State - The Ideal State, Nelson.docx

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Western University
Political Science
Political Science 1020E
Bruce Morrison

CHAPTER 3 – THE IDEAL STATE  Until the Greeks a theory of the state didn’t exist  Following the Mesopotamian pattern again, the city state became the source of social and political identification rather than kinship  Citizenship replaced kinship as the basis of political organization  A democratic Athens was a constitutional form in which the poorer classes constituted the political structures of the polis, as an oligarchic regime was one constituted by the wealthy  Class conflict and often outright class warfare lay at the very core of the Greek polis, for the political stakes involved were enormous  Inability of the polis to transcend class interests  Much contemporary political science in fact rejects the state as a valid basis for political analysis  Power alone is the basis of the state and its laws, and the political leadership’s claim to rule by universal standards of justice is nothing more than an ideology of legitimation that enshrines the values and interests of the ruling class  Plato’s argument revolves around two fundamental ideas key to the classical theory of the state: that it is possible to derive a knowable theory of justice, and that the intellectually ideal Form of justice allows the theorist to derive an idealized perfect form of the stat by which to judge the relative justice of actual states  Justice is a knowable for, state is logically predictable: it is a state ruled by those who possess knowledge of the transcendent form of justice  The unjust state, it follows, is characterized by a breakdown in this division of labour  His ideally just state remains one premised upon class rule in which the politically dominant class forms the constitution of the state  Nicomachenean Ethics, he insists that the ethical issues are ultimately political issues, and that it is the major function of the state to create the conditions by which citizens become virtuous  The principle of justice is thus inherent within constitutional evolution of the state itself  What is ultimately fundamental in Aristotle’s constitutional theory
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