Literature / Politics

"Man is by nature a political animal"

Aristotle's treatise on political philosophy. Strike that, the treatise on political philosophy, which, along with The Republic, forms the foundation of all Western political thought.

This work contains examples of:

  • Democracy Is Bad: Like Plato, Aristotle was not a fan of contemporary democracies, though he did acknowledge the possibility of their reformation to a form approximating his ideal state. Indeed, what we today call "democracy" is an approximation of the Aristotelian "polity": it has mass participation (although we have directly-elected legislatures rather than assemblies of the citizens), an elite check (the courts and unrepresentative upper houses like the Senate and House of Lords), and a single head (the president or prime minister, serving in the position of the monarch in the Aristotelian "polity").
    • Also like Plato, Aristotle greatly preferred the evils of (direct) democracy to those of tyranny and oligarchy, and believed that the best-run states were those run by one or a few of the "best men." Unlike Plato, Aristotle was skeptical of the ability of the "best men" to stay the "best men," or that they would be relatively easy to find, and so Aristotle's ideal "polity" is a combination of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy.
  • Happiness in Slavery: According to Aristotle, some people are born to serve others, and they are happy as slaves, because that's how they fill their role in the world. On the other hand, Aristotle hints that he is skeptical we can accurately identify who these people are. (The Politics is not a simple book.)
  • Hysterical Woman: It's argued that women are unfit to rule due to their deficient "temperament".
  • Think of the Children!: In Book VII, which concerns the education of the young, Aristotle proposes the criminalisation of swearing in public, to protect young minds. He also proposes age restrictions on theatre attendance, in a much less extreme variation of the trope.