Aristotle believed that the heart of any state was its citizens. However, like most of his peers, he encountered difficulties in formulating an all-encompassing definition of a citizen. In his attempt to define a citizen, Aristotle appreciated that every state had differing views on citizenship. However, the states had one thing in common regarding citizens and citizenship; their political society and the state were one. According to Aristotle, the desire to be a citizen, to belong to a particular state is deeply rooted in an individual. He classified man as a political animal with a strong desire to live together with his fellow men, whether or not he needs help (Politics 318). This clubbing together, however, is greatly dependant on a group’s common characteristics.
In Aristotle’s definition, a citizen is a person who is eligible to hold an office of the state. A good citizen is the one who participates in administering justice and holding office. Aristotle used the term office broadly to refer to political, administrative and judicial posts in Athens. Interestingly, despite the drastic metamorphosis, global politics have undergone in the last centuries, Aristotle’s definition of citizens still suffices. The need to cultivate good diplomacy relations between states have seen people acquiring duo-citizenships, refugees have also been allowed to become citizens through registration and naturalization. One thing fronted by Aristotle, however, remains true; that a good citizen is the one who takes part in the democratic and administration of the state (Politics, 420). Today’s definition of a citizen has been narrowed down to only refer to a resident of a state but, there is more to citizenship than simply being a resident. As Aristotle asserted, a citizen must offer the sacrifice of democracy to his state. This is the kind of citizenship that is greatly lacking in our society today.
The Politics, translated by T. A. Sinclair, revised by T. J. Saunders (London: Penguin, 1962, rev. edn. 1981)