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"Political Philosophy" -- fall '07: What is the starting point of politics?

I was planning on writing that justice was the starting point of politics. I still want to, but a question came to me. Who decides what justice is? The answer is the form of government. Without a set form of government, there really is no such thing as justice, or rather; there is no definition of justice set up until there is a government to do so.

In The Republic Plato writes about the various “imperfect societies”. He writes about how timarchy leads to oligarchy. How oligarchy leads to democracy. And how democracy leads to tyranny.

Plato mentions in his account of timarchy that it shares a love of money with the oligarchy – which it eventually morphs into. He says that because of this it leads people to be stingy with their money, but freely spend the money of others. This brings us to the oligarchy. The oligarchy is “A society where it is wealth that counts […] and in which political power is in the hands of the rich and the poor have no share in it (550d).” Once in an oligarchy the next generation simply does not care about money anymore. The oligarchy then morphs into democracy “when the poor win, kill or exile their opponents, and give the rest equal civil rights and opportunities of office, appointments to office being as a rule by lot (557a).” In a democracy the people are focused on getting and/or keeping their liberties. Plato’s explanation of how democracy turns into tyranny can be summed up by one of his sentences; “an excessive desire for liberty at the expense of everything else is what undermines democracy and leads to the demand for tyranny (562c).”

It is easy to see from here that it is the form of government which decides what the politics of a given country are. Although I have written this paper, I am still not convinced though that form of government is the starting point. One starts to wonder where the original form of government even comes from and who decides which government to even use? There is something earlier than form of government, something which I have not learned about yet, which I think is the real starting point of politics. But I do think it is clear that the form of government is a big part of politics and cannot be denied that status.
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