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Aristotle's Arguments For Democracy Essay

1599 words - 7 pages

Aristotle’s arguments for democracy are based on his concepts of the citizen, the city, and the constitution. Since “a citizen…shares for any period of time in judicial and deliberative office” (Barker 84), it is already clear that the people, politai, of the city, polis, are involved in making laws and in the rule of the city regardless of where they live or whether they are involved in litigation. The form of association in which the inhabitants of a city organize their lives is the constitution, politeia. All three Greek words are linked in meaning to the idea that people rule, demos=people, cracy=rule.
Aristotle goes further, though, and like his mentor, Plato, teaches that the aim, ...view middle of the document...

Since he previously showed that the justice of a city requires an appropriate proportion between goods, services, and customers as it were, democracy is a more equitable form of government.
This is what Aristotle calls the goodness of the city, “the good quality of life” (Barker 104), and indeed he regards the stability of the city as the highest good because there are many sites and forms of social life in exchanges and alliances that “have failed to reach the stage of a city” (Barker 105). The nature of how good or how bad this life is should be the concern of those who want a secure government. This is clearly not the main interest of an oligarchy whose members are primarily interested in aggrandizing their wealth and position, which is maintained by alliances rather than the civic interactions of a democracy; and even these alliances are fraught with intrigue, social unrest, and political instability like the Italian city-states during the renaissance of the 16th century.
Therefore, while “preventing mutual injustice and easing exchange” (Barker 105) are essential aspects of civil life, it is the association of the homes and families of the citizens that comprise the life of a city devoted to self-sufficiency in the just, proportionate sharing of goods. The key word for “living a happy and truly valuable life” (Barker 106) for Aristotle is “association”, and that is made possible by the constitution which organizes the institutions to that end.
“Civic excellence” (Barker 106) does not reside in high, noble birth or landed status, but in the actions that are done for the sake of this association; and in turn, those who contribute more have a greater share in the city.
Since there are many diverse social classes in the city, “the good, the wealthy, and well-born, and some general body of citizens” (Barker 115) the question still arises, who should rule? Aristotle finds that whenever a majority takes everything and divides among its members the possessions of a minority, that majority is obviously ruining the city” (Barker 107). Aristotle does not flinch from questioning the poor who, being a majority over the wealthy, might despoil the possessions of the oligarchs among themselves as an act of injustice, and presumably a violent one as indeed occurred in the French Revolution. Aristotle, however, is questioning the whole concept of might as right, plunder and confiscate, by whoever does it; whether it is the upper middle class, “the better sort” (Barker 107) or the tyrant. Within this context, though, Aristotle introduces the concept of “honours” as the civil offices which all citizens are entitled to as members of the community. Any acts of plunder and confiscate are acts of injustice because they deprive citizens of “the honour of holding civic office” (Barker 107), and this is the ruin of the city because it will cease to function as a polis.
This is a major framework for Aristotle’s claim to rule for democracy. It is not so much...

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