Aristotle’s on citizenship note

Aristotle, son of Stagira, Greece, was regarded as a great philosopher of the ancient age. He had a great contribution to political Philosophy, like classification of government, Man as a social animal, virtue and ethics in politics etc. He had also great contribution in Science. That’s why he was known as the father of Biology as well as the father of Political Science. Perhaps, he was the first person in the ancient age, who did not combine all subjects together, like Plato who combined all subjects of ethics, philosophy knowledge, education, psychology & sociology together into a single system. But Aristotle believed in the distinction between branches of knowledge & he believed in the independent development of all subjects.
Aristotle on citizendhip


Nature and purpose of the state

Both Aristotle and Plato believed that the state came into existence for the satisfaction of the basic needs of the people and it continued for the good life of the people. He considered the state as a natural organization, which is the result of growth and evolution. However, the Sophists in Athens at that time gave more importance to the individual than to the state. Therefore, he believed that the state is artificial and a product of a social contract.
As we know that Aristotle belongs to the tradition of Socrates and Plato, therefore for him the state is natural and prior to human. because the origin of the state lies in the natural needs of human beings. According to Aristotle, God has not made man self-sufficient, he cannot even fulfill his basic needs on his own, so man forms a family. The family can meet some needs but not all. So man-made villages, but that too failed to fulfill all the needs, so man-made states fulfilled all the needs of the people. Thus the state is natural as well as self-sufficient.
According to him living in the state is the destiny of man. Chronologically man precedes the state, but logically the state precedes man. He also argued that the person who is living outside the state is either a god or an animal. This is how state origin according to Aristotle. But he did not consider all people are citizens of the state. So let’s check out the Aristotle’s view on citizenship. What is the theory of Aristotle on citizenship? Who are citizens, who are not and why they are not citizens of the state. So let’s discuss one by one
You can also read this- Aristotle’s theory of the state

Aristotle’s theory of citizenship
what is a citizen ?

 According to Aristotle, citizenship means the possession and exercise of civil and political rights. It is enjoyed by those who have the leisure and ability to perform the deliberative and judicial functions of the state. Hence Aristotle defined a citizen as a person who is eligible to participate in an assembly and serve on a jury. This was a definition based on Athenian practice.
Criteria for Citizenship
(I) Participation in Government
Perhaps, It is the most important criterion of Aristotle to be a citizen of the state. According to Aristotle, Citizens should participate in the decision-making process of the state. It is because they have the right to participate. This participation could involve being part of the discussion, voting on the law, and holding public office.
(II) Property Class
Aristotle had given more importance to the Property class. According to him, Native-born adult Greek males belonging to the property class are eligible for citizenship.
(III) Rights & Responsibility
  Citizens of the state had certain rights, like the right to participate in government, access to justice, and protection under the law. Alongside, these rights, Citizens also had some important responsibilities like depending on the state for threats and obeying laws of the state.
Classification of the citizens
Aristotle had clear thoughts on his Citizenship theory. He classified the citizens into two categories, citizens and Non-Citizens.
Citizens are those, who are capable of participating in government affairs of the state, like decision-making, process voting, etc. And those who are native-born adult Greek males belonging to the property class.
According to Aristotle, women, Children, Old people, Slaves, and foreigners are not citizens of the state.
To justify this statement, Aristotle provided the following reasons
(I) Women-Women have no Time to participate in state affairs. Because they are busy with family work.
(ii) Child– They are not mature enough to participate in government affairs of the state.
(iii) Slaves– Slaves are also not eligible for citizenship of the state. Because they don’t have a reason. It means they are unable to participate. State affairs.
(IV)Old people– Old people’s health conditions are not certain.
(v) Foreigners– They do not have love for the nation.
So, Clearly, Aristotle had provided citizenship to the people on the basis of the functions of an individual. In other words, Citizenship is the duty towards the state, like participating in state affairs. These people can not do it due to the above reasons mentioned by Aristotle. To Aristotle, Citizenship should be given on the basis of an Individual’s functions. Only those members of the state can be regarded as its citizens, who are entitled to take part in the legislative or judicial function of the state.

Criticism of Aristotle’s theory of Citizenship

1.No Rights for everyone
 Let us now discuss the criticism against Aristotle’s theory of citizenship . Aristotle excluded foreign workers, artisans, farmers, servants, slaves, the disabled, the aged, and women from the privileges of citizenship. The justification given by him for such refusal was that he did not have the time and capacity to discharge. such tasks. This argument is not acceptable in modern democratic countries. It has been proved that they are also capable of conducting political activities. Hence Aristotle’s views on citizenship are undemocratic.
2.Exclusion of Woman is not Justiciable
Aristotle considered women inferior to men. To them, a woman is weak-willed, therefore incapable of independence of character or position at her best. According to Aristotle, in domestic life, the courage of a man is shown to command and the courage of a woman to obey. Hence Aristotle excluded women from citizenship, which is not acceptable today. In modern days many women occupy positions of authority at all levels and perform their political duties. Effectively denying citizenship to women is nothing but denying political activities to more than half of the population.
3.No citizenship right for Slaves
Other critics point out that Aristotle excluded slaves from the concept of citizenship. He considered all those who work with their bodies as slaves and their status was lower than that of citizens. Aristotle says that since slaves do physical work, their physical labour dulls and wears down their minds, leaving neither time nor energy for political intelligence. But it is not at all fair to deny political and civil rights to a large section of society in the modern world by saying that Aristotle considered property a virtue for citizenship.
4.Property is the criteria for Citizenship
He said that only those who have property should be given citizenship, but criticism says that citizenship should be a right of all those who are born within the state, stipulating property as a precondition is somewhat discriminatory. This will dilute the vast majority in many states. Furthermore, it is not correct to say that only citizens with wealth help the virtuous as it is also possible that those with wealth may be more greedy, which takes away their virtues.
5.Outdated Constitution
 According to Aristotle, the type of constitution is related to the lifestyle of the citizen, change in one definitely affects the other. This meaning of the constitution is relevant only in the time of Aristotle, not in contemporary times. We cannot expect all citizens to lead the same kind of life in modern times. There is a lot of diversity in the culture, language, religion, and lifestyle of every citizen in a particular state. There is a sense of acceptance and tolerance towards the lifestyle of all citizens. The Constitution operates in the same way despite changes in the lives of citizen.

Modern relevance

In the present era, Aristotle’s view on citizenship is not relevant. It is because, Aristotle’s theory of citizenship explains that women, children, slaves, old people, and foreigners are not citizens of the state. But in the present era, It is quite different from his theory. Nowadays women, children, and slaves all are citizens of the state. Nearly every country in the world is providing equal citizenship rights to everyone except foreigners. They are also getting citizenship, by following the rule and regulations of the particular state. So simply, Aristotle’s view on Citizenship is not relevant in the modern era.

Was Aristotle a Conservative?

 As Aristotle was an ancient philosopher. He had some Conservative ideas like Hierarchy and Natural Order, Preservation of Tradition, Skepticism of Radical Democracy, etc. On the other side, he had also some Non-Conservative Aspects like Openness to Change, Focus on the Common Good, Role of Virtue, etc. Simply, it is hard to say whether Aristotle was a conservative or not. He supported both sides, which indicated that he was and was not a conservative.


Aristotle’s view on citizenship is completely different from present era. Aristotle tried to give best theory on citizenship, but he was not successful on this. He faced a lot of criticism from other philosophers. And Aristotle’s theory of citizenship is not relevant with present or modern era, which is most important drawback of Aristotle’s view on citizenship.