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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Polity (Greek: Πολιτεία or Πολίτευμα transliterated as Politeía or Políteuma) is a form of government Aristotle developed in his search for a government that could be most easily incorporated and used by the largest amount of people groups, or states. Polity is a political system that combines ideals from an oligarchy, "government by the few" (Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary), with ideals from a democracy, "government by the people, especially: rule of the majority" (Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary). (Definition of Polity: From Socrates to Sartre: The Philosophical Quest by T.Z. Lavine, pg. 76) Today polity is used as a general term referring to a political organization or a specific form of a political organization (Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary). It can be used to describe a loosely organized society such as a tribe or community, but can mean any political group including a government or empire, corporation or academy. Polity is used in the phrase ecclesiastical polity as a synonym for church government.

Aristotelian Polities

Aristotle believed the problem with democracy was that the ignorant masses would be the rulers. He also believed that an oligarchy presented a major problem. An oligarchy would most certainly subject the ignorant masses to the rule of the few wealthy who would abuse their power. Because Aristotle saw problems with both democracies and oligarchies he comes up with his own form of government which he names "Polity". Aristotle sought to build a government that would keep as many people accountable as possible, especially the wealthy whom he believed could "only rule by despotically." He presented his idea of a new government in his treatise Politics. In Politics Aristotle states that Polity is the rule of the citizens of the state who own property, as would be typical of an oligarchy, with the property qualifications, or rules of owning property, kept relatively low. This allows the majority of the citizens to participate in the government, as is typical of a democracy. Power to rule is given in the greatest amount to those in the middle class whose class has a higher amount of people. The middle class would keep the wealthy in check and rule over the poor who "are too degraded" (Politics by Aristotle) to rule. Politicians were elected to an Assembly in three ways: suffrage, lot, or suffrage and lot. Suffrage referred to a vote of the masses. Elections could be done by suffrage alone, lot alone, or by a combination of suffrage and lot. Lot refers to a set amount of land and men could acquire up to five times their lot. The higher the amount of lot the higher on the list for election you were. Suffrage did not include women, slaves, serfs, or resident aliens. Thus, voting citizens were the men who were citizens of the state that owned land, or lot. However, the Assembly did not hold absolute political power the way it did during The Golden Age of Pericles. (We refer to the government of that time period as Athenian Democracy or Classical Democracy.) The assembly shared power with a wider range of citizens, most of which were middle class. Athenian democracy, under the rule and laws of Solon, could be classified as a polity. Aristotle concludes in his Politics that the reforms of Cleisthenes began the descent of the Athenian democracy, in its original polity-like form, into a corrupt democracy.

Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary From Socrates To Sartre: The Philosophic Quest By T.Z. Lavine chapter 6 Studies in the Politics of Aristotle and the Republic of Plato By Isaac Althaus Loos

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