Aristotle – Politics, Book 5

Ch. 1

  • Let’s look at the causes of revolution, their nature, what they devolve into & how to preserve – that may change based on the form of government.
    • Democracy arises from the idea that those who are equal are equal in everything. Those who are equally free claim to be absolutely equal.
    • Oligarchy comes from the idea that those who are unequal are unequal in all things. So, being unequal in property means being politically unequal.
      • Both forms of government have a type of justice but in the absolute sense, they are both faulty. When the share in government clashes with the accepted ideas, revolution isn’t far behind.
      • There’s a superiority claimed by men of higher rank because they are thought to be noble because they come from a wealthy & virtuous family.
    • 2 types of changes in governments
      • A – Change in the constitution – change in form of government.
      • B – Not affecting the constitution, without disturbing the form of government
        • Oligarchy may become more or less oligarchical.
        • Democracy may become more or less democratic.
      • Revolution may be directed against only a part of the constitution – or overthrow of a particular office.
        • Everywhere inequality is a cause of revolution but an inequality in which there’s no proportion, & it’s the desire of equality which rises in rebellion.
      • 2 types of equality:
        • A – Numerical – same number & size
        • B – Proportional – a ratio of differences: e.g. 3:1, etc.
      • Men may agree that justice in the abstract is proportional but don’t agree that equality in one thing means equality in all.
        • In oligarchies & aristocracy, good birth & virtue are rare but wealth & numbers are more common.
        • Governments formed badly will end badly.
      • Democracy seems safer & less liable to revolution than oligarchy. Oligarchies run the risk of the oligarchs falling out with each other, as well as with the people. But Democracies only seem to have a potential rift between the people & the oligarchs.

Ch. 2

  • How do dissensions & political revolutions arise?
    • Must first understand beginnings & causes of them.
    • We want to know:
      • A – What’s the feeling?
      • B – What are the motives?
      • C – Where do political disturbances & quarrels come from?
    • Chief cause of revolutionary feeling – desire of equality or desire of inequality.
      • Inferiors revolt to become equal.
      • Equals revolt to become superior.
        • Motive are desire of gain & honor, or fear of dishonor & loss.
        • Main causes are love of gain & honor.
        • Other causes: insolence, fear, excessive predominance, contempt, disproportionate increase in part of the state, election intrigues, carelessness, neglect of trifles & dissimilarity of elements.

Ch. 3

  • It’s clear how insolence & greed play a role in revolutions.
    • When magistrates are insolent & conspire against each other, they also do so against the constitution. They get their power at the expense of others & the public.
      • Honors play a role. Men who have been dishonored & see others receiving honors will rebel.
      • Honor or dishonor when undeserved is unjust & they are just when received according to merit.
      • Superiority is another cause when some have too much power within the state. This leads to a monarchy or oligarchy. In some places, there’s recourse to ostracism. But that is when it’s better to have no preeminent individual instead of finding a remedy.
      • Fear is another cause. Some men have committed a wrong & they fear punishment or are expecting a punishment, & they anticipate their enemy.
      • Contempt – In oligarchies, those who have no share in the state are the majority & revolt because they are stronger. In democracies, the rich despise the disorder & anarchy of the state.
    • Political revolutions also come out of a disproportionate increase in any part of the state. Every member ought to grow in proportion & when they lose that, or have an abnormal increase, revolts happen. The initial changes happen by accident. When the rich grow alone, government changes to an oligarchy. Sometimes this happens without revolutions due to elections or out of carelessness, the disloyal find their way into offices.
    • Revolution can also come by small changes – big upheaval can come from the slightest of causes.
    • Difference of races can lead to a lack of common spirit. You see this in the reception of strangers in colonies.
  • In oligarchies, the masses revolt because they think they’ve been treated unfairly. They are equals with an unequal share. In democracies, the notables revolt because they are not equals but only have an equal share.
  • Some cities face revolution when the country isn’t suited to preserve the unity of the state.

 

Ch. 4

  • During revolutions, trifles are important with respect to the leaders.
    • We should be on guard against the beginnings of evils. An error at the beginning, even if small, has the same ratio, even if much larger but later.
    • When the notables quarrel, the whole city is involved. A division of inheritance, quarrel about a marriage, disputes about an heiress, etc.
    • Governments change into oligarchies or democracies because magistrates increase in power. Reputation of the court increasing tightens the reins on government increase in honor of notables puts down democracy.
    • Revolutions also break out when opposite parties are balanced but there’s no middle class, or if one party is clearly superior & the other doesn’t dare attack them. Those clearly more virtuous don’t do such things.
    • Revolutions happen because of 2 things: force or fraud:
      • Fraud – Citizens are deceived into acquiescing in a change of government & then forced into subjection against their will. People are persuaded into revolt due to repetition of persuasion, retaining their goodwill & allegiance.
      • Force – Either at the time of revolution or afterwards.

Ch. 5

  • Revolutions in democracies are usually caused by the intemperance of demagogues, urging against rich men until they compel them to mix with the majority or stir up the public against them.
    • In most states, demagogues curry favor with the people, they wrong the notables & force them to join the people, either making a division in their property or diminish their incomes. Sometimes they make accusations against the rich in order to confiscate their wealth.
    • In older times, demagogues were often generals or tyrants. Nowadays with the art of rhetoric in fashion, he leads the people but his ignorance of the military prevents him from using the army to usurp power.
    • Tyrannies were more common in the past, putting great power in the hands of individuals. Back then, cities weren’t so large, people lived in the fields & military chiefs seized power & won the confidence of the masses by professing hatred for the rich, winning the tyranny.

Ch. 6

  • Causes of revolutions in oligarchies
    • A – When oligarchs oppress the people & a champion of the people appears. He may even be an oligarch himself. When the government is very exclusive, a revolution may occur outside the governing class, especially by a member of the wealthy class who’s been excluded from government.
    • B – Internal causes of revolutions
      • Demagogues of 2 varieties.
        • 1 – Practices on the oligarchs themselves.
        • 2 – Practices on the people.
      • Oligarchies change when an attempt is made to narrow them & those who want equal rights call on the people.
      • Also happens when oligarchs piss away their wealth. They then try to set themselves up as tyrants or install another as one.
      • Sometimes oligarchical parties try to create a political change. Sometimes they rob the treasury.
        • But a unified oligarchy isn’t easily destroyed.
        • They are overthrown when another oligarchy is created within the original oligarchy. When the governing body is small & not all high offices are share, there’s a tendency to be overthrown.
        • They’re just as likely to have revolutions in war & peace. In war, the oligarchs can’t trust the people & have to hire mercenaries. The general often becomes a tyrant. Sometimes, the oligarchs know this & give the people some share in government to appease them.
        • Changes in constitutional governments & oligarchies don’t always change into completely different forms but often just a variation of the same form. Perhaps legislation goes from being based on law to being arbitrary & vice versa.

Ch. 7

  • In aristocracies, revolutions occur when only a few share in honors.
    • An aristocracy is a sort of oligarchy (government of the few) but only “a few” for a different reason. The 2 are often confounded with each other.
    • Revolutions happen when most of the people are high-spirited & think they’re just as good as their ruler.
    • Revolutions happen when a great man of at least equal merit are dishonored by those in higher offices.
      • A poem by Tyrtaeus spoke of some citizens ruined by a war & wanted a redistribution of land.
    • Revolutions happen when a great individual might be great & want to rule alone.
    • Constitutional governments & aristocracies are common overthrown owing to a deviation from justice. Often because of a bad mingling of elements of democracy, oligarchy & virtue.
      • In a constitutional government, the rich are likely to be insolent & greedy.
    • Often aristocracies turn into oligarchies due to trifles – as mentioned before.
      • All governments are overthrown from within or without – those close at hand with competing interests or those at a distance with powerful interests.

Ch. 8

  • Opposites produce opposites. Destruction is the opposite of preservation.
  • In well-run governments, nothing should be watch more carefully than maintaining the spirit of obedience to the law, especially in small matters. Transgression creeps in unperceived & ends up ruining the state in the same way small expenses eat up fortunes. Because it’s not observed, we are mistakenly confident nothing bad is going on.
  • We should be aware of small changes at the beginning. We should not rely purely on political devices, which usually end up being useless.
    • Aristocracies & oligarchies last because the rulers are on good terms with the governing classes & ruling classes. They shouldn’t wrong the ambitious with respect to honor, or the poor with respect to money. They should cultivate a spirit of equality, especially among the equals.
    • If the ruling class is large, democratic institutions are useful because the government starts to resemble a democracy.
    • Short tenure of offices prevents oligarchies & aristocracies from falling into family hands or any one person doing any great harm in his office. Long terms lead into tyrant. Aspirants to tyranny aim for an office to establish tyranny, & long terms allow them to establish a sense of comfort.
    • Constitutions are best preserved when destroyers are kept at a distance. But sometimes when kept near, it makes the government keep an eye on them. If a ruler invents terrors & bring distant dangers near, for citizens to keep guard. They can never relax, like a night watchman.
    • When there’s a change in property or wealth qualifications, often it’s due to currency inflation. Should there be inflation, the qualifications should be raised commensurately with the inflation rate.
  • Every government doesn’t allow any increase of any citizen disproportionately. Honors are to be given moderately over a long time, rather than quickly to prevent a swelling head. Men are easily spoiled. Likewise, honors are to be removed slowly rather than quickly.
  • Laws should provide against anyone getting too much power via friends or money. If so, he should be kicked out of the country. There ought to be a magistracy to keep an eye on those no in tune with the government. Increase in prosperity in any part of the state should be carefully watched. The best way to handle this is to allow the opposite parties some management of affairs. Another way is to combine the rich & poor into one body, or to increase the middle class.
  • The best way to administer a state is to make it so that magistrates can’t make any money. The public hate the idea of officers milking them to their own gain.
  • If no money can be made from holding office, then the poor will have no interest in it. The rich will see it as only a way to get honors. The notables won’t be governed by the poor. Transfer of revenue should be made by the assembly. Honors should be given to the magistrates who are incorruptible.
    • In democracies, the property & wealth of the rich should not be divided, redistributed or confiscated to prevent them from wanting to turn the government into an oligarchy.
    • In oligarchies, great care should be taken for the poor. If the wealthy classes insult them, the offenders should be punished, even more than if they had insulted one of their own.
    • Estates should be passed on by inheritance & no man should get more than one. This allows properties to be equalized & get more than one. This allows properties to be equalized & the poor can rise up.
    • Oligarchies should assign those with less a share in government but not the highest offices.

Ch. 9

  • 3 qualifications to fill the highest offices
    • A – Loyalty to the established constitution.
    • B – Best administrative capacity.
    • C – Virtue & justice in line with each form of government. What is considered just & quality will be different for each form of government.
    • If all of these qualities can’t be found in one person, how will you choose the man?
      • One man might be a good general but a bad man & not friendly to the constitution. Another man may be loyal & just.
      • You should look at what qualities are rare & what are common. For a choice in a general, skill is more important & rarer than virtue. For an office requiring trust, virtue is more important than skill.
    • You may ask what good virtue is if the man is politically able & is loyal. He also needs self-control. If he doesn’t attend to his own virtue, he’ll definitely neglect the interests of the public.
      • All these qualities preserve the interests of the constitution.
      • The preserving principle is to make sure the loyal citizens are stronger than the disloyal.
      • We shouldn’t forget the mean – which gets lost in perverted forms of government. Many things that seem democratic would actually bring about the ruin of a democracy. Those who think all virtue is found in their party principles push things to the extremes. They don’t realize disproportion destroys a state. If excess is great, all symmetry is lost.
    • While oligarchies & democracies are a perversion of their perfect forms, they may be good enough because they are better than extreme forms of government or no form of government at all.
      • The legislators & statesmen should know what measures save & destroy democracies & oligarchies.
      • Neither one can exist or continue to exist unless the poor & rich are included.
    • The common error of democracies & oligarchies.
      • Democracies – Demagogues are always splitting the city with quarrels with the rich, when they ought to be pushing their cause.
      • Oligarchies – Should be pushing the cause of the people.
    • Adaptation of education to the form of government should be made but often isn’t.
    • The best laws are useless unless the young are trained & educated to obey them. There may be a lack of self-discipline when this doesn’t happen.
    • The rich sons in oligarchies are raised in luxury & the sons of the poor are raised in toil. This makes the poor inclined to revolution.
      • Extreme forms of democracy get a false idea of freedom contradictory to the true interests of the state.
      • 2 principles are characteristic of a democracy: government of majority & government of freedom. Men think just is equality & equality is superior to the popular will. Freedom is a man doing as he likes.

Ch. 10

  • Monarchy – causes of destruction & preservation. What’s been said about constitutional government applies to royal & tyrannical rule. Royal rule is the nature of an aristocracy & tyranny is a combination of oligarchy & democracy in their most extreme forms – also the most injurious to its subjects.
    • The appointment of a king comes from a better class of people. He elected out of them because he & his family excel in virtue.
    • A tyrant is chose to be the people’s protector against the notables. Almost all tyrants have been demagogues who had gained the favor of the people by accusations against the notables.
      • Some start with royal intentions & overstep the limits set up & then become despots. Some come out the class of chief magistrates. Others come from oligarchies & were of the highest offices. Ambitious men had no difficulty in creating tyrannies since they already had royal or administrative powers in their hands.
    • Royalty & aristocracy are based on the merit of the individual or family, or benefits given to them, along with power. They used that power & honor to benefit the nation. The idea of a king is to be a protector of the rich against unjust treatment & of the poor against abuse from the rich.
      • A tyrant has no regard to any public interest except with respect to his private ends, which for the tyrant is his own pleasure. He’s desirous of riches, using mercenaries as guards.
    • Tyranny has all the vices of democracy & oligarchy. The goal of an oligarchy is wealth. The tyrant distrusts the people & removes their arms. From democracy they use the idea of making war on the notables & destroying them in secret or in the open, or even exiling them.
      • Subjects attack their sovereigns out of fear, contempt or the fact that they’ve been unjustly treated by them. Insult & confiscation of property are also another impetus.
      • Conspiracies against the monarchy have the same goals as the other forms of government.
        • Monarchies have wealth & honor – objects of desire for everyone. Attacks are made against the, the office – sometimes out of anger & not usually out of ambition.
        • Many conspiracies come from attempts by sovereigns on their subjects – out of revenge.
        • Many become irritated by insults & kill or attempt to kill officers of the state & royal princes who lob those insults.
      • Fear & contempt are other motives. Friends will attack out of contempt. Potential assailants may attack because they believe they will get away with it. Those feeling this way usually already have power within the government which gives them confidence that they will succeed.
      • Attempts made out of ambition are different. These are men who won’t risk their lives out of hope of gain but think killing a tyrant will give them fame & honor. They don’t want a throne, they want a name. That’s rare because a would-be assassin risks his life if he doesn’t succeed.
    • Tyrannies are destroyed from outside by those with another form of government & much more power. That government will have the will to attack. Democracies are naturally antagonistic toward tyrannies.
      • They can also be destroyed from within when the reigning families are divided among themselves.
    • 2 motives to attack tyrannies – hatred & contempt.
      • Hatred is inevitable. Anger that one takes away freedom & honor is accompanied by pain which is an impediment to reason.
      • Contempt comes from the tyrant living a luxurious life at the expense of others.
    • All the causes come from extreme forms of tyranny.
      • Kingly rule is not very affected by external causes & that is why it lasts. It’s usually destroyed from within.
    • 2 ways destruction comes
      • A – Members of the royal family quarrel.
      • B – Kings try to administer too much like a tyrant & extend their authority contrary to law.
        • Royalties don’t really come into being anymore. The role of a king is over voluntary subjects & is supreme in all things. But these days, men want equality & no one is greatly superior to others enough to warrant a monarchy.
        • Anyone obtaining power by force or fraud is thought to be a tyrant.
        • Kings often fall into contempt & royal dignity causes outrage – an overthrow is readily effected.

Ch. 11

  • Monarchies are preserved in the opposite way.
    • Limitation of powers – The more restricted a king’s function are, the longer his power will last unimpaired. If he’s moderate & not despotic, he won’t be as envied by his subjects.
    • Tyrannies are preserved in 2 different ways.
      • A – The traditional method
        • The tyrant puts down those who are too high & puts to death men of spirit. They don’t allow common meals, clubs, education or anything that would inspire courage or confidence in subjects. Meetings & assemblies are prohibited/
        • All the people in the city are compelled to appear in public to know what they are planning. Eventually, the people learn to be humble. In order to know what the people are doing or saying, the tyrant hires spied. He sows quarrels among the citizens – between the people & the notables, & the rich with one another. He also impoverishes his subjects. Great works are intended to occupy the people, keep the them poor & multiply taxes.
        • The tyrant is fond of making way to keep the people busy. He distrusts his friends who are likely to want to overthrow him,
        • The worst practices of democracy are found in tyrants.
          • Women & slaves are given power to turn them against the men & masters. Flatterers are held in honor. In democracies, they are demagogues & the tyrants keep them close because they love to be flattered – free men will not stoop to that. They dislike anyone with dignity or independence – he wants to be alone in glory. Dignity & independence encroach on his powers.
        • 3 aims of the tyrant
          • 1 – Humiliation of the subjects.
          • 2 – Creation of mistrust among men.
          • 3 – Desires subjects to be incapable of action.
        • 3 policies of the tyrant
          • 1 – Sow distrust among his subject.
          • 2 – Take away their power.
          • 3 – Humble them.
        • B – Tyrants must be careful & keep enough power to rule over the subjects. Once he gives this up, he gives up his tyranny. Power must be retained as the foundation of rule.
          • He should pretend to care for public expenses & not waste money giving presents making commoners angry that their money is being taken from them for nothing. He’ll have to keep a close account of revenues & expenditures.
          • He has to be seen as a steward, not a tyrant. When he’s absent, he fears that his guardians will raid the coffers.
          • He should only appear to collect taxes & requiring public services only for state purposes. He may form a fund in case of war & make himself its guardian & treasurer.
          • He should appear dignified & not harsh, so that when people meet with him they will look at him with reverence.
          • He & his entourage must never be guilty of offenses against the women & children of the people. The women of his family must be under control. Women can ruin a tyrant easily.
          • He should be moderate & not parade his vice around because he will be despised & attacked for that.
          • He should appear to be in earnest service of the gods. If men see he’s religious, they’ll fear him less. His religion should also not appear to be foolish.
          • He should honor men of merit & make them think they would not get any more under a free government. Honors should be given by him personally but punishments should be inflicted by officers.
          • He should abstain from outrage & personal violence, as well as be aware of lovers of honor. If their honor is touched, they will be tempted to revolt.
          • Those who attempt to assassinate him are most dangerous & to be closely watched – especially the ones who don’t care if they survive. He ought to be careful not to insult them because once they feel they’ve been injured, they will do anything for revenge.
          • He should lead the poor & rich to believe they are being preserved & prevented from harm.
            • No need to emancipate slaves or disarm the citizens.
          • He should show himself to be a king & not a tyrant – be moderate & not the object of hatred.

Ch. 12

  • Oligarchies & tyrannies are the shortest lived forms of government.
    • Longest tyrannies were in Sicyon (100 years), Corinth (73 years), Athens (35 years) – mostly because they were moderate & observed laws & gained favor with the people.
    • In “The Republic”, Socrates doesn’t talk about revolutions much – he skips over the causes of them. He just says change is inevitable. He also says that nature makes some men who are not submissive to education.
      • But why do the changes happen – even in an ideal state? He just says it’s a result of the passage of time & leaves it at that.
      • He never says tyranny if liable to revolutions or not.
        • But usually one tyranny turns into a different of tyranny.
        • Oligarchies turn into tyrannies.
        • It’s just silly to think those things happen purely because of money. It’s usually because the very rich don’t want the poor to have a share in government.
        • When leaders lose money, property or honor, they are ready for revolution. But with everyone else that’s not the case.

 

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