What is the Aristotelian classification of state?

What is the Aristotelian classification of state?

CSS Solved Political Science Past Paper 2021 | What is the Aristotelian classification of state?

The following question of Political Science is attempted on the same pattern, taught by Sir to his students, scoring the highest marks in compulsory subjects for years. This solved past paper question is uploaded to help aspirants understand how to crack a topic or question, how to write relevantly, what coherence is, and how to include and connect ideas, opinions, and suggestions to score the maximum.

Question Breakdown

In this question examiner has asked about the Aristotelian classification of the state. So, first of all, you will have to provide an introduction. Then, Aristotle’s opinions on different governments. A critical analysis and conclusion come at the end.


2-Aristotle classification on state

  • Classifications on the basis of two
    • Number of rulers
    • Purpose of rule

3-Applications of Aristotle classification of state
4-Critical Analysis

Answer to the Question


Aristotle was the Greek philosopher of the fourth century BCE. His ideas have significantly influenced western philosophy, politics, and ethics. He is revered as one of history’s greatest thinkers. He studied over 158 constitutions of various city-states by sending his students to prepare case studies of various constitutions. He analyzed almost 160 case histories. To be precise, it is believed that he analyzed 158 case histories. One of the numerous contributions made by Aristotle to these fields was the development of a classification of states based on the number of rulers and the nature of their power. According to Aristotle’s classifications of states, the only legitimate governmental structures are monarchy, aristocracy, and polity, or constitutional government. He opposed monarchy because he believed a single ruler could not attain virtue. Like the aristocracy, which only a select few morally upright and intelligent people could join, he rejected it. According to him, the best form of government was polity or constitutional government, but it was also impractically impossible to achieve.

Furthermore, Aristotle recognized that tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy were three additional corruptions and rejected them because their leaders were despots, self-centered, self-prioritized, and prioritized their own interests over those of the community. According to Aristotle, the ideal form of government is a polity, or constitutional system, in which the majority rules while keeping the interests of the entire community in mind. His theories on the different types of corruption that fit into each category of states and how states are categorized have had a lasting impact on political philosophy and are still studied and debated today.

Aristotle classification on state

Aristotle classified states based on the number of rulers and the purpose of the rule.

Who rules: One, Few or Many

In whose interest: Common Interest, Self Interest

Normal Rule:      (In Common Interests)-Monarch-Aristocracy-Polity

Perverted Rule:  (In Personal interest)- Tyranny-Oligarchy-Democracy

A Monarchy:

A single-person government that prioritizes serving the needs of the community and is typically headed by a king or queen. Because the rule of one is present here, this one may rise to power. Finding a good person is challenging.  Because the only person who possesses perfect virtue is GOD.

B Aristocracy:

A government ruled by a small group of virtuous and capable individuals, who rule with the interest of the community in mind.

Both Aristotle and Plato recognized that leadership is an art that can only be practiced by those who have mastered it. There is a rule of few in this. It would be the best system, in Aristotle’s opinion, if it were used. a small group that embodies the highest virtues. However, he worries that these aristocrats might turn evil and establish an oligarchy. Consequently, he also disregarded this.


C Polity:

A government ruled by the majority of the citizens, who have an equal say in the government.

The best political system, according to Aristotle, is Polity, which is practiced and only accessible in the best states. Everyone in polity is moral. Everybody has the ability to rule and be ruled. For instance, if a community of 100 people lived in the state, 10 of them would rule, and the remaining 90 would wait their turn. Both “to rule” and “to be ruled” were equally possible. In this situation, the relationship between the ruler and the ruled is one of equality rather than of master and slave. And only the virtuous state makes it possible. Furthermore, polity would be exercised when there was a best state.

D Tyranny:

When the monarch becomes selfish and rules in his own interest rather than the interest of the community.

E Oligarchy:

When the small group of rulers become selfish and rule in their own interest rather than the interest of the community.

E Democracy:

When the majority becomes selfish and starts ruling in their own interest rather than the interest of the community.

 He identified three types of legitimate states and three corresponding forms of corruption.

The legitimate forms of state are: Monarchy, Aristrocracy and Polity.

The corresponding forms of corruption are:Tyranny,Oligarchy and Democracy.

Aristotle believed that the best form of government was a polity or constitutional government, where the majority ruled with the interest of the community in mind.

Aristotle thought that a polity, or constitutional government, where the majority ruled with the good of the community in mind, was the best type of government.

Aristotle rejected tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy because they all have a master-slave relationship as their fundamental basis for power. This indicates that there is a dominance and exploitation relationship between the rule and the subject. He held the opinion that a political system ought to be one in which there is no difference between the ruler and the ruled and where relationships are founded on equality. Also, there is no distinction between master and slave. If things continue in this manner, it would not be the best political term.

According to Aristotle, humans have a special capacity for rationality (Reason and Language). Because of this, humans are more advanced, and because of this special ability, they require a state. The best state, according to Aristotle, is polity, but it is not practical because humans use their special capacity in a state and for that they need it.

Polity is a system of government where everyone upholds the common good.

All of our virtues in the polity are for ruling and being ruled. When everyone is moral, the polity is observed. However, achieving polity is not feasible. Then, the question of how the best system could be implemented arose.

In this regard, Aristotle categorized political systems according to population because every society has two types of people.

1-Rich and Wealthy (Few)

2-Poor (Many)

There is a perpetual conflict between these two in every society. As a result, oligarchy is made up of the rich and powerful, while democracy is made up of the poor and numerous. These two political systems can be seen in any society, so despite their polity, oligarchy and democracy are both observable but corrupt systems.

The wealthy and the poor aspire to total control over their lives. Thus, both defended their positions of authority using Aristotle’s principle of justice. Oligarchs claimed that the Aristotelian principle of justice applied.

The rich claimed that more power was granted to them because they had more wealth.

Poor people often use the argument that they need more power because they are stronger physically or numerically. Aside from that, they argued that since we both enjoy equal levels of freedom, power should be distributed equally among us.

Aristotle uses the “Golden Mean” theory to mediate between the two extremes as a result of this class conflict. According to this theory, virtue lies halfway between two extremes. So, he was interested in studying the middle position. He used the Golden Mean theory because, since oligarchy and democracy were both conceivably attainable systems, their drawbacks had to be eliminated in order to put them into practice. He admired a system in which there is neither an excessively rich nor poor population.

As a result, the Middle Class is a class that is neither excessively wealthy nor impoverished. This class was devoid of the feeling of envy or contempt.

Applications of Aristotle classification of state

The Aristotelian classification of states is still applicable and influential today.

His classification of states offers an insightful framework for comprehending various governmental structures in the contemporary world. For instance: Saudi Arabia, North and South Korea, the UK, and other countries continue to practice monarchy. The same is true of the aristocracy, which is practiced under a constitutional monarchy in a number of countries around the world. Similarly, democracy exists in Pakistan, India, the United States, etc. In addition, China and Russia both have oligarchies. This is how his system of classifying states still applies in the contemporary world.

Critical Analysis

The way in which Aristotle categorized states in his well-known work “Politics” has received a lot of criticism over the years. The main complaints are as follows:

1- Aristotle’s classification of the state is frequently regarded as lacking and insufficient because it does not consider many of the various historical forms of government, including totalitarianism, communism, and fascism.

2- It is also said to be rigid and two-dimensional because it only recognizes democracy and oligarchy as the two main types of government. This understates the nuance of various forms of government and oversimplifies the complexity of actual political systems.

3- It is criticized as it was created in the context of ancient Greek city-states and might not be relevant to contemporary states, which are frequently much bigger and more complex.

4- It is criticized for being biased. It was only in favor of the Greek polis and might not be applicable to other societies or cultures. For example, Aristotle’s focus on citizenship and political participation might not work in societies with different ideas about membership and participation.

5-Aristotle’s way of grouping states doesn’t take into account how power is shared in society. It does not take into account the fact that dominant groups often rule over others in societies, regardless of the formal organization of the government.


To sum up, Aristotle proposed the idea of a mixed constitution to avoid unpredictability and establish a long-lasting system of governance in the Greek city-state. He used his “Golden Mean” theory to establish stability. In his book “Ethics,” he describes the Golden Mean as a path in the middle, indicating that virtue lies halfway between two extremes. Every vice is on an extreme, and every virtue is between the two extremes. For instance, courage is a quality that falls somewhere in the middle of timidity and carelessness. His suggestion for establishing a stable form of government combines both rules by a select few and rule by many. He rejected monarchy because it would be tainted by absolute power. The aristocracy would suit because few would make the rules. It would include the wealthy and educated chosen minority. But if there were no restraints on the aristocracy, it would deteriorate. Aristotle suggests that in order to avoid this, the decisions made by the aristocracy should be approved by the vast majority of common people.  So, he developed a middle class by utilizing his theory of Golden mean which was completely virtuous. Thus, in his view, the State is necessary for a good life.

“The people are as good as the people, even though they may be individually worse judges than those who have special knowledge.”

Aristotle – The Politics

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