Britannica defines a political system as “the set of formal legal institutions that constitute a ‘government’ or a ‘state’”.1 As the preceding definition implies, a political system is a large component of every government or state. Plato finds that each type of political system possesses a complementary constitution which governs a person’s body and soul (Republic 8.544e). Likewise, Aristotle observes that examples of each political system can also be found in households and communities (NE VIII.10, 1160b). Whereas Plato perceives the different political systems as a chain of degenerations proceeding from the best regime, Aristotle approaches the concept by placing the regimes into three separate groups which each contains a good and a perverted subtype.
Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics were both written in the 4th century B.C.E. (“The Republic” 1; “Nicomachean Ethics” 1). We have already defined a political system and noted that the different political systems can be applied to a person’s constitution and to communities. My comparative analysis of the different regimes presented by Plato and Aristotle will consist of two parts—an examination of Plato’s and Aristotle’s separate organizations for the regimes, followed by the advantages and weaknesses that can be attributed to the different models.
Plato held that the greatest regime, the system that would be best for the whole, was the aristocracy; throughout much of the Republic, Plato describes the intricacies of such a political system and constitution. According to Plato, an aristocracy is a political system ruled by few; the greatest of the aristocracies is ruled by philosopher-kings. Plato acknowledges that obtaining philosopher-kings for an aristoc...
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... effected” (NE VIII.10, 1160b). Similarly, Plato fails to recognize the process by which a greater political system may degenerate and bypass the order he has presented.
The organization of Plato’s regimes has been observed to be linear in nature; the greatest regime, according to Plato, was an aristocracy and as it degenerated, it became the other regimes. Aristotle organized his regimes into categories, which each consisted of a correct and deviant subtype. However, Plato’s and Aristotle’s models of the regimes differ in the orders of expected corruption, and both fail to provide an explanation for circumstances which may lead to a change in order. Plato and Aristotle may have lacked a defense for parts of their arguments; this presumes that their arguments could have been flawed considerably, or our 21st-century mindset hinders our comprehension of the material.
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