Politics Book Summary - Politics Book explained in key points
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Politics summary

Aristotle

A foundational work in the history of Western political philosophy

4.6 (218 ratings)
29 mins

Brief summary

Politics by Aristotle is a classic political treatise that examines different forms of government and how they can lead to either a just or unjust society. It explores the roles of citizens and rulers in achieving a harmonious and stable state.

Table of Contents

    Politics
    Summary of 9 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 9

    Humans can speak and reason, and this makes us moral creatures.

    How should states be ruled? What is the best form of government? 

    These questions have been at the heart of Western political philosophy for some 2,500 years. At the very beginning of that tradition, in fourth-century BCE Greece, Aristotle set out to answer them. 

    But before we can talk about how best to arrange a society, we need to know something about the people who live in it. What is their nature? Answering this can help us think more clearly about what it is that we actually want states and governments to do. 

    The key message in this blink is: Humans can speak and reason, and this makes us moral creatures. 

    Aristotle was an empiricist – he believed in the power of observation. If you want to understand any animal, he thought, you have to look at how it behaves. 

    Follow a bee, for example, and you’ll observe it gathering food. Stay on its trail, and you’ll learn that it isn’t merely satisfying its own needs – it’s collecting resources for its hive. Here, you’ll discover a society with a division of labor. Some bees farm; others are soldiers. At the top, there’s even a ruler – the queen. 

    Bees, it turns out, are social animals like us. Humans live in states; bees live in hives. Both are communal constructs that serve the common good of their members. But there’s a vital difference. 

    In the ancient Greek polis, a city-state like Aristotle’s Athens, labor was also divided among farmers, soldiers, workers, and rulers. Each class fulfilled its individual role, and the result of their collective work was the common good – the preservation of their city. But humans who lived in city-states did something bees don’t. They also thought and talked about how our societies should be organized, just as we still do today. 

    We do this because we, unlike other animals, possess logos – a Greek word meaning both “reason” and “speech.” These faculties have profound moral implications.

    Say someone is causing you physical pain, and you'd like them to stop. Here, your logos would come in handy.

    To express pain, all you need is a voice – a grunt or bark will do. Humans aren’t just animals, though; our voices are capable of conveying far more than mere grunts or barks. We can attempt to stop the pain by explaining why it’s morally right to treat others as you’d want to be treated yourself. And other humans have the faculty of reason to accept or reject our arguments, and change their behavior accordingly.

    Aristotle, who believed that nature makes nothing in vain, says that this is why we possess the gift of speech. It allows us to make moral judgments and cooperate with others in leading a life that conforms to what we think is right.

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    What is Politics about?

    Politics is a foundational work in the history of Western political philosophy. From Machiavelli to Thomas Hobbes to Karl Marx, few major Western thinkers have been able to avoid a dialogue with the arguments Aristotle advanced some 2,500 years ago. That’s hardly surprising. In his quest to define the purpose and nature of politics, Aristotle left no stone unturned. Justice, slavery, citizenship, class conflict, democracy, and the good life – all are addressed with rigor and nuance in this remarkable text.

    Politics Review

    Politics by Aristotle (350 BCE) examines the nature and purpose of government, making it a thought-provoking read. Here's why this book is worth your time:

    • Offers insights into the best form of government, helping readers understand crucial concepts behind political systems.
    • By exploring how societies function, the book provides valuable knowledge on power dynamics and the role of individuals within a community.
    • With its timeless wisdom on governance and public affairs, this book remains relevant and engaging, ensuring readers won't find it dull.

    Best quote from Politics

    It is peculiar to human beings, in comparison to the other animals, that they alone have perception of what is good or bad, just or unjust.

    —Aristotle
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    Who should read Politics?

    • Political buffs
    • Historians
    • Thinkers and philosophers

    About the Author

    Aristotle was born in 384 BCE and died in 322 BCE at the age of 62. He was taught by Plato in ancient Athens at the height of its golden age and went on to found his own school, the Lyceum. The quintessential polymath, Aristotle wrote on topics as varied as ethics, politics, metaphysics, logic, rhetoric, psychology, economics, poetry, and music. His work continues to shape the way we think about these subjects to this day.

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    Politics FAQs 

    What is the main message of Politics?

    The main message of Politics is the importance of understanding and organizing society to achieve a harmonious and just political order.

    How long does it take to read Politics?

    The reading time for Politics varies depending on the reader's pace, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Politics a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Politics is worth reading as it provides profound insights into the nature of political systems, governance, and social organization.

    Who is the author of Politics?

    The author of Politics is Aristotle.

    What to read after Politics?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Politics, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Art of Rhetoric by Aristotle
    • The Republic by Plato
    • Aristotle’s Way by Edith Hall
    • Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
    • The Art of Living by Epictetus
    • The Metaphysics by Aristotle
    • The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
    • The Analects by Confucius
    • The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
    • On the Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche