This article provides a historical view of the relation of state and society and of theories about their relation.
- The Ideas of 1789 on State and Society
- Importance of the Greek City-State
- The Impact of Christianity on State and Society
- Medieval Kingdoms and Estates
- The Sixteenth Century and the National State
- The French Revolution
- German Romanticism and Idealism
- English Individualism in State and Society
- Evolution of Marxian Socialism
- French Syndicalism and Its Trend in State and Society
1. The Ideas of 1789 on State and Society:
Burke, in his Reflections on the Revolution in France, laid down the proposition, ‘Society is indeed a contract. . . but the State ought not to be considered nothing better than a partnership agreement in a trade… it is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection’. The proposition suggests two reflections.
The first is that Burke, sliding unconsciously from a mention of ‘society’ into a mention of ‘the State’, implies that the two are one. The second is that he views this single and unitary system (which we may call a ‘society-state’) as a total and all-inclusive partnership which is competent for every purpose: not only the legal purpose of enunciating and enforcing a scheme of law and order (a purpose which he does not mention, because it may be assumed as self-evident), but also the economic purpose of ‘trade’, the cultural purpose of ‘science’ and ‘art’, and the moral and religious purpose of ‘every virtue’ and ‘all perfection’.
What then, we may ask, of the Church? Is it not also a partnership, a separate partnership, directed to a religious purpose which involves and includes connected purposes such as the promotion of education? Burke would reply that by virtue of ‘a state religious establishment’ the Church is welded into the State to form one consecrated commonwealth which embraces both church and state. But what, we may also ask, of bodies such as trade unions?
Are they not also partnerships, separate partnerships, which beginning from economic ‘agreement in a trade’ may rise to wider charitable and even cultural purposes? In 1790, when Burke was writing his Reflections, trade unions were sparse and struggling bodies, already illegal (or at any rate of dubious legality) under the common law, as being ‘conspiracies in restraint of trade’ and therefore contrary to ‘public policy’, but made more illegal still, only a few years later, by the Combination Acts of 1799-1800, which added the force of statute and legislative prohibition to the disabilities already imposed by the rules of the common law.
The state thus seemed (but only seemed, as we shall see later) to stand alone in conservative Britain at the end of the eighteenth century: alone, and all-comprehensive. But it seemed to be equally solitary, and no less comprehensive, in revolutionary France.
Article 3 of the Declaration des droits de I’homme et du citoyen, promulgated in 1789 and prefixed to the Constitution of 1791, laid it down that ‘le principe de toute souverainete reside essentiellement dans la nation [that is to say, in the national state]; nul corps, nul individu ne peut exercer d’autorite’ qui n’en emane expressement’.
This principle of national sovereignty was carried into effect for the Church by the ‘Civil Constitution of the Clergy’, which turned the Catholic Church in France at once into a branch and a copy of the new revolutionary State, deriving authority from that State and modelled upon it, point by point, in its organization.
The principle was equally, or even more stringently, applied in the same year (1790) to trade unions, by a law which declared combinations of workers to be ‘inconstitutionnelles, attentatoires a la liberte et a la Declaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen, et de nul effet’.
This double nature of the nation—this simultaneity and coextension of its social and its legal aspect—raises a threefold problem:
(1) What are the things which belong to the nation in its legal aspect, as an organized State?
(2) What are the things which belong to the nation in its social aspect, as a sum of voluntary associations?
(3) What control should the nation, as organized in a State (and therefore competent to deal with all persons and judge in all cases in the legal sphere), exercise over itself as organized in a society of voluntary associations acting in the social sphere?
The totalitarian states which have appeared—and disappeared—in recent years (if indeed they have disappeared, and if communism be not a new incarnation of their spirit) gave a simple answer to all these problems. They denied the distinction between State and Society and shelved the questions which it raises.
They integrated the nation in the State, and made the State the solitary and total expression of the nation. This was not a revolution: it was rather a reversion. The history of the past can furnish us with many examples of totalitarianism.
But it can also furnish us with examples of divergences from, or reactions against, the theory of the solitary and total State. We may, therefore, attempt an historical retrospect, and seek to attain an historical view both of the relation between State and Society in the past and of the theories of the past about their relation.
2. Importance of the Greek City-State:
The Greek city-state is still of importance, and a living part of the living past, because it has left us a theory, expressed in the writings of Plato and Aristotle, which still lives in our minds and colours our thoughts. Though it bore the name of ‘Polis’, which we naturally associate with politics, the city-state was something more than a political system; and it went far beyond the legal purpose of declaring and enforcing a body of rules for the control of legal relations.
It was State and Society in one, without distinction or differentiation; it was a single system of order, or fused ‘society-state’, of the type unconsciously assumed by Burke in the theory of his Reflections. Because the Polis was more than a state—because it was also, over and above that, a religious confession and an ethical society; because it was also, into the bargain, an economic concern for the purpose of production and trade; because it was also, in addition to that, a cultural association for the common pursuit of beauty and truth— because it was all these things, Plato expects it, in his Republic, to formulate the true idea of God and the rules of moral behaviour, to regulate economic life, and to control all art and science by its system of education. Aristotle is less far-reaching: he is even willing to recognize the Polis as an ‘association of associations’.
But even to Aristotle the political association is sovereign and all-inclusive, embracing and regulating all the others; and the science of this association—the science of politics—is a master-science which ‘determines what other sciences should be studied in states, which of them should be learned by each group of citizens, and to what extent they should be learned’.
When he speaks of man as being by his nature a politikon zoon, he does not mean that ‘man is by nature a political animal’, in the sense of having a natural interest in what we call politics and a natural instinct for indulging that interest.
He means that man is a being who is intended by the capacities of his nature for life in a Polis, as bees are intended by their capacities for life in a hive: a being who must live in a Polis if he is to develop his capacities, for the simple reason that those capacities can only grow from ‘potency’ to ‘act’ in a general and generous environment which includes not only what we call politics, but also art and science and ‘every virtue and all perfection’.
But the very fact that the Polis was something more than a State is a reason why we should approach with caution the lessons of Greek political theory. They are noble lessons; but they are the lessons of a theory which was something more than political. It was a theory, we may say, of an Omni competent ‘Society-State’.
Our modern theory, based on our own experience of life, which is different from that of the Greeks, is more in a single dimension. It is simply a theory of the competent State—that is to say, of a State which is competent simply and solely for its specific purposes, which are essentially legal purposes.
The State, in our experience, is a guarantor of rights and duties. It has in its hands the instrument of law; and it does whatever can be done by the use of that instrument. Its strength is as the strength of law; and it can avail no more, and no farther, than law.
The State of our theory is accordingly a State which legally declares and legally guarantees the rights and duties of its members, whether those members are individuals or societies of individuals.
It can declare and guarantee the rights and duties of religious societies; but it is not itself a religious society. It can declare and guarantee the rights and duties of authors, teachers, and all other persons who are engaged in the creation and transmission of culture; but it is not itself the creator and inculcator of culture.
It can declare and guarantee the rights and duties of all the agents engaged in the area of economic production and distribution: indeed it can even become itself an agent in that area, if a due guarantee of the rights of the labouring classes and the duties of their employers cannot be otherwise provided; but it offends against its own nature, and it injures its own primary legal function, if it loads itself with any large burden of direct economic activity. It is the supervisor of activity, and not the generator. It is the author of a framework of rights and duties, but not itself the whole framework of life.
3. The Impact of Christianity on State and Society:
The rise and spread of the Christian religion made a great break in the antique system of ideas: the system enshrined in the Greek Polis (and still visible in the Parthenon), and similarly enshrined in the parallel civitas Romana, which beginning on the Tiber (and still visible in the Roman Forum and on the Capitol) gradually made the whole of the Mediterranean world one ‘city’ and styled it the imperium Romanum.
Beneath the ancient city- state there grew the catacombs; and from the catacombs there emerged an authority—the authority of the Church—which stood distinct from, and over against, the authority of a city- state now magnified into a city-empire. There is dynamite in the text, ‘Render . .. unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s’ (Matthew xxii. 2I).
Ultimately, it meant the sundering of the sphere of Society from the sphere of the State; and we may even say that in the field of social and political theory (though that is only one field and the explosive emergence of the Christian religion was felt in other and wider fields) this was the great result of the teaching of Christ.
Immediately, and indeed for long centuries, which begin with the recognition of Christianity as a religio licita by Constantine, and extend into and through the Middle Ages, the effect of Christianity was the emergence of the doctrine of the two ends—the temporal end, which alone belongs to the State, and the eternal end which belongs to, and is the prerogative of, the Church.
What was the Christian doctrine of the nature of the temporal end? It was eventually formulated, like so much else, by St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century. His theory is that it involves four things, which thus belong to the State—all else, as a matter of the eternal end, belonging to the Church.
The first of these four things is security and sufficiency of life: in other words, freedom from the threat of death and freedom from the threat of starvation. The second thing, rising in the scale, is a legal scheme of order and justice: a scheme of law, proceeding from the people or from a competent authority acting on their behalf, with a correlative scheme of administrative order.
The third thing, rising still further in the scale, is what may be called the promotion of a minimum standard of morality, in aid of, and subsidiary to, the major moral activity of the Church, which has the general custody of moral life sub specie aeternitatis: the State, which acts in the order of time and in temporal society, being thus concerned, and only concerned, with immoral acts which excite repulsion in the majority of the members of such a society or undermine the very foundations of its existence.
The further and last thing, at the top of the scale, is the protection of religion, as a function ancillary to the life of the Church: the State being bound, by a due respect for the eternal end, to secure for its members the conditions in which they can exercise the faculty of contemplating eternal truth under the wing and guidance of the Church.
Corresponding to the doctrine of the two ends, there is the parallel doctrine of the two powers (duo fines, ergo duae potestates). The doctrine of the two powers is first clearly expressed by Pope Gelasius I (492-6), when he writes of ‘Duo . . . quibus principaliter mundus hic regitur: auctoritas sacrata pontificum, et regalis potestas’.
In the development of this doctrine the authority of the State (regalis potestas) becomes a specifically legal authority, with a subsidiary moral and an ancillary religious function; and on the other hand the authority of the Church, while primarily religious, becomes in addition a moral and an educational (or cultural) authority.
The scope of the authority of the Church is indicated by the triple power regarded as inherent in the clergy—the religious potestas ordinis, in all matters concerning the sacraments; the moral potestas jurisdictions (though, as we shall have occasion to notice, clerical jurisdiction came also to cover cases outside the category of morals); and the educational potestas docendi. Armed with this triple power, the Church divides the regimen of the world with the State on a system of dyarchy.
In the original theory of Gelasius, that system is still regarded as a system of parity: the Popes in Rome have still some deference for the imperial authority, though that authority has come to reside beyond the seas in Constantinople; and their idea is still an idea of equality, parity, or parallelism. Each authority is equal to the other in its own sphere.
Not only so, but each authority is dependent on the other when once it enters the sphere of the other; the clergy depending as much on the governors of the State in temporal matters as the governors of the State depend on the clergy in matters spiritual. It is a nice balance—each equal to the other when acting in its own sphere: each equally dependent on the other when acting in the sphere of the other.
But there is already a shadow of coming disturbance, and a certain oscillation of the nicely adjusted balance. Gelasius notes that the burden, of the clergy is the heavier of the two, inasmuch as they have to render account even for the rulers of the State at the final day of judgement. The ‘heavier burden’ may easily become a ‘greater power’.
There are two further things to be noted. The first is that though, in the new conception, there are two authorities, there is still a single community. The two authorities rule simultaneously the same community.
That community—Rome having achieved an oecumenical unity of the Mediterranean world— is a universal community of all Christian men, respublica Christiana, which is at one and the same time a Church and a State, with coextensive and identical membership: a Church, when regarded as pursuing the eternal end; a State, when regarded as pursuing the end which is an end in time.
One community, but two governments—two governments corresponding to the two ends of the community—this is the first thing to be noted. The second, in logic at any rate, is consequential on the first.
If there was one community, it was natural that one of the two governments should attempt, in spite of theories of dyarchy, to make itself supreme, by reducing ‘government’ as well as ‘community’ to the sovereign principle of unity: and it was further natural that the clerical government, as being charged with the greater end and bearing the heavier burden, should be the government which made this attempt.
Accordingly, from Pope Gregory VII to Pope Boniface VIII (or, roughly, from 1150 to 1300), the clergy begin to enter the sphere of the end which is an end in time, and to take over temporal causes from the authority of the State. Legalizing itself in the process, the Church moves into the area of legal order and justice.
In matters civil, for instance, it attempts to stop usury, and to enforce just prices on traders, by its courts and their canon law: in matters criminal it attempts to control the perennial feuds of fighting nobles by the institution of the ‘truce’ or ‘peace’ of God; in matters international, it attempts to bring even kings, and their wars and policies and treaties, under the jurisdiction of the papal curia.
The Church is the judge of sin (peccatum); and what are the bounds of sin? When a king, for instance, has broken a treaty, has he not committed the peccatum of perjury (this was the argument of Innocent III), and must he not therefore be judged for his sins by the Church? Sin thus becomes an engulfing conception.
It absorbs breaches of contract, breaches of the peace, and other contraventions of the general scheme of law. The boundary between morality and legality begins to fade; and the guardian of morality thus becomes the general guardian even of law.
This is a return, on a far larger scale and under far different auspices, of the old totality of the city-state. The Church, which had begun with a division of spheres, and had taught the doctrine of the two ends and the correlative doctrine of the two powers, had ended by the time of Boniface VIII in a new junction of spheres and an implicit rejection of any division. Indeed Boniface VIII had explicitly rejected division.
The terrene power, he had said in the Bull Unam Sanctam Ecclesiam of 1302, shall be judged by the spiritual; but the supreme spiritual power shall be judged by God alone. It is a divina potestas, given by the word of God to St. Peter and his successors; and whoever therefore resists this power, thus ordained of God, resists the ordinance of God, ‘nisi duo, sicut Manichaeus, fingit esse principia, quod falsum et haereticum esse judicamus’.
Here dyarchy has gone; and here, we may even say, Gelasianism has been turned into and condemned as Manichaeism, or a recognition that the principle of evil is equal to the principle of good. Thus the policy of the medieval church, at its apogee or rather its extremity of logic, would bring all human life under a single lex divina enforced in the last resort by the supreme authority of the Papacy, acting through an array of ecclesiastical courts and institutions. (The registrar of the Roman chancery headed the Bull of Boniface VIII with the rubric ‘Declaratio quod subesse Romano pontifici est omni humanae creaturae de necessitate salutis’, which is a summary of its concluding words.)
This may fairly be called the return of the Omni competent ‘Society- State’, with its undifferentiated unity and its single controlling authority. But the Greek and Roman city-state had really controlled all life with an integrated authority.
The medieval polity of which the Popes dreamed—a polity with supreme authority integrated in a theocracy—might claim a similar authority. But it could only claim; and the claim was confronted by facts of life and factors of power before which it collapsed in the moment of its statement.
A medieval king, Philip IV of France, showed by the success of the measures which he took against Boniface VIII that the power of territorial kingship, however limited its area, was greater than the claims of the Universal Church, however wide its scope.
4. Medieval Kingdoms and Estates:
The Middle Ages proper—the ‘middle’ Middle Ages, from the eleventh to the thirteenth century—were a period of turbulence and germination. They contained, and developed, other facts and factors besides the theoretical polity of a single respublica Christiana, whether that polity was conceived as conducted on the principle of dyarchy or viewed as reduced to unity under the supreme power of a theocracy. Two of these facts demand special notice for their bearing on the future development of Europe.
The first is the regnum. Though theory (which was mainly or even exclusively a theory expounded by the clergy), basing itself on the ancient fact of a universal Roman Empire, proclaimed the existence of a single universal community, which in its temporal aspect was a single Regnum or empire, as in its spiritual aspect it was a single Ecclesia or church—though theory ran in this channel of unity, life itself ran in the channels of diversity.
Actually there were many regna, territorial or regional regna, at any rate in the West. Soon after the end of the thirteenth century the lawyers were even beginning to claim that each territorial king was the emperor of his kingdom (rex in regno suo est imperator regni sui): in other words, they held that the territorial or regional Rex excluded the ’emperor’ of the would-be universal Regnum from the bounds of his own particular regnum, and was himself (as his lawyers styled our Richard II) ‘the entire emperor of his realm’.
Externally the claim might have some force, as a rebuttal of imperial claims of sovereignty: internally, in view of domestic turbulence, it was as yet an idle claim.
It is true that the territorial or regional regnum was the area in which, with the development of nationalism and the rise of powerful national monarchies during the course of the sixteenth century, new national States would arise, and modern history (which is the history of such States) would take its beginning.
But there was little of a national State—indeed there was little of any sort of State—in the territorial regnum of the Middle Ages. It was a paradise of Estates rather than the pattern of a State.
The second fact which demands our notice is this fact of Estates. Whatever the lawyers might say about his being ‘the entire emperor of his realm’, the king of each regnum had to face three serious competitors within his realm.
In the first place there was the territorial branch of the Church Universal (the ecclesia Anglicana, or the ecclesia Gallicana), claiming for itself the privilege of immunity from the royal courts in a range of cases both civil and criminal, and able to appeal to the authority of the Papacy if its claim were challenged. (Not that the position was simple, or that a king might not sometimes be allied with the church of his territory to defend its liberties against the Papacy, or sometimes, again, with the Papacy to defend—and share—the lucrative prerogatives of patronage and taxation which the Popes sought to exercise over each territorial church.)
In the second place, there were the feudal nobles, who individually acted as sovereigns, so far as they could, in their local fiefs, and collectively formed a baronage ready to dispute authority at the centre as a body of rival kings.
Finally, there were the communicates, the local communities or ‘commons’, particularly in the towns, which locally sought autonomy for their municipal governments and their various merchant and craft guilds, and centrally, if they were joined together in an assembly of ‘the Commons’, might join the baronage in challenging the king—or the king in challenging the baronage.
These three competitors of the king (some of whom, however, might on occasion act as his interested allies)—the clergy, the baronage, and the commons—were loosely organized, and came to be known, as Estates. As they took shape, the medieval kingdom became an ‘Estates-State’: a State of the three Estates.
Such a State, because by its nature its authority was disputed, or we may even say divided, was hardly competent, as it stood, for the specific purpose which any form of State must fulfill if it is to be worthy of the name: the purpose of making and enforcing a single scheme of law and order.
In brief, there was an abundance of ‘Society’ in the territorial kingdoms, or ‘Estates- States’, of the Middle Ages; but there was very little ‘State’. Associations in various forms—clerical, baronial, municipal: whether based on religion or class or calling—became so many factotums, each making its own law and order in a time of general self-help; and the authority of the State, as represented by the king and his courts, was penned into a corner.
5. The Sixteenth Century and the National State:
The later centuries of the Middle Ages presented a sharp antithesis, or even self-contradiction – on the one hand, the ideal, or the theory, of a universal society under the regimen of a single theocracy: on the other, the fact of a number of quasi- national, or potentially national, kingdoms, all seeming to be disintegrated into so many polyarchies.
In the age of the Renaissance, Reformation, and Reception—one of the great turning-points in the course of human history—a movement emerges, and gathers weight, towards the formation of unified national States.
These States not only vindicate for themselves the province of law and order – they also annex, so far as they can, the province of religion; they assert a protectorate over the sphere of education and culture; and they gradually invade, under the banner of mercantilism, the territory of economics.
The State reacts against the medieval invasion of its province by Society: it proceeds, in turn, to invade Society. Such is the swing of the pendulum, and such the recurrence of thesis in the face of antithesis. Various causes contributed to foster the movement towards the formation of unified national States.
There was a political cause: the rise of national feeling (particularly in the Western Kingdoms), partly in reaction against the divisions and miseries of civil war, partly in response to the challenge of foreign adventures and expansion; a feeling which demanded some centre of stability and loyalty, and was content to find that centre in the absolutism of a new monarchy ready to play on the strings of a feeling which suited its aims.
There was an economic cause: the new development of trade and commerce fostered by the great discoveries (in Africa, America, and Asia), and the demand of traders and merchants for an effective central system of law and administration as the necessary condition of their economic success.
There was an intellectual cause: the recovery of classical ideas, and especially the vogue and spread (the Reception as it is called) of the civil law of Rome, with its traditions of the sovereign city-state and the sovereign ‘majesty’ of the princeps.
Finally there was a religious cause: the Reformation, which allying itself, or drawn into alliance, with the other tendencies of the time produced in England, and in some of the principalities of Germany, the system of the State-Church, independent of Rome and the Papacy, but dependent on the State and its prince, who thus added to his headship of the State a headship of the Church under the style of ‘supreme governor’ or summus episcopus.
By the action of these causes the medieval Estates-State was turned into a national monarchical State; and a return was made to the classical unity of the Greek city-state and the Roman Empire, with their integration of human life in a single embracing and compelling community.
The State now becomes, at any rate in the area of the Anglican and the Lutheran Reformation (but not, or not to the same extent, in the area of Calvinism), a Church as well as a State: it may even be said to become Society as well as the State, the one and total organization of human life.
A new emphasis on the notion of sovereignty—the old majesties of the Romans—accompanies this development. In contradistinction from the medieval Estates- State, the national monarchical State of the sixteenth century gravitates towards autocracy and a system of absolutism: it is a ‘Prince-State’.
It is true that the notion of sovereignty had already been apprehended and emphasized by medieval Popes. Bodin said of Innocent III that ‘he knew best of all men the rights of sovereignty’, and we have already seen that Boniface VIII could proclaim those rights in resounding terms. But this was a proclamation of the rights of a spiritual autocracy; and it was a new thing when Machiavelli and Bodin proclaimed the rights of secular sovereignty.
Machiavelli was a ‘statist’, in the sixteenth and seventeenth-century sense of the word; and for ‘reason of State’ he preached in his Prince (composed in 1515) the doctrine that ‘the prince’—though he was thinking especially and mainly of a nuovo principe, seeking to create a new unity and order in a disordered Italy—may go to work against religion and morals in order to establish the absolute executive sovereignty which is the supreme end of the State, or rather the supreme means to its end of unity and order.
Bodin was rather the legist; and in his Republique (first published in 1577) he lays it clown that in every State there must exist a legislative sovereignty, or majesty, which may be defined as ‘a supreme power over citizens and subjects, free from the laws’ (though itself the author of laws)—except, he adds, ‘fundamental laws’ such as the Salic Law of France.
Machiavelli may be said to arm the executive sovereign, and Bodin the legislative; but armed by both the sovereignty of the State is clad in full panoply, so far as concerns the temporal sphere of which they were both mainly thinking. But what of the spiritual sphere? In his Ecclesiastical Polity (of which the first four books were published in 1594) Hooker enunciates two propositions. The first is that ‘in a . . . Christian State or Kingdom . . . one and the self-same people are the Church and the Commonwealth’.
In other words a populus, or nation, is at once an ecclesia and a respublica: all the members of the respublica are ipso facto members of the ecclesia, and citizenship and churchmanship are therefore coextensive: there is only one community, which is both a Church and a State, and which is both simultaneously and in one.
This, as has already been noted, had also been the view of the middle Ages; but Hooker’s one community, instead of being universal, as the Middle Ages had thought, was a national body or populus living in a national State or kingdom. If this first proposition marks one great change, Hooker’s second also marks another. ‘It is expedient’, he states, ‘that their sovereign … in causes civil have also in ecclesiastical affairs a supreme power’.
The supreme power of the civil sovereign is thus extended to the ecclesiastical sphere; and though we may think of ‘a personal union’ (as when one king rules two different kingdoms under two separate titles), the result remains that the same authority controls the Church and the State.
The sixteenth century thus issues in a sovereignty which, besides possessing an absolute executive and an equally absolute legislative authority in the temporal sphere, is also possessed of ‘a supreme power’, if not in ‘the religious sphere’ at any rate in ‘ecclesiastical affairs’ (it would be a nice distinction to determine the difference between the two, as it would equally be to determine the difference between the nature of supreme power in ‘civil’ and its nature in ‘ecclesiastical’ affairs).
The idea grows of the State as the one form of human grouping, and of that State as controlled and determined by an absolute sovereignty which is its essence. But the idea did not go unchallenged; and indeed a number of challenges appeared.
In England, although the Tudor commonwealth was largely shaped by its royal masters in the new pattern, there was always Parliament, to which Sir Thomas Smith, in his De Republica Anglorum (published in 1583), ascribes ‘the most high and absolute power of the realm’; and during the course of the seventeenth century the power of this Parliament grew and grew, as there also grew- along with it a system of local government, almost of a voluntary type, in the hands of unpaid Justices of the Peace.
Again, in the area of the Roman Church the idea began to be developed, to meet the case of a Protestant sovereign (though it was not confined to that case), that the Church was a separate society with rights of its own inherent in its own distinctive nature.
This idea attained its most notable expression in the theory of the Spanish Jesuit Suarez; and even in the days when the Spanish Inquisition was still serving as the instrument of Spanish monarchical policy, he was already teaching (in his Tractatus of 1611) a doctrine of ‘Community’ which not only made the church a communitas politica vel mystica, based on divine foundation and on that basis transcending communities of human invention, but also ranked some secular groups, such as knightly orders and local communities, in the category of ‘perfect communities capable of political government’, and thus placed them on an equal footing with the State.
Last, but not least, in the area of Calvinism there was an abundance of dissidence from the idea of the all-inclusive State. Triumphant Calvinism might indeed proclaim the no less rigorous idea of the all- inclusive Church, answering the claims of autocracy by the similar claims of theocracy, and seeking to make kings ‘God’s silly vassals’. But Calvinism was seldom, or long, triumphant: it was generally the faith of minorities: and it gradually came into line with the ‘sects’ (Congregationalists, Baptists, and others) who stood for the cause of minorities and the rights of the ‘gathered’ Free Church based upon voluntary compact.
This is a development which mainly belongs to the seventeenth century; but even earlier, in the latter half of the sixteenth, the struggling Calvinists of France had already challenged any idea of the all-inclusive State.
The Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos of 1579 is a Huguenot argument against the Machiavellani of absolutism, and a plea for the contracted rights of the people; and the Huguenots were even ready to ally themselves with old ideas of the ‘Estates-State’, alleging against the King of France the ancient rights both of the nobility of the provinces and of the commons of the cities, in the knowledge that Huguenot nobles and townsfolk were the necessary stay and support of their cause.
6. The French Revolution:
The idea of the all-inclusive monarchical State, which had emerged in the sixteenth century, was still active in the eighteenth; and indeed it may seem to have attained its crown and consummation in the enlightened despots of the latter half of that century.
The French Revolution, at the first blush, appears as a great reaction and a swing of the pendulum to the opposite extreme. It was a reaction and a swing of the pendulum, but by no means a reaction to the opposite extreme. It rejected the adjective ‘monarchical’; but it retained the more crucial adjective ‘all-inclusive’.
National sovereignty (la souverainete nationale) was a cardinal tenet of the Revolution; and national sovereignty meant the absolute might of the nation, acting through its representatives, or even through a single plebiscitary first consul or emperor, to do whatever it thought fit to do—regulating the Church; suppressing guilds and annulling combinations of workers; annihilating ancient provinces; controlling all education; in a word, Omni competent.
From this point of view the Revolution was at one with enlightened despotism; and indeed it issued in the most enlightened (and the most despotic) of all the despots. But it had also its other side.
It was based on the democratic idea that the nation should make, or at any rate approve, a government representative of itself; and not only that, but that it should also make, or at any rate approve, its own constitution or permanent scheme of political life. (Not that the schemes proved permanent; but their very impermanence meant a renewal, again and again, of national making or national approval.) This was a genuine revolution.
Moreover, the Revolution produced, as the very first of its fruits, a Declaration of the Rights of Man; and that declaration too was destined to repeated renewal. On the other hand, the Declaration of the Rights of Man may also be said to be little more than a catalogue of exceptions to the action of an otherwise absolute State. Nor is that all.
The exceptions are only in favour of individuals, and not of groups or associations. It is possible to exaggerate the significance of article 10 of the Declaration, that ‘nul ne doit etre inquiete pour ses opinions, meme religieuses, pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l’ordre public etabli par la loi’. But this article, at the best, can hardly be said to be a recognition of religious liberty.
It is not so much the proviso or pourvu that matters: religious liberty must always make its account with the demands of public order. It is rather that the word nul is an individualistic word, and that religious liberty is not only, or even mainly, a liberty of individuals. It is indeed that; but it is also the liberty of religious societies—and not merely their liberty to worship, but also their liberty to educate, to persuade, and to conduct their mission.
The French Revolution, not only in its immediate but also in its long-time effects, which have lasted into the twentieth century, has not been tender to religious societies; and if it has not disquieted the individual for his opinions, memes religieuses, it has not always left the group in peace.
The revolutionary theory of France has generally remained a theory which, if it professes to be democratic, and to respect the rights of man, is still a theory of the State as the one organization—and the only organizer.
7. German Romanticism and Idealism:
Different as is the German theory of the early nineteenth century from that of the French Revolution, it has some fundamental similarities; and indeed it was partly drawn from Rousseau (the prophet not of the rights of man, but of the sovereignty of the general will) and from the spirit of the Revolution. But German theory has its own genius; and that genius may perhaps be expressed in the word ‘romanticism’.
It was the tendency of German thinkers to make a romance or Marchen out of the State and the Volk or Folk (which is something different from la nation) that stood behind the State. They were in the mood depicted by Heine – ‘Ich weiβnicht was soll es bedeuten’ (there generally was a haze about their thought), but
Ein Marchen aus altern Zeiten
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
The romantic thought of Germany began by idealizing the Folk, primarily the early Teutonic folk ‘of old times’, and then, by a natural extension (the more natural in view of national reaction against the French Empire) the German Folk of the present. It regarded the Folk as a maker of folk-lore, of folksongs and folk-music, of folk-law, and of a general folk-intuition- into-the-world-and-life (Weltanschauung): it made the Folk an entity, a being, even a person, which sang, made ballads, created law, and directed the march of history.
Well and good, we may say—so long as the Folk is not also the State, or still retains some being apart and distinct from the State; so long as Folk is another word (which we may not like, but may allow to serve) for what we prefer to call ‘Society’—the community acting for itself in its own general social way, and as such distinct from the State with its particular and legal way of action. But this was not the line which was followed by German thought.
The romanticized Folk, just because it is made an entity, a being, and even a person, can readily be identified (at any rate by the synthetic mind) with the entity, being, or person of the State— that is to say with the Government—that is to say, when we come to the last resort, with the person of the Governor (der Herrscher).
This is what actually happened: this is Hegelianism, on its political side; and here the political romanticism of Germany touches one of the trends of the political realism of France —the trend towards souverainete nationale and the vesting of that sovereignty in a single plebiscitary ruler called first consul or emperor. (But there were other trends also in France.)
The political philosophy of Hegelianism, an outcome of German romanticism, may be summarily regarded from two different but complementary points of view. It lifts the Folk up into being a Mind, and not only a Mind, but also an incarnation of the Eternal Mind. It pulls the Folk down into being a State, and not only a State, but also a monarchical State of the Prussian type.
From the first point of view we may see the eternal consciousness expressing itself, in the course of its eternal process of movement or ‘becoming’, through Folk-minds which are the operative organs of God in time and space, and indeed are God Himself as He operates in time and space.
These Minds are therefore divine: as such, they cover the whole range of life; as such, again, they are final and right, within their space and time, for everything which they cover.
From the second point of view we see the Folk-mind, while still remaining an organ and expression of the Eternal Mind, identified first with the general being and action of the State, and then, by a further extension, with the particular being and action of a State, a particular form of State, a monarchical State of the Prussian type.
To understand the first of the two identifications just made —the identification of the Folk-mind (or Volksgeist) with the general being and action of the State—we must turn to the Hegelian method, which is a method that goes, as it were, in threes: first the thesis, then the antithesis, and then the synthesis of both in a higher unity.
In the sphere of moral and political philosophy the thesis is Law, or the external realization of Right; in other words, it is a system of rules for controlling outward relations—partly in the field of family-life, with its rules of marriage and the descent of property, but mainly in the greater field of ‘bourgeois’ relationships (die burgerliche Gesellschaft), the field of industry and commerce, with its nexus of economic interests and all the rules implied in the nexus.
This Law, or external realization of Right, is the mark and constituent force of the State in the lower and cruder form in which it first appears: indeed we may even say that, apart from the field of family-life, the State in its lower and cruder form is simply the system of ‘bourgeois’ relationships regarded as producing law (from and through the necessities of its nexus of interests) and as controlling itself by the law which it produces. So far of the thesis of Law.
The antithesis is Morality, or the internal realization of Right: in other words, it is the system of rules made by the individual conscience for the control of its inward self. The divergence between the thesis of outward Law and the antithesis of inward Morality demands a synthesis and reconciliation. This is to be found in a third conception: that of Social Ethics (Sittlichkeit), which consists of the whole system of rules, disciplines, and influences—the union of the legal and the moral—controlling in harmony the whole of life both inward and outward.
The vehicle of this system of rules, disciplines, and influences is the fully developed State; and thus the State, in its lower form the vehicle of Law, becomes in its higher form the vehicle of a system of Social Ethics.
But if the developed State is the vehicle of such a system, so transcending Law and Morality, and so uniting them both in a single spiritual texture, this State may be regarded as merged in, and may be identified with, the Folk which is the operative organ of the eternal consciousness; or vice versa (and this is perhaps the better mode of expression) the Folk may be regarded as merged in, and may thus be identified with, the general being of the developed State.
This is the first identification. The second follows; and by this second identification the Mind of the Folk, already merged in the general being of the State (in its higher and developed form), is further merged in the particular being of a particular form of State, the Prussian monarchical form; which means, in effect, the identification of the Mind of the Folk with the mind of a Prussian King. How was this second merger achieved?
The answer is that the essence of the higher form of State consists in its being a higher and reconciling unity, and that such unity is best secured in ‘an active individual, in the will of a decreeing individual, in monarchy’. The king stands above the play of ‘bourgeois’ relationships and outside the nexus of economic interests: he is the organ of impartiality—but above all he is the focus of unity.
If this summary account is just, it follows that Hegelianism is a version, and possibly the extremest version, of the unified ‘Society-State’. Hegelianism makes the State the vehicle of a system of social ethics, which is law and morality in one; and by making it the vehicle of such a system it makes it all-inclusive.
It identifies the State, so regarded and so conceived, with the Folk which is an operative organ of God; and it then proceeds to identify this Folk-State with the monarch, who thus becomes an organ of God in his turn. Finally, by deifying this Folk- State-Monarch—by making the Folk-State God’s organ, and the Monarch, through it, God’s commissary—it makes the amalgam absolute: absolute both within and without.
The amalgam is absolute within, because it admits no democratic rights of the collective people and no civil rights of the individual man and citizen: the collective people is absorbed in and contained by the Monarch, and the individual man and citizen is absorbed in and contained by the State’s system of Social Ethics.
Absolute within, the amalgam is equally absolute without, and it is so because—being deified, and therefore infinite and unlimited—it knows no international society of States and none of the rules and duties imposed by such a society upon its constituent members. There is just the solitude of the State; and the State is all in all.
None the less, there are elements in Hegelianism which look in other directions, and may be pleaded in aid of other causes, than that of the absolute State. There is, for instance, the idea of the system of ‘bourgeois’ relationships (die burgerliche Gesellschaft); the idea of the play and counter play of its economic interests; the idea of its connexion with the development of law.
This, as we shall have occasion to notice, was a starting-point of Marxian theory; and indeed it is a commonplace that Marx built on Hegelian foundations—even though, as he said himself, he had first turned them ‘upside down’ by substituting the process of Matter, and the conception of dialectical materialism, for Hegel’s process of Mind, and his conception of dialectical idealism.
But however it might be modified or turned ‘upside down’ for the purpose, Hegelianism could certainly be used to support not only the cause of absolutism, but also that of socialism. Perhaps this could be done the more easily because there is, after all, some measure of kinship between the two, and because, in some of its forms, socialism tends to the absolute.
On the other hand, there are also elements in Hegelianism which may be pleaded in aid of the cause of liberalism; and here there can be no question of any kinship with absolutism. The political theory of Hegel is indeed inimical to liberalism; but his general philosophical theory is none the less not wholly un-favourable to liberal ideas.
His conception of the eternal debate of thesis and antithesis, and of the opposition of thought to thought in the operation of Mind, involves the necessary conclusion that debate and discussion must always be at work in any society of minds, now emphasizing this idea, and now emphasizing that, but always seeking to achieve a synthesis, or, as we also say, in one of our common English terms, ‘to find a compromise’.
If we think of political parties as representing thesis and antithesis, and of Parliament as seeking to find a reconciling synthesis, we can defend parliamentary democracy in terms of Hegelian ideas. We can even argue that Hegel himself was untrue to his own ideas when he became a political absolutist.
He failed to see that the sovereign thing in political thought, as in all the thought of the world, is the process of thought itself, as it works its way between the clashing rocks of thesis and antithesis. Distrusting, or rather forgetting, the process (and the essence of liberalism is reliance upon it), he turned instead to an organ or instrument; and for the natural synthesis of debate he substituted the artificial synthesis of ‘a decreeing individual’.
8. English Individualism in State and Society:
In the course of the argument there have appeared a variety of expressions of the unified and all-inclusive ‘Society-State’: first the classical City-State; then the theocratic Church-State of the dreams of Boniface VIII; then the Prince-State of the sixteenth century; then the Nation-State of the French Revolution, with its assertion of national sovereignty; and then the monarchical Folk-State of German romanticism.
All along— from the first explosive emergence of Christianity to the Jesuit and Calvinist thinkers of the seventeenth century, and from them to our own days—all along there has been at work a leaven of Christian thought; and that leaven has been a cause of constant fermentation. ‘Render . . . unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s: and unto God the things that are God’s.’
Sometimes, it is true, the leaven has ceased to be true to its nature: it has been a rennet that curdles rather than a leaven of fermentation: it has sought to bind Church and State together in one inclusive whole, either, at one extreme, by making the Church also a State, and thus instituting some form of theocracy, or, at the other extreme, by making the State also a Church, and thus arming the ruler of the State with a final and supreme power in affairs ecclesiastical.
On the whole, however, and in the main, the influence of Christian thought, in its long-time operation, has been the influence of a solvent, which has made for the opening of any ‘closed’ system of social organization; and this is true not only of the reformed branches of Christianity, but also (and this in spite of the Inquisition and the Index) of the general spirit and tendency of the Roman Catholic Church since the age of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation.
But there is also a secular factor which must be taken into the reckoning when we seek to trace the development of the relation between State and Society and the growth of men’s ideas about the nature of their relation.
That factor is the individualism (but it is something more than individualism, and the name is really a misnomer, for there is something more in question than individuals and their rights) which for the last three centuries and more has inspired so much of English life, not only ‘within the realm’, but also in the many settlements planted ‘overseas’ on the continent of America and under the southern stars.
The matter is not only a matter of Britain, it is also a matter of the whole British Commonwealth, it is even a matter of the United States of America, which was cradled in the Commonwealth. Here, however, we must restrict our scope to Britain, and even to England, for it was in the conditions of English life in the seventeenth century that the temper of life and the method of action of Anglo-Saxon ‘individualism’ began to develop.
The England of the sixteenth century had cherished the conception of the one undivided commonwealth (‘the very and true commonweal’, as one writer calls it)—with religious life under a State-Church; with economic life regulated by a system of State-protection at the ports, and by a State labour code (the Statute of Artificers of 1563) in the towns and shires; and even with moral life supervised by the courts of the State-Church, which punished sexual immorality and other moral offences.
‘This realm of England’, so runs the beginning of the Statute for the Restraint of Appeals (1533), ‘is . . . governed by one supreme head and king,… unto whom a body politic, compact of all sorts and degrees of people divided in terms and by names of spiritualty and temporalty, be bounden and ought to bear, next to God, a natural and humble obedience.’
Some of the lawyers went even farther: instead of speaking of a body politic annexed to (but yet distinct from) the King, they spoke of the King himself as having, or being, a body politic, of which the ‘members’ were his subjects, and in which he and they were so united that they formed one corporation.
The Leviathan of Hobbes when we read in Plowden’s reports (about the year 1550) that ‘he and his subjects together compose the corporation,. . . and he is incorporated with them, and they with him, and he is the head and they are the members, and he has the sole government of them’.
English history in the seventeenth century is the history of the disintegration of this inclusive corporation, or rather of the progressive differentiation, and the progressive liberation, of bodies of opinion and bodies of men which move outside the orbit of the ‘body politic’.
But the inclusive ‘commonwealth’, the single ‘body politic’, the one ‘corporation’, had never been so united as it is assumed to be in the statutes and law reports of the sixteenth century. There were two inheritances from the Middle Ages which could not be absorbed in the body of Leviathan. The first was the system of the common law, and the legal profession behind that system.
The system of the common law was a firm deposit of rules and processes largely intended, and generally effective, for the protection of the rights of the subject: a deposit too hard, and too un-malleable, to be dissolved by any new absolutism.
The legal profession, pivoted on the Bar, and on barristers who had long been organized in their own voluntary Inns of Court, was largely an autonomous profession, engaged (along with judges who had themselves been barristers in their day) in developing rules of law and methods of legal procedure on its own professional lines, and confronting the King and his ministers with the collective weight of its professional opinion. But there was also a second inheritance.
This was a 300-year-old Parliament, with its own deposited procedure and its own system of ideas (largely, it is true, derived from the lawyers, who had always played a large part in Parliament from the earliest days of that ‘High Court’); and this too confronted the King and his ministers with its collective weight.
This legal and political basis of the common law and the high court of Parliament provided the ground and the opportunity for the new developments which began to appear in the seventeenth century. They are developments which are partly religious and partly economic; but the two are interconnected. Between them they achieved, gradually and almost unconsciously, a progressive differentiation of the unified commonwealth and a progressive liberation of social groups.
The great religious fact is the existence and growth of the ‘free churches’. It is true that the free churches, as groups or societies, only achieved recognition of their right to exist, and to assemble for worship, by the Toleration Act of 1689: it is true that their members, as individuals, only won the right to full citizenship by the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in 1828, and only gained admission to the two old Universities by the Universities Tests Act of 1871: it is true that it was a long slow process, covering almost the whole of three centuries, which at last established the equality of the members of the free churches with the members of the State-Church.
But the thing that matters is the struggle itself, even more than the achievement. From the reign of Elizabeth onwards the free churches were always there, and always seeking to vindicate the principle of the freedom of the religious group against the idea and practice of the inclusive ‘body politic’.
Nonconformity was to the English national state what early Christianity was to the Roman imperial state: indeed we may even say that, never having been adopted by the English State, as early Christianity was by the Roman empire, it was even more.
It steadily stood for the principle that the State had nothing to do with religion, so far as churches other than the State-Church were concerned: it vindicated the conception of religion as something apart from, and independent of, the State: and it thus prepared the way for the general principle and practice of the distinction between State and Society.
Nonconformity is wrongly judged as a religion of individualism, and as a simple plea for the individual right of the solitary conscience. It had indeed a solitary quality and a tough fibre of individualism; but it had also something more, and something at least as great.
It was a religion of ‘the society’ (Baptist, Quaker, or Methodist), and a plea for the collective right of the freely ‘gathered’ group. Here, as elsewhere, what is called individualism is something more than individualism; and if the obverse side is the unit, the reverse side is the group.
If religious developments thus followed the banner of Free Religion, economic development similarly followed the banners of Free Trade and Free Labour—free trade, as against the old State-protectionism: free labour, as against the old State labour- code.
Nonconformity prepared the way for this trend of economic development, partly in virtue of the simple fact that it was vindicating a parallel cause in its own field of religion, and partly because it was Nonconformists who largely constituted the trading class which demanded free trade and were the backbone of the working class which later demanded free labour.
Free Trade—which is here to be understood not in its narrow sense of freedom from the imposition of tariffs, but in the broad sense in which it means the freedom of trade and industry to develop themselves, without state-regulation by means of exclusively chartered companies and restrictive monopolies—Free Trade in this broader sense is anterior to the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.
It is a cause as old as the parliaments of the reign of Charles I: it won some triumphs after the Restoration of 1660: it may be said to have consolidated itself with the Revolution of 1688.
It may seem to be pure individualism, and indeed it is more individualistic than the parallel cause of Free Labour; but at any rate it encouraged the action of social (and not merely private) enterprise, and it promoted the formation of voluntary social groups, or companies, for the conduct of such enterprise. (Lloyd’s and the London Stock Exchange, both originally associations based on the social life of city coffeehouses in the eighteenth century, may serve as examples of these groups).
The cause of Free Labour, struggling for existence in the eighteenth century, emerged to light in 1824-5, with the repeal or drastic modification of the Combination Laws of 1799-1800; and here, especially in the subsequent growth of trade unions and their organization, the collective side of a demand which begins with a claim of the rights of men is obvious to every eye.
Free Labour means the claim of a right for organized labour groups to bargain collectively and in the last resort to strike collectively; and Free Labour doubles its group production when it creates, by way of reaction and answer, organized employer-groups on the other side. Taken together, Free Trade and Free Labour mark another large development of Society, parallel to the religious development, and another stage in the process of differentiation between Society and the State.
Such was the general process which began its course in the conditions of English life in the seventeenth century, and such were the results towards which it moved. We may therefore agree with a modern historian that ‘the main feature of British history since the seventeenth century has been the remolding of a State by a powerful Society’, which has at once differentiated itself from the State and then acted upon it and even in it. (Parties, after all, are social formations: the Whig party began its life in a city inn, just as Lloyd’s and the Stock Exchange began in coffee-houses; and the social formations called parties, though they belong to the area of society, act in and upon the State.)
We may also agree, when we reflect on the Virginia and Massachusetts ‘Companies’ which laid the foundations of what is now the United States of America, that ‘the expansion of England in the seventeenth century was an expansion of Society, and not of the State’.
The general process, at home and abroad, was a process by which Society grew round the State—surrounded it indeed, with growths—and yet left it as the hard core and legal substance of organization, affecting all the growths, and affected by all the growths, in a constant interaction.
9. Evolution of Marxian Socialism: Hegel to Lenin:
The very term ‘socialism’ would seem to suggest another and perhaps alternative way of the disengagement of Society. But does the theory of Marxian socialism, as it was developed in Germany during the nineteenth century, and afterwards amplified and exemplified in Russia during the first half of the twentieth.
The evolution begins in the theory of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and especially, as has already been noticed, in Hegel’s conception of ‘burgess’ or bourgeois society. It was on this theory and this conception that Marx and Engels built, as Lenin, in his turn, built again on the structure which they had raised.
According to Hegel’s theory the system of ‘bourgeois society’—or, as we may also call it, the ‘nexus of economic relationships’, or the ‘community of economic interests’—was something which supervened, in the course of the dialectic of history, on the original and natural kin-group for the purpose of providing more abundant means of subsistence than the kin- group was able to provide, and of doing so by means of the institutions of private property and accumulation of capital.
The ways of providing the means of subsistence being various, bourgeois society accordingly became a various system of different classes, or orders, or estates.
Hegel distinguishes three of these classes: the class of those engaged in dealing with the immediate products of nature; the class of those engaged in the further manufacture of such products, and in the general operations of distribution; and the class of those concerned in securing the general interests of the whole society.
Tracing the development of this system of classes, Hegel proceeds to argue that it turns itself, in the process of its development, into what may be called the first or lower form of the State, and does so by the process of evolving a body of laws.
These laws, however, represent only the de facto rules of the actual proceedings of the society: they follow the lines of the natural course of social development, which, if it is natural, is not necessarily just: they solidify and sanction, rather than elevate and control, the existing system of order.
Along with this body of laws, and in order to give it support, the system of classes or orders—turning itself still further into a form of State—also develops an organized police, and with it adds a further sanction and a firmer solidity to the existing order. Laws and police—these are the State, and these are the foundations and pillars of ‘bourgeois society’.
So far, and if he had stopped at this point, Hegel was handing the keys of the State to the impending siege of the Marxian’s. He had spoken of bourgeois society turning itself into a form of State, and buttressing itself by a body of laws and an organized police in order to consecrate an existing system of economic order which was a system of private property and the accumulation of capital. But Hegel’s argument went farther; and it reached a higher stage.
He argued that in the later and developed form of State (which would seem to be identical with the Prussia of his day) two further things were added; one of them from above, and the other from below. From above there came the reconciling and the humanizing force of a system of State protection and a system of State education, the one regulating the clashes and the other supplementing the defects of the bourgeois system of classes.
From below there came the development of corporations or guilds, each inspired by a sense of honour and a pride in good workmanship; each, accordingly, moved by a disposition to do its best for the benefit of the whole; and all thus concurring to provide a new moral root of the State and the foundation of a system of ‘Social Ethics’. (Incidentally, it should be noted that in his view of the nature and functions of corporations Hegel may be regarded as a parent of the corporative State of Italian Fascism as well as of the socialist State of the Russian Soviet system; and it should be noted that, just as in Italy a century later, his corporations are all to be authorized or chartered—for ‘no association has existence and place in society, except such as are legally constituted and acknowledged’.)
It follows that from above and below the original bourgeois society is endowed with a new moral character; and on this basis the true State, the State in its developed and rational form, can build that system of social ethics which, as has already been noted, is the synthesis of the external rules of bourgeois society with the inner morality of conscience.
Elsewhere, Hegel argues (he means elsewhere than in Prussia, and he refers in particular to England), the mere play of Society is left to its unchecked action, with no true State for its guidance, but merely with a parliament which, if it is called representative, is representative only of social factors and economic interests; and here there ensues, on the one hand, an unregulated accumulation of wealth, and on the other, the depression of a rabble (Pobel, or proletariate) below any decent standard of subsistence.
It follows that a society of this order does not possess, for all its accumulation of capital, the means of preventing the miseries of poverty: it is accordingly driven to colonization and commerce with backward territories, and it slides into what, in the language of a later day, is styled by the name of ‘imperialism’.
The moral is that a bourgeois society which fails to rise to the level of a true State, by attaining a system of social ethics, is a poor thing likely to perish, weakened by its own abundance. Omit Hegel’s theory of the ‘true State’ (but that is a large omission), and you have here the essential elements of Marxianism. The nature of the building which can be constructed from these elements is clear from the argument of Lenin’s pamphlet on ‘the State and Revolution’.
That argument may be resumed in some five propositions:
(1) Society, in the sense of economic society, is driven by the collision of its opposing interests to institute a State, seemingly above itself, which will moderate the force of collision by keeping it within the bounds of a form of law and order; and professional armed forces, serving in lieu of a ‘self-acting armed organization of the population’, are attached by it to that State.
(2) But since this State is the result of collision, it is actually, and as a matter of fact, no more—and no less—than the strongest of the colliding interests, the interest of the class engaged in manipulating accumulated capital; and thus, instead of standing above society, a State of this order is really immersed in the play of society and dominated by its dominant interest—being, in effect, the organized domination of the strongest class, which is that of the capitalists, for the purpose of exploiting the weakest class, which is that of the manual workers.
(3) Even the democratic Republic, with its system of universal suffrage, is still a means of capitalist domination: indeed, it is ‘the best possible political form for capitalism’, since it enables the omnipotence of wealth to assert itself indirectly— but all the more effectively—through the bribery of officials and representatives, the control of the Press, and the influence of the Stock Exchange on the policy of government.
(4) On the other hand, the process of economic development, as it expands the range of its operations and multiplies the number of its operatives, is steadily tending to lift the proletariate—that is to say, the manual workers in urban industries—into the position of the strongest class, closely knit together by propinquity and solidly organized in their own unions; and thus, though the democratic Republic is ‘the best possible political form for capitalism’, it is also ‘the best form of the State for the proletariate under capitalism’, since it gives its members the best opportunity of organizing themselves for political objects.
(5) So organized, the urban proletariate, in the day when it is the strongest and conscious of its own strength, will capture the State from capitalism by revolution and the use of force, as capitalism in its day had captured the State from the other interests and classes of society by the same method and the same means. It is all a matter of collision. The grinding of collision is the process of history; and the results of the grinding are at once inevitable and right.
So far the argument of Lenin is an analysis of the historical process and an interpretation of the past. But history does not stop; and the past flows into the future. What does Lenin see when he puts his hand to his brow and under it scans the horizon of the future? He sees no perpetuity of the proletarian State of the workers.
The proletariate will maintain the State for a time, but only for a time. It will maintain it temporarily for the two necessary—but also transitory—purposes of suppressing the capitalist class and guiding the semi-proletariate (the peasant and the lower middle classes) along the path of reconstruction.
These two purposes once achieved, the State—even the proletarian State, which will now have done its work and exhausted its mission—will ‘wither away’. In the new era there will be no classes; and since the State, by its nature, is an organ of class (this class or that, but always some class) there will be no State.
There will be nothing but society, community, communism— a society, community, communism destitute of classes and free from even the shadow of force; a society, community, communism where there are neither lions nor lambs, and all are ‘accustomed to observing the elementary conditions of social existence without force and without subjection’. Thus the proletarian State—the State of ‘socialism’—is only a phase.
The consummation of history, on the horizon of the future, is the negation of the State, even in its socialist form, and the emergence of a pure society no longer vexed by collision, but knit together in the spontaneous harmony of a natural and unforced communism. The end of socialism is, we may say, the ending of socialism (for even socialism presupposes the State), and the inauguration in its place—if also by its means—of a perpetual reign of pure society under the style of communism.
It may thus be said that Marxian Socialism, in Lenin’s interpretation, means the use of the categories of ‘State’ arid ‘Society’ for the purpose of argument; but the argument which they serve is an argument (1) that there has never been any real distinction of State and Society during the centuries of struggle (on the contrary the State has always been, and must always be, the organ of a social interest), and (2) that in the final millennium there will be no distinction at all, because there will be no State.
In neither phase, the pre-millennial or the millennial, is there any room for distinction between Society and the State. Omnia reducuntur ad unum: it would be Manichaeism, as Pope Boniface VIII said in 1302, to allege two principles.
In the pre-millennial phase the State is immersed in Society, and is indeed a function of Society—capitalistic when Society is capitalistic and under the dominance of the capitalist class; proletarian when Society is proletarian and under the dominance of the proletariate; but always a function of Society and indistinguishable from Society.
In the millennial phase the State has gone: unity drops the disguise (which was never more than a disguise) of its Janus mask: there is one organization of human life, and only one.
But it is not always easy to distinguish the millennial from the pre-millennial in the theory of Marxian Socialism. The pre- millennial, in its last stage of the socialist State or proletarian dictatorship, has a way of becoming itself millennial. (The future will come, and will be better than the present; but meanwhile the present is good.)
If we stop our inquiry, as perhaps we may, at the stage of the socialist State, it would appear that Marxianism, like the doctrine of Hegel, combines and confuses State and Society in a single and total organization of all human life. It only differs from the doctrine of Hegel in abandoning the idea of a controlling system of social ethics in favour of the idea of a controlling system of social economics—which means, in effect, that Marxianism stops short at Hegel’s first or lower form of State, and refuses to proceed to the true or higher State in its developed and rational form.
Apart from this difference— and it is a great difference—Marxianism and Hegelianism both repeat the idea of the unified Society-State which is already apparent in the Greek polis and has continued to recur through subsequent ages.
Marxianism, or Leninism, as it confronts us today, presents again the picture of an Omni competent Society- State which embraces the whole of life; and just as Plato would have had his ‘republic’ control theology and aesthetics, as well as economics, so the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics aims at providing a new form of faith and a new style of worker’s art and literature, in addition to regulating all economic life, agricultural as well as industrial.
10. French Syndicalism and Its Trend in State and Society:
The theory of French syndicalism has generally followed a different line. Here there has been a genuine revolt against the revolutionary doctrine of 1789—the doctrine of the national State, entirely controlled by a single souverainete nationale, as the one organization and sole organizer of life.
It is true that a form of syndicalist theory first appeared in England, during the period of the Reform Bill of 1832; partly in the pacific teaching of Robert Owen, who advocated the organization of trades in associations and the union of these associations, through their representatives, in a central national council; and partly in the more militant doctrine of William Benbow and other extremists, who preached a general strike or ‘holiday month’ and founded (but failed to establish) a Grand National Consolidated Trades Union for the purpose.
But the general theory of syndicalism, in the course of its development, became specifically French; and its first clear prophet, who may also be said to have remained the chief of its prophets, was Proudhon (1809-65).
A printer and proof-reader by profession, but turning also in his later years to the career of a journalist and author, Proudhon expounded the doctrine, first that the economic order was anterior in time and superior in importance to the political, and secondly that droit economique, based upon and constituted by the principle of mutualite, was similarly anterior and superior to droit politique, which ought to be deduced from, and should be a reflection of, the economic principle of mutuality.
The essence of the economic order, in his view (as that view was expounded in his work Du Principe federative of 1863), was a federal essence: the order, he held, was by its nature une federation mutualiste, composed of occupational groups freely formed for the purpose of production and exchange and freely cohering in virtue of their mutual service and benefit. (Proudhon was thus attracted to the idea of the social contract, which, he wrote, ‘should become in reality, and not merely in Rousseauist abstraction, the basis of society’.) Such an economic order— federative and ‘mutualist’—issued by its nature in an economic rule of right, or droit economique, of reciprocal service and proportionate exchange between its constituent groups; and it was, with its correlative rule of right, the major substance and inner core of human interest.
True, indeed, there had also developed, in the course of time, a political order, which represented ‘the social body in its unity and in its relations with the world outside’: true, again, this political order had its own droit politique, or political rule of right, for the regulation of the social body in its unity and its relations.
But the functions of the political order were subordinate, and might even be called sub-functions; and the political rule of right should be derived from, and should correspond to, the principles of the economic rule—with the citizens of the political order voting according to their occupational divisions, and with a system of political federation (here Proudhon thought in terms of ‘autonomous’ communes and ‘sovereign’ provinces) as the proper corollary of the natural and spontaneous federalism of the economic order.
This is all a clear reaction against the revolutionary principle of a single and indivisible France. A division is made between the economic order and the political: the political is relegated to a lower plane, in which it is a reflection of and a derivation from the economic; and within both orders a plural system of federalism is enthroned.
But the simple and cardinal principle of Proudhon is the division between the economic and the political order. He makes things ‘two and two, one against another’: he sets the economic order and its droit economique over against the political order and its droit politique.
The later theory of syndicalism, as it has since developed in France from the seed sown by Proudhon, and as it appears in the polemics of Georges Sorel’s Reflexions sur la Violence (1908) and the legal argument of Duguit’s Traite de droit constitutional (1911), has proceeded, consciously or unconsciously, on the lines already traced by Proudhon in his doctrine of the economic order and its droit economique.
The syndicalists, opposing themselves to the revolutionary idea of the single and sovereign nation, have preferred and championed the idea of a prior and higher economic society; and they have conceived this society not, like the German Marxists, in terms of colliding classes, but in terms of occupational groups, complementary to one another and knit together in a federal union by the fact of mutual need and the bond of mutual service.
Syndicalists and Marxists might have the same goal: Proudhon might speak of une souverainete effective des masses travailleuses, as Marx and his followers spoke of a proletarian dictatorship; and French syndicalists of the twentieth century (repeating Benbow’s scheme of 1834) might proclaim the ‘myth’, or even embrace the policy, of the general strike, as the Marxists embraced a similar policy of revolution.
But there is still a world of difference between the general climate of syndicalism and the general climate of Marxianism—the difference between a federal society of complementary occupations and a warring society (which is not a society) of colliding classes. The difference shows itself clearly when we turn to the notion of droit economique propounded by Proudhon and elaborated by Duguit.
The very word droit is significant: there is right in question as well as the might of conflicting opposites; and the theory of syndicalism—the theory of mutuality with each autonomous group of producers freely exchanging its products for those of other groups on a just basis of reciprocal equality—has been an influence in the development of juridical thought in France.
There remains, however, a dualism, or more exactly a scheme of dyarchy, at the root of syndicalist theory. The political order and its droit politique stand by the side of the economic order and its system of droit economique with no clear delimitation. It is easy to begin with the simple postulate of ‘two and two, one against another’.
On the one hand, you assume a federal economic order of syndicats ouvriers, based on a primary droit economique, and you suppose that in this order each of the units will be autonomous, though you also suppose the existence of some central federal organ—even if it be only a statistical committee— competent to suggest how much each unit is to produce, and for how much of the product of other units it should exchange its product.
On the other hand you assume a political order (also federal, as far as possible—but you admit that the degree of federalism will be less than it is in the economic order), based on the secondary droit politique, and dealing with the same society of men regarded as a corps social or unity; and you suppose that the agents of this order will handle the things which belong to unity, such as education within and foreign relations without.
But what is to follow on this beginning? Some may wish to move boldly ahead; to extend the range of economic federalism almost to the extinction of the unitary State, or indeed of any form of State; to urge, as the great means of that extension, the preaching and the waging of a general strike for the paralysis of the political order.
Their policy will be, ‘Let the coercive machinery of the State be made to disappear, and let its place be taken by the mutual and freely co-operating services of workers, traders, teachers, and the rest’. Others, less radical or more cautious, may refuse even to preach, and still more to practice, the general strike; and instead of seeking to extinguish the State in favour of a self-acting society of services, they may content themselves with an attempt to reconcile and unite the political order with the economic.
Their policy will be, ‘Let us introduce elements from the economic order into the political; let us base the political parliament on electorates composed of syndicats ouvriers, or at any rate let us institute an economic parliament (which may conveniently be called an economic council, and be vested at the least with consultative powers) by the side of the political parliament’.
But whatever its forms and its oscillations, the ideas and trends of French Syndicalism have exerted an influence not only in France but also in England and Italy. Distinguishing the economic order from the political, and emphasizing its federal nature and the autonomy of its federated units, syndicalism has partly challenged, and partly even modified, the rigours of Marxian Socialism.
In England the syndicalist leaven may be said to have had two effects. One, which has now disappeared, was the philosophy of ‘Guild Socialism’—a sort of Franco- German mixture: German in its ‘socialism’, and in vesting the State with the ownership of the means of production; French in remitting to the ‘Guild’, or rather to a number of guilds, the management of those means, and French again, though with some modifications, in its theory of the two Parliaments, an economic parliament based on guilds for the affairs of economic society, and a political parliament based on local constituencies for the affairs of the State.
The other effect—if indeed it be an effect, and not a native and independent development (we have to remember that syndicalist ideas appeared in England as early as 1834, and that an organized system of powerful trade unions is an old and indigenous growth)—is the crossing and modification of the Socialist or Labour party and programme by ideas and policies of a syndicalist character.
The Socialist or Labour party is largely based on the adherence and subscriptions of trade unions: by its side stands the Trades Union Congress as a central federal organ, economic in character, but also interested in politics (just as, conversely, the Labour party is political in character, but also interested, and deeply interested, in economics); and there is thus a criss-cross and interfusion which is confusing in theory and yet works in practice. As with the party, so with the programme.
The programme has been, and still remains, a programme of the nationalization of industries and their final control by representatives of the community; but it has also been, and still is, a programme of the association of the various grades of the workers, both managerial and manual, in the conduct and the administration of their respective industries.
There is thus accommodation and compromise—there is even what may be called a ‘margin of impression’—in the English adjustment between socialism and syndicalism.
The influence of syndicalism in Italy has been of a different character. It may be said to have followed two main directions, affecting, on the one hand, the Vatican and the policy of the Papacy, and, on the other, the Quirinal and the policy of the Italian State from 1922 to 1939.
The two directions differed: indeed they differed profoundly; but they were united by one common feature. Alike in the Papal Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (1931) and in the various and multifarious secular laws of the Fascist period there is a common use of the idea of ‘corporativism’. Corporativism may be defined as syndicalism writ double.
It is a philosophy of the economic group as consisting not only of workers, but also of employers, both of them acting together, in a double organization which is somehow also single, to render the service and enjoy the benefits of their particular branch of economic activity.
As such a philosophy it has pitted itself against the two extremes of laissez-faire individualism and ‘regulatory socialism’. But corporativism itself has its own extremes and oppositions. At one end of the scale is the or do of the Papal Encyclical, with the employers and employed of each ordo freely collaborating in the production of goods and the rendering of services, and with all the ordines freely joined in concord for the promotion of the common good; and here the keynote is freedom—freedom for the members of each ordo to choose whatever form they prefer; freedom, too, tor the whole society to recover the riches of an articulated system of social groups, per diversi generis consociationes composite evoluta, which in ‘an earlier age’ (apparently the Middle Ages) was interposed between the individual and the State, easing and smoothing their relations and contacts.
At the other end of the scale is—or was—the corporazione of the Fascist system: an institution, it is true, which similarly embraced employers and employed, but an institution created by the State, controlled by the State, and intended, by definition, to serve as ‘an organ of the administration of the State’.
The corporativism of the Fascist regime was a pseudo-syndicalist stucco hastily applied and superficially attached to a structure of etatisme; and all its paraphernalia of vocational groups and vocational representation, Proudhonist as it might appear, was at the antipodes from Proudhon. The history of ideas may be a history of their degradation. Few ideas, in any country, have been so degraded as the idea of syndicalism was in Fascist Italy.
In itself, and apart from its ‘corporative’ transformations whether Catholic or Fascist, syndicalism has made its contribution to the development of human thought. It has been a force which has made for the disengaging of the concept of Society from the concept of the State.
But it has also done more—or less—and this in two ways. In the first place, it has tended to confine the idea of Society to one of its aspects or fields, and to make it essentially, or even solely, a matter of economics. Society is wider than that.
It is a matter of economics; but it is also a matter of religion, of education, science, and culture, of charity in its broadest sense, of the play of the faculties in amusement or the enjoyment of leisure, and of all the activities which the mind of man proposes for the various purposes of its own free exercise.
In the second place, syndicalism has sometimes tended, in its extremer forms, to push its conception of Society almost to the length of denying and destroying the State. There is room for both State and Society; and as long as human nature remains the same, and men are men, the State will always be with us.
The political order has its necessity: it is at least as natural as the economic; and it may even be said to be prior, in the sense that it is the necessary condition of the existence of any form of economic order.
There were States before there were guilds: and there could not have been any guilds—or, for that matter, any property, or any production, or any exchange—unless there had been a rule-making State in terms of whose rules such things could develop.