ON ARISTOTLE AND REVOLUTION



.... The theory of stasis [which Aristotle handles in Politics V] has remained an established staple of political theory through the centuries; one runs across it in different variations in unexpected places. For example, most of the political recipes in the name of which Machiavelli is moralistically devalued and condemned the Italian thinker actually borrowed from Aristotle. Or, to name a more recent work, Harold Lasswell's What is Politics? Who Gets What, When, How? is written in the spirit of Politics V.  By this I do not mean to say that every author who deals with this area copies Aristotle; because materially it is a perduring experience that resides on the commonsense level, and so is originally accessible to any person who has eyes and ears for his political environment. Only the care and precision in the elaboration of this field is specifically characteristic of Aristotle.

[Aristotle] inquires why a relatively stable, balanced order enters into disorder; because when one knows the causes of disruption, then one can possibly work out institutional recipes for avoiding disorder. His posing of the problem is thus primarily pragmatic. In general, disorder arises on account of stasis. The concept is usually translated as revolution. This is not only wrong but also obscures a quite important process, because stasis means "to fix" or "become rigid." When someone becomes hardened in a position and offers resistance to the smooth interplay of society, then order enters into disorder. Because in reaction to the hardening of one position others become rigidified into counterpositions; there arise conflicts that lead to upheavals. The problem of rigidification is at the center of the theory of revolution: Institutions start to decline when for one reason or another the process of rigidification sets in.

CW Vol 11, PUBLISHED ESSAYS 1953-1965,
Man in Society and History, 1964, pp 196-197.







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