I: THE CITY,
AND THE REGIME.
Come, and sped beneath the earth,
by our awesome sacrifices
Keep destruction from the polis,
Bring prosperity home to Athens,
Triumph sailing in its wake.
Aeschylus, Eumenides 1015-1019.
"Therefore, though the best is bad,
Stand and do the best, my lad;
Stand and fight and see your slain,
And take the bullet in your brain."
A. E. Houseman, A Shropshire Lad LIV, 13-16.
Community is a concept, like humanity or peace, that virtually no one has taken the trouble to quarrel with; even its worst enemies praise it.
Wendell Berry, Home Economics, p. 179.
In one sense, Politics 3 is the real beginning of the Politics. It is where Aristotle develops and explains, in a comprehensive manner, the concept of the regime, or politeia. Book 3 is, as W. L. Newman says, "the centre round which the whole [work] is grouped."(1) Although one must admit that Book 3 provides the conceptual core of the whole work, it is still only the third book of the Politics. The first two Books of the Politics are, to some degree, false starts.(2)
Book 1 gives an analytic account of the parts of the city, which seems to focus solely on the household. Yet even in its emphasis on the household, Book 1 focuses even more narrowly on slavery and acquisitions, or on economics. Thus, in many respects, it does not give a satisfactory account of the household, especially its most basic the relationships of husband and wife, parent and children.
Book 2 presents not only earler political philosophers and their understandings of the best regime, but several accounts of the best regime in both theory and practice. In Book 2, although one is left with the impression that the previous accounts of politics are inadequate, there is no attempt to develop an adequate alternative conception of political life. The failure to present an alternative understanding of the political is shown when, in Book 2, Aristotle merely gives alternatives--both in theory and practice--to the best polis; he, however, does not present a proper framework in which one may properly address the question of what type of regime is best for the city.
Neither Book 1 nor 2 offers a satisfactory introduction to politics or human action, hence the need for the introduction and the full development of the concept of the regime, politeia.(3)
But before we attempt to address the regime, we must come to terms with two other concepts that are said to play key roles in Aristotle's political theory: 1) the city and 2) the citizen. In many respects, the city and the citizen are generally understood to be more central concepts in Aristotle's political thought. Therefore, it is fitting that we deal with them first and then with the regime. Yet it is the argument of this chapter, that both the city (polis) and the citizen, in fact, point to the importance of the regime. They point to the importance of the regime in that one cannot properly understand either the city or the citizen independently of the regime.
1. Newman 1973, 2:xxxi. Also see Miller 1995, 23-25, which pointed me toward Newman's argument.
2. Mansfield 1989, 31-33 and 1987, 227.
3. See Mansfield 1987, 226-227.