3 forms of government according to Aristotle

Aristotle’s Politics is a classic of philosophy. In it we find the Stagirite’s main ethical and political ideas, and that famous phrase: man is a political animal.

Now we will see very briefly how Aristotle conceives the forms of government.

The 3 forms of government

According to Aristotle, there are 3 just forms of government:

  • Monarchy: is the government in which only one man is the ruler;
  • Aristocracy: the form of government in which a few men rule;
  • Democracy: form of government in which the multitude, the people, exercise sovereignty;

These are considered the 3 pure or just forms of government. A form of government is considered just/correct when it seeks to serve the common good of the polis (city), that is, the happiness of all.

The 3 Unfair Forms of Government

When these 3 righteous ways mentioned above fail to seek the common good, they degenerate into:

  • Tyranny: is the deviation from monarchy; when the sovereign rules according to his own interests;
  • Oligarchy: a degenerate form of aristocracy in which the ruler rules according to the interests of the rich;
  • Demagogy: a deviation from the republic, in which only the interests of the poorest are pursued, and not of everyone. There is a debate over the correct translation of this term, some translate it as democracy;

The Ideal City

For Aristotle, the City has a moral purpose which is to create conditions favorable to the development of the virtues, to promote the happiness of the citizens, in short, to provide a good life. He says:

The City is a society established, with houses and families, to live well, that is, to lead a perfect and self-sufficient life. […] The best existence for each one in particular and for all states is virtue with enough wealth to be able to practice it.

The city is not just a place to live, nor was it instituted to defend against injustices, it has this purpose of providing a good life. And for Aristotle, having a good life does not mean having riches.

The zeal for the middle ground is also present in the Aristotelian ideal of a perfect city. It should neither be too populous, nor have too few inhabitants, it should have a balance. Its territory should also not be too large.

The citizens of this city should have the same characteristics as the Greeks, a synthesis of European and Oriental peoples. The young men were to be warriors, in maturity counselors, and in old age, priests.


Aristotle’s Politics is, without a doubt, an indispensable work for those who want to know a little more about the political conceptions in the history of philosophy.

Although we live in a very different political world than in ancient Greece, we can still find very valuable political ideas in this work. It is true that there are ideas that are totally condemned today, such as the defense of slavery as a natural condition. But it is worth reading and absorbing the good stuff.

Cite This Work

Vieira, S. (2021, August 19). 3 forms of government according to Aristotle. Filosofia do Início. Retrieved from https://filosofiadoinicio.com/en/forms-of-government/.

Vieira, Sadoque. “3 forms of government according to Aristotle.” Filosofia do Início, August 19, 2021. https://filosofiadoinicio.com/en/forms-of-government/.

Vieira, Sadoque. “3 forms of government according to Aristotle.” Filosofia do Início, 19 Aug. 2021, https://filosofiadoinicio.com/en/forms-of-government/.


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