Aristotle on Inequality of Wealth

  • Paula GottliebEmail author
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 132)


One might think that inequality of income and wealth are a special cause for concern only nowadays. But, perhaps surprisingly, equality and inequality of resources are issues addressed by Aristotle in his Politics. I first discuss Aristotle’s suggestion that equality of resources is a way of avoiding faction (e.g., Pol. V.3 1304a38-b5). I then discuss Aristotle’s relatively neglected critique of Phaleas of Chalcedon’s proposal for equal plots of land (Pol. II.7), arguing that Aristotle actually improves on Phaleas’s ideas in his own proposal for a second-best constitution. In such a constitution, Aristotle avoids the hour-glass distribution of rich and poor that is a modern problem (Pol. IV.11). His proposal also incorporates some aspects of his famous doctrine of the mean. I then briefly discuss the question of resources in Aristotle’s ideal city of the Politics and in his ethical works, speculating on the question why distributive justice in relation to wealth is not addressed in the passages of the Politics I discuss. I conclude with some brief reflections on modern and ancient views.


Equality Inequalities Land Middle class Wealth 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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