Lesson 3: The Citizen and the Regime
3.1 On Politics and Polis
So many of our political terms derive from Greek political experience and political philosophy; but the Latin forms have also made a contribution. It is interesting to look at the Greek terms.
|Chart 3.1 Basic Terms|
polis - city state
polites - citizen
politeuma - citizen body
politeia - constitution, regime
politikos - statesman, politician
Politics is defined in terms of the opportunities afforded by the polis, the city, or "city state." The citizen is a member of the polis or city. The body politic or citizen body is made up of those citizens. The constitution or regime is the ordering of the city. And the statesman or politician is the leader of the city
3.2 On Citizen and Constitution
Aristotle approaches the question of the distinctiveness of politics through the practical issue as to who is responsible for the act of a city? The leader? The people? The citizens? We need to perform a different type of analysis now than that analysis of the compound to the household and its relations. The proper parts of the city are the citizens. So who is a citizen. Aristotle's answer is truly classic and it serves as a point reference for all time. The citizen is a participant in the affairs of the city.
|Chart 3.2 The Citizen Defined|
One who shares in deliberative and judicial functions of city
the citizen helps in rule;
a citizen holds "office";
so the citizen is determined by the constitution.
The question of the citizen takes us to the more fundamental question of regime. Who should be a citizen or should rule? The constitution is the formal arrangement by which citizenship or rule is determined.
|Chart 3.3a The Regime or Constitution (Politeia ) - ARISTOTLE|
"organization of offices in a city, by which their method of distribution is fixed, the sovereign authority determined, and the nature of the end to be pursued by the association and all its members is prescribed." Book IV, chap. 1
ii. authority - for the common good
iii. end to be pursued - idea of good life
The constitution brings into play a concept of justice (how should offices be distributed?) and it brings into play also a notion of good or ultimate purpose (for what end or purpose does the association exist? Or what is human flourishing?). The notion of a constitution or a regime also presupposes some notion of a common good which ultimately justifies the function of authority, as we have seen above. There are a number of points on which we must elaborate
3.3 Simon on Need for RULER to Will Formally Common Good
The volition of common good requires authority or sovereignty as Aristotle calls it. While it is true that virtue entails a respect for a volition of the common good, Simon makes a distinction between the material and the formal willing of common good. He uses an interesting passage from the Summa to make the distinction (p37 ST I-II 19.10). Virtue must will some aspect of the common good, but not necessarily the whole of the common good. That is authority is needed for care for the good of the city as a whole (See Republic on wisdom and rule). Authority is necessary to direct "homesteads" or private persons materially to the common good; and to direct functions or special goods to the whole of the common good. The proper unity of the body politic requires that there be multiplicity of persons and associations each of which intend the common good formally, but who must materially intend the good of their association or enterprise (see pp.39-41 ST I-II.19.10). Authority wills the common good materially. The common good goes beyond a sum of private goods, but involves a "communion in desire and action." Community stems from (1) collective causality (2) communion in immanent actions and (3) communion causing communications. Political rule especially must attend to the latter.
3.4 Maritain on the Body Politic
Maritain helps us to come to the proper understanding of the distinctively political in chapter one of Man and the State. It is worth following the various distinctions that he makes between the people, the state and the body politic:
Political Society, required by nature and achieved by reason, is the most perfect of temporal societies. It is a concretely and wholly human reality, tending to a concretely and wholly human good - the common good. It is a work of reason, born out of the obscure efforts of reason disengaged from instinct, and implying essentially a rational order; but it is no more Pure Reason than man himself. The body politic has flesh and blood, instincts, passions, reflexes, unconscious psychological structures and dynamism - all of these subjected, if necessary by legal coercion, to the command of an Idea and rational decisions. Justice is a primary condition for the existence of the body politic, but friendship is its very life-giving form. It tends toward a really human and freely achieved communion. It lives on the devotion of the human persons and their gift of themselves. They are ready to commit their own existence, their possessions and their honor for its sake. The civic sense is made up of this sense of devotion and mutual love as well as of the sense of justice and law.
The entire man - though not by reason of his entire self and of all that he is and has - is part of the political society; and thus all his community activities, as well as his personal activities, are of consequence to the political whole. As we have pointed out, a national community of a higher human degree spontaneously takes shape by virtue of the very existence of the body politic, and in turn becomes part of the substance of the latter. Nothing matters more, in the order of material causality, to the life and preservation of the body politic than the accumulated energy and historical continuity of that national community it has itself caused to exist. This means chiefly a heritage of accepted and unquestionable structures, fixed incomes and deep-rooted common feelings which bring into social life itself something of the determined physical data of nature, and of the vital unconscious strength proper to vegetative organisms. It is, further, common inherited experience and the moral and intellectual instincts which constitute a kind of empirical, practical wisdom, much deeper and denser and much nearer the hidden complex dynamism of human life than any artificial construction of reason.
Not only is the national community, as well as all communities of the nation, thus comprised in the superior unity of the body politic. But the body politic also contains in its superior unity the family units, whose essential rights and freedoms are anterior to itself, and a multiplicity of other particular societies which proceed from the free initiative of citizens and should be as autonomous as possible. Such is the element of pluralism inherent in every truly political society. Family, economic, cultural, educational, religious life matter as much as does political life to the very existence and prosperity of the body politic. Every kind of law, from the spontaneous, unformulated group regulations to customary law and to law in the full sense of the term, contributes to the vital order of political society. Since in political society authority comes from below, through the people, it is normal that the whole dynamism of authority in the body politic should be made up of particular and partial authorities rising in tiers above one another, up to the top authority of the State.
3.5 Strauss on Regime
Strauss had well articulated the basic concept of the meaning of politeia. It is worth considering at length:
|Chart 3.3b The Regime or Constitution (Politeia) - STRAUSS|
When speaking of politeia, the classics thought of the way of life of a community as essentially determined by its "form of government." We shall translate politeia by "regime," taking regime in the broad sense in which we sometimes take it when speaking, e.g. of the Ancien Regime of France. The thought connecting "way of society" and "form of government" can provisionally be stated as follows: The character, or tone, of a society depends on what the society regards as most respectable or most worthy of admiration. But by regarding certain habits or attitudes as more respectable, a society admits the superiority, the superior dignity, of those human beings who most perfectly embody the habits or attitudes in question. That is to say, every society regards a specific human type (or a specific mixture of human types) as authoritative.
Leo Strauss Natural Right and History; pp 136-137
Here is the quote at length from Leo Strauss Natural Right and History; pp 136-137:
Politeia is ordinarily translated by "constitution." But when using the term "constitution" in political context, modern men almost inevitably mean a legal phenomenon, something like the fundamental law of the land, and not something like the constitution of the body or of the soul. Yet politeia is not a legal phenomenon. The classics used politeia in contradistinction to "laws." The politeia is more fundamental than any laws; it is the source of all laws. The politeia is rather the factual distribution of power within the community than what constitutional law stipulates in regard to political power. The politeia may be defined by laws, but it need not be. The laws regarding a politeia may be deceptive, unintentionally and even intentionally, as to the true character of the politeia. No law, and hence no constitution, can be the fundamental political fact, because all laws depend on human beings. Laws have to be adopted, preserved, and administered by men. The human beings making up a political community may be "arranged" in greatly different ways in regard to the control of communal affairs. It is primarily the factual "arrangement" of human beings in regard to political power that is meant by politeia.
The American Constitution is not the same thing as the American way of life. Politeia means the way of life of a society rather than its constitution. Yet it is no accident that the unsatisfactory translation "constitution" is generally preferred to the translation "way of life of a society." When speaking of the constitution, we think of government; we do not necessarily think of government when speaking of the way of life of a community. When speaking of politeia, the classics thought of the way of life of a community as essentially determined by its "form of government." We shall translate politeia by "regime," taking regime in the broad sense in which we sometimes take it when speaking, e.g., of the Ancien Regime of France. The thought connecting "way of society" and "form of government" can provisionally be stated as follows: The character, or tone, of a society depends on what the society regards as most respectable or most worthy of admiration. But by regarding certain habits or attitudes as more respectable, a society admits the superiority, the superior dignity, of those human beings who most perfectly embody the habits or attitudes in question. That is to say, every society regards a specific human type (or a specific mixture of human types) as authoritative. When the authoritative type is the common man, everything has to justify itself before the tribunal of the common man; everything which cannot be justified before that tribunal becomes, at best, merely tolerated, if not despised or suspect. And even those who do not recognize that tribunal are, willy-nilly, molded by its verdicts. What is true of the society ruled by the common man applies also to societies ruled by the priest, the wealthy merchant, the war lord, the gentleman, and so on. In order to be truly authoritative, the human beings who embody the admired habits or attitudes must have the decisive say within the community in broad daylight: they must form the regime. When the classics were chiefly concerned with the different regimes, and especially with the best regime, they implied that the paramount social phenomenon, or that social phenomenon than which only the natural phenomena are more fundamental, is the regime.
3.6 The Contentious Question as to Who Should Rule and for What Purpose
The political question concerning who should rule leads to the heart of political contention, which will be the concern of our next lesson. But let's just say that "pluralism" of justice is nothing new; it is at the heart of politics. What is justice? Who should rule? For what purpose? The diverse answers to these questions leads to the diverse regimes. Most regimes will inevitably mix the various principles and parties of politics.
3.7 Good Man and Good Citizen
As a brief conclusion, we must see what Aristotle says about the good man and the good citizen. Aristotle generates a certain quandary. The Good man is not always the same as a good citizen. The good man simply is universal and absolute; but the good citizen is relative to regime. This is so because each association has a different purposes - a good oligarch will not be a good citizen in a democracy, nor would the common man be a good citizen in an aristocracy. It would be unfortunate to absolutize the democratic citizen and the democratic regime. We would lose a more exacting and full notion of goodness. In addition, Aristotle points out that each association contains different functions and ways of pairing the ruler/ruled. So the good citizen is relative to the regime. But the good man stands a possibility beyond partisan determination.