Aristotle’s theory of revolution; causes and prevention

The Greek two proponent philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. They had different views on revolution from each other. Plato, in his ideal State, did not accept any change, where the philosopher king will be rural. He associates it with decay and corruption. But Aristotle accepted change as inevitable. The change represents a movement towards an ideal. Aristotle had accepted the possibility of progress, but Plato did not. According to Aristotle, Things changed because they had the potential to inch toward perfection. Aristotle had observed instability in Greek city-states as the frequent revolution in the State. To understand the cause and prevention of the revolution, he studied it properly by reading nearly 158 constitutions of different States. Later on, he came out with the causes and prevention of the revolution.


 What is a Revolution? 


He tried to understand the implications of revolution on the political system. In ‘Politics’ – his book he discussed in detail about revolutionsAristotle did not consider revolution as bloodshed or armed struggle. He considers revolution as a small change. Any change in the political system without changing the constitution of the state is also called a revolution. Change at the individual level without changing the government or the constitution is also a revolution. A revolution usually refers to the following elements.


(1) Change in the Constitution: According to Aristotle, the meaning of revolution refers to the need for some changes in the state, which may be major or minor.


(2) Change in group: By this, the constitution remains unchanged but the political power changes from one hand to another.


(3) Change in form of Government: Revolution helps to change the form of government from time to time. By this, the regime is transformed from monarchy to aristocracy and from aristocracy to populism.


(4) Change in Institution: Revolution is sometimes organized within the nation against a particular institution or individual. Here there is no emphasis on change of government.


So every constitutional change in Greek civilization or for the Greeks is a military political revolution. Therefore, Sabine said, Aristotle’s ‘Politics’ (The Politics) emphasized Chit and it reflected the greatness of Aristotle’s Greek government and political thought.

Causes of revolution according to Aristotle


Aristotle had divided causes into two types:

1. General causes

2. Particular causes

1. General causes

  General causes are further categorized into three types

   i.Psychological causes

  Ii.Objective in Mind

  III. Occassions for revolutionary change


I. Psychological Causes –

There are times when state officers attempt to make illicit gains by exploiting individuals for their own benefit, thus causing discontent among the individuals. Revolutions occur when the public is dishonored and some people gain honor that they do not deserve. Revolutions occur when state officials do not pay attention to the genuine problems of the people and this leads to a divide between the state and the people.

ii. Objectives in Mind

  If any group comes to power by engaging in corruption in the election, then the people express their dissatisfaction and resort to revolution against it. When people feel that, they are not getting proper fairness and equality, they unite and demand their rights. If there is corruption and injustice in government, people demand a change in the government, which leads to revolution. Poor government or leadership also causes a revolution. Because people feel that the government will not fulfill their interests.

III. Occasions for revolutionary change

   Crises like economic downturns or natural disasters are also responsible for the revolution. Because people seek relief and proper assistance. If the government disrespects people, it turns into a revolution. When there is weak leadership, other leaders or people may see a chance to seize power and change the leader. 

2. Particular Causes –

When an individual or group possesses absolute power. Favoritism in offering government offices to undeserving candidates. If corrupt officials and officials try hard to hide their weaknesses, it paves the way for rebellion. Revolutions occur when corrupt, irresponsible, and non-compliant individuals are appointed to high positions and communal strife ensues. Another cause of revolution is the passive oppression and use of force by the government or ruler.

Prevention of revolution according to Aristotle


(1) Balance: To prevent revolution, all categories should be equally balanced and given importance. No person or group should exercise excessive power. If the ruler does not pay attention to the interests of the weaker and underdeveloped sections, then their discontent will eventually take the form of revolution.


(2) Wisdom: The ruler should use his wisdom and wisdom to prevent revolution. Administrators and administrative staff should put aside their interests and prioritize the interests of the nation.


(3) Relevance of Law: The government must take strict action against those who break the law. The ruler should pay special attention to the fact that the people will be interested in obeying the law.


(4) Absence of monopoly: High-ranking government officials should not turn their work into business and run a monopoly. If this happens then corruption, black market, bribery, etc. can increase in society. So the government must be committed to preventing these.


(5) Constitutional Education: Constitutional education is necessary to make citizens aware of the Constitution. Once people know about the effectiveness of the constitution, they become law-abiding and the likelihood of revolution decreases. Therefore, the spread of education is essential.


The best form of government to prevent revolution


Aristotle believes that a mixed or balanced constitution is the best form of government to prevent revolution. This mixed constitution is also referred to as Polity” or “politeia.” This government is good for the following reasons:


I. It prevents the revolution and maintains stability in the state.


II. It prevents extreme inequalities & reduces the likelihood of conflict, which could lead to revolution, by power being distributed and shared among the various groups and social classes.


According to Aristotle, a well-structured mixed constitution can promote stability by combining elements of democracy and oligarchy.

Criticism of Aristotle’s theory of revolution

 1. Lack of clarity on revolution’s morality

  Aristotle’s theory does not provide a proper concept to understand the revolution. He did not mention any factors that can identify the revolution as morally justifiable.


2. Limited relevance to modern politics

  Some philosophers argue that Aristotle’s theory is not relevant to modern politics. His theory does not cover all aspects of the revolution. There was no proper governance, communication, or societal structure in Aristotle’s period, but in modern politics there is. 


3. Gender biases

  Critics argue that Aristotle had gender biases. He explained the importance and roles of man. But he did consider woman that women as important to the state. He had not explained about women anywhere. But he did One thing, that’s excluded from the State.