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Politiken : Politika

av Aristotle

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The Politics is one of the most influential texts in the history of political thought, and it raises issues which still confront anyone who wants to think seriously about the ways in which human societies are organized and governed. By examining the way societies are run--from households to city states--Aristotle establishes how successful constitutions can best be initiated and upheld. For this edition, Sir Ernest Barker's fine translation, which has been widely used for nearly half a century, has been extensively revised to meet the needs of the modern reader. The accessible introduction and clear notes examine the historical and philosophical background of the work and discuss its significance for modern political thought.… (mer)
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Although reading this may enlighten the modern reader about today's politics (in terms of the role and development of the state, and the legitimacy of power, the goal of laws to give stability, and the power of oligarchs), it is of particular interest to see the thinking of ancient Greece concerning the class structure, types of government, tyranny and the role of the sexes. Of special note is the duty of the state to educate its citizens, especialy in citizenship; but Aristotle sees fit to talk also of matters which appear a long way from politics - what sort of music and drama lessons to give, for example. ( )
  INeilC | Feb 22, 2024 |
It's been some time since I read this, and I don't recall any details. ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 13, 2023 |
Unconventional thoughts about politics: Aristotle thought that democracies—not something that he thought was an unalloyed good—had a symbiotic relationship with war, and especially where the common people formed the backbone of the army. Experience would seem to validate this, in several periods. (That is, modern periods; I know very little of Greek history, although some ancient Greek history is sprinkled throughout this book).

It is a bit of a proverb that America has been more democratic than Europe, formally before the 20th century or whenever, but even now Europe is more bureaucratically managed and America more unwilling to be governed, with all the negatives (and positives?) that go with those things. (It is a little jarring at times to read Aristotle, for whom “democracy” (=mob rule) and even “constitutional government” (=rational democracy) are not synonymous with hugging babies, as though life were American television.) Anyway the Americans were certainly the more military people, as they dispossessed a whole continent of natives, and it was done by the fighting of the common white man, unlike say England, which was a much more settled country and in which guns were not so much in the hands of the ordinary man. (Prussia was a military state, but the army was not popular, nor its main strength in numbers.) So America had “democracy”—an aggressive thing—though we talked about it like it was Jesus.

In the 20th century life became more democratic in many places; partly it's economic and dates back to industrialization in the Victorian period, but the World Wars and especially the spectacular blow-up with Hitler was a huge shot in the arm, at least in the West, for democracy, because the whole people was mobilized and went to war, which led to more popular power and prosperity, as well as a common human turning away from the horrors of the gas chambers and terrible oppression generally a generation later. But with the 70s—anti-Vietnam movements and such, popular participation in the army started to wane, and at more or less the same time, neoliberal policies started to more or less punish the commoners for this and for their new-found lack of respect in general (new wave music, rap). On the other hand, as women started to enter the armed forces in greater numbers, (although they were obviously part of the WWII effort too, even wearing uniforms, they got less credit then for that sort of thing), they started to enter other professions as well, with the military and police work being some of the most celebrated.

So democracy isn’t all about politicians kissing babies, although it’s not always good, either.

Special note: I originally had this as a (free) audiobook that was kinda lame so I switched it out for the new version I just got after reading Roger Scruton’s Kant book; Aristotle like most philosophers I think needs a normal printed version with notes. I also bought a nice audiobook of The Republic, but I’m keeping that because Plato is a little different. Plato is like the Shakespeare who took philosophy classes. Yes, Plato is a little different.

…. (2nd reading)

Aristotle is good to read, but clearly some of his ideas are better than others, despite those worst ideas being very tenacious. Basically most of his worst problems come from his being an elitist, an attitude which obviously managed to survive the preaching of the gospel. (It is also true that idealizing the oppressed, done uncritically, can easily make people more chaotic—until a sort of choas (yes, choas), comes to reign, and Aristotle starts to look good again.)

On the one hand, most people don’t think that the world is totally bereft of order and meaning unless they’re having an exceptionally bad day, but it’s easy to smugly assume that the universe was designed for our own *comfort*, complete with people who were out there for us to use, and then, whatever, right. But people still think like this today. A rather nondescript Jersey shore town exists for ‘the best sort of people’ and the Stalinist state shouldn’t ‘dump’ worthless poor people in the same zip code, even, as the worthies, and thus ‘interfere’ with the ‘design’ of Nature’s god, you know. That’s what one of these cutesy local books said, reading between the lines. Oh the rewards of trying to be a good citizen!

And on and on—Aristotle kept very close company, probably kept his hands very close to his chest in a fight, not going to reach out, not going to get hurt, you know.

…. I’m not really a revolutionary in the conventional sense, but the problem with making money for the sake of making more money is that it’s basically just gossip, and gossip is just small-mindedness pretending to be big; they’d be ashamed to admit the littleness that they do not own. So, maybe those two things together, (a) I’m not really…. & (b) but the problem—makes me like Aristotle.

…. I will say (although this mostly re: the intro), that I’m rather against Aristotle as the stern champion of technical philosophy as the highest good. I mean, if the city is not ‘for life’ as he says it’s not, (*amid the volcano* C’mon Anakin— Philosophy!), then…. 😜? I mean, I guess he would say it’s for ‘the good life’, right, but I don’t know. Is Life—fullness of life—to be *contrasted*, is it the *opposite*, of life, itself?

I guess he’s the specialist, the specialist in, things in general. And I will finish rereading this book and probably get some more Aristy in, but…. I mean, I make up in Imagination, (unlike the really famous artists*, even, am I), what I lack in technical skills, and although it hasn’t made me rich, it has made me happy. (The only time I’m not happy really, is when I think that life is not as it is now.)

…. Aristy does support private property—I won’t get into the whole Versus Plato thing now—but I think what’s really instructive about what he says, about how to make all that work from the non-weirdo point of view, (‘The weirdos I take care of are fine, but somewhere out there—out there are the weirdos that are Bad. And that’s why I don’t watch the news; I believe the propaganda and it makes me angry. If only I’d never become a social worker.’). He quotes the saying that ‘Friends’ goods are goods in common’—so it IS shared; there’s just no Force to Make them. He does NOT say that ‘greed is good’.

….
—It is more necessary to equalize [and moderate] peoples desires than their properties—and for that we need~
—Prisons!
—Education.
—PRISONS! And lots of them!!!

I’m sorry. This is going to be a long book, because politics is funny.

…. Of course, Aristotle is very “nice” (involved/exact/intricate) as people used to say, but I do think that there is a difference (as well as a similarity) between being a good soul, if you like, (‘man’), and a good citizen, in that being good as a social element, but sometimes people are ‘good citizens’ in that they are well adapted to a dysfunctional society (or constitution, to use a legal metaphor), whereas healthily a good citizen would simply be a culturally appropriate good soul—I think Aristy says something like that, and that is what I take from it.

…. The introduction guy didn’t really give me the right sense of what Aristy said (I guess it’s a hard job right). There is some truth in what the Grecian said, a lot of truth, in a way, that the city is not just a place to stash all your widgets, or a place to house the armies that crush your enemies, as though the chief end of communal life were a sort of self-servicing military unit, right. But it’s hard to free that truth from the encrusted and usually unexamined untruth that the sickness of fallen angels is superior to the sickness of beasts, you know.

Or maybe you don’t, lol. If only there were some sort of philosophy museum I could curate, and the little underprivileged children could come visit me….

…. I think that tyranny is sinful, but there are different roads to tyranny; sometimes a whole state or race can act together as a sort of collective tyrant; sometimes there is a financial or familial clique; and sometimes obviously there is a tyrant in the classic sense. There are also mixed forms. Bacon from Bacon’s Rebellion probably wanted to be a mixed form; he wanted the frontiersmen as his base to be the collective tyrant, and also even though he fought the governor of Virginia and his clique, he himself was rich and had clique contacts; he was kinda a rebel clique, and obviously Bacon was for Bacon, too—so it was very mixed. Of course, no contemporary parallel to this comes to mind, LOL.

…. I’ve thought for a long time that, as far as these things are determined socially, the people in the middle are most likely, pace Aristotle, to scorn those below them for their poverty and yet also to still feel alienated from the achievements of the leaders, so, the worst sort, as far as these things are determined sociologically. Of course, I suppose I have the American and not the Ancient Greek example in mind…. And perhaps I simply half-willingly “confuse” my terms, since being at the bottom, somewhat, I use them in an “unusual” way, though of course I know that for some people the middle sort are the leaders of the whole town, and thus “in-between” the leaders of the entire fucking world, and the rest of us. 😸

…. But anyway, although I wouldn’t write ‘Ristie a blank check, he wrote a very nice book, even if it’s not really the way that I would like to write, the way Plato is. Indeed, although I have chosen not to quote him, (as he is sometimes wrong), ‘Ristie is at times quite quotable, if you’re so inclined. ~The weak clamor for equality and justice, but the rich for neither.~ And that was written in a very different time, a different context, before you could just go 😇, and assume that people would pretend to agree, you know….

Anyway, it’s nice context for literally the world in general, you know.

…. And maybe I could start calling Plato, Plates. That could be like, his rap name. Like in “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”: JAP battle! Jewish American Princess! *lawyers in suits waving their hands around and being backup dancers* JAP battle!

And clearly, although ‘Ristie puts up a brave fight, Plates wins the JAP battle, you know. ‘Ristie ends with music, which is more blood than we could have squeezed out of Kantie, but Plates ends with The Next Life.

And that’s more boss, you know.

It really is.

…. People have this stereotype that people start conservative and end liberal, but among the classic Greek philosophers, it’s the opposite: Socrates and Plato were radicals and reformers, and Aristotle was a conservative. Although, to be fair, he was obviously a philosophical conservative and not a ‘Spartan’ or conquest conservative, you know…. I mean, if Ron DeSantis were president, he’d probably nuke Cuba, and invade all countries of Latin America simultaneously to stop immigration, but that’s ok, because Florida is a nice place to live with a nice economy….

Of course, people generally, including philosophers, are probably more like Aristotle than Plato, although that’s not a victory lap because ‘Ristie has a definite layer of the dealer in social unfairness, you know…. But what I came here to say is that at least he’s not a conquest conservative. He’s probably what a lot of corporate leaders are like: don’t look too close at my elitism—well actually before Christianity they didn’t have to pretend—but I’ll try to really live like someone who’s cultured or whatever in return (sometimes, at least, lol….)…. I don’t know. But obviously ‘Ristie is more than just a primitive, a naked settler, even if he accepts a refined version of some of those manners…. I guess he’d be like a Kennedy or Clinton, or possibly a Bush or Obama. There’s a little truth to that layer declining a little, and that being unfortunate a little, even though I wouldn’t want to write him a blank check like a good schoolboy who just believes, you know.

…. (After-note) Of course, now I read with amusement my theory that the poor student is the middle-type, in between the people who run the world and the fatties who don’t read books—I know I wrote that somewhere, though of course, I am a mystery unto my own self—but actually that (poor student as the middle-type) is based on the misunderstood imagining that one’s place in life has nothing to do with what one does, you know, that the upper world is inaccessible to those not lucky, which is actually not how things are, really; the truth is we make our own luck, though we make it slowly. Even slaves and oppressed folk in the old days have come up in the world and become story-people, although if you philosophize too much, you start to think of yourself as strictly an observer in a static world…. What was it that Fred Nezzy said, apparently? Wisdom is a woman, and wants us to be a warrior. Yeah, the German Thrasymachus liked to fight; he was altogether too much, you know.
  goosecap | Sep 14, 2022 |
Aristóteles fornece um manual sobre a política do período Helênico, com sua habitual prosa pé no chão e classificatória. Aprendemos muitas coisas, como por exemplo que entre os diferentes tópicos que a natureza de algo é aquilo no qual ele pode desenvolver seu máximo, que o homem e a mulher, o escravo e o senhor se completam nas suas necessidades e pertencem à mesma natureza, que um é superior e outro inferior, que o estado foi criado pela natureza antes do indivíduo, por ele ser parte do estado, e não poder sustentar-se sem ele. Que tendo saúde, a alma governa o corpo, que a razão é superior à emoção. Que os escravos por natureza não chegam a ser animais, mas não são como os por convenção, que colocam questões éticas ao escravagismo. Que a natureza deve fornecer comida então pegar comida é natural e bom, animais e frutas; que o comércio é artificial e odioso, embora tolerável, mas a usura sendo o máximo do artificial, é o mais odioso. Que o amor a si é dado pela natureza, daí a propriedade privada, mas socialmente é melhor que o uso seja coletivo, para o bem de todos. Ademais, há 6 tipos de governos, com seus subtipos, em duplas, das quais a segunda é uma desvirtuação da primeira, por não buscar o bem de todos mas o dos governantes, e contrário a Sócrates, com a democracia perto da melhor forma, a Politeia, na categoria do governo por muitos; seguem, no governo de poucos, a aristocracia e a desvirtuada oligarquia, e no governo por um, a monarquia e a desvirtuada tirania. Ademais, se a politeia é o domínio da classe média, a democracia o dos pobres, que valoriza a igualdade e liberdade, e a oligarquia, dos ricos, preocupados com a riqueza, ambas em oposição mútua.

O texto é instrutivo quanto aos costumes e constituições da época (330 antes de Cristo) e institui uma ideia forte de ciência política. A politéia mesmo, é um ideal regulador de busca do bem para as cidades-estado. O que me soa, como leitor desavisado, como tendo envelhecido mal, deve-se aos apelos da extrema direita hodierna a argumentos envolvendo natureza, e a declaração de alguns gurus da ignorância de serem eles "aristotélicos"; ao menos, eles gostariam de voltar para a época em que a Terra ainda era plana. ( )
  henrique_iwao | Aug 30, 2022 |
Comprado no Andorinha em 14/mai/2022
  Nagib | May 21, 2022 |
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Last Easter I read the greater part of the Politics: last month I read the whole of it . . . It is an amazing book. It seems to me to show a Shakespearian understanding of human beings and their ways, together with a sublime good sense.

Henry Jackson, letter to J. A. Platt, 16 August 1900
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In der planmäßig zusammengestellten Auswahl, in der uns die Schriften des Aristoteles erhalten sind, sehen wir die Ethik und die "Politik", also die Staatsphilosophie, auf das engste miteinander verknüpft.
As we see that every city is a society, and every society is established for some good purpose; for an apparent good is the spring of all human actions; it is evident that this is the principle upon which they are every one founded, and this is more especially true of that which has for its object the best possible, and is itself the most excellent, and comprehends all the rest.
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It is owing to lack of vigilance that those who are not friendly to the constitution are sometimes allowed to get into the supreme offices.
In democracies the most potent cause of revolution is the unprincipled character of popular leaders.
A democracy is when the supreme power is in the hands of the freemen; an oligarchy, when it is the hands of the rich: it happens indeed that in the one case the many will possess it, in the other the few; because there are many poor and few rich.
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The Politics is one of the most influential texts in the history of political thought, and it raises issues which still confront anyone who wants to think seriously about the ways in which human societies are organized and governed. By examining the way societies are run--from households to city states--Aristotle establishes how successful constitutions can best be initiated and upheld. For this edition, Sir Ernest Barker's fine translation, which has been widely used for nearly half a century, has been extensively revised to meet the needs of the modern reader. The accessible introduction and clear notes examine the historical and philosophical background of the work and discuss its significance for modern political thought.

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