SOCIAL SCIENCE AND ECONOMICS

There is substantial evidence and general agreement that humans live in social groups. The Western tradition, as framed by the Greeks and the Judeo/Christian tradition, holds that humans are social animals. Plato [427-347 BCE] and Aristotle [384-322 BCE] offer explanations of the rise of the city-state. In The Republic , Plato sees the origins of the city-state in the quest for justice. Plato describes a conversation between Socrates and a group of students. They are pondering the nature of justice. They conclude that justice is each person doing that which they are best suited to do. The person best suited to be a baker should be a baker: the person best suited to be a shepherd should be a shepherd. Once individuals specialize, the city-state

arises to facilitate the interactions among the individuals. [ The Republic , Book II]

In Politics, Plato’s student, Aristotle, sees an organic composition of society. The state becomes a natural community that is treated as an organism. There is a natural progression from family to village to the citystate.

The city-state is then “prior to the family and individual.” [ The Politics , Book I, Chapter 9]

While Plato and Aristotle take different approaches, both see economic behavior as an integral part of society. Plato’s focus is on justice and Aristotle’s is on the “good life.” One of the fundamental problems that both identify is the nature of the proper relationship between the individual and society.