For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work


by Aristotle (1932)

Key Passage

For states also are composed not of one but of several parts, as has been said often. One of these parts therefore is the mass of persons concerned with food who are called farmers, and second is what is called the mechanic class (and this is the group engaged in the arts without which it is impossible for a city to be inhabited, and some of these arts are indispensably necessary, while others contribute to luxury or noble living), and third is a commercial class (by which I mean the class that is engaged in selling and buying and in wholesale and retail trade), and fourth is the class of manual labourers, and the fifth class is the one to defend the state in war, which is no less indispensable than the others if the people are not to become the slaves of those who come against them; for surely it is quite out of the question that it should be proper to give the name of state to a community that is by nature a slave, for a state is self-sufficient, but that which is a slave is not self-sufficient. with that of the neighbours they are brought into [...] there must necessarily be somebody to assign justice and to judge their claims; inasmuch therefore as one would count the soul of an animal to be more a part of it than the body, so also the factors in states corresponding to the soul must be deemed to be parts of them more than those factors which contribute to necessary utility,—the former being the military class and the class that plays a part in judicial justice, and in addition to these the deliberative class, deliberation being a function of political intelligence. And it makes no difference to the argument whether these functions are held by special classes separately or by the same persons; for it often happens for the same men to be both soldiers and farmers. Hence inasmuch as both groups of classes must be counted parts of the state, it is clear that the heavy-armed soldiery at any rate must be a part of the state. And a seventh class is the one that serves the community by means of its property, the class that we call the rich. And an eighth is the class of public servants, that is, those who serve in the magistracies, inasmuch as without rulers it is impossible for a city to exist; it is therefore necessary that there should be some men who are able to govern and who render this service to the state either continuously or in turn. (p.293)


Ancient Greece, Aristotle, Slavery, Citizenship, Virtue, Artisan, Craftsmanship, State, Social Class, Military, Politics


Aristotle Citations, Ancient Greece

Links to Reference


Rackham, H.



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