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Aristotles Political Virtue and Modern Conceptions of Citizenship - Essay Example

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Several key moments in history helped to develop the definition and importance of citizens in society: Aristotle's Politics, the constitution of Athens, Roman republics, city-states of 13th century Italy, Geneva, the English Civil War and its commonwealth ideology, republicanism of the Enlightenment, the American Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of the Rights of Man, and republican despotism of the French Revolution's Committee of Public Safety…
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Aristotles Political Virtue and Modern Conceptions of Citizenship
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Aristotles Political Virtue and Modern Conceptions of Citizenship

Aristotle's beliefs still hold relevance in today's conceptions of citizenship.
Aristotle writes that prior to inquiring about the attributes and essences of government a person must find an answer to the question "What is a state" (Book 3, chapter 1, 1275a). In Politics (1252-3), Aristotle states his belief that humans came together out of a common need, thus the formation of cities and city-states. Cities served as a means to better control the residents within a given country or empire; the city still served as the most effective point of contact between the people who ruled and those they ruled over (Freeman, 1999). With this thought in mind, a city would seem to run much more effectively while under the administration of one leader--so perhaps a civilisation could too.
It is evident, therefore, that we must begin by asking, who is the citizen, and what is the meaning of the term For here again there may be a difference of opinion. He who is a citizen in a democracy will often not be a citizen in an oligarchy (Book 3, chapter 1, 1275a).
Aristotle also commented that besides the citizens, states are comprised of other elements, such as a working class, a rich class, and a poor class (Politics, Book 4, chapter 4). The working class, which was in the middle of the two extremes, Aristotle believed to be the most capable of following rational principles. His logic was simple: those people who appeared to have to much in the way of luxuries would not be likely to submit to other citizens' authority, while those who were extremely lacking in even the basic necessities of life would likely feel too degraded to obey another's rule. Therefore, a working class would help to balance the few, wealthy elite with the many, antagonistic poor (Politics, Book 4, chapter 4).
Aristotle had gone on to specify the many different groups within these three basic types, to include: military, husbandry, traders, artisans, magistrates, serfs and labourers. As has happened several times throughout history, the existence of inequality between rich and poor sparked tensions between these social classes. Contrary to previous tribal or contemporary feudal societies, Athens at this point in time did not boast any priestly class.
For as culturally diverse as the world is becoming, a political community can only flourish is there is at least an agreement on the rules (Financial Times, 2005); this notion of politics is very broad. Included with this idea of politics are methods for choosing who will hold executive, judicial, and legislative powers and what the holders of these powers are entitled to do (Financial Times, 2005). Politics concerns the rights of individual citizens ... Read More
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