What makes a society good or bad? In modern times, our current society contains negatives and positives to it. Some positives of modern society include the inclusive marches and movements for equality, the acceptance of all body types, and thousands of organizations for endangered nature and people. On the other hand, the negatives of society include the growing reliance on technology, the individualistic and materialistic mentality, and the remaining racism and corruption. However, do these elements decide whether a society is good or bad? In Aristotle’s perspective, our idea of what decides a society’s quality must reach beyond the specific positives and negatives and focus on the overall success of a society.
What makes a successful society? According to Aristotle, “A state exists for the sake of the good life, and not for the sake of life only.”¹ Therefore in accordance with Aristotle’s views, we must consider whether our society strives for the good life or life alone. To better observe our society’s success, we must define the good life. For some, the good life consists of wealth, fame, and having every new and cool product. However, after reading Aristotle’s idea of the “good life,” we can mostly agree that the good life means more than material things if we equivalate the good life to happiness. Therefore, if the good life is more than what we own, then what does that mean of our materialistic tendencies? With the help of Aristotle, we learn that material things do not make us truly happy. Thus, our society is bad in the sense that we care more about material things like wealth and possessions more than being truly happy. However, our society is not entirely bad though.
Despite some focus on external goods, modern society stills values relationships and families. Why is this good? Because Aristotle states that “the state is the union of families and villages in a perfect and self-sufficing life, by which we mean a happy and honorable life,”² he would agree that a focus on familial growth promotes a good society. So, in our society, we promote a better society within our family units (with some exceptions). However, in our society, we tend to have individualistic tendencies which prove to be the opposite of a good society in Aristotle’s eyes. Do our individualistic tendencies make us a bad society? If all we possessed were individualistic tendencies, then our society would not be good. But, we see through the numerous movements like the Women’s March that many people in society try to promote the common good and equality. So can our society really be that bad if there are so many individuals fighting for a greater number of people? Aristotle may observe our society with some hesitance, but our society is neither all bad or all good. Rather, our society is a mix of good qualities and bad qualities, and we can only hope that the good outweighs the bad.
- Aristotle, The Politics, Book III: Chapter 9