Aristotle is commonly regarded as a father of political theory. He is a creator of one of the most powerful theoretical background in the question of politics and government. His book Politics has significantly contributed to the development of the political study. In his books, Aristotle described the problems of states, communities, the types of governing and ruling. In addition, Aristotle paid a special attention to the types of states and ways of maintaining stability within the country. In fact, his finding is very important for the understanding of the basis of the contemporary politics. Therefore, there is a need to pay attention to Aristotle’s works in order to realize the main political regularities and issues.
The problem of social equality plays a special role in Aristotle’s finding. The philosopher considered it to be a guarantee of the government’s stability and state prosperity. At the same time, he clearly distinguished between different the types of equality, including social and natural, numerical and proportional. The problem of social equality is closely connected with revolutions and rebellions. Therefore, we can observe a twofold nature of equality. On one hand, it is a pledge of stability. On the contrary, the lack of equality or the desire of inequality can lead to the coup d’états. All this may let us suppose that this question is one of the major ones in the political theory. Not surprisingly, Aristotle paid the special attention to this problem, dwelling on its nuances and subtleties.
The Difference between the Democracies and Oligarchies
In Politics: Book V, Aristotle discusses the nature, reasons and causes of revolutions and constitutional changes within the state. He explains that some constitutions are more flexible and reliable, than others are. For instance, some countries are more prone to the stability, while others tend to break away after a while. The author tries to investigate the reasons of such differences and explain the main regularities. Aristotle dwells mainly on the description of major revolutions and their nature. Thus, he is certain that the main cause of rebellions consists in the inappropriate perception of the social equality and its measures. As a result, such differences lead to the factional conflicts and various comprehension of the distributive justice.
A main threat to the stability is the dissatisfaction of certain social groups. When some members of the society feel uncomfortable or offended, they begin to look for more convenient conditions for living. Very often, such desires result in revolutions. Aristotle also mentions that democracies demonstrate a higher degree of stability, compared with the oligarchies. In other words, democracies possess more possibilities for the right understanding and realizing of the concept of equality. Aristotle explains it in the following way.
In his words, oligarchies pay great attention to the welfare and wealth within the political factions. The material inequality makes some members break away and seek for other conditions with the main purpose of getting new advantages. As a result, the country is unable to develop in a proper way. The question of the inequality slows down the general progress and focuses the attention of the government on some minor issues. At the same time, oligarchies find them unable to take over this problem and solve it in a right way. Those, who emphasize on the natural equality, form the minority and do not change the situation within the country.
On the contrary, democracies take social equality for granted. They suppose that equality should be fulfilled in all situations and things. Generally, democracy considers equality to be an absolute notion. It does not include any exceptions or exclusions. In addition, such a position represents an appropriate system of justice. From this point of view, democracy is a more stable and convenient way of governing, than oligarchy is (Aristotle “Politics: Book V and VI” 3). It pays attention to the problem of social equality and can benefit from it. The right attitude toward the question of sameness is crucial in the government.
It is also important to mention that states can preserve the characteristics of the government only to a certain extent. Thus, we can speak about less or more democratic countries as well as higher or lower developed oligarchies. According to the degree of development, we can distinguish between different opinions on the problem of equality. However, in any case, democracies appear to be more adaptive to social needs and requirements.
Therefore, we can conclude that the attitude toward social equality can vary, according to the type of governing. Different states can develop various opinions on this question. Generally, it is possible to observe that democracies are more prone to the protection of the human equality and, therefore, to the guarantee of stability. On the contrary, oligarchies fail to preserve the social equality in practice and usually end with revolutions and social rebellions.
Types of Equality
According to Aristotle, there are two types of equality. They are numerical and proportional ones. Under the first term, we understand the equality in number or size. The second concept introduces the sameness of ratios. There is a certain difference between those two types. For instance, the first kind of equality does not mean justice and does not always apply to a fair distribution of goods. The sameness in terms of ratios is more frequently used in the state. It is more connected with justice and fairness than the previous type.
In fact, the numerical equality is simply associated with the material goods and property (Aristotle “Politics” 202). It deals with the concrete numbers and can be calculated mathematically. The proportional equality considers many nuances and details and provides the deep understanding of the social sameness.
Aristotle argues that neither democracy nor oligarchy is able to guarantee social equality and, therefore, stability for a long period. Any type of governing tends to face revolutions and constitutional changes. Nevertheless, democracies appear to be more adjusted to the social needs and the protection of the human equality. As a result, they tend to exist during a longer period, in comparison with oligarchy. In fact, we can see that social equality and its preservation playing a crucial role in the protection of the state’s stability and being long-lasting.
The Main Threats to the Stability
As we have already mentioned, every country is doomed to the constitutional changes. The question consists only in the duration of their existence. Aristotle points out several factors contributing to the appearance of revolutions. Firstly, the author claims that the main reason consists in the state of mind. It means that men tend to break away from the existed parties and create their own fractions. All this is done with the main purpose of achievement of new benefits and advantages (Aristotle “Politics: Book V and VI” 15). Speaking about the motivation to break away, it is usually caused by the desire to get more rights. Additionally, humans tend to be constantly unsatisfied with their position and treatment (Aristotle “Politics” 186). As a result, we can observe the emergence of different parties and movements, struggling for equality and justice.
The second reason consists in a simple desire to come into fortune and increase profits. In fact, material prosperity forms a great part incentive for people to act. However, again, we face the question of equality. The desire to get more profits is closely connected with the desire to break the social equality. This process is typical for different types of governing.
Finally, Aristotle argues that revolutions are regular processes, typical for every society. Therefore, it is useless to struggle for eternal peace and well-being. Very often, constitutional changes appear spontaneously and unpredictably (Aristotle “Politics” 201). It means that they are difficult to avoid or prevent. However, Aristotle says that states, which pay attention to the protection of social equality, are more prone to stability and long-lasting. This fact witnesses the idea of importance of social equality for the protection of the country’s stability.
The causes of revolutions and constitutional changes may be divided into external and internal ones. Sometimes, it is difficult to distinguish between these two types as they are interrelated and mutual. Generally, we can say that external reasons for revolutions arise from the wrong treatment of the poor or other social groups. Among the internal causes, we should mention about the rivalry for power among representatives of the government (Aristotle “Politics: Book V and VI” 12). Very often, the rivals may involve social masses into this struggle, provoking the civil wars and coup d’états.
Therefore, we can say that there are many causes of revolutions within the state. We can judge that, in most cases, the misinterpretation of equality leads to the appearance of constitutional changes. It means that the social factor is crucial in the life of any state. The task of the government is to maintain the human rights and prevent any threats to its stability. However, very often, the representatives of the government appear to be the main causes of revolutions. All this allows us saying about the imperfection of political theories and their practical implementations.
Pledge of Stability
It is true that different contradictories ruin the country from inside. The lack of attention to the social problems can result in destroying the country, in general. However, there are some ways to solve this problem and maintain stability. Aristotle names three main methods of preserving inviolability of the country.
Democracy, oligarchy or aristocracy can avoid constitutional changes in case of the right implementation of the main political principles. Firstly, there is a need to provide a solid and reliable judicial system. The whole society should accept the power of law and follow its rules and obligations. The justice should focus its attention on the protection of the social equality and human rights. Aristotle mentions that it is very important to create a strong and persuasive complex of laws in order to save the state (Aristotle “Politics: Book V and VI” 17).
Secondly, Aristotle claims that the rulers should give up any quarrels and rivalries. The strong and mighty government is a pledge of a successful and prosperous country (Aristotle “Politics” 187). In addition, the government should pay attention to the solution of the practical problems and protect the social equality inside the country. This moment is especially important for the oligarchies and aristocracies as those types of ruling use to neglect this significant principle. Thus, we can see that the powerful government is the other guarantee of the state’s success.
Thirdly, the government should establish honest and fair relationships with its citizens. People should trust the rulers and be sure in their political and ruling competence. In fact, it is quite difficult to achieve such a result. The rulers should possess leading qualities and abilities to unite the masses around one unique idea of social stability and invincibility.
Finally, the stability of the state is based on the education of its citizens. It means that the government should explain the values and power of the constitution to all social groups. In fact, many problems come from the lack of education and miscomprehension of major topics. Therefore, the primary task of the state is to educate people in the meaning of liberty. Living in the society should not be regarded as slavery, but as a self-development and self-preservation. Only a right attitude and estimation of the state life can protect the stability of the country.
Thus, Aristotle says that there are many ways of protecting the country’s stability. However, all of them are based on the value of human rights and equality.
To sum up, Politics by Aristotle remains one of the most influential books in the field of the political theory. It dwells on many important political issues and problems. One of them is connected with the question of social equality. According to Aristotle, social equality is one of the most important pledges of the state’s stability and power. It helps to protect the country from ruining and destroying. It means that governments should pay the special attention to the maintaining of the social equality within the state.
It is an obvious fact that no country possesses the absolute characteristics of a certain type of governing. For instance, democracies can perform a higher or lower degree of development, according to its governing principles. Therefore, we can regard the attitude toward social equality from a relevant point of view. It explains the differences between various states and the degree of their prosperity.
In any case, it is important to remember that social equality is a powerful factor, contributing to the protection of the state. The main task of governments is to preserve this quality by establishing the powerful judicial, educational and ruling systems. In fact, the stability of the country is based on many factors, which lead to the desirable result in complex. Thus, there is a need to pay attention to all nuances of the social life in order to create a mighty state.
Aristotle. The Politics. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. Ed. Steven Everson. London, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Print.
Aristotle. The Politics: Books V and VI. Ed. David Keyt. London, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Print.
The Concept of Social Equality by Aristotle