Pure Tyranny?

According to Aristotle, there are three species of political system, and an equal number of deviations, which are a sort of corruption of them.

The first political system is kingship. And Aristotle claims that deviation from kingship is tyranny. Even though both are monarchies, kingship and tyranny could be considered as two ends of a spectrum. “For someone is a king only if he is self-sufficient and superior in all goods; and since such a person needs nothing more, he will consider the subjects’ benefit, not his own. For a king who is not like this would be only some sort of titular king.” On the other hand, a tyrant would try to pursue his own good by abusing every shape of power he possesses.

“For tyranny is the degenerate condition of monarchy, and the vicious king becomes a tyrant.”

The second political system is aristocracy (rule of the best people). “The transition from aristocracy is to oligarchy (rule of the few), resulting from the badness of the rulers. They distribute the city’s goods in conflict with people’s worth, so that they distribute all or most of the goods to themselves, and always assign ruling offices to the same people, counting wealth for most.

The third political system, which rests on property, is timocracy. “The transition from timocracy is to democracy, since these border on each other. For timocracy is also meant to be ruled by the majority, and all those with the property-qualification are equal, and majority-rule and equality are the marks of democracy.

Aristotle draws a thin line between different forms of political systems in its own category. Although these claims lay the roots of political philosophy, it would be naive to label any society by these standards. The most prominent example is the case of ‘tyranny’. Today, the vast majority of states share the trait of democracy. Most leaders go through the phase of gaining the approval of the majority. However, as argued in the post Who Should Rule? The Strife Between Plato and Democracy, this does not prevent neither tyranny nor oligarchy. In fact, when a tyrant comes to power by democracy, an oligarchy is naturally formed. That is the party of people that induce power to the tyrant form an oligarchy. Or in other words, the ones that succumb to tyranny and lust for power form an oligarchy that fuels a tyrant in a democratic society. Therefore, society should be treated as a soup consisting of various ingredients in various amounts, instead of a soup that is labeled or given a name by its color in appearance.

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