Authors: Bobbio, Matteucci, Pasquino
Summary: This short entry notes the meaning of the term in classical political thought. Aristocracy literally means "government by the best"-though "the best" may not necessarily mean the nobles or aristocrats. Plato and Aristotle supplied the most influential definitions of aristocracy. Plato maintained that the best state must be governed by the best, or wisest, men. Aristotle considered aristocracy, along with monarchy and democracy, as constituting the three good regimes. Both Plato and Aristotle supposed that, in general, the nobles are the best class, and the plebs the worst; in both of them one can see an early class-based political analysis, the opposition between rich and poor.