Political Science Theory: Politics of Citizenship

In the system of political organization of society, an important place belongs to the state. The State has not always existed and is currently the result of the historical development of society and its natural division into various social groups. It is also the result of the progressive development of productive forces, accompanied by the distribution of many types of labor and the formation of the institution of property. The concept of the state has also changed in the development process of society. Different philosophers had their ideas of an ideal state, for example, Aristotle and John Locke. Even though each point of view has its characteristics, each of them has its followers and adherents.

Citizenship is a stable legal relationship of a person with the state, generating mutual rights and obligations. In addition, it is a status associated with belonging to a particular state, which presupposes the legal recognition of a person’s nationality within the country and abroad and granting him full rights and obligations provided for in the country’s legislation (Stokke 205). This concept is also used in a broader sense – as a legal provision related to a person’s belonging to a community or union of states united by a shared history, culture, and traditions.

Comparing the idea of the ideal citizenship of Locke and Aristotle, it can be seen that some of their thoughts converge, but some are opposed to each other. They agree that people live in society and should act to benefit their halo of life. Aristotle identified three main layers of citizens: the very wealthy, the extremely poor, and the average, standing between those and others (Stuurman 278). Aristotle was quite antagonistic towards the first two social groups. The state and citizenship arise only when communication is created for a good life between families and genera, for the sake of a perfect life. Locke also meant that in the natural state, all people are equal. It can be seen that those politicians both insist that ideal citizenship is possible only when people are similar in their position in society.

John Locke and Aristotle also had different opinions about ideal citizenship. Thus, Locke believed that the natural state is a life in which people have unlimited freedom and equal rights, of which the most important is the right of ownership. People agree to abandon the natural state in favor of living in the state because they understand that life is safer in the state. According to Aristotle, the poor and the rich are elements opposing each other in the state. As a result, depending on the predominance of one or another of the elements, the corresponding form of government is also established.

Aristotle distinguished the following forms of government: monarchy, aristocracy, and politics. Deviation from monarchy gives tyranny, deviation from aristocracy – oligarchy, from polity – democracy. At the heart of all social upheavals is property inequality. The best state is a society in which the middle element is represented in a more significant number, where it is of greater importance than both extreme elements. Aristotle advised observing the ruling persons so that they do not turn the public office into a source of personal enrichment.

For Aristotle, civil prosperity consists in a state in which people live, is a combination of two ideal forms, such as aristocracy and democracy. That is the power of all groups of rich and poor and people with average incomes in equal numbers (Olsthoorn and Apeldoorn 3). For Locke, the ideal citizenship was one that did not expose human rights to property, freedom, and natural rights that are not regulated by one person (Olsthoorn and Apeldoorn 5). In the representation of ideals, the opinions of politicians also differ, but still, both views have the right to exist.

The ideals of citizenship defined by Locke most correspond to modern ones, and therefore, it can be concluded that his opinion is more convincing than what Aristotle proposed. Locke fully shares the ideas of natural law, social contract, popular sovereignty, inalienable freedoms of the individual, the balance of power, the legality of rebellion against the tyrant (Locke 8). But he did not just reproduce such ideas expressed by others before him. Locke developed them, modified them, supplemented them with new ones, and integrated them into a holistic political and legal doctrine – the doctrine of early bourgeois liberalism.

The State, according to Locke, is a collection of people united into one whole under the auspices of a law established and created by a judicial authority competent to resolve conflicts between them and punish. The state differs from all other forms of collectivity in that only it expresses political power (Simonsen 408). It represents the right, in the name of the public good, to create laws to regulate and preserve property and the right to use community force to enforce these laws and protect the state from external attack.

According to Aristotle, the state is a product of natural development. He defined the state as the communication of people like each other for the sake of achieving the best possible life. He perceives the state as a whole organism based on human communication and grew out of this communication. At the beginning of the chain, he puts a family, and the family gradually grows into a village, which, in turn, eventually becomes a state (Aristotle LIV). His model of ideal citizenship should be based on the middle class, and power should be divided between different social groups. To create a stable middle class, part of the land and the enslaved whole people should belong to people, and citizens should privately own the other piece, citizens should give surplus products to the needy.

In conclusion, the idea of the existence of a middle class belongs to Aristotle. Even though he called the middle class the central element, he meant a layer of not poor and not rich people who value their position and independence and keep society from social upheavals. The ideals of the middle element also gave rise to the tasks of the legislative power — it had to preserve peace and give citizens leisure. The state is, according to John Locke, a collection of people united into one whole under the auspices of a general law established by them and created a judicial instance competent to settle conflicts between them and punish criminals. Undoubtedly, there are other theories about ideal citizenship that also have their adherents and opponents. Each of these theories has a right to exist, but still states have already adopted certain frameworks and forms, which are quite difficult to change.

Works Cited

Aristotle. Politics. Hackett Publishing Company, 1988.

Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government. Hackett Publishing Company, 1980.

Olsthoorn, Johan and van Apeldoorn, Laurens. “’This man is my property’: Slavery and Political Absolutism in Locke and the Classical Social Contract Tradition.” European Journal of Political Theory, vol. 1, no. 1, 2020, pp. 1-23. Web.

Simonsen, Kristina. “Politics Feeds Back: The Minority/Majority Turnout Gap and Citizenship in Anti-Immigrant Times”. Perspectives on Politics, vol.19, no. 2, 2021, pp. 406-420. Web.

Stokke, Kristian. “Politics of Citizenship: Towards an Analytical Framework.” Norwegian Journal of Geography, vol. 71, no. 4, 2017, pp. 193-207. Web.

Stuurman, Siep. “Concluding observations: Citizenship In Cities, States and Empires.” Citizenship Studies, vol. 23, no. 3, 2019, pp. 277-294. Web.

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