Aristotle’s Account of Factional Conflict and the Rise of Donald Trump
Most professional political scientists and professional political commentators seem to have been very surprised by the rise of Donald Trump in American politics. Nevertheless, Trump’s rise is intelligible as an example of a recurring political phenomenon that Aristotle treats in Book 5 of the Politics: the factional conflict that often roils the politics of a city. According to Aristotle, factional conflict arises from disputes about equality and inequality. More concretely, human beings clash politically over their desire for gain and for honor, on the one hand, and their aversion to loss and dishonor, on the other. In addition, Aristotle identifies several beginning points of faction, such as ethnic differences and fears of diminished political power. Finally, Aristotle examines the different ways that faction arises in democracies and oligarchies. This chapter examines the Trump phenomena in light of these elements of Aristotle’s account of faction.