The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Science

Authors: Bogdanor
Summary: This entry discusses four historical connotations of aristocracy in approximately 375 words. The first connotation is the classical Greek where aristocracy meant 'government by the best.' Plato and Aristotle's theories about aristocracy are briefly mentioned here, as is the perennial philosophical debate about what constitutes 'the best.' Next the entry distinguishes aristocracy as a plural concept from monarchy, which requires a single ruler who governs by divine right or heredity. The third variation considers aristocracy in the modern era. Aristocracy now connotes a special class of people who possess special privileges, but also bear the burden of special responsibilities. Aristocracy's modern requirements and defining characteristics are mentioned. Finally, and extremely briefly, the entry places the concept of aristocracy in modern socialist thought.