In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Aristotle's Political Thought

  • Introduction
  • Commentaries
  • Historical Background
  • Collections of Articles
  • Relation between Ethics and Politics
  • The Politics as Practical Science
  • Book II
  • Book IV
  • Books V and VI
  • Education
  • Reception and Subsequent History of the Politics

Political Science Aristotle's Political Thought
Eugene Garver
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 October 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 January 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0148


Aristotle divides practical science into ethics and politics. The Nicomachean Ethics ends with a transition to the Politics, setting out a program of debatable relation to what has come down to us as the Politics. The Politics is named after the polis (plural: poleis), the city-states of Greece. Two other key terms in the Politics are, in Greek, related to polis: the citizen is a politês and what is translated as constitution, regime, or citizenship is the politeia, a word also used by Aristotle to designate one particular constitution, usually translated as polity. The word translated as government is politeuma. The interconnections among these terms form one of the themes of the Politics. The polis is an ensemble of citizens (III.1.1274b41), and one polis differs from another by its politeia. For details of the history of the transmission of the text, the Greek text itself, and other philological issues, see Lockwood’s article Aristotle’s Politics in the Classics section of Oxford Bibliographies, to which this bibliography is heavily indebted. For purposes of brevity, the bibliography is confined, with few exceptions, to works in English.

General Overviews

It is difficult to understand any work of Aristotle’s without some understanding of the rest of his works. Here a few overviews of his works are listed that can help evade that vicious circle. Ross 1995 is self-effacing and lets Aristotle speak directly. Randall 1960 has a stronger authorial voice, which makes it less useful for the beginner but ultimately more interesting. Lear 1988 is a relatively short presentation of a picture of Aristotle’s mind at work over diverse materials. The other books listed are anthologies that can give the reader a sense of the whole range of Aristotle’s thinking. Blackwell, Oxford, and Cambridge all have companions or handbooks on Aristotle. Anagnostopoulos 2009 devotes more space to the Politics; Barnes 1995 and Shields 2008 assemble leading Aristotle scholars in the Anglo-American “analytic” tradition. Barnes contributed his volume first, which means that contributors to the other two anthologies were aware of the earlier volume.

  • Anagnostopoulos, Georgios, ed. A Companion to Aristotle. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781444305661

    Contains five impressive articles on the Politics, cited individually.

  • Barnes, Jonathan. The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

    Barnes himself writes three of the eight chapters; most of the other contributors are English. Conventional and authoritative.

  • Lear, Jonathan. Aristotle: The Desire to Understand. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511570612

    Insightful and unified account of Aristotle’s work.

  • Randall, John Herman. Aristotle. New York: Columbia University Press, 1960.

    “This book attempts to set forth what one man has found to be the significance for the present day of the thought of the second of the two major philosophers our so-called ‘Western’ civilization has managed to produce” (p. vii). The Politics along with the Ethics is treated in a chapter called “The Practical Sciences: Knowing How to Choose Relative Goods.”

  • Ross, W. D. Aristotle. London: Routledge, 1995.

    Older but still useful. The Preface states: “I have tried simply to give an account of the main features of his philosophy as it stands in his works” (p. v). Organized according to the traditional ordering of Aristotle’s works, with a helpful chapter on the Politics.

  • Shields, Christopher. The Oxford Handbook on Aristotle. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    Conventional and authoritative. Almost twice as long as Barnes 1995, with a much more international set of contributors. The articles are more focused than those in Barnes 1995, but for that reason are probably less inviting for the beginner.

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