Aristotle, who is known for his contributions to the physical and philosophical world, has a new twist on the ideal form of government. According to Aristotle, governments should reflect the body of the existing social system. Aristotle argues that there are three types of classes: the rich, the poor, and the middle class. The rich and the poor create very extreme social classes, and as Aristotle has written “of these two the one sort grow into violent and great criminals, the others into rogues and petty rascals”(Halsall, 2000, p.3). Due to reasoning’s like this one, Aristotle believes that it should the middle class that dictates the type of government that is implemented when a body of people are given that opportunity.

 A large portion of democracies that exist, all contain large middle classes. Whenever a small middle class exists, it poses the threat of separation or distinction within the class itself. According to Aristotle, a small middle class has the possibility of subdividing itself into the poor and the rich, which would create extremes once again.

 Based on the actions and trends of the people, certain forms of government were more suited for that particular social system. Aristotle never fully admits that democracy is good or bad, he simply labels “democracy as a deviant constitution”(Miller, 2011, p.9).

  This introduces the most important question of it all, especially with what has been going on in the news, if ex-democratic countries can actually surpass the time test? Many countries, like Libya, have received aid in their fight against dictatorship, but the future of democracy is still not clear. If Aristotle is correct, certain communities cannot support forcefully implemented government bodies. These communities would simply resort to their old habits, which would destroy the implemented system.

 In a way, Aristotle might be right in the end. Revolutions might be the indicator, that the social system has changed and along with it, the government needs to reflect that change. It has been 2000 years since Aristotle’s death, but yet no sign of the ideal system still exists. But who is to say what’s ideal, I guess only people can tell.


4 responses »

  1. Alex Lin says:

    In the Halsall article Tomas cited, Aristotle continues: “Again, those who have too much of the goods of fortune, strength, wealth, friends, and the like, are neither willing nor able to submit to authority. The evil begins at home; for when they are boys, by reason of the luxury in which they are brought up, they never learn, even at school, the habit of obedience. On the other hand, the very poor, who are in the opposite extreme, are too degraded. So that the one class cannot obey, and can only rule despotically.”

    Aristotle’s view is an interesting one especially when applied to the United States. When looking at the United States, most of the politicians are what Aristotle considers the rich. The Kennedy and Bush families are an example of this. Even when looking back at the history of the United States, the founding fathers were wealthy men. Aristotle also seems to be right about revolutions. Just pick up a paper and read about the protests going on around the country. The “occupy” movements could be a less drastic version of the revolutions that indicate change in the social system.

  2. lcs024 says:

    I feel Aristotle’s views on government was a very interesting topic to research further given the widening gap between the rich and the poor in the United States today. It is undoubtedly true that many people point to this lack of a middle class as a significant source of political unrest and tension. Over time, civilizations have even collapsed over this exact problem: the evaporation of a middle class into the horribly polarized wealthy and poor. Aristotle’s posit that the ideal government would be determined by the middle class, which could see both ends of the spectrum, may very well be a viable solution.

  3. Jordi says:

    Good set up. But, Tom, you dropped the punchline. What are the best forms for each class?

    I am also utterly confused about the “middle class” and democracy in your post. Is the middle class best suited to democracy? And, what did the big A mean by democracy. We throw the term around loosely, as you know, when we really have a constitutional, representative federal republic. Direct democracy exists here and there in the USA. But, did A mean direct democracy?

  4. Cherylngn says:

    It is very interesting to see how an ancient philosopher’s viewpoint on social and government system might still hold its ground until today. Within modern government, there always exist many politicians who derive their wealth at the expense of the citizens, which is especially true in United States as well as some developing countries. It is this actual state of the political system that contributes to the exponentially increasing gap between the rich and the poor in these countries. Aristotle’s view on the role of the middle class might point to a solution, but whether or not, and how we can carry out that solution is a tricky question, since changing the already deep-rooted system would require more than just an idea.

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