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Instructions for reading passages.

Passages: Defining the City State.

Passages: Defining the Citizen.

Passages: Defining the System of Government.

Passages: Defining Democracy.

Passages: Types of Democracy.

Passages: Creating Democracy.

→ Passages: Preserving Democracy.

Passages: Destroying Democracy.

Selective Bibliography.

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Democracy in the Politics of Aristotle  

Thomas R. Martin, with Neel Smith & Jennifer F.Stuart, edition of July 26, 2003

page 11 of 13

· Passages: Preserving Democracy ·

1276b: 28-29: The task of citizens is the preservation (soteria) of the partnership that is their system of government. [Also under “Defining the Citizen”]

1309b: 35-37: The lawmaker and the political man must know what kind of democratic institutions preserve and what kinds destroy democracy.

1308a: 11-16: The equality that supporters of democracy seek is just and advantageous for people who are alike. Where there are many people in government, legal rules of a democratic cast are advantageous, such as limiting term in office to six months so that everyone who is alike can have a share in filling public posts.

1321a: 1-2: Democracies are generally preserved by having a large citizen body.

1326b: 2-7: A city-state must be populous enough to be self-sufficient, but too large a state cannot be a city-state because it is not easy to have a system of government in it. It is too large to be effectively managed militarily, and no herald can shout loud enough [to conduct the assembly meetings of a large population].

1296a: 13-16: Democracies are more secure than oligarchies and more enduring since they have more “middle” people with a greater share in [political] prerogatives.

1309b: 37-1310a6: To endure, a democracy, like an oligarchy, needs both the rich and the poor. A democracy that destroys the well-off becomes unstable. Where the people have authority over the laws, demagogues tear the city in two by fighting with the rich. Instead, they should do the opposite and appear to speak on the behalf of the rich.

1309a: 1-9: It is democratic for all to be eligible to hold public office. The policy of not allowing office holders to profit from their office will mean that the poor will not desire to hold office, but rather they will prefer to tend to their own affairs. Thus, they will become more prosperous by working, while the notable and wealthy members of the citizen body will hold office because they have no need to earn money from public service. In this way the notables will not be governed by just anyone. Both groups will then have what they want [and therefore the state will be stable].

1299b: 32-34: A council (boule) with a large number of members is supportive of democracy because it does preliminary deliberation for the people so that they can have time for their occupations.

1309a: 27-31: In democracy, as in oligarchy, it is advantageous to give equality or precedence in all aspects of the government except the highest offices to that group which has the least share in the system of government. In a democracy, that group would be the rich.

1319b: 33-1320b17: To preserve a democracy, one should strive not for measures that will make it absolutely as democratic as possible but rather that will preserve it for the longest time. The following measures are recommended: any confiscations of property imposed as punishment in a legal judgment should become property of the gods, not of the public, to prevent corrupt court judgments meant to secure a distribution to the population from the confiscated property; large penalties should be imposed for frivolous prosecutions to prevent harassment of the rich; if there are no [additional] sources of public revenues besides taxes [on individuals], confiscations, and corrupt court judgments to pay subsidies to the multitude for attending the assembly, then only infrequent assembly meetings and brief court sessions should be held [to minimize the need to take money from the rich to pay the subsidies]; if there are [additional] public revenues, no surplus from them should be distributed to the poor, for this practice stimulates more demand for this sort of distribution; at the same time, the multitude should be kept from becoming overly poor, since this development creates wretched [and thus excess] democracy; money should be provided from public revenues to the poor so that they can acquire land for farming or learn a craft and become better off over time; the rich should be taxed to provide pay [to ordinary citizens to enable them to attend] necessary meetings, but the rich should be released from unnecessary public service; the rich should divide the poor citizens among themselves and then give them enough money [for necessary tools, etc.] so that they can start to work; magistracies should be chosen some by election and some by lot.

1309a: 14-20: In democracies, the rich should be spared and not have their property or their incomes redivided [for distribution to the poor]. They should also be prohibited from spending money on expensive but useless sponsorships of public occasions (liturgies) such as leading choral groups for musical and dramatic festivals or officiating at torch races, even if they want to pay for such sponsorships.

1308b: 10-19: In all systems of government no one is allowed to become overly great [so as to threaten the stability of the state]. Acquiring great prerogatives quickly tends to corrupt people, for not everyone can stand good fortune. Above all, the laws should prevent anyone from becoming especially preeminent in the power derived from his supporters or his wealth; if the laws cannot prevent this, then such persons should be sent to spend time abroad.

1308b: 31-33: It is of the greatest importance in all systems of government to have laws and the rest of governmental administration so arranged that magistrates cannot profit financially from their offices.

1310a: 12-36: The greatest thing of everything that has been mentioned for preserving a system of government, although this is the thing everyone slights, is providing education in accordance with the system of government. For even the most beneficial and widely approved laws bring no benefit if they are not going to be inculcated through education and the habits of the citizens. Education appropriate for a democratic system of government is not to be guided by what brings enjoyment to the partisans of democracy but rather by what makes it possible to run a system of government democratically. In the democracies that seem to be the most democratic, they do what is not advantageous because they define freedom badly. For democracy is thought to be defined by two things: by the majority having authority and by freedom. Justice is then thought of as equality, and equality as that whatever the multitude decides is what is authoritative. Freedom and equality are doing whatever one wishes. So in this sort of democracy everybody lives as he wants and for whatever goal he craves. This is a contemptible thing. Living according to one’s system of government should not be thought of as slavery, but rather as preservation.

Plot on a Map
Sparta (in text as “Spartans”).

1337a: 11-1337b3: Everyone would agree that law makers should make the education of the young a special priority. City-states that fail to do this injure their systems of government. The education must suit the system of government, for this preserves it. Since a city-state has a single goal (telos), education must, of necessity, be the same and be given to everyone. Its oversight should be a public matter, not as it is now, with everyone overseeing his own children’s education privately and having them taught what he believes best. Training for things that are shared should be a shared activity done in common. The Spartans might well deserve praise on this score, since they, more than anyone, devote effort to their children, and as a shared task.

1260b: 15-20: It is necessary to educate women and children with an eye to the system of government, if the state is to be worthy. For women make up half of the free population, and from the children will come the partners in the system of government.

1342b: 34: There are three defining principles for education: the middle, the possible, and the appropriate.

1266b: 29-31: There is a greater need to level people’s desires rather than their property (by legislation redividing property holdings or limiting them), and this can be done only when people are sufficiently educated by the laws.

1313a: 41-1313b6: Education, debate, and social groups dedicated to inquiry and discussion are enemies of tyranny, since they encourage intelligent thought and trust [among citizens].

1263b: 36-37: Since a city-state is a multitude, it is necessary to use education to make it into a partnership and a unity.

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page 11 of 13