Aristotle theories: requirements of the state


THE ideal polity is bound up with the ideal of individual life; and we have ascertained that individual happiness lies not in external goods but in the exercise of virtue. Further, the virtues, and therefore the happiness, of the state, are identical with those of the individual. Is it desirable for the individual that he should participate in affairs of state? Or for the state that all individuals should participate in its affairs? Mere desire of the individual or of the state to lord it over others is not right, though this is a common view. To accept responsibility for a due share in guiding and controlling others is quite distinct from this, and involves a corresponding readiness to accept control and guidance.

For the state, as for the individual, adequate external conditions are needed. Mere magnitude is not an advantage. A degree of magnitude is essential, as without it the state cannot be self-sufficing and independent; the limit is, that it must not be too big for all the citizens to have personal knowledge of each other, and to be gathered in a single controllable assembly.

As to situation, it requires communication with the sea, both for strategical and commercial reasons; but not so that the foreign element, which is found in all ports, may affect the citizens injuriously. The Greeks are happily situated in such a position as to develop both enterprise and intellectuality; whereas the Asiatics are intellectual but not enterprising, and the European barbarians enterprising but not intellectual. The union of the Greeks in one polity might secure them universal dominion.

Now, it is indispensable that the state should produce food, requiring husbandmen, provide mechanical arts, requiring mechanics, an army, a propertied class, a government, a judicial body and a priesthood.

The non-citizens alone will not be allowed to hold property. The distinction between citizens and non-citizens is permanent; between classes of citizens only temporary, though there is something to be said for the caste system. There is also benefit in common meals maintained by the state; but property should not be in common. Land should be in part public, and in part private; and the actual cultivators a servile population.

The situation of the city should be healthy and strategically adapted for defence, and it should be properly fortified; the details of arrangement for common meals and public buildings should accord with the convenience of the classes of citizens in the discharge of their public duties, and so with the extra-mural public buildings.

The external circumstances which condition happiness must be assumed. Given these, happiness lies in the habit of virtuous activity, attainable by natural disposition, habituation and reason. The application of these two is the business of education.

For obvious reasons education begins with care of the body, proceeds with the non-rational part of the soul, and works up to the rational. Legislation should begin by regulating marriage, so as to ensure that the parents are physically fit. Cripples, if born, ought not to be reared.

Should education be on a fixed system? Conducted privately, or by the state? And what should the character of the system be?

Clearly, to the state the formation in its citizens of the character appropriate to the polity is of the highest importance. It should be a state affair, not controlled by private caprices. But the best methods are very disputable. Should useful pursuits, or moral training, or intellectual development be aimed at? Such useful pursuits as are not cramping to mind and morals may be taught. Reading, writing, design, gymnastic and music are the recognized curriculum; the first four on utilitarian grounds, the last apparently as a training in the right use of leisure, as distinct from strictly recreative amusement. Moreover, the aforesaid utilitarian subjects have ends other than utilitarian.

First comes gymnastic, which is apt to be mistakenly conducted on brutalising lines. Brutality does not imply valour.

MUSIC is, in the first place, an amusement both recreative and pleasurable; also, it has a direct moral influence. For children the acquisition of musical skill is beneficial, as well as merely learning to appreciate music by listening to it; but not with instruments which tend to make them mechanical or check their progress in other ways. Moreover, only harmonies which have an ethical character should be admitted into education.


THE study of political science demands examination of the polity ideally best; of the best practicable for a particular state; of the best practicable for the generality of states; and of the best attainable under certain hypothetical conditions. Government by the best, whether one or more--the ideal--we have discussed. There remain the varieties of oligarchy and democracy, which are many, and tyranny.

All variations are due to the differences of the parties or classes in the state. Popularly, they are grouped in two sets--democracy, including constitutional government; and oligarchy, including aristocracy. The former involves the domination of a poor majority over a rich minority, the latter of a rich minority over a poor majority. The classes are the agricultural, the mechanical, the trading, and the workers for hire; then the military, the priestly, the propertied, the executive, the deliberative and the judical. The personnel of these divisions may overlap.

In theory, the root principle of democracy is equality. A low property qualification for those admitted to equality, i.e. to office, is characteristic of some forms of democracy; the most vital differentiation is between those where the law is supreme, and those where it is at the mercy of a popular decree--for which the demagogues are responsible. This last cannot be recognized as a constitutional form of government at all.

A high property qualification produces an oligarchy--the domination of the wealthy minority. A variation places nomination to office in the hands of the executive; another makes office hereditary; and in a fourth, the executive overrides the law. Custom, however, may make what is in form democratic actually oligarchical; and vice versa.

In democracies, for the most part, practical considerations limit the candidature though not eligibility for office. In oligarchies, where virtue is a factor, the name of aristocracy is popularly misapplied to them.

Constitutional rule is really a fusion of democracy and oligarchy. It fixes a triple criterion for equality--of freedom, of wealth and of virtue. It approximates to aristocracy. It combines counteracting characteristics from oligarchy and democracy; or strikes a mean between them. Hence, according to the point of view, it is sometimes called one sometimes the other.

Of tyranny, or despotism, we noted two semi-regal kinds, the oriental and the elective or aesymnetic. Besides these there is the tyranny absolute.

IN any state, individuals who are too richly endowed tend to wax arrogant; those at the other extreme tend to knavery. The best chance for constitutionalism is in the state where the largest body is intermediate; otherwise the relation between rulers and ruled becomes that of masters and slaves. A decently satisfied large middle class is a guarantee of order; where it is weak, oligarchy or democracy prevails.

Oligarchies employ misleading artifices--penalising the wealthy, but for failure to bear their share in the practices of public life whereby the oligarchical power is maintained. Similarly democracies proceed by offering the poor inducements to take their corresponding share in public life. Under a constitution, the two methods should be combined, keeping both poor and rich up to the mark; and citizenship and carrying heavy armour should go together. The only rule as to property qualification is that it should be low enough to admit a majority.

The original constitutional governments, historically speaking, admitted only men who could mount themselves; then those who could bear arms as heavy infantry.

Every state has three departments--deliberative, executive, judicial. The first controls war and peace, and elections, as well as legislation. In a democracy, the whole body of citizens performs the whole deliberative function, or delegates fragments of it. As the exercise of that function is limited by high property qualification or otherwise, an oligarchy more or less pronounced is established. The power of veto, but not that of positive enactment, should be vested in the masses.

EXECUTIVE office should mean offices involving independent deliberation, decision, and especially command. In a small state several of the necessary duties may be concentrated in the hands of one official. Offices, and especially official boards, appropriate to one form of polity are not necessarily appropriate to another. Thus, a preliminary council which submits the measures to the deliberative council is essentially oligarchic.

In the case of the judicial body, there is the question of limiting fields of jurisdiction to several courts; from the discussion whereof we gather information as to the diversities of procedure in the Greek states.

Democracies vary as the populations are husbandmen, mechanics, or hired labourers, or combinations, their institutions varying correspondingly. Their common principle is liberty in the senses of (a) personal liberty; and (b) sharing in the government--which involves alternating between ruling and being ruled, everyone being eligible and everyone an elector; appointments by lot; non-recurrence of tenure; and other corollaries.

Equality of heads and numerical control make the root theory. Thus, democracy finds justice in the decision of the arithmetical majority, oligarchy finds it in that of the wealthy. One would potentially prove wholesale spoliation just, the other tyranny (if there were one supremely wealthy individual). Whereas if rich and poor are antagonistic, justice would really hold the scales between them.

THE best democratic population is agricultural or pastoral; being less degraded than mechanics, tradesmen, or hired labourers; and also having more difficulty in participating actively in public affairs. The most fatal form is where there is manhood suffrage. For the continuity of democracy, the wealthy must be reconciled to it by release from public services in consideration of cash, which will be used to relieve the burdens of the poor and keep them from schemes of spoliation. The rich also should be protected against wanton persecutions.

Oligarchy is nearest to constitutional government when most offices are open. As these are more and more restricted to the wealthy, it approximates to tyranny. An oligarchy should not be too exclusive in the admission of new members.

The executive, or officers of state, consist of the council which controls legislation, military-commanders and the civil service generally; officers and teachers of religion and priests; and also sundry special officials to be found in particular localities.

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