CSS Solved Political Science Past Papers | What is the Aristotelian classification of the state? (CSS 2021)
In this question, the examiner has asked about the classification of the state presented by Aristotle. So, first of all, you need to introduce Aristotle’s concept of state briefly. Next, you have to present the principles of classification given by Aristotle in your own words. And, then, you need to elaborate on how Aristotle classified the state based on his principles. After that, you need to illustrate Aristotelian’s cycle of state.
The answer is solved on the given pattern, which Sir Syed Kazim Ali teaches to his students, who consistently score above 80% because of their attempting the questions. Read the answer carefully and notice all the steps that are taken to attempt the question.
2- Aristotle’s concept of state:
According to Aristotle, a state is the perfect and final form of human association, and it exists for the good of its citizens.
3- Aristotle’s principle for classification of state:
- Number of rulers
- Purpose of state.
4- Classification based on state purpose:
- Pure state
- Perverted state
5- Classification based on the number of rulers:
- Monarchy: Rule of one
- Aristocracy: Rule of few
- Polity: Rule of many
6- Aristotle’s cycle of state
7- Critical analysis
Aristotle regards the state as the highest kind of community that aims at the highest good. Therefore, he classified the state on the basis of the purpose of the state and the number of the rulers. Based on purpose, he further classified the state into two categories, i.e. pure state and perverted state. First, a pure state works for the good of the citizens; on the other hand, the perverted state exploits citizens at large. Similarly, based on the number of rulers, the state is also classified into three more categories: monarchy, a rule by one, aristocracy, a rule by few, and polity, a rule by many. However, in Aristotle’s view, the best form of state is a monarchy as he regards polity as the worst form of the state. Besides, Aristotle also gives the cycle of a state, in which a state originates from monarchy followed by tyranny, aristocracy, oligarchy, polity and ultimately ends up being a democracy. This cycle gets completed here and then starts all over again.
Aristotle’s concept of state:
Although the narrative prevailed in Athens before Aristotle has been somewhat different, he defines a state as a community of persons, where each community has a definite purpose that is nothing but good. However, he also asserts that a state is not an ordinary community, so he regards the state as the highest kind of community that aims at the highest good.
Aristotle’s principle of classification of state:
Aristotle classified the state on the principle of:
- Number of rulers
- Purpose of state
He classified the state on the number of rulers, which entails the number of persons who exercise the supreme authority in the state. The purpose of the state entails the objectives for which the supreme authority is exercised; it could either be for the betterment of the ruler or the subject.
Classification based on the purpose of state:
Aristotle classified the state on the basis of the purpose of the state into two categories, pure state and perverted state. Pure state aims at the common and collective good; it works for the betterment of the citizens. Whereas in a perverted state the ruler is selfish and works for his self-interest.
Classification based on the number of rulers:
Aristotle classified the state into three categories based on the number of rulers.
Aristotle says, in a monarchy, a single person rules the state, and that ruler works for the betterment and welfare of his subjects. He regards monarchy as the best form of government as in a monarchy, rulers prioritize national interests over self-interest, prioritising common interests. Furthermore, in Aristotle’s view, the king should not hold absolute authority, and the law must limit him.
According to Aristotle, in a monarchy, when the ruler becomes selfish and corrupt, the monarchy converts into tyranny, which becomes the perverted form of state.
In an aristocracy, the state is ruled by a few people; the ruling class consists of a small group of wealthy and virtuous people who work to better the citizens. The state under them is a welfare state, and Aristotle also regards aristocracy as a pure state for They work for the national interests as well.
However, when the ruling class becomes tainted, corrupt, and ignores the subjects, the aristocracy becomes an oligarchy. And according to Aristotle, oligarchy is also a form of perverted state.
In Polity, the state is ruled by the middle class, and in this system, many citizens participate. Rulers are elected representatives of the people. These representatives run the state following the desires and will of the people.
Polity changes into democracy when this ruling class becomes selfish and corrupt. Aristotle also included democracy in a perverted form of state. He saw danger in democracy, and in his views, it is the worst form of state as democracy can easily be converted into tyranny with many heads.
Aristotelian classification of state
|Number of rulers||Pure State||Perverted State|
Aristotle’s cycle of state:
Aristotle says that all the states undergo the cycle of change. A state originates with the establishment of a monarchy that is the single man’s virtuous rule. When monarchy converts into tyranny, it is replaced by an aristocracy. When aristocrats become corrupt, aristocracy turns into an oligarchy, Popular uprising turns oligarchy into the polity, and polity degenerates into democracy. Ultimately, a supremely virtuous man arises who restores law and order. Thus, the cycle becomes complete and starts all over again.
Aristotle’s classification is highly significant in political philosophy. His work turned out as a cornerstone for the forthcoming philosophers. However, his classification doesn’t cover all the forms of the modern era. As a result, it is often criticized as an unscientific classification and that Aristotle did not differentiate between the state and the government.
In a nutshell, it can be concluded that Aristotle’s classification doesn’t have any place for limited monarchy, unitary, federal, parliamentary or presidential form. The very cycle of state, illustrated by Aristotle, doesn’t have any scope in the modern era as well. However, despite all these shortcomings, this classification of state by Aristotle is considered a landmark in political theory.
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