A Short History of Ethics and Economics

A Short History of Ethics and Economics

The Greeks

James E. Alvey

Arising from a disenchantment with mainstream economics – a dissatisfaction that is widespread today – A Short History of Ethics and Economics sketches the emergence and decline of the ethical tradition of economics and the crisis of modern economics. In doing so, James Alvey focuses on four of the leading ancient Greek thinkers: Socrates, Xenophon, Plato and Aristotle.

Chapter 7: Aristotle Part II: Politics (High and Low)

James E. Alvey

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, history of economic thought


In the previous chapter we introduced Aristotle’s ethical theory. At many points, explicit linkages were made to politics as the master art. In addition, implicit connections were made to the lower form of politics (government). Despite these continuities, why is a chapter on politics needed? First, we should elaborate on some of the social or political virtues. This enriches the ‘ethics-related view of motivation’ and eudaimonia that dominated Chapter 6. Second, we should begin to discuss social achievement. This chapter has six sections. The first two discuss ethical motivation. Section 1 discusses Aristotle’s view of the development of the virtues, especially friendship and justice, before the polis emerges. The second section turns to Aristotle’s view of the virtues, especially friendship and justice, in the polis era of history. It elaborates on the previous chapter’s discussion of the institutional needs of eudaimonia. The next three sections primarily address Aristotle’s view of social achievement. Section 3 discusses the variety of political regimes and citizenships. It introduces us to some of Aristotle’s views on politics in the more mundane sense of ‘government’ of the polis. The fourth section discusses Aristotle’s criticisms of various actual and imagined regimes which have been called very good or ‘best.’ The fifth section uses Aristotle’s statements in his own name to sketch the best regime. Finally, some concluding comments are offered. 1. THE VIRTUES BEFORE THE POLIS, FOCUSING ON FRIENDSHIP AND JUSTICE This section extends the discussion in Chapter 6 on the various virtues. To what extent are...

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