discontented. The history of communism in the
twentieth century has done a great deal to support Aristotle's claim that the
abolition of private property is not enough to make people happy or virtuous.

BOOK III SUMMARY AND


ANALYSIS
PART I
Summary
Book III is ultimately concerned with the nature of different constitutions, but
in order to understand cities and the constitutions on which they are
founded, Aristotle begins with an inquiry into the nature of citizenship. It is
not enough to say a citizen is someone who lives in the city or has access to
the courts of law, since these rights are open to resident aliens and even
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slaves. Rather, Aristotle suggests that a citizen is someone who shares in the
administration of justice and the holding of public office. Aristotle then
broadens this definition, which is limited to individuals in democracies, by
stating that a citizen is anyone who is entitled to share in deliberative or
judicial office.
Aristotle points out that though citizenship is often reserved for those who
are born to citizen parents, this hereditary status becomes irrelevant in times
of revolution or constitutional change, during which the body of citizens
alters. This raises the question: to whom may citizenship be justly granted,
and can the city be held accountable for decisions made by governing
individuals if these individuals have not been justly granted citizenship?
Further, if the city is not identical to its government, what defines a city, and
at what point does a city lose its identity? Aristotle suggests that a city is
defined by its constitution, so that a change in constitution signifies a change
in the city. He does not, however, resolve the question of whether a city
should honor debts and obligations made under a previous constitution.
Aristotle next compares the criteria for being a good citizen and those for
being a good man. One is a good citizen to the extent to which one upholds
and honors the constitution. Because there are different kinds of
constitutions there are also different kinds of good citizens. Perfect virtue,
however, is the only standard for being a good man, so it is possible to be a
good citizen without being a good man. Aristotle suggests that a good ruler
who possesses practical wisdom can be both a good citizen and a good man.
There is the further question of whether manual laborers can be citizens.
Aristotle acknowledges that they are necessary to a city but states that not
everyone who is necessary to the city can be a citizen: good citizenship
requires that the citizen be free from the necessary tasks of life. Still, in
oligarchies, in which citizenship is determined by wealth, a rich manual
laborer may qualify for citizenship.
Next, Aristotle details the different kinds of constitutions that exist. There are
just constitutions geared toward bringing about well-being for all of their
respective citizens, and unjust constitutions geared toward the benefit of
those in power. Constitutions vary also in the size of the governing body: a
single person; a small, elite group; or the masses. Thus, there are six kinds of
government: three just and three unjust. Just government by a single person
is kingship, by a small group is aristocracy, and by the masses is politeia, or
constitutional government, participation in which is reserved for those who
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possess arms. The three forms of unjust government are perversions of the
corresponding forms of just government: a kingship directed toward the sole
interest of the ruler is a tyranny; an aristocracy directed toward the sole
interest of the wealthy is an oligarchy; and a constitutional government
directed toward the sole interest of the poor is a democracy.
Analysis
Aristotle's suggestion that a citizen is someone who shares in the
deliberative or judicial offices of a city may seem odd to the modern reader,
as very few people in the twentieth century would count as citizens by this
definition. In the polis, on the other hand, involvement in the affairs of the
city defined one's identity to a large extent. Though there were certain
leaders concerned exclusively with the government of the city, all citizens
were required to contribute in some way. Assemblies of citizens made
decisions in bodies whose modern equivalents are law courts and city
councils, and these assemblies would rotate membership so that every
citizen served a specific term. The only aspect of this system that remains in
modern times is jury duty.
According to Aristotle, everything is made up of formthe essence of a thing
and matterthe actual physical composition of a thing. Just as a bronze
statue of Socrates has the form of Socrates and the matter of bronze, a city
has a constitution as its form and a citizenry as its matter. A city whose
constitution has changed is no longer the same city, much as a bronze statue
that has been melted down is no longer the same statue. While the citizenry
actualizes the concept of a city, it is a constitution that supplies this
fundamental concept. Aristotle thus views the city as an entity much greater
than the simple sum of its citizens.
It is important to note that Aristotle's conception of citizenship is elitist. He
draws a sharp distinction between those who perform the necessary tasks to
keep the city running smoothly and those who govern these laborers and
benefit from their toil. Citizens must participate in the government of city
and household, but they do not do any other work; the leisure they enjoy is
made possible only by the continuing toil of those beneath them. Aristotle
further reinforces class hierarchy by arguing that manual laborers should not
be granted citizenship because they are too busy with their work to devote
enough time to education and self-improvement. Why non-citizens should
consider it worth their while to accept this system is one of the unresolved
tensions in the Politics.
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Aristotle will ultimately argue that just government works best when the
masses are allowed to participate. That he believes possession of arms
should be a condition for citizenship in such a constitutional government,
however, further demonstrates his elitism. While this requirement ensures
that citizens will take part in defending the city, it also serves as a minimum
wealth requirement. Political power is reserved for the wealthy, while those
who cannot afford weaponry have no say. Even in Aristotle's government by
the masses the very poor and their interests are ignored.

PART II
Summary
Aristotle says that all constitutions are based on a notion of justice; this
notion, however, varies between constitutions. Oligarchs, for instance,
maintain that it is just to grant benefits in proportion to a person's wealth,
while democrats claim that all who are equal in free birth should be granted
an equal share in the wealth of the city. This difference in distribution results
from differing notions about the end goal of the city. If the end goal of a city
were property and wealth, then the wealthiest members would indeed
contribute the most to the city, and thus they would deserve the greatest
share of benefits. Alternatively, if the end goal of the city were simply life or
security, then all would be equal partners in this enterprise, and all would
deserve an equal share of benefits. But associations based on wealth and
security are not cities. The end goal of a city is life of good quality for its
citizens, and thus benefits should be extended to those who do the most to
contribute to this end by encouraging civil excellence, regardless of their
birth or wealth.
Aristotle examines a number of problems regarding sovereignty. If the
governing body is allowed to determine what is just, then democracies,
oligarchies, and tyrannies would then be just. And though aristocracies and
kingships may rule justly, these systems deprive the rest of the citizens of
the honor of holding civic office. Likewise, laws cannot be allowed to
determine automatically what is just, since they may be formulated unjustly.
Aristotle believes that a politeia can overcome many of these difficulties.
While each individual person may not be particularly commendable, the
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populace as a whole is less susceptible to error and should share collectively
in the judicial and deliberative offices of government. Aristotle answers the
objection that government should be left to experts by saying that the
collective populace is wiser than any individual expert, and more
importantly, a better judge as to whether the people are being governed
well. Aristotle concludes nonetheless that well-constituted laws should
ultimately be sovereign, and governing bodies should deal only with
particular cases not covered by general laws.
Aristotle asserts that justice is the end goal of politics, granting benefits in
proportion to merit. Merit is determined by one's contribution to the
functioning and well-being of the city, but it is not entirely clear how one can
determine who contributes the most toward these ends: separate arguments
can be made in favor of the wealthy, the nobly born, the good, and the
masses. Aristotle argues on behalf of the masses but suggests that if there is
a single individual far superior in all respects to everyone else, he should be
made king.
Kingship ranges from being a military commander to being the absolute
sovereign in every matter. Aristotle concerns himself particularly with the
issues of this latter form, absolute monarchy. A king is more adaptable than
laws to particular circumstances, but a single person cannot possibly deal
with all the city's affairs. Further, a single individual is more susceptible than
a larger body to corruption. Given the vital need for impartiality, Aristotle
considers a larger body preferable to a king (even if the king were to subject
himself to impartial laws) in the making of day-to-day decisions.
Nonetheless, in those rare cases in which one individual clearly outstrips the
rest, it may be just to grant that individual absolute kingship.
Analysis
Aristotle's concept of distributive justice is based on a cold, practical
assessment of an individual's value to society. Aristotle believes that since
people make unequal contributions to society (and hence are unequal), it is
only just to grant them unequal benefits. Modern notions of inherent
equality, on the other hand, rebuff this attitude, focusing on the cooperative
spirit of society at large. The ##Declaration of Independence##, for
example, claims as a "self-evident" truth that "all men are created equal,"
expressing the belief that everyone deserves the same rights and
opportunities.

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Distributive justice raises two particular problems that Aristotle addresses in
these chapters: first, who is to determine what is just, and second, who
makes the most significant contribution to the well-being of the city? All
political associations should aim at a kind of justice that will confer benefits
according to merit, but this abstract formulation does not tell us how we can
determine merit and who should be the last word concerning justice.
The question of sovereignty is a difficult one, as Aristotle acknowledges. No
matter who has the last word on what is just, there is the possibility of
corruption or unfairness. If we place justice in the hands of the governing
body, then even a corrupt or self-interested governing body would be just by
definition. In claiming all the wealth for themselves, the rulers of an oligarchy
could defend themselves by saying that they are the governing body so their
decision is just. And even if we say that the laws set down in the constitution
determine justice, there remain two difficulties. First, our definition carries no
guarantee that these laws are just: they may have been set down in the
interests a self-interested minority. Second, laws can only deal with
generalities, and there are many particular cases on which the law is not
clear.
Aristotle's solution is to require, first of all, that the governing body include
all citizens and that they govern in the common interest; and second, that
the laws be well constituted and directed toward the general good. That is,
he favors a constitutional government, orpoliteia, that is subject to a fair and
sovereign set of laws. The law, claims Aristotle, should be the absolute
sovereign, and the decisions of the government should only be made in
those cases where the law is unclear. The government should not have the
power to make decisions that go counter to the law. If the law is well
constituted, this will ensure that, even if a corrupt government is in power, it
cannot do too much damage. While the idea of the sovereignty of the law
was not new in Aristotle's time, he was one of the main proponents of this
idea in the Greek world, and it has been passed down to us largely thanks to
him.
In Aristotle's opinion, then, a sovereign law should confer benefits according
to each person's contribution to the city, and deliberative and judicial
assemblies that are made up of all citizens should rule in cases where the
law is ambiguous. However, the question remains how we should determine
who makes the best contribution to the city. If the goal of the city is to ensure
the good life for its citizens, it is far from clear how we could fix an objective
standard to determine who contributes most to this goal. Aristotle's solution
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is that, since all citizens take part in deliberative and judicial office, all
citizens contribute equally. This solution is trumped in the case of
outstanding individuals who clearly make a far more significant contribution
than their peers. In Aristotle's opinion, it would be unjust to place such an
individual on an equal level as his peers, since he is making an unequal
contribution. Though Aristotle is reluctant to endorse kingship for a number
of reasons, he ultimately concludes that in some cases it may be the best
solution.
Aristotle is not concerned about depriving non-citizens of the opportunity to
contribute to government because he does not believe that such
contributions could possibly be valuable. According to him, all people are
born of a nature that leads them either to lead or to follow. Only freeborn
citizens are leaders, and only they would have access to the education and
leisure that would make them politically savvy enough to be able to
contribute to government. It is worth noting that the audience to whom
Aristotle lectured consisted of just such freeborn citizens, whose leisure time
allowed them to absorb Aristotle's teachings and reinforce the social
hierarchy.

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BOOK IV SUMMARY AND


ANALYSIS
PART I
Summary
Aristotle asks what sorts of states are the most practical for existing
circumstances. Having asked what constitution is the best in an ideal case,
he wants to study what sort of constitution suits what kind of civic body, how
best a given constitution can be maintained, and what kind of constitution is
best suited for the majority of contemporary cities. Every city has different
constituent elements: the number, diversity, wealth, skill, etc., of the
different classes of society may vary greatly, allowing for many different
constitutions.
Aristotle defines democracy as a state in which the freeborn are sovereign,
and oligarchy as a state in which the rich are sovereign. In order to analyze
the different kinds of democracy and oligarchy, Aristotle breaks the city
down into nine constituent parts: (1) farming class; (2) mechanical class
concerned with the arts and crafts; (3) merchant and retailer class; (4) hired
laborers; (5) soldiers; (6) wealthy patrons; (7) the executive, (8) the
deliberative, and (9) judicial branches of public affairs.
Though the same person may fall into more than one of these categories, no
one can be both rich and poor. As a result, there are always two distinct
classes in society, and two basic forms of governmentdemocracy and
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oligarchydepending on which of the two classes is in power. Aristotle
classifies five different forms of democracy: (1) everyone is equal by law,
regardless of wealth; (2) an individual must meet a modest minimum
property qualification to hold public office; (3) only the nobly born may hold
public office, but the law remains sovereign; (4) anyone can hold public
office, but the law remains sovereign; and (5) anyone can hold public office
and the public, rather than the law, is sovereign. This last form is susceptible
to the onset of demagoguery, in which a popular leader can sway public
opinion to the extent that he can do as he wills without repercussion.
Aristotle classifies four different kinds of oligarchy: (1) there is a property
qualification for holding public office; (2) there is a high property qualification
for holding public office and the current officers select new officers; (3) public
office is hereditary; and (4)dunasteia or dynasty, in which public office is
hereditary and the officers, rather than the law, are sovereign.
Aristotle notes that a state with a democratic constitution is often ade
facto oligarchy, and vice versa. Normally, when people have wealth and
hence leisure sufficient to devote a great deal of time to public office, states
tend toward the more extreme forms of government in which officers, rather
than the law, are sovereign.
An aristocracy accords public office primarily on the basis of merit, though
some regard may be paid to the wealthy or the masses.Politeia, or
constitutional government, is a mixture of oligarchy and democracy that
confers benefits both on the masses and on the wealthy, but it does not
discriminate on the basis of merit. A constitutional government can mix
democracy and oligarchy in one of three ways: (1) a combination of the two;
(2) a mean between the two; or (3) a mixture of elements taken from each.
In a healthy constitutional government, it is essential that everyone in the
city be content with the constitution.
Last, Aristotle distinguishes between three kinds of tyranny: (1) that among
barbarians; (2) that once existing in Greece; and (3) a tyrannical and entirely
self-interested rule exerted over unwilling subjects.
Analysis
The text of Book IV is often very corrupt, and it is not clear how Aristotle
would have wanted this material to be presented. Many chapters seem to
repeat previous chapters with slight variations that alter Aristotle's meaning
in significant ways. It seems possible that there were two different versions
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of Book IV that Aristotle wrote at different times and that the text available
to the modern reader is an awkward combination of the two.
Whereas Book III deals primarily on a theoretical level, Books IVVI deal
primarily on a practical level, seeking to discover how contemporary states
ought to be governed. One of the confusing results of this change in focus is
that many of Aristotle's valuations seem to change. In Book IV, he spends a
great deal of time discussing democracy and oligarchy, classifying different
types and making recommendations for each, despite condemning all such
governments as corrupt in Book III. However, it is important to realize that
ancient Greece consisted primarily of oligarchies and democracies; Aristotle
offered advice in response to these imperfect governments.
Aristotle's concern for the sovereignty of laws evidences the fact that laws in
ancient Greece were far more rmanent than they are in the modern world:
there was no legislative branch of government and there were no
amendments to constitutions. The government was free neither to break nor
to change these laws, and it was thus held in check. In most of Aristotle's
analyses of contemporary governments, thus, the laws are sovereign. In
some cases, however, the government has ultimate sovereignty. Aristotle
observes that the law tends to have more sovereignty in poorer cities
because people can't afford to spend much time on public policy decisions,
while the government tends to have more sovereignty in wealthier cities
because people have more leisure time to invest their energy in politics. A
strong proponent of the sovereignty of law, Aristotle is well aware that a
state may become totalitarian when the government is sovereign, regardless
of what kind of government it is. The twentieth century has demonstrated
that extremist governments from both the left-wing (e.g. communism) and
the right-wing (e.g. fascism) are prone to suppress law in the consolidation of
absolute, oppressive power.
Aristotle is obviously more favorable to aristocracy and constitutional
government. Interestingly, however, he seems to favor aristocracy over
constitutional government even though in Book III he suggests that
constitutional government is probably the best alternative. Here
constitutional government is portrayed as a middle ground, giving favor to
both rich and poor, between the corrupt alternatives of democracy and
oligarchy. Aristotle esteems aristocracy as superior to these three
alternatives, as it is the only form of government that takes merit, as
opposed to wealth, into account. Of course, Aristotle has yet to present an
objective standard that can be used to determine merit.
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PART II
Summary
Aristotle states that the type of government that is simultaneously most
practical and most realistic is a politeia, or constitutional government, in
which power rests in the hands of a strong middle class. Drawing on a major
theme of the ##Nicomachean Ethics##, Aristotle asserts that a life of virtue
consists of finding the mean between two extremes. In the case of politics,
the middle class is the mean between the rich and the poor. In a city that
consists only of rich and poor, the rich will feel contempt for the poor and the
poor will feel hatred and envy for the rich. The spirit of friendship that is so
essential to a healthy city is made possible only by a strong middle class that
holds no grudges and is not prone to factionalism. Aristotle laments,
however, that a strong middle class rarely develops: it is possible neither in
small cities, nor in the superpowers of Athens and Sparta, which have
encouraged democracy and oligarchy respectively.
Aristotle addresses the question of which type of constitution is best suited
to which sort of state. The fundamental principle is that the part of the city
that wants a certain constitution must be stronger than the part of the city
that opposes it. Where the nobility, wealth, and culture of the rich outweigh
the sheer numbers of the poor, an oligarchy is desirable, and where the
numbers of the poor outweigh the trappings of the rich, a democracy is
desirable. When the middle class outweighs both of these classes,
a politeia, is desirable. The middle class serves as a good arbitrator and, so,
should always be a party to the constitution.
Aristotle points out that oligarchies fine the rich for not participating in the
assembly, public office, law courts, army, and athletics. The rich are thus
encouraged to participate while the poor have no motivation to do so.
Democracies practice the contrary, paying the poor but not the rich for their
participation in civic activities. A mean between democracy and oligarchy
would thus have to fine the rich and reward the poor in order to encourage
both to participate. Aristotle recommends, however, that some minor
property qualification, like the possession of arms, be required for those
wishing to participate in government.
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Aristotle considers the three elements of civic government: the deliberative,
the executive, and the judicial. The deliberative element deals with public
matters such as foreign policy, the enacting of laws, judicial cases in which a
severe penalty is involved, and the appointment of public officials. The
executive element holds public order and takes responsibility for governing
and issuing commands. The judicial element passes rulings on matters of
private and public interest. Generally, a democracy permits all people to be
involved in these matters, an oligarchy permits only a select group to be
involved, and both constitutional government and aristocracy permit all to be
involved in some matters and only a select group in others.
Executive elements vary greatly from constitution to constitution, according
primarily to four factors: the number of offices, the function of each office,
the length of tenure in a given office, and the method by which officers are
appointed. The method of appointment may vary depending on who does the
appointing, who is eligible to be appointed, and what method is used to
appoint (whether by election, by lot, or by a combination of the two.

Analysis
Aristotle summarizes his Nicomachean Ethics: "the truly happy life is one of
goodness lived in freedom from impediments and goodness consists in a
mean," and he applies this concept to government. Just as the idea that
everything requires moderation is crucial to Aristotle's ethics, so too is it
integral to his politics, as he argues the merit of empowering the middle
class. Rather than presenting a vague, theoretical suggestion, Aristotle backs
up his argument with practical considerations: the middle class is the least
susceptible to factionalism, to self-interest, and to hatred of other classes of
society. The polis is fundamentally a koinonia, a shared venture in which
everyone participates in order to achieve a common good. Moreover, Greek
civic life greatly esteemed the virtue of friendship (and cooperative striving).
Thus, the middle class, the least likely to feel resentment toward other
classes, embodies this all-important virtue and is hence the best suited for
government.
Politics in the West today are on the whole quite moderate and centrist,
being liberal without any strong left-wing tendencies. This is undoubtedly a
result of the strength of the middle class. While there is a great deal about
Western politics that Aristotle would not admire, he would certainly praise
the predominance of the middle class.
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There is a temptation to associate Aristotle's three branches of government
(deliberative, executive, and judicial) with the three branches (legislative,
executive, and judicial) proposed by Montesquieu in the early eighteenth
century and put into effect in the United States in the late eighteenth
century. Though these triads are similar in name, the respective systems of
Aristotle and Montesquieu are in fact quite different. First, Aristotle proposes
no legislative branch. In Greek times, the laws were seen as permanent and
not subject to modification, so a legislative branch would have been
irrelevant. Second, Aristotle's judicial element is closer to our lower courts
than to the Supreme Court that constitutes the judicial branch of American
government. There were no professional judges or lawyers in ancient Greece,
so a jury of citizens decided all court cases. The responsibilities of
Montesquieu's judicial and executive branches correspond roughly to those
of Aristotle's deliberative and executive elements.
One might distinguish between Aristotle's executive and deliberative
elements by saying that the executive deals with day-to-day business and
the deliberative element deals with exceptional cases. The "public office" of
the executive element is a translation of the Greek arche, which means "the
position of one who rules." Thus, the executive branch consists not of all of
the public servants (many of whom were slaves), but rather only of those
who issue orders. The deliberative element, much like the judicial, is called
together in a large assembly to deliberate on matters of public interest.

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BOOK V SUMMARY AND


ANALYSIS
PART I
Summary
The general topic of Book V is constitutional change: what causes
constitutions to change; the ways in which different constitutions are
susceptible to change; and how constitutions can be preserved. Aristotle
argues that the root cause of constitutional change is that different groups
have different conceptions of justice and equality. While democrats believe
that all freeborn people are absolutely equal, oligarchs believe that
inequality in wealth implies inequality on an absolute scale. The wealthy and
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the poor are thus liable to form separate factions, each trying to alter the
constitution to its advantage. Some argue that justice should be in proportion
to merit or birth, but because these individuals of great merit or high birth
are so few in number, they never form powerful factions. Absolute
democracy and absolute oligarchy are not very durable, as some
compromise between the two is usually necessary. However, Aristotle
suggests, democracy is less susceptible than oligarchy to factionalism.
Aristotle identifies three aspects of the cause of factional conflict: (1) the
state of mind that leads someone to form a faction; (2) what can be gained
or lost in forming a faction; and (3) the causes of political disputes that may
lead to factions. Aristotle then identifies eleven potential causes of
constitutional change: (1) arrogant behavior or hubris on the part of a ruler
upsets his subjects; (2) a faction realizes how rebelling might profit it; (3)
people act to avoid disgrace or to win greater honor for themselves; (4) a
ruling oligarchy or monarchy is too powerful; (5) people fear punishment at
the hands of those in power; (6) those who are not in power despise the poor
government of those in power; (7) one class grows disproportionately larger
than another; (8) corrupt election procedures lead to safeguards that alter
the constitution; (9) people who are not loyal to the constitution rise in the
ranks; (10) much minor change to the constitution amounts to one
substantial change; and (11) large numbers of immigrants splinter into
factions. Aristotle identifies several other causes of constitutional conflict:
petty quarrels between important officials; changes in the power of certain
public offices; equality between antagonistic elements (the poor will not
revolt against the rich unless they feel as powerful as the rich); force; and
fraud.
Aristotle identifies causes of change that are particular to democracies,
oligarchies, and aristocracies. A democracy is most liable to be overthrown
when it devolves into demagoguery and when the demagogue leads a
crusade against the rich. Oligarchies can be changed either from without or
from within. Change from without may occur when the pooror others who
have been mistreated and excluded from governmentfight back. Change
from within may occur with infighting, the impoverishment of certain
members, or the formation of an inner, even more elite, circle. Alternatively,
change may occur when the city as a whole has become much wealthier,
allowing a great many more people to meet the property requirement that
makes one eligible for office. Aristocracies endanger themselves when the
ruling circle becomes increasingly narrow. Additionally, aristocracy and
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constitutional government both contend with the challenge of balancing the
democratic and oligarchic aspects of government.
Aristotle notes also that all forms of constitution are subject to change from
without if a powerful neighbor with a different form of constitution uses its
might to impose its constitution on conquered states.
Analysis
Both the rich and the poor conceive of justice and equality selfishly. Each
party interprets these principles in the manner that will confer the most
benefits upon its constituency. Aristotle maintains the doctrine that all
intentional actions have some good as their goal; no one ever knowingly
does what is wrong, and thus evil results always from an ignorant and
skewed prioritization of goods. The ways in which the rich and the poor
conceive of justice and equality are thus prime examples of the ignorance
that the Greeks took to be the source of all evil. Consequently, Aristotle
considers both oligarchy and democracy to be perverted forms of
government.
Aristotle is quite detailed in his listing of the different ways in which a
constitution can be changed. The first seven relate directly to the inherent
nature of the state and constitution. The ease with which the ruling party can
fall out of favor illustrates the ever-present tension between the ruling and
the ruled. The last four that Aristotle lists are more accidental causes of
change, for which the unpopularity of neither constitution nor ruling faction
is responsible.

PART II
Summary
Aristotle next addresses the question of how constitutions may be preserved,
noting that when the cause of change is known, one has a better idea of how
to prevent such change. Aristotle recommends that the ruling party (1)
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always be wary of lawlessness, especially in its petty forms; (2) never try to
deceive the masses; (3) treat everybody well and fairly, especially those
outside the constitution; (4) cultivate a state of emergency so that people
will not attempt a revolt; (5) prevent in-fighting between nobles; (6) ensure
that the property qualification for office remains proportionate to the wealth
of the city; (7) be careful not to confer great promotions or significant
withdrawals of honor too suddenly; (8) be wary of a class that is on the rise,
and give power to the opposing class or the middle class; (9) prevent public
office from becoming a source of profit; and (10) offer special consideration
to the rich in a democracy and to the poor in an oligarchy.
Aristotle explains that a constitution is most likely to last if those holding
office are loyal to the constitution, highly competent, and of good character.
Additionally, it is essential that a majority in the city be in favor of the
constitution and that the constitution refrain from becoming too extreme. A
middle ground is important in all things: extremism may well undermine the
very goals of the extremists. Most important of all, however, is the education
of the citizens in the spirit of the constitution. Being bound to a constitution
can then be liberating rather than enslaving.
Aristotle focuses on the particular questions involved in the preservation of
monarchies, both kingships and tyrannies. Aristotle applies much of what he
has said earlier about non-monarchies to monarchies, as a kingship is similar
to an aristocracythe rule of the best directed toward the benefit of alland
a tyranny is a combination of the most extreme and harmful elements of
oligarchy and democracy. Tyrannies are particularly unstable, and may be
toppled by outside forces or by the hatred and contempt of inside forces.
Kingships are generally quite durable, though, as Aristotle notes, they are
becoming increasingly rare, as there are fewer exceptional individuals to
assume the mantle of kingship.
Aristotle believes that kingships are best preserved through a policy of
moderation. Tyrannies may be preserved in one of two opposing ways. The
first involves implementing a policy of harsh repression that consists of
breaking the spirit of the people, making them mistrust each other, and
rendering them incapable of action. Such a policy would include expelling or
executing men of merit, forbidding public gatherings or cultural events,
employing a secret police, and so on. The second method of preserving a
tyranny involves doing everything to keep the people happy, short of
surrendering absolute power. The tyrant should be careful with public funds,
ensuring that they are spent to the benefit of the people, he should temper
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his own indulgences and extravagances, and he should also never abuse his
subjects physically or sexually. This will ensure that his rule is not only more
durable, but also more tolerable than most forms of tyranny.
In closing, Aristotle comments that tyrannies and oligarchies tend to be the
most short-lived forms of government. He then launches a brief attack on
Plato's ##Republic##, remarking that the Republicgives an inadequate
account of the ways in which constitutions can change.
Analysis
Given Aristotle's emphatic belief (stated in his ##Nicomachean Ethics##)
that an end is good only when pursued in moderation and that evil is the
result of ignorance, it is not surprising that Aristotle values moderation and
education as forces that can ensure the stability of a constitution.
Revolutions occur when a powerful faction rises to oppose the ruling faction.
If the ruling faction can harness its extremist tendencies, then it is less likely
to alienate those who are not in power and, thus, are less likely even to face
an opposing faction. A policy of moderation can keep those who are not in
power from forming factions, and education can help those who are in
power to work toward the end of upholding the constitution.
It seems odd that Aristotle would be interested in teaching governments he
deems unsavory, such as democracies, oligarchies, and tyrannies, how to
preserve themselves. His recommendations, however, usually involve a
policy that incorporates moderation and education that renders these
constitutions akin to their more admirable parallels. This is most clear in the
case of tyranny: were a tyrant to implement an oppressive police state,
according to Aristotle's first suggestion, he would create what Aristotle
explicitly labels the most evil regime imaginable. Aristotle then proposes a
second, more palatable alternative: were a tyrant to not abuse his power,
according to this suggestion, his tyranny would become more like a
kingship.
Similarly, Aristotle's suggestion to both democracies and oligarchies is that
they become more moderate and seek more actively to please those who are
being excluded. It is worth recalling that Aristotle differentiates between
democracy and politeia, oligarchy and aristocracy, based on the fact that
the bad forms of government (democracy and oligarchy) aim at the interests
of just the ruling faction, while the good forms (politeia and aristocracy) aim
at the interests of all. In recommending that oligarchies and democracies aim
to please those who are being kept from power, Aristotle is essentially
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recommending that they become more like their good counterparts. If an
extreme oligarchy, for example, were to follow Aristotle's advice and start
giving all sorts of consideration to the poor, it would cease to be an oligarchy
and would have to undergo constitutional change. Thus, while claiming
ostensibly to teach various constitutions how to preserve themselves,
Aristotle subversively aims for every constitution to serve the interests of all.

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BOOK VI SUMMARY AND


ANALYSIS
Summary
In addressing the question of the construction of democracies and
oligarchies, Aristotle reminds us that even someone wholly committed to the
principles of democracy would not want to construct a city based entirely on
the principles of democracy. This would in effect be an extreme form of
democracy, or demagoguery, which would undermine the very principles it
was created to serve. Rather, a government must temper these principles
and discover how best to apply them, given the particular make-up of the
people over whom it rules.
Aristotle states that the underlying principle of all democracy is liberty, but
the concept of liberty can be interpreted in two different ways. Under one
interpretation, liberty means an even interchange between ruling and being
ruled by all freeborn citizens. This implies the sovereignty of the majority and
the equality of all before the law. Under the other interpretation, liberty
means the freedom to do whatever one wants. In this system, ideally, one
would not be ruled at all; if government became necessary, however, an
even interchange between ruling and being ruled would arise. These
conceptions of liberty (and by extension democracy) share the fundamental
principle that all people are equal, regardless of wealth or merit.
Raising the question of how equality should be secured, Aristotle
recommends a compromise between democracy and oligarchy, suggesting
that sovereignty should be granted to whichever side has the greatest
absolute amount of wealth. This is oligarchic in giving importance to wealth,
but democratic in allowing the numbers of the poor to count.
Aristotle asserts that a population of farmers makes for the best kind of
democracy: they must work hard and are well spread apart so they can't
spend too much time in government. So, as long as they can select officers
and are not robbed of their wealth, they are happier working their farms than
they would be in public office. The wealthy hold all significant offices, but
they are entirely accountable to the farmers.

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The worst kind of population for a democracy is made up of mechanics,
shopkeepers, and laborers. Because they are all crowded around the city
center, they take a very active part in politics and tend to encourage mob
rule and demagoguery.
Aristotle issues a reminder that the best democratic policy is not the most
extreme but rather the one that will ensure the survival of the democracy. As
a result, the populace should not be able to profit from confiscating the
wealth of the rich, and payments to the poor should be in the form of block
grants that allow them to buy land rather than simple handouts.
Aristotle states that oligarchy, like democracy, is most likely to thrive when it
is practiced in moderation. While higher offices should be reserved for the
wealthy, the poor should still be able to hold some of the lower offices.
Furthermore, wealthy officers should be obliged to perform significant public
service in order to hold office, thus earning the admiration and approval of
the poor. Oligarchies fare best in cities with a strong cavalry or heavy
infantry, whereas cities with many light infantrymen (poorer than heavy
infantrymen) or naval forces tend toward democracy.
Aristotle closes by listing the different kinds of executive office. There are six
offices dealing with day-to-day affairs that are indispensable to all cities, and
there are four more important offices that require some expertise: military
command; control of finance; preparation of business for the deliberative
assembly; and directing of public worship.
Analysis
The concept of ruling and being ruled is applicable not only on a political
level but also on a personal, ethical level. A theme in the works of Aristotle
and in those of eighteenth-century philosopher Immanuel Kantand, indeed,
in much of contemporary ethical theoryis that liberty, or freedom, is not a
matter of being able to do what one pleases but instead a matter of obeying
one's own will rather than some outside force. Aristotle states that a slave is
not free by virtue of the fact that he does what others tell him what to do
with no freedom of choice in the matter. However, a barbarian who rapes
and pillages as he pleases is similarly not free, by virtue of the fact that he
does not rule himself but rather is controlled by passions that seize him.
According to Aristotle, man is essentially rational, meaning that his faculty of
reason is what is most truly his own. Thus, if man allows himself to be ruled
only by his faculty of reason, then he is totally free. He simultaneously rules
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(his reason determines what he should do) and is ruled (he obeys the
dictates of his reason).
Since Aristotle believes that the distinction between citizen and city is almost
nonexistent, his application of the above concept of freedom to political
matters is not surprising. It is worth recalling that Aristotle claims that man is
essentially a political animal and that his rationality can find its fullest
expression only when he participates in the life of the polis. Since freedom
expresses itself as a matter of both ruling and being ruled and man needs to
be rational, true freedom exists only within the confines of
the polis. Citizens rule in that they have a say in how the city is governed
and are ruled in that they remain loyal to the city and obey its laws.
It might seem odd that Aristotle asks whether some consideration should be
given to the rich just after he asserts that a democracy gives equal weight to
all. The matter that concerns him is how to interpret "equal weight." Aristotle
sees most cities fundamentally divided between a rich minority and a poor
majority and believes that these two groups usually form opposing factions.
If everyone were given equal voting power and equal eligibility for office, the
poor majority, by virtue of their numbers, would have absolute control,
rendering the rich minority very vulnerable. Absolute democracy in this
sense may make each individual equally powerful, but it also renders one
faction far more powerful than the other. Rather than give equal weight to
each individual, Aristotle gives equal weight to each faction, so that the rich
minority has approximately the same amount of power as the poor majority.
This method creates a balance of power, which ensures that neither group
can exploit the other.

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BOOK VII SUMMARY AND


ANALYSIS
PART I
Summary
Book VII marks Aristotle's attempt to envision an ideal city. He distinguishes
between three kinds of goods: external goods (wealth, reputation, etc.);
goods of the body (health, sensual pleasure, etc.); and goods of the soul
(wisdom, virtue, etc.). Aristotle gives preeminence to goods of the soul, since
they are ends in themselves, whereas the other two kinds of goods are
merely means to this end. Goods of the soul depend ultimately on each
individual's nature, not on luck. A city, like a person, needs internal goodness
and wisdom in order to be happy.
Aristotle confronts a dilemma: is the ideal civic life an external life of political
action, or an internal life of philosophical speculation? Dismissing the
militaristic life as focusing exclusively on what should only be a measure of
security, Aristotle compares statesmanship and solitary contemplation. On
one hand, governing in a city of freeborn men is a high-minded activity, and
an active life of politics is preferable to an inactive life, since happiness is a
state of action, not inaction. On the other hand, governing others full-time is
not fulfilling, and a life of philosophical contemplation is far from inactivity.
One's thoughts are the authors of one's deeds, so thought is intimately
linked with action.
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Aristotle believes that the population of a city should be neither too large nor
too small. Small cities are not self-sufficient, while large cities are difficult to
govern. The judicial and electoral functions of the city require that the
citizens know one another and be able to judge one another's character.
Aristotle thus advises that the population of a city be "the greatest
surveyable number required for achieving a life of self-sufficiency."
Similarly, the territory should be large enough to ensure self-sufficiency and
leisure but small enough to be surveyable (readily taken in by the eye), for
purposes of defense and facilitation of commerce. Aristotle advocates living
by the sea and building a seaport, though he warns of the danger of having
unwanted aliens crowd the city. Living by the sea allows for easier
commerce, though such commerce should be conducted in a spirit of
temperance rather than greed. Aristotle also recommends building up a
navy, but putting it in the command of farmers and serfs, rather than
citizens.
Aristotle believes that Greeks make ideal citizens as they fit a perfect
compromise between high spirit and skill and intelligence. He also believes
that Europeans to the north are full of spirit but lack the skill and intelligence
for political organization, whereas Asians have skill and intelligence but lack
spirit and are easily subjected and enslaved.
Concerning social structure, Aristotle makes a sharp distinction between
those elements that are necessary parts to the city (such as slaves) and
those that are integral parts of the city. Slaves are like property: no city can
exist without them, but they themselves are not the city. Aristotle identifies
six components of a city: food, crafts, arms, property, worship, and
government. The first two must be left to non-citizen farmers and laborers
since they require a great deal of work and cannot be combined with the
citizen's life of leisure. The citizens themselves should undertake the rest:
the young should serve in the military; the middle-aged should govern; and
the old should serve in the cult of the gods. The citizens, furthermore, should
own all property, some publicly and some privately.
Aristotle adds that the city should be built with fortifying walls and access to
fresh water. It should also be pleasant and amenable to a healthy political
life.
Analysis

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Aristotle draws a sharp and important distinction between ends and means.
Happiness and rational activity are ends in themselves: man pursues them
solely for their own sake. Wealth and health are merely means to these ends;
they are necessary to happiness not because they themselves are
intrinsically good, but because it is difficult to achieve happiness without
them.
Aristotle is also very firmly anti-militaristic, arguing that military might is not,
as some warmongers may think, an end in itself, but rather merely another
means. War is sometimes necessary and a strong military always so, but
only because it is difficult for a city to achieve its true goal of happiness
without maintaining security.
Aristotle's application of this reasoning to the city yields a social dichotomy
that seems perverse to the modern reader because it makes privilege
contingent on the arbitrariness of birth. The goal of the city is to create a life
of leisure for its citizens that will allow them to achieve happiness through
rationality. A citizen is thus an end in himself, while non-citizens, such as
slaves, women, and serfs, are simply means to this end. Their work is
necessary for creating enough leisure time for the citizens to enjoy
happiness, but they themselves do not merit a share of this happiness. This
separation of the population runs counter to modern Western conceptions of
the individual as an entity deserving respect, which owes a great deal to
Kant's belief that it is inherently wrong to treat people as means to an end
rather than as ends in themselves.
Aristotle justifies this inequality of benefits by means of his teleological view
of nature. It was taken as a matter of fact in his world that Greeks were
better than non-Greeks, men better than women, and those of noble birth
better than those of low birth. As a result, noble Greek men were considered
the best- suited individuals for the life of good quality, and it was understood
that everyone else should slave away to help them secure this end.
The compromise between the life of political action and the life of
speculative philosophy is one of the central tensions of the Politics.Aristotle's
remarks that all citizens should know one another and that the population be
"surveyable" reinforce the intimate nature of thepolis and the fact that the
political life is necessarily social. The contemplative life, on the other hand,
requires a great deal of solitude. Though citizens must engage in political life
in order to govern the city, Aristotle ultimately concludes that political life is

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merely a means to the end of philosophical speculation, as it helps maintain
the conditions that make the speculative life possible.

PART II
Summary
Aristotle turns to the question of how people should be educated in his ideal
city. This is a matter of determining both the suitable aim of education and
the proper means to achieve this end. This end, as both the Politics and the
##Nicomachean Ethics## make clear, is a life of good quality, or happiness.
To the extent of having such things as health and wealth, this happiness is
partly contingent on fortune. But absolute, positive happiness (as opposed to
simply the absence of unpleasantness) depends on the knowledge and
purpose of the individual or city.
Aristotle argues that people can be made good through nature, reason, and
habit. In his earlier discussion of nature, he concludes that the Greek
combination of high spirit, skill, and intelligence is ideal. He holds off on
explaining how reason and habit should be taught.
Aristotle states that in a city of equal citizens, everyone should take turns
ruling and being ruled. The younger should first learn how to be ruled
properly before they themselves take a hand in government.
Aristotle distinguishes within the soul a part that rules (reason) from a part
that is not rational but that can be ruled by reason (feelings, passions, or
qualities). Reason, the superior part, can further be divided into practical and
speculative aspects. The practical aspect is important, but speculative
reason is the ultimate end in itself. Military concerns, far from being a
priority, should only be a security measure. A number of virtuesparticularly
wisdom and temperanceare necessary to make proper use of leisure time.
Aristotle returns to the question of how reason and habit should be trained,
concluding that habit should be dealt with first. As babies, humans have only
desires and appetites, whereas reason, the end toward which we train our
habits, is a later development.

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Aristotle addresses questions of marriage and childbirth that serve as
preliminaries to raising a child. He believes that conception should take place
in the winter and when the wind is northerly. He recommends that men
marry at the age of thirty-seven and women at eighteen, that they cease
reproducing about seventeen years later, and that they both keep in
reasonably good physical shape without overexerting themselves. He also
considers questions of inducing miscarriage or leaving babies to die of
exposure in order to limit the population and recommends harsh punishment
for adultery.
Aristotle further believes that newborns should be raised on milk,
encouraged to move about, and inured to the cold. Up to the age of five,
children should play games that involve movement, be told stories, and be
protected from anything that is low and vulgar, including bad language,
indecent pictures, and slaves. Up to the age of seven, children should
observe the older students, and then engage in proper study from the ages
of seven to twenty-one, divided into periods before and after puberty.
Analysis
Aristotle's discussion of education, like the discussion of happiness, involves
a distinction between means and end. One can interpret his emphasis on
instilling virtues into young children as a dignified prioritization of the good
man as the ultimate end. Since Aristotle so closely links individual and state,
however, one can also argue that this value-obsessed education strips
children of their freedom and renders them the means to the end of a good
citizenry. Either way, Aristotle perceives what has become an integral
component of modern psychologythat what one is exposed to at a young
age makes a deep impression on one's psyche.
The close similarities that Aristotle perceives between nature and human
reason and between the life of the city and the life of the individual lead him
to make logical extensions of these comparisons. Since Aristotle believes
that humans do everything for a reason, he believes that nature must do
everything for a reason as well. This in turn suggests to him that nature has
made humans rational for a reason; he thus concludes that man is
essentially a rational animal and that the exercise of reason is his highest
function. Likewise, since Aristotle believes that happiness and speculative
reason are the highest goals of the individual, he believes that they are the
highest goals of the city as well. Aristotle then applies the ruling-ruled
component model of the cityin which citizens rule and slaves are ruledto
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the human mind, suggesting that the rational part rules and the irrational
part is ruled.
The division of rationality into practical and speculative elements gives rise
to the question of each element's relative value to the city, and it is a central
tension in the Politics. Aristotle has claimed that man is a political animal
who gains full exercise of his reason only within the bounds of the city. This
would seem to suggest that the practical reason of political activity is
essential to man. Aristotle suggests, however, that both city and practical
reason are only means to the ultimate end of happiness found through the
practice of pure, speculative reasoning.
Aristotle's arguments rest on a series of analogies (between nature, the
individual, and the state) that he never questions. In general, the modern
reader tends not to ascribe to nature the same rationality he does to man.
Modern theories of evolution and quantum mechanics suggest that nature is
governed more by chance than by reason. Furthermore, modern thought also
draws a distinction between the individual and the state that would have
been alien to Aristotle. Modern political philosophy posits that the state and
the individual are separate entities and poses an important question as to
the extent to which the state should be allowed to impose itself on the
individual. The closest Aristotle comes to recognizing a tension between
individual and state is in his acknowledgement of the tension between
practical and speculative reasoning.

BOOK VIII SUMMARY AND


ANALYSIS
Summary
Aristotle states that since a city's educational system largely determines the
character of its citizens, it is of the utmost importance that this system serve
the overall ends of the city. Thus, Aristotle recommends the institution of

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public education, which he feels is preferable to the prevalent custom of
parents having their children privately tutored.
Aristotle says that there are arguments to be made for teaching children
what is useful, for teaching moral goodness, and for teaching pure
knowledge for its own sake. He suggests that a great deal depends on how
and to what end the subjects are taught. Certain kinds of practical
knowledge are good, but children should not demean themselves by learning
menial labor; it is fine to teach moral goodness, though there are many
different conceptions of what is good and how it should be taught. Pure
knowledge is good as well, but it should not be pursued to such an extent
that it becomes overbearing. As a general rule, Aristotle suggests that
knowledge is good to the extent that it satisfies one's mind or helps a friend,
but it is dangerous when it becomes a skill that is rendered as a service to
others.
Aristotle distinguishes four major disciplines of study: (1) reading and writing;
(2) physical training or gymnastics; (3) music; and (4) drawing. Reading,
writing, and drawing all have practical purposes and physical training
promotes courage. Determining the value of music is trickier, but Aristotle
suggests that it helps promote the proper use of leisure. In doing so, he
distinguishes between work, play and relaxation, and leisure. Play and
relaxation are forms of relief from hard work. Leisure is more than just relief;
it is the medium in which happiness and a life of good quality can be
pursued. If leisure consisted simply in play and relaxation, then a life of good
qualitythe end goal for which man striveswould be nothing more than
play and relaxation. While music is not useful and does not promote courage,
it helps man make use of his leisure. Similarly, the practical tools of reading,
writing, and drawing can have application beyond their usefulness, and they
can also widen man's knowledge and teach him to appreciate form and
beauty.
Aristotle values physical training but warns that it should not be overdone, as
it can create a savage character and stunt the development of the young.
Aristotle recommends light training until the age of puberty, followed by
three years of study. After those three years, physical training should begin
in earnest. Working the mind and body simultaneously will be counterproductive.
Aristotle returns to the question of music's place in education. He offers
three possible arguments for the use of music: (1) amusement and
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relaxation; (2) improvement of moral character; and (3) cultivation of the
mind. Aristotle suggests that one learns a deeper and subtler appreciation of
music by understanding what goes into its performance. However, education
in music should not be taken beyond the point of learning an appreciation of
rhythm and harmony: if students dedicate themselves to being skilled
performers, they will be studying only to please others. For that reason,
Aristotle suggests that students not learn the flute or harp, or, for that
matter, any instrument requiring a great deal of skill.
Analysis
Though the Politics ends quite abruptly with the discussion of some minor
points of interest in regard to music, there is no reason to believe that some
further section of the text has been lost. ThePolitics was compiled as lecture
notes from the courses Aristotle taught at the Lyceum and was not intended
for publication. The likely explanation for this ending, then, is that it marks
the end of a specific lecture, though Aristotle perhaps taught further topics in
political theory at another time.
Aristotle's firm stance against any kind of skill or knowledge that comes to be
utilized for someone else's sake epitomizes his means-end dichotomy.
Practical reasoning serves the entire city, of which each individual is a part,
and speculative reasoning serves one's own happiness; each type of
reasoning has its end in the self. When an individual engages in an activity
whose end is to please others, such as playing music, however, that
individual becomes a means for others to achieve leisure, ceasing to be an
end in himself.
The aristocratic amateurism that Aristotle espouses evidences his elitist
conception of class differences. Citizens should look down upon musicians
and other such practitioners of arts because they practice their skill for the
sake of others. Aristotle considers these practitioners simply a means for
citizens to the end of leisure. As such, he inherently disparages the value of
art for its own sake and the importance of art as self-expressiontwo notions
integral to the modern conception of the self. Of course, ancient Greece was
very different from the modern world. Citizens felt contempt for non-citizen
manual laborers because their existence had worth only in the service of
others. Their skills were not ends in themselves but rather means to others'
ends.
Aristotle's discussion of music is difficult to understand for a number of
reasons. Foremost among these is that very little is known about what Greek
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music actually sounded like. Historians know what instruments the Greeks
played and that they based their melodies on different modal arrangements,
which they felt were expressive of different states of character or emotion.
Historians also know that music was very important to the Greeks: they felt
that certain harmonies were divine and that music could express character
and moral virtues better than any other medium. Aristotle believes that
music can serve moral purposes because it can, quite literally, "represent"
states of character just as paintings can represent trees and houses. By
representing a virtuous character, music can serve as a very powerful tool
for moral instruction.

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OVERALL ANALYSIS
In many ways, the Politics is a companion volume to the ##Nicomachean
Ethics##, in which Aristotle defines a life of good quality and sets about
describing how it should be achieved. ThePolitics, to a large extent, is an
effort to describe the kind of political association that would best facilitate
the ends described in theEthics.
However, the Politics is not subservient to theEthics. Aristotle's claim is not
that cities must exist to serve the ends of individuals. Rather, he claims that
individuals are to a large extent defined by the cities they live in and that
man can be fully human (i.e. fully rational) only by participating in the city.
The city is a complete whole and each individual is a mere part. The city is
thus more important than the individual.
The tension between practical and speculative reasoning is central to
the Politics. Practical reasoning is necessary for political and social matters,
while speculative reasoning is necessary for theoretical and philosophical
problems. Ultimately, Aristotle concludes in both the Ethics and
the Politics that speculative reasoning is superior, as it is through a proper
exercise of this faculty that man achieves true happiness.
Whereas Aristotle views the exercise of speculative reasoning as and end in
itself, he considers the exercise of practical reasoning an integral means to
this end. Because an individual cannot learn to exercise his reason properly
outside the confines of the city, and because the city is able to function only
as a result of man's practical reasoning, practical reasoning is thus a
prerequisite for the exercise of speculative reasoning.
Interestingly, Aristotle never concerns himself with questions of how much
authority the state should have over the individual. A central question of
modern political philosophy is the extent to which the state should be able to
impose itself on the freedom of the individual. This question would not have
made sense to Aristotle because he saw the goal of the city and the goal of
the individual as identical. While his assertionthat the individual is only a
subservient part of the statemight seem mildly totalitarian, his view was
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that the individual could have no truly rational needs or interests outside the
confines of the state. As a result, it would be absurd to desire any kind of
individual freedom in opposition to the state.
"Justice" might seem an odd term for what is essentially the right to hold
more distinguished public offices. It is important to remember, however, that
in a Greek city-state, serving in public office was essential to citizenship and
was a high distinction. Further, those who occupied places of high distinction
were more likely to enjoy other benefits as well.
Aristotle's method, here and elsewhere, is largely descriptive. He conducts
extensive surveys of the different forms of government and theory and his
own theory is less of a creative endeavor than Plato's in the ##Republic##.
Rather, it is a series of recommendations based on what he has observed.
None of Aristotle's practical advice is particularly novel; his insights are more
a synthesis of analyses by a man who has studied politics extensively.

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