Atirtotle\'s Politics


Aristotle\'s Politics is a timeless examination of government structure
and human nature that explains his ideas on how a utopian state can be achieved.
In this work, Aristotle examines ubiquitous issues such as government structure,
education, crime, property ownership, the honesty of occupations, and population
control. He states in Book IV, Chapter Eleven "…the best form of political
association is one where power is vested in the middle class, and secondly, that
good government is attainable in those cities where there is a large middle
class…"
The polis is a partnership of citizens in a system of government that
serves to achieve the common good. It is not just a place where people live
together for defense against enemies and for the exchange of goods. It is
rather a partnership between households, clans, and villages for the sake of a
fully developed and self-sufficient life. The polis gives those who possess
wisdom and moral intellect a chance to move up to high positions
Justice is the political good in the polis, and it must promote the
common interest of the people. What is perceived to be good has to be
distributive and regulative. The law is the regulating mechanism that emerges
from free and equal people in civic associations. It serves as the final
arbiter of problems, and stands above individuals and binds their actions. Laws
change habits and training, but are changeable through certain circumstances and
procedures if it is believed to be unjust. The well-being of a society is
contingent upon to what extent its citizens obey the law. A member of the
polis can be defined as someone who can participate in judging (serve as a juror
in the court system), and in governing (serve in public office). A good citizen
must possess moderation, prudence, and justice, and must be able and willing to
rule and be ruled.
Aristotle defines a constitution as "an arrangement in regard to the
offices of the city. By this arrangement the citizen body distributes office,
either on the basis of the power of those who participate in it, or on the basis
of some sort of general equality (i.e. the equality of the poor, or of the rich,
or an equality existing among both rich and poor.) There must therefore be as
many constitutions as there are modes of arranging the distribution of office
according to the superiorities and the differences of the parts of the city"
(Page 138). He believes that the organization of a state\'s constitution is
directly related to the kinds of citizens that reside in the polis. The
constitution has a direct root to the most powerful or most populated class.
The middle class is where most of the power comes from because they are the
majority, and therefore best reflect the common interest. The upper class is
not fit to form the constitution because they, like the lower class, would base
it on t heir own values and beliefs rather than the needs of the state.
There are problems with the lower and upper classes creating laws. The
lower class constantly feels that the government is cheating them out of
something because they do not have the wealth, stature, and possibly education
that the upper-class possesses, thereby making it difficult for them to work
towards the common good. Aristotle thinks that the upper class has too much
ambition, and would only create laws that would further their economic and
social well-being with little or no regard to the rest of the population. These
classes consist of self-interested individuals that want to further their own
needs and concerns. They create factions in order to go against the system.
"Factional conflict is the result of inequality, and the passion for equality is
the root of faction" (Class Notes). The middle class acts as the mean between
the concerns of the rich and poor. "Goodness itself consists in a mean; and in
any city the middle class is a mean between the rich and the poor" (Page 156).
Th e middle class is free from the ambition of the rich and the pettiness of the
poor, which helps to ensure political cohesion. We can conclude that a
constitution based on this class (i.e. a \'constitutional government\' or polity)
is most likely to be generally beneficial. It will be free from faction, and
most likely be stable. People who know how to deliberate and give instruction
should be eligible for positions in the government. The best form of
constitution would have the power vested in the middle class. The golden mean
is correlated with moderation which can