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Worth the effort...
on 23 November 2004
Aristotle was an important thinker, born in 384 BCE at Stagirus (a Greek colony), who is considered by many the founder of the realist tradition in Philosophy. He wrote many noteworthy books, among which "The Politics" stands out. "The Politics" is one of the first books I read at university, and even though it took me a lot of time to read it, I ended up being grateful to the professor that included it as obligatory reading material for History of Political Ideas I :)
In "The Politics", the author begins by analyzing the human being, that is in his opinion a political animal by nature. Afterwards, he explains what are, for him, the origins of the polis: family, small village and then, polis. Aristotle says that even though the polis is the last chronologically, it is all the same the most important, because it is autarchic. The polis (not exactly like our states, but similar to them in some aspects) is a natural community, because it answers to something that human beings need. Only in the polis will men find perfection, only there will they be completely human. Aristotle distinguishes between citizens and non-citizens (the vast majority), and points out that only citizens have political rights. The author delves in many other themes, for example the causes of revolution, the good and bad forms of government, and the "ideal" form of government. What is more, he also considers several constitutions, and talks about the adequate education that forms good citizens for the polis.
Now, why should you read a book that was written many centuries ago and that on top of that isn't especially easy to read?. The answer is quite simple: "The Politics" is worth it. Of course, you will find faults in some of Aristotle's opinions (for instance, he thought that slaves were "live property", and that slavery was a natural institution), but you cannot ignore that most of his book is as relevant today as it was when he wrote it. "The Politics" is a book that teaches the reader to analyze reality, and to watch things differently, from another perspective. It also mentions several times that it is always necessary to take into account the context, because there are not perfect solutions good for every circumstance. Even though that seems merely common sense, it is an often forgotten truth...
On the whole, I can recommend this book to all those who are interested in Political Science, History of Ideas, or simply curious. I can guarantee that if you are patient enough to end it, you will learn a lot.