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A timocracy (from Greek τιμή timē, "honor, worth" and -κρατία -kratia, "rule") [1] in Aristotle's Politics is a state where only property owners may participate in government. More advanced 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.



Solon introduced the ideas of timokratia as a graded oligarchy in his Solonian Constitution for Athens in the early 6th century BC. His was the first known deliberately implemented form of timocracy, allocating political rights and economic responsibility depending on membership of one of four tiers of the population. Solon defined these tiers by measuring how many bushels of produce each man could produce in a year, namely:

N. G. L. Hammond supposes Solon instituted a graduated tax upon the upper classes, levied in a ratio of 6:3:1, with the lowest class of thetes paying nothing in taxes but remaining ineligible for elected office.

Aristotle later wrote in his Nicomachean Ethics (Book 8, Chapter 10) about three "true political forms" for a state, each of which could appear in corrupt form, becoming one of three negative forms. Aristotle describes timocracy in the sense of rule by property-owners: it comprised one of his true political forms. Aristotelian timocracy approximated to the constitution of Athens, although Athens exemplified the corrupted version of this form, described as democracy.

United States

In the early times of American independence only men who would hold enough property and money (except in New Jersey, where women meeting the requirements were allowed as well) could vote; there were also at times requirement of race:

Timocracy, comparable values, and Plato's five regimes

In The Republic , Plato describes five regimes (of which four are unjust). Timocracy (Book VIII, 545 B - 550 B) is listed as the first "unjust" regime. Aristocracy degenerates into timocracy when, due to miscalculation on the part of its governed class, the next generation of guardians and auxiliaries includes persons of an inferior nature (the persons with souls made of iron or bronze, as opposed to the ideal guardians and auxiliaries, who have souls made of gold and silver). A timocracy, in choosing its leaders, is "inclining rather to the more high-spirited and simple-minded type, who are better suited for war". [2] The city-state of Sparta provided Plato with a real-world model for this form of government. Modern observers might describe Sparta as a totalitarian or one-party state, although the details we know of its society come almost exclusively from Sparta's enemies. The idea of militarism-stratocracy accurately reflects the fundamental values of Spartan society. The only one of Plato's five regimes that he does seem fit to govern is aristocracy, the four other regimes (including Timocracy) are unjust according to Plato. The unjust regimes in Plato's work refer to governing that lead to chaos and ultimately corruption. [3]

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  1. Harper, Douglas (November 2001). ""Timocracy" etymology". Online Etymology Dictionary . Retrieved 2008-10-25.
  2. Rep. 8.547e; Cahn, Steven M., Classics of Political and Moral Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN   0199791155
  3. http://olearyzone.com/classes/philosophyS2/readings/plato/Stages06.pdf [ bare URL PDF ]