Hannah Arendt’s conception of political



Aristotle conception of Equality – 2015

Acc to Aristotle feeling of inequality real or imagined is a common cause in all revolutions. Hence state should take the issue of equality very seriously .

The concept of equality has close connection with the concept of justice , the notion of equality will shape the notion of justice

“It is unjust to treat equals unequally but it is equally unjust to treat unequal equally”.

Slavery is natural and beneficial both for the master and the slave . OR ” Some men are by nature free, and others slave”

The study of slavery (Natural theory of slavery )constitutes a very pertinent part of Aristotle’s approach of the state. Slavery is a particular kind of relationship in which one human being is the master and other human beingis property. To Aristotle, institution of slavery is a necessary condition of a civilised life and social order as there are men so  inferior  as to be naturally servile .He gave an analogy of human body where  some organs are more important than others . Similarly some men are superior than others ,for example

Man is superior than women

Free Man is superior than slaves

Greeks superior than Barbarians

Thus Everyone can’t be same and it is this  principle of natural inequality through which Aristotle justifies slavery in his work ” The politics“.  Nature  is the central term in Aristotle philosophy. According to him those persons  born naturally  with intellectual strength , endowed with high degree of reason and capacity for virtue must command and direct those who have little or no capacity of virtue .

some individuals lack the capacity of reason to govern themselves and these individuals are meant by nature to be under the authority of others.

A householder gains from slavery for he is relieved of menial chores and physical labour giving him leisure time for moral and intellectual pursuits enabling him to contribute to the affairs of the state and fulfils his duty as a citizen . Aristotle also justifies slavery from slave point of view  as  it enables slave to share the virtuous and good life of master . This association with master brings him “derivative excellence”.

He also justifies slavery on the basis of theory of specific functions i.e some are fitted to rule while others are fit only to carry out orders .The functions of men with superior intellect is to order and of slave to obey .

But Aristotle rejects the case of slavery by inheritance and does not recognise slavery by force.  He also asserts that slaves should be properly treated by master and that he should be emancipated by his master if he has developed his reason and capacity for self direction


  1. His theory of slavery goes against the modern concept of freedom and capacity.
  2. Aristotle simile of body and soul  is inapplicable as it would be ridiculous to say that while master is soul without body , slave is body without soul.
  3. His dictum ” man is a rational being” is refuted by himself when he defends slavery . If a man is rational being , slaves can’t be irrational  . Further his conception of slave as an instrument of action and not as an instrument of production is arbitary
  4. If we accept that it is natural that superior should rule over the inferior , then there would be innumerable classes as everybody is superior to someone and inferior to other in some way.

In a nutshell , we may conclude the fact that Aristotle defence  of slavery serves his real purpose of justification of rule of the privileged few.

He who has the power to take part in the deliberate or judicial administration of any state is a citizen of that state.

As we understood citizenship in reference to residence , birth and legal rights is modern phenomenon. During Aristotle times there was slave society and restricted way of citizenship as  slaves ,women ,aliens were not regarded as citizens . Rights were not for all and right to participate in political decisions was confined to citizens. Persons doing same kind of repetitive work not worthy of citizenship , it is based on principle of exclusion as large number of people were not included.

Aristotle defined citizenship as an effective participation in the exercise of power. Aristotle regarded this privilege of the ruling class as its duty and insisted on its performance. But he argued that mere residence in the state cannot be treated as a qualification for becoming a citizen . No one becomes a citizen by the virtue of certain legal rights that comes from a commercial  contract or treaty. Then the criterion of birth too cannot be accepted as the basis of citizenship because the question of citizenship of parents, grandparents  and so on will remain to be decided . It will be better to define the concept of citizenship on the basis of one’s function. Accordingly political rights alone can be treated as qualifications of a citizen. These include the rights to share in the administration of justice and political office.

Aristotle believed that only those members can be regarded as citizens who are entitled to take part in deliberative or judicial office. It is not necessary that each citizen should be actually holding a political office for the time being. For example , where people are chosen to be members of jury on rotation, all those eligible for election shall be considered as citizens.

The state is prior to the individual . Comment . Aristotle

Aristotle regards the state  as an organic association . In an organic unity , each organ is dependent upon the whole and is different from others as each organ performs separate functions. All parts of the body are important but no part can be more important than the body itself. Similarly the individual who are part of the state are dependent upon it not only  for  fulness of life but also for the life itself.

State is prior to individual not historically but logically. Logically one can argue A is prior to B if following conditions are met –

  1. If B for its identity depends on A.
  2. Existence of B depend on A.

Individual exists only in its life and has no meaning or existence except as sharing in its life. Thus state is prior to the individual.

One thing is prior to the another when it is first present in the consciousness for eg- a triangle is prior to right angle or a circle to a semi -circle. They are wholes which must be present to the consciousness for the definition of the parts. To define individual therefore involves the prior idea of the state to which he is related as part to whole. For eg -a hand which is not the hand of the body is not a hand at all for it cannot perform its due function.From  this Aristotle draws the conclusion that a person exists only so long he discharges a function which contributes to the state.

The state is prior to the individual because the state is present to the consciousness as an idea before we think of the individual just as the full landscape is present to the consciousness of the artist before he paints it .

At time the individual comes before the state but philosophically the state is prior and presupposed the condition of the definition and existence of the individual.

“The great and chief aim of men’s uniting into a Commonwealth and putting themselves under Government is the preservation of property.” (Locke) 2008

In one of the most famous , influential chapters “Of Property in Second treatise of Government  Locke said that people have natural rights preexisting government, and government exists to protect those rights. He uses the term property to include right to life, liberty and property.


Man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to no body, why will he part with his freedom? why will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and controul of any other power?

To which it is obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others: for all being kings as much as he, every man his equal, and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very unsecure. This makes him willing to quit a condition, which, however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and it is not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others, who are already united, or have a mind to unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which Locke call by the general name, property.

So the institution of government comes about because of the difficulties in state of nature .Difficulties increases with increase in population , decrease in resources , increase in inequality due to introduction of money ,this led to violation of state of nature and there was inconvenience in addressing such grievances on one’s own thus leading to the state with the role of “NIGHT WATCH MAN”

He concludes  –  “the end of government is the good of mankind.” .



Discuss Gramsci’s notion of ‘organic intellectuals’.

The Concepts of Ideology, Hegemony, and Organic Intellectuals in Gramsci’s Marxism are important components of  “ philosophy  of praxis”

Gramsci gave much thought to the role of intellectuals in society.He stated that all men are intellectuals, in that all have intellectual and rational faculties, but not all men have the social function of intellectuals. He saw modern intellectuals not as talkers, but as practically-minded directors and organisers who produced hegemony through ideological apparatuses such as education and the media. They  help in manufacturing consent and construction of common sense.

Gramsci also classifies the intellectuals in two dimensions: the horizontal and the vertical dimensions.  On the horizontal dimension, Gramsci classifies intellectuals either as traditional intellectuals or as organic intellectuals. He distinguished between a “traditional” intelligentsia which sees itself (wrongly) as a class apart from society, and the thinking groups which every class produces from its own ranks “organically” as “every social group originates in the fulfilment of an essential task of economic production”. Hence OI are directly linked to the economic structure of society.

Such “organic” intellectuals do not simply describe social life in accordance with scientific rules, but instead articulate , through the language of culture, the feelings and experiences which the masses could not express for themselves.Example  of OI- Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore  and Traditional – Amartya Sen , APJ Abdul Kalam.

Organic intellectuals are very instrumental in a class’ struggle for hegemony. “One of the most important characteristics of any group that is developing towards dominance is its struggle to assimilate and conquer ’ideologically’ the traditional intellectuals . In the struggle for social hegemony these organic intellectuals must reason with the masses and engage in a decisive ’war of position’ to consolidate the hegemonic status of the class the interests of which they share.

A major historical problem posed by Gramsci and of great practical relevance to the proletariat in advanced capitalist countries is the fact that “although every social group develops its own organic intellectuals, the industrial proletariat has relied mostly on ’assimilated’ traditional intellectuals for leadership.”  Gramsci wrote in the Prison Notebooks that the solution was to provide workers, directly in the shops, technical and industrial education as well as education in the humanities so that “from technical work worker arrives at technical science and historical humanistic views, without which he would remain ’a specialist’ and would not become a ’director’ ” (that is, a specialist and a politician). Clearly, only then could the working class develop a higher consciousness of itself and other social classes.

Class in itself + consciousness = Class for Itself .