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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.The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning 'rule of the best'.
In practice, aristocracy often leads to hereditary government, after which the hereditary monarch appoints officers as they see fit. However, the term was first used by ancient Greeks such as Aristotle and Plato, who used it to describe a system where only the best of the citizens, chosen through a careful process of selection, would become rulers, and hereditary rule would actually have been forbidden, unless the rulers' children performed best and were better endowed with the attributes that make a person fit to rule compared with every other citizen in the polity.Hereditary rule is more related to Oligarchy, a corrupted form of Aristocracy where there is rule by a few, but not by the best. Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Xenophon and the Spartans considered Aristocracy (the ideal form of rule by the few) to be inherently better than the ideal form of rule by the many (Democracy), but they also considered the corrupted form of Aristocracy (Oligarchy) to be worse than the corrupted form of Democracy (Mob Rule). This belief was rooted in the assumption that the masses could only produce average policy, while the best of men could produce the best policy, if they were indeed the best of men.
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.The idea of hybrid forms which have aspects of both aristocracy and democracy are in use in the parliamentary form of government and in republics. There are no pure democracies in the world today, nor have there been since the fall of Athens. There are some governments that have elements of Direct Democracy, but all of those governments are mixed governments, like the Spartan, Roman, British, Swiss, German, French and American governments, which all have elements of Democracy, Aristocracy and Monarchy, with a system of checks and balances, where each element checks the excesses of the other, as described by Polybius in his analysis of the Roman Constitution. Therefore, varying degrees of aristocracy are prevalent throughout nearly all modern governments.
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. [ citation needed ]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". 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.
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.
Aristocracies dominated political and economic power for most of the medieval and modern periods almost everywhere in Europe, using their wealth, control of the best land, and control of their tenants to form a powerful political force. In the 19th century the rising middle class produced rich businessmen, many of whom use their money to buy into the aristocracy. However after the 1830s, in country after country, the aristocracies tended to lose their historic dominance over wealth and political power. The French Revolution in the 1790s forced many aristocrats and exile and, and took their lands and their power. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, however, the exiles returned but they never recovered all their lands and never wielded as much political power. Beginning with Britain, Belgium, and Germany, industrialization in the 19th century brought urbanization, with the wealth increasingly concentrated in the cities, which increasingly took political power. Before 1789, aristocracies were typically closely associated with the church, especially the Catholic Church, but in the 19th century wave after wave of attacks on the Catholics weekend that element of the aristocratic coalition. As late as 1900, aristocrats maintained political dominance in Britain, Germany, Austria and Russia, but it was more precarious. World War I had the effect of dramatically reducing the power of the aristocrats in all major countries. In Russia they were expelled by the Communists. After 1900, Liberal and socialist governments levied heavy taxes on landowners, spelling their loss of economic power.
A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, often a state.
A monarchy is a form of government in which a person, the monarch, is head of state until death or abdication. The legitimation and governing power of the monarch may vary from purely symbolic, to restricted, to fully autocratic, combining executive, legislative and judicial power.
Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power rests with a small number of people. These people may be distinguished by nobility, wealth, education or corporate, religious, political, or military control. Such states are often controlled by families who typically pass their influence from one generation to the next, but inheritance is not a necessary condition for the application of this term.
A republic is a form of government in which the country is considered a "public matter", not the private concern or property of the rulers. The primary positions of power within a republic are attained, through democracy, oligarchy, autocracy, or a mix thereof, rather than being unalterably occupied. As such it has become the opposing form of government to a monarchy and has therefore no monarch as head of 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.
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 meant an absolute sovereign who came to power without constitutional right, yet the word had a neutral connotation during the Archaic and early Classical periods. However, Greek philosopher Plato 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.
A timocracy in Aristotle's Politics is a state where only property owners may participate in government. The more extreme forms of timocracy, where power derives entirely from wealth with no regard for social or civic responsibility, may shift in their form and become a plutocracy where the wealthy rule.
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".
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, aristocracy and monarchy, ostensibly 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.
The Republic is a Socratic dialogue, authored by Plato around 375 BCE, 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.
Politics is a work of political philosophy by Aristotle, a 4th-century BC Greek philosopher.
A democracy is a political system, or a system of decision-making within an institution or organization or a country, in which all members have an equal share of power. Modern democracies are characterized by two capabilities that differentiate them fundamentally from earlier forms of government: the capacity to intervene in their own societies and the recognition of their sovereignty by an international legalistic framework of similarly sovereign states. Democratic government is commonly juxtaposed with oligarchic and monarchic systems, which are ruled by a minority and a sole monarch respectively.
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.
Isonomia was a word used by ancient Greek writers such as Herodotus and Thucydides to refer to some kind of popular government. It was subsequently eclipsed until brought back into English as isonomy.
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.
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.
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.
Athenian democracy developed around the sixth century BC in the Greek city-state of Athens, comprising the city of Athens and the surrounding territory of Attica, is one of ancient Greek democracy, and is often described as the first known democracy in the world. Other Greek cities set up democracies, most following the Athenian model, but none are as well documented as Athens'.
The Athenian Revolution was a revolt by the people of Athens that overthrew the ruling aristocratic oligarchy, establishing the almost century-long self-governance of Athens in the form of a participatory democracy – open to all free male citizens. It was a reaction to a broader trend of tyranny that had swept through Athens and the rest of Greece.
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