Aristocracy

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Aristocracy (Greek ἀριστοκρατία aristokratía, from ἄριστος aristos 'excellent', and κράτος, kratos 'rule') is a form of government that places strength in the hands of a small, privileged ruling class. [1] The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning 'rule of the best-born'. [2]

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Ruling class social class of a given society that decides upon and sets that societys political agenda

The ruling class is the social class of a given society that decides upon and sets that society's political agenda.

Contents

The term is synonymous with hereditary government, and hereditary succession is its primary philosophy, after which the hereditary monarch appoints officers as they see fit. At the time of the word's origins in ancient Greece, the Greeks conceived it as rule by the best qualified citizens—and often contrasted it favourably with monarchy, rule by an individual. In later times, aristocracy was usually seen as rule by a privileged group, the aristocratic class, and has since been contrasted with democracy. [1] The idea of hybrid forms which have aspects of both aristocracy and democracy are in use in the parliament form.

Ancient Greece Civilization belonging to an early period of Greek history

Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Roughly three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, Greek urban poleis began to form in the 8th century BC, ushering in the Archaic period and colonization of the Mediterranean Basin. This was followed by the period of Classical Greece, an era that began with the Greco-Persian Wars, lasting from the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Due to the conquests by Alexander the Great of Macedon, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. The Hellenistic period came to an end with the conquests and annexations of the eastern Mediterranean world by the Roman Republic, which established the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece, and later the province of Achaea during the Roman Empire.

Monarchy system of government where the head of state position is inherited within family

A monarchy is a form of government in which a single person holds supreme authority in ruling a country, also performing ceremonial duties and embodying the country's national identity. Although some monarchs are elected, in most cases, the monarch's position is inherited and lasts until death or abdication. In these cases, the royal family or members of the dynasty usually serve in official capacities as well. The governing power of the monarch may vary from purely symbolic, to partial and restricted, to completely autocratic.

Aristocracy (class) person who either possess hereditary titles granted by a monarch or are related to such people

The aristocracy is a social class that a particular society considers its highest order. In many states, the aristocracy included the upper class of people (aristocrats) with hereditary rank and titles. In some—such as ancient Greece, Rome, and India—aristocratic status came from belonging to a military caste, although it has also been common, notably in African societies, for aristocrats to belong to priestly dynasties. Aristocratic status can involve feudal or legal privileges. They are usually below only the monarch of a country or nation in its social hierarchy. In modern European societies, the aristocracy has often coincided with the nobility, a specific class that arose in the Middle Ages, but the term "aristocracy" is sometimes also applied to other elites, and is used as a more generic term when describing earlier and non-European societies.

Concept

The concept evolved in Ancient Greece, whereby a council of leading citizens was commonly empowered and contrasted with representative democracy, in which a council of citizens was appointed as the "senate" of a city state or other political unit. The Greeks did not like the concept of monarchy, and as their democratic system fell, aristocracy was upheld. [1] In the 1651 book Leviathan , Thomas Hobbes describes an aristocracy as a commonwealth in which the representative of the citizens is an assembly by part only. It is a system in which only a small part of the population represents the government; "certain men distinguished from the rest". [3] Modern depictions of aristocracy tend to regard it not as the ancient Greek concept of rule by the best, but more as an oligarchy or plutocracy—rule by the few or the wealthy.[ citation needed ]

Representative democracy Democracy where citizens elect a small set of people to represent them in decision making

Representative democracy is a type of democracy founded on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy. Nearly all modern Western-style democracies are types of representative democracies; for example, the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, France is a unitary state, and the United States is a federal republic.

<i>Leviathan</i> (Hobbes book) book by Thomas Hobbes

Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil—commonly referred to as Leviathan—is a book written by Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) and published in 1651. Its name derives from the biblical Leviathan. The work concerns the structure of society and legitimate government, and is regarded as one of the earliest and most influential examples of social contract theory. Leviathan ranks as a classic Western work on statecraft comparable to Machiavelli's The Prince. Written during the English Civil War (1642–1651), Leviathan argues for a social contract and rule by an absolute sovereign. Hobbes wrote that civil war and the brute situation of a state of nature could only be avoided by strong, undivided government.

Thomas Hobbes 17th-century English philosopher

Thomas Hobbes, in some older texts Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, was an English philosopher, considered to be one of the founders of modern political philosophy. Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book Leviathan, which expounded an influential formulation of social contract theory. In addition to political philosophy, Hobbes also contributed to a diverse array of other fields, including history, jurisprudence, geometry, the physics of gases, theology, ethics, and general philosophy.

The concept of aristocracy per Plato, has an ideal state ruled by the philosopher king. Plato describes these "philosopher kings" as "those who love the sight of truth" (Republic 475c) and supports the idea with the analogy of a captain and his ship or a doctor and his medicine. According to him, sailing and health are not things that everyone is qualified to practice by nature. A large part of the Republic then addresses how the educational system should be set up to produce these philosopher kings.

Plato Classical Greek philosopher

Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.

<i>Republic</i> (Plato) philosophical work written by Plato

The Republic is a Socratic dialogue, written by Plato around 380 BC, concerning justice (δικαιοσύνη), the order and character of the just city-state, and the just man. It is Plato's best-known work, and has proven to be one of the world's most influential works of philosophy and political theory, both intellectually and historically.

See also

Caliphate Islamic form of government

A caliphate is an Islamic state under the leadership of an Islamic steward with the title of caliph, a person considered a political-religious successor to the Islamic prophet Muhammad and a leader of the entire ummah. Historically, the caliphates were polities based in Islam which developed into multi-ethnic trans-national empires. During the medieval period, three major caliphates succeeded each other: the Rashidun Caliphate (632–661), the Umayyad Caliphate (661–750) and the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258). In the fourth major caliphate, the Ottoman Caliphate, the rulers of the Ottoman Empire claimed caliphal authority from 1517. During the history of Islam, a few other Muslim states, almost all hereditary monarchies, have claimed to be caliphates.

Elitism is the belief or attitude that individuals who form an elite—a select group of people with a certain ancestry, intrinsic quality, high intellect, wealth, special skills, or experience—are more likely to be constructive to society as a whole, and therefore deserve influence or authority greater than that of others.

Gentry people of high social class, in particular of the land-owning social class

Gentry are "well-born, genteel and well-bred people" of high social class, especially in the past. In the United Kingdom, the term gentry refers to the landed gentry, the majority of the land-owning social class who were typically armigerous, but did not have titles of nobility. Gentry, in its widest connotation, refers to people of good social position connected to landed estates, upper levels of the clergy, and "gentle" families of long descent who never obtained the official right to bear a coat of arms. The historical term gentry by itself, so Peter Coss argues, is a construct that historians have applied loosely to rather different societies. Any particular model may not fit a specific society, yet a single definition nevertheless remains desirable. Linguistically, the word gentry arose to identify the social stratum created by the very small number, by the standards of Continental Europe, of the Peerage of England, and of the parts of Britain, where nobility and titles are inherited by a single person, rather than the family, as usual in Europe.

Related Research Articles

A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, often a state.

Republicanism is a representative form of government organization. It is a political ideology centered on citizenship in a state organized as a republic. Historically, it ranges from the rule of a representative minority or oligarchy to popular sovereignty. It has had different definitions and interpretations which vary significantly based on historical context and methodological approach.

Social contract concept in political philosophy

In moral and political philosophy, the social contract is a theory or model that originated during the Age of Enlightenment and usually concerns the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual. Social contract arguments typically posit that individuals have consented, either explicitly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority in exchange for protection of their remaining rights or maintenance of the social order. The relation between natural and legal rights is often a topic of social contract theory. The term takes its name from The Social Contract, a 1762 book by Jean-Jacques Rousseau that discussed this concept. Although the antecedents of social contract theory are found in antiquity, in Greek and Stoic philosophy and Roman and Canon Law, the heyday of the social contract was the mid-17th to early 19th centuries, when it emerged as the leading doctrine of political legitimacy.

Argos Place in Greece

Argos is a city in Argolis, the Peloponnese, Greece and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is the largest city in Argolis and a major center for the area.

A tyrant, in the modern English-language usage of the word, is an absolute ruler unrestrained by law, or one who has usurped legitimate sovereignty. Often portrayed as cruel, tyrants may defend their position by oppressive means. The original Greek term, however, merely meant an authoritarian sovereign without reference to character, bearing no pejorative connotation during the Archaic and early Classical periods. However, Plato, the Greek philosopher, clearly saw tyrannos as a negative word, and on account of the decisive influence of philosophy on politics, its negative connotations only increased, continuing into the Hellenistic period.

The Kyklos is a term used by some classical Greek authors to describe what they saw as the political cycle of governments in a society. It was roughly based on the history of Greek city-states in the same period. The concept of "The Kyklos" is first elaborated in Plato's Republic, chapters VIII and IX. Polybius calls it the anakyklosis or "anacyclosis".

Paideia

In the culture of ancient Greece, the term paideia referred to the rearing and education of the ideal member of the polis. It incorporated both practical, subject-based schooling and a focus upon the socialization of individuals within the aristocratic order of the polis. The practical aspects of this education included subjects subsumed under the modern designation of the liberal arts, as well as scientific disciplines like arithmetic and medicine. An ideal and successful member of the polis would possess intellectual, moral and physical refinement, so training in gymnastics and wrestling was valued for its effect on the body alongside the moral education which the Greeks believed was imparted by the study of music, poetry, and philosophy. This approach to the rearing of a well-rounded Greek male was common to the Greek-speaking world, with the exception of Sparta where a rigid and militaristic form of education known as the agoge was practiced.

Politeia (πολιτεία) is an ancient Greek word used in Greek political thought, especially that of Plato and Aristotle. Derived from the word polis ("city-state"), it has a range of meanings, from "the rights of citizens" to a "form of government".

Mixed government is a form of government that combines elements of democracy (polity), aristocracy and monarchy, making impossible their respective degenerations which are conceived as anarchy, oligarchy and tyranny. The idea was popularized during classical antiquity in order to describe the stability, the innovation and the success of the republic as a form of government developed under the Roman constitution.

<i>Politics</i> (Aristotle) work of political philosophy by Aristotle

Politics is a work of political philosophy by Aristotle, a 4th-century BC Greek philosopher.

The political doctrine of anacyclosis is a cyclical theory of political evolution. The theory of anacyclosis is based upon the Greek typology of constitutional forms of rule by the one, the few, and the many. Anacyclosis states that three basic forms of "benign" government are inherently weak and unstable, tending to degenerate rapidly into the three basic forms of "malignant" government.

According to Plato, a philosopher king is a ruler who possesses both a love of knowledge, as well as intelligence, reliability, and a willingness to live a simple life. Such are the rulers of his utopian city Kallipolis. For such a community to ever come into being, "philosophers [must] become kings…or those now called kings [must]…genuinely and adequately philosophize".

Noocracy, or "aristocracy of the wise", as originally defined by Plato, is a system of governance where decision making is in the hands of philosophers, similar to his idea of Philosopher kings. The idea was further expanded upon by geologist Vladimir Vernadsky, and philosophers Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Édouard Le Roy, and their concept of the Noosphere.

The Classical Greek philosopher Plato discusses five types of regimes. They are Aristocracy, Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, and Tyranny. Plato also assigns a man to each of these regimes to illustrate what they stand for. The tyrannical man would represent Tyranny, for example. These five regimes progressively degenerate starting with Aristocracy at the top and Tyranny at the bottom.

Criticism of democracy is grounded in democracy's purpose, process, and outcomes. Since Classical antiquity and through the modern era, democracy has been associated with "rule of the people," "rule of the majority," and free selection or election either through direct participation or elected representation respectively, but has not been linked to a particular outcome.

Plato's political philosophy has been the subject of much criticism. In Plato's Republic, Socrates is highly critical of democracy and proposes an aristocracy ruled by philosopher-kings. Plato's political philosophy has thus often been considered totalitarian.

References

  1. 1 2 3 "Aristocracy". Oxford English Dictionary . December 1989. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  2. A Greek–English Lexicon, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, Henry Stuart Jones, Roderick McKenzie (editors). "ἀριστο-κρᾰτία, ἡ, A, rule of the best-born, aristocracy, ἀ. σώφρων Th.3.82, cf. Henioch.5.17, Isyll.1, etc.; rule of the rich, Pl.Plt.301a. II ideal constitution, rule of the best, Arist. Pol.1293b1 sqq., EN1160a33, Pl.Mx.238c, 238d, Plb.6.4.3." http://logeion.uchicago.edu/%E1%BC%80%CF%81%CE%B9%CF%83%CF%84%CE%BF%CE%BA%CF%81%CE%B1%CF%84%CE%AF%CE%B1
  3. Thomas Hobbes (1 January 2010). Leviathan. Digireads.com Publishing. p. 81. ISBN   978-1-4209-3699-5.

Further reading

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