“Aristotle and the mixed constitution.”

Andrew Lintott “Aristotle and the mixed constitution,” in Alternatives to Athens: Varieties of Political Organization and Community in Ancient Greece, eds. R. Brock and S. Hodkinson. Oxford: 152-66., 2002.


–  In the Politics Aristotle appears in more than one guise — as an analyst of the nature of the polis and political activity and as the proponent of an ideal polis. The detailed examination of existing constitutions in books 2-6 mixes analysis with recommendations to lawgivers and statesmen in the various types of city. Aristotle here acts as a sort of political consultant and indeed proffers advice to political leaders in cities of whose constitutions he does not approve. However, he also manifests preferences of his own for constitutions that in his view are correct: his touchstone is that they should be oriented towards the exercise of virtue and the common interest. The most problematic and intriguing of these is the so-called politeia, which is the correct form of democracy. As expounded by him, it is a mixed or blended constitution. Although this was a rarity in actual fact, both then and later, the notion of the mixed constitution was to play an important part in political theory both in the ancient world and more recently, from about AD 1500 to the time of the American Revolution. This chapter look closely at its Greek origins.


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