Political Views of Aristotle, Du Bois, and WeberAristotle
Aristotle’s definition of the meaning of politics starts with the explanation of the nature of mankind, stating that all communities that make up a state are established with the intention of leading to positive outcomes, as it is the nature of human beings to improve their condition. If the objective of the communities is to arrive at some good, it, therefore, follows that the state, being bigger than the communities, should aim at arriving at some higher degree of good. The issue of politics, therefore, necessitates looking at the elements that together make up the whole state so as to appreciate the differences between leadership styles. Aristotle indicates that the state is necessary for the existence of human beings because, without it, they cease to be self-sufficing, and is, therefore, an extension of the whole system. The only things that can live comfortably in the absence of a state are either a god or a beast. Naturally, all human beings have a social instinct, and they function best when their life is governed by laws and justice. Aristotle condemns the use of violence or armed injustice, indicating that the arms were meant to be used intelligently and by virtue and only in the worst of scenarios. He maintains that virtue is very important in human beings as it helps in the administration of justice and the maintenance of order in a political society.
Aristotle defines a citizen of a country as a person with the ability to participate in the deliberative or the judicial management of a country while a state is a collection of citizens serving with the intention of attaining a purpose in life. Having defined the state and its citizens, Aristotle shifts his focus the existing forms of government, their meanings and the manner in which they are determined. The constitution and the government have a similar meaning, and the government is the ultimate power in a country and, therefore, has to be under the control of one person or a few people or in the hands of the majority. Aristotle asserts that the true forms of government consequently are the ones in which the leader, whether it is a single person, a few people or the majority rule the country with the objective fulfilling the common interests of the people. However, governments that aim at meeting the private interests, regardless of whether it for a single person, a few people or the majority, do not truly represent the interests of the common people. The true citizens of a country or a state need to take part in its advantages.
Aristotle asserts that a kingship or royalty is a form of government in which only a single person rules with the common interests of the many at heart; an aristocracy is one in which either a single person or a few are in leadership, and this is the case because the leaders are regarded to be the best or because they consider the common interests of the people. On the other hand, a constitution is a form of government in which a majority of the citizens manage the affairs of the state to (or “intending to”) fulfilling the common interests of the people. One or a few people may have the virtue to be rulers, however, as the number increases it becomes increasingly to administer.
Du Bois deals with the question of politics by looking at the issue of race among Black people in the United States. He states that industries in the north of the United States were aware that collective suffrage in the South was not able to stand against organized industry, especially under the control of Negroes who had just earned their freedom and whites living in poverty. The masters of exploitation were relying on the same techniques of controlling the labour vote in the south as was already the case in the North, while also hoping that the Southern industry would not shift the stones of foundation on which the industries in the North was consolidating its power; that is the tariff, the money system, the debt, and national control of the economy. The coincidence of economic systems led to a revolution that became so vast and portentous that only a few minds were able to understand it. The first system was the establishment of a democracy of the masses that would then evolve into an industrial democracy. The other system led to the establishment of capitalism in which a few people would be in control of the natural resources, wealth and the industry of a nation. Reconstruction was the opportunity for the reorganization of capital and labour on a novel platform and construct a new economy.
Lastly, reconstruction was a desperate attempt of a dislodged, and impoverished and ruined oligarchy and monopoly to restore an anachronism in economic organization by force, fraud, and slander without any regard to either law or order, and under the watch of great labour movement of whites and Negroes, and in bitter strife with a new capitalism and a new political framework. Du Bois makes the observation that under the system, an agreement was reached between the North and the South that workers need to produce profit; the peasant whites and Negroes wanted to take advantage of the profit coming from the hard work of the workers and not to share it with the employees and owners of the land. The way to understanding the system became clearer with the agreement between employers in the North and South that the most important thing was earning a profit while the technique to be used in getting that profit should come second.
The political productivity of the principle of racial segregation, which led to the end of Reconstruction by creating unity between the farmer and the peasant white, was surpassed by far by its remarkable economic outcomes. The theory of labouring class units is founded on the assumption that workers, irrespective of internal jealousies, will be united by their shared opposition to exploitation by forces of capitalism. Du Bois points out that a majority of people do not recognize the extent to which this failed to work in the South because the concept of race was accompanied by a cautiously designed and rapidly evolved technique that created deep division between the white and Negro workers that currently they do not share common interests. It needs to be remembered, the author argues, that the group of white workers even though they received a little wage were reimbursed partly by a public and psychosomatic wage. They always received public respect and titles of consideration on account of the fact that they were white. They gave free admission to all classes of the white population to public events, public grounds, and some of the prominent schools in the country. The author concludes that in spite of this, the negroes have pushed forward fighting bravely against societal evils such as ridicule and monstrous reputations, starvation, disease, and murder in every aspect of their lives.
Weber starts his explanation of what politics is by acknowledging that the concept is quite broad and entails any independent leadership action. While the concept of politics is broad, Weber concentrated on the meaning of politics by looking at only leadership, or the impact of the leadership concerning a political association such as the state. From a sociological point of view, Weber states that it is not possible to define the state in terms of its ends. There are very few tasks that any political association has undertaken and no single task that can be regarded as being exclusive and unique to any of those political associations that can be designated as political in nature. As a result, an individual is in a position to define the current state from a sociological point of view only concerning the precise means that are unique to it, which according to all political associations, is the use of physical force. Weber quotes Trotsky, who mentioned that all states are based on the use of physical force, an argument he agrees with.
States are so reliant on the use of force that almost all social institutions within a country are familiar with the state’s use of violence. While the state has several ways of exerting its authority without necessarily using force, the use of such means is synonymous with the state. Weber asserts that in the modern times, there is a close relationship between the state and its use of violence, a situation that a majority of institutions in the past were familiar with. In the modern times, nonetheless, the state is the only human community that is successfully able to claim the monopoly over the use of physical force within a specific region. Weber further states that other institutions and individuals are similarly allowed the right to use physical violence only to an extent that is allowed by the state, and that it is only the state that has the authority to issue the permission to other institutions and individuals to use physical force. Consequently, Weber notes that to the ordinary citizen, politics means the determination to share power or to endeavour to influence the distribution of the power, either within states or groups inside a state.
Issues that are considered political, regardless of whether they concern a question, an individual, or a decision, the implication is that interests in the distribution, preservation, maintenance, or the transfer of power are decisive for answering the questions and determining the decisions or the official’s sphere of activity. Weber indicates that the people who are actively involved in politics endeavour to have power so as to use it to fulfil other interests, objectives, ideals, or to enjoy the privileges that come with having power. He considers that similar to all the institutions that precede the state; the state is composed of people who dominate others through the use of legitimate power. The existence of the state, therefore, depends on the ability of those in power to get those dominated to be obedient.
Those in power can use three means to get other people to obey. The first one is through the gift of grace, otherwise referred to as charisma, which can be demonstrated through such qualities as heroism, personal commitment and personal confidence in revelation, as well as different qualities of personal leadership. Such charismatic domination is demonstrated by those in politics, the leader of the plebiscitarian, the astounding demagogue, or the leader of a political association. The other means of domination is through the virtue of legality, in which people are expected to be obedient to those carrying out statutory responsibilities. This is the kind of domination that is most prevalent in the modern times. However, in actuality, the two factors that are responsible for the determination of obedience are fear and hope. Fear is caused by the ability of the leader to be vengeful while hope is triggered by the possibility of the leader to reward the obedient.
Criticism of Max Weber’s Views
Weber’s main understanding of politics rests on the assumption that all states, or most of them, are based on the use of physical force. He asserts that the current countries are so reliant on physical force that a majority of the social institutions within such states have at one point experienced it. The state is also able to claim to have the monopoly over the use of physical force within a given jurisdiction. However, his observation is not entirely correct as there are several countries in the world currently that do not depend on the use of force as a means of controlling the masses or members of the general public. There even exists human rights agencies specifically tasked with the responsibility of keeping an eye for such human rights violations and which could, in the rare event that it does happen, sue the government for violations of the rights of human beings. The current government usually use other means of engaging with members of the public such as dialogue and negotiations and the use of violence would not only attract the attention of other countries, it would also negatively affect the state diplomatically as its reputation abroad would be seriously dented.
Weber further indicates that the people who are actively involved in politics endeavour to have power so as to use it to fulfil other interests, objectives, ideals, or to enjoy the privileges that come with having power. This is not completely accurate, especially in the current times where abuse of office or power is considered a serious ethical misconduct and is punishable by law. Most democratic countries have rules and regulations that offer guidance to public officers on what is to be done in case there arises a conflict of interest in one’s line of work or in the serious event that a person is found to be using power to pursue personal and selfish gains.
Criticism of Aristotle
Aristotle makes very sound arguments in his article about the importance of laws and justice for the peaceful existence of human beings, and that justice is necessary for the society to function properly. He also indicates that the role of the government is quite crucial for, without it, humanity cannot survive. However, he makes many crucial and controversial assumptions about the characteristics of the moral beliefs of the common man. He assumes that these beliefs are particularly healthy especially the principles of truth and justice and honesty. However, such is not the nature of human beings. There are those who are naturally ignorant of their beliefs and what gives them motivation. The current system is only important and helpful to those who already have a deeper understanding of how it works and those with liberal views and thoughts. Aristotle puts a lot of unnecessary importance and emphasis on self-sufficiency and logical control to recognize the role of love and its responsibility in the system. Aristotle allows for several risks even though he condemns slavery too admit to inherent value a type of association whereby humans are so totally within the control of another human being. Furthermore, despite the fact that humans have the capability of developing their attitudes, feelings, as well as response abilities, their development can be accomplished through any endeavour of will, regardless of the extent to which it is sustained or adequate.
Criticism of Du Bois
Du Bois extensively dealt with the issue of racism and the role of the political process in the oppression and discrimination of Negroes in the United States before they attained their freedom and independence. He states that while fellow poor white labourers also earned relatively low wages from their work on the farms, they were allowed to go to public parks and joins celebrations just because they were white. However, the author is too concerned with the treatment of the minority groups in the United States and does not cover a lot regarding the ways in which they could free themselves from the chains of slavery and eventually attain their independence and freedom.
Furthermore, while he was himself an educated man, he made the argument that education was not meant for everybody. Rather than stressing that everybody should endeavour to receive an education, he maintained that only those with the talent for it should get an all-inclusive education. This is an argument that the student does not agree with entirely since education plays an important role in the personal and professional development of an individual.
In conclusion, while the three authors dealt extensively with the topic of politics and examined their interpretations and understanding of the subject, some views stand to be highly criticised the basis of the understanding of the author. Aristotle, for instance, observes that the true forms of government consequently are the ones in which the leader, whether it is a single person, a few people or the majority rule the country with the objective fulfilling the common interests of the people. He holds such a view despite the fact that humans have the capability of developing their attitudes, feelings, as well as response abilities; their development can be accomplished through any endeavour of will, regardless of the extent to which it is sustained or adequate. It is such views that provoke the kind of criticism that they receive, especially in the current times from academicians around the world with different views and understanding of the topic of politics. Politics, therefore, is according to understanding, the involvement of the state in the management of the affairs of a state to (or “intending to”) improving the conditions of life of the citizens while promoting their common interests.
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