Justice, Distribution of Resources, and (In)Equalities in Aristotle’s Ideal Constitution

  • Georgios AnagnostopoulosEmail author
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 132)


Aristotle is critical of the political egalitarianism advocated by ancient participatory democracies on the grounds that serious inequalities exist among citizens. Nevertheless, when he constructs his own complete political ideal in his Politics, he advocates an egalitarianism that is even stronger and wider in scope than the democratic one; it goes beyond equal political shares, proposing equality in many other things, including resources and wealth. Such strong egalitarianism is motivated by the kind of complete political ideal he aims to delineate—a city possessing the best constitution and all the other good-making characteristics of a polis. To ground such characteristics, Aristotle makes several ideal assumptions about the human (both citizens and non-citizens) and non-human (territory and wealth) resources necessary for a polis. Some of these assumptions secure the kind of equality in political capacities and virtue among the citizens Aristotle needs for justifying, by the application of his principle of distributive justice, numerically equal shares in political office, resources, and other goods or burdens. Ideal, albeit negative, assumptions about indispensable non-citizen groups enable Aristotle to specify the features of those necessary for securing some private and civic goods essential to his complete political ideal (e.g., leisure and civic stability) and to justify certain extreme inequalities within his polis. This paper explores the nature of these assumptions, the role they play in the distribution of goods and burdens, and some of the problems they give rise to within Aristotle’s complete political ideal.


Complete political ideal Ideal assumptions Equality/inequality Justice Resources 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA

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