Author: Aristotle  | Date: 350 BC

Chapters VI-XIII. The Classification of Constitutions. Democracy and Oligarchy. Kingship.

VI. The aims of the state are two: to satisfy man’s social instinct, and to fit him for the good life. Political rule differs from that over slaves in aiming primarily at the good of those who are ruled.

VII. Constitutions are bad or good according as the common welfare is, or is not, their aim. Of good Constitutions there are three: Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Polity. Of bad there are also three: Tyranny, Oligarchy, Extreme Democracy. The bad are perversions of the good.

VIII. Democracies and Oligarchies are not made by the numerical proportion of the rulers to the ruled. Democracy is the rule of the poor; oligarchy is that of the rich.

IX. Democrats take Equality for their motto; oligarchs believe that political rights should be unequal and proportionate to wealth. But both sides miss the true object of the state, which is virtue. Those who do most to promote virtue deserve the greatest share of power.

X. On the same principle, Justice is not the will of the majority or of the wealthier, but the course of action which the moral aim of the state requires.

XI. But are the Many or the Few likely to be the better rulers? It would be unreasonable to give the highest offices to the Many. But they have a faculty of criticism which fits them for deliberative and judicial power. The good critic need not be an expert; experts are sometimes bad judges. Moreover, the Many have a greater stake in the city than the Few. But the governing body, whether Few or Many, must be held in check by the laws.

XII. On what principle should political power be distributed? Granted that equals deserve equal shares; who are these equals? Obviously those who are equally able to be of service to the state.

XIII. Hence there is something in the claims advanced by the wealthy, the free born, the noble, the highly gifted. But no one of these classes should be allowed to rule the rest. A state should consist of men who are equal, or nearly so, in wealth, in birth, in moral and intellectual excellence. The principle which underlies Ostracism is plausible. But in the ideal state, if a pre-eminent individual be found, he should be made a king.


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Chicago: Aristotle, "Chapters VI-XIII. The Classification of Constitutions. Democracy and Oligarchy. Kingship.," Politics, trans. Benjamin Jowett Original Sources, accessed July 16, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DAS4F9CD17Z8ZUY.

MLA: Aristotle. "Chapters VI-XIII. The Classification of Constitutions. Democracy and Oligarchy. Kingship." Politics, translted by Benjamin Jowett, Original Sources. 16 Jul. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DAS4F9CD17Z8ZUY.

Harvard: Aristotle, 'Chapters VI-XIII. The Classification of Constitutions. Democracy and Oligarchy. Kingship.' in Politics, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 16 July 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DAS4F9CD17Z8ZUY.