State and association

State and association: When we turn from the external to the internal sovereignty of States, we meet a more complex situation. The problem of the power of a State over its own members is, very largely, a problem of representing wills. If social institutions permit me so to express myself that my life acquires a satisfactory balance of impulses, I am, in a creative sense, free. But it is obvious that, taken merely as an individual, my will is lost amid the myriad competing wills which strive with my own for expression.

That is why men build associations that,from the collective strength of the wills fused there, they may secure the chance of self determination. Associations exist to fulfill purposes which a group of men have in common. They support and imply functions. Wills, therefore, as they secure expression in the State, are essentially of two kinds. There is the will of the individual as himself a final unit, a universal of which each act and each intention is a particular. There is the will, also, of the individual as the member of some special association seeking, through its means, to fulfill some definite purpose.

Here it is important to realise two things. To exhaust the associations to which a man belongs is not to exhaust the man himself. You do not state the total nature of Jones by saying that he is a Wesleyan barrister who belongs to the Reform Club and the Ancient Order of Oddfellows. You have to take account, also, of the Jones who builds from out those varying aspects of his life a self which effects, or, seeks to effect a harmony between them.

The Jones who realises that some part of himself lives in each of these associations, who seeks by means of them to shape the lines of his wants and hopes, is the ultimate Jones who belongs only to himself. That intimate, unabsorbed personality is the thing he seeks to satisfy by the system of relationships into which he enters. Its will is compounded, doubtless, of the innumerable single acts he performs. It yet stands over and above them and judges not merely the acts, but the society they influence, by the degree to which they produce a satisfied and co-ordinated life as the result.

Nor, in the second place, can the will of any single association be made a final will. To leave to the Bar, for instance, the ultimate control of itself is to leave a single aspect of man the power to mould his total aspect. Man is not merely a barrister. A given function is always a narrow purpose, alongside the full end of realisation as a complete human being. We have, therefore, to find a plane in which the wills of men are given powers of expression in their aspect of center of universal decision as against the particular decisions from which these centers are compounded.

So stated, of course, the issue is unduly simplified. The Jones who is to will upon a universal plane may, in fact, be unable to free himself from a sense of overwhelming import implicit in some special aspect of himself. No ability is so rare as the power to look into one’s own mind and judge the totality of one’s effort as an ordered whole in which, as a matter of social logic, good can only come when the parts are related to the well-being of one’s fellow-men.

That ability is made the rarer by the complexity y of motives which reside in the purpose of any association as it works a Associations which seem purely acquisitive in nature will often acquire a view of social welfare which modifies their ministration to appetite.

There is no such thing as a purely political association if by that we mean a body dealing with functions which arise solely from the personal relationships of men. For these relationships are affected and colored at every stage by the push of the total order in society. Economic and social facts, intellectual and religious considerations influence them,consciously and unconsciously, at every stage.

The universal plane of which we have spoken is, therefore, simply mythical so far as its existence in a pure form is concerned. The will which receives expression there cannot, in the nature of things, be directed solely to the interests over and above the private decisions from which its motives take their final shape. A general will, in Rousseau sense, is, therefore, an impossibility.

But because we reject a general will in this ideal form, we are not driven to rely upon a system of associations as the method in and through which the end of society can be best achieved. Each association, we may agree, ought to have its chance to influence the conduct of the social order. But where orders are issued which, until their revocation, determine the character of that social order as a whole, we have to receive them for scrutiny upon a plane of equality.

Each person, that is to say, must be taken by society as of equal value with every other person. If the will that effects the harmony between associations were merely compounded of them, that equality would be impossible. A diamond cutter cannot, as a diamond cutter, influence society in the same degree as a miner can influence society as a miner

The problem of so weighting associations that each receives not merely an equal, but, more, its due place in an institution which congeals them into unity is an insoluble one. Nor does Jones secure the thing at which his will aims by taking fragments of the will and giving to each a power of influencing decisions in the sphere to which it belongs. For what is important for him is the way in which those fragments are co-ordinates. It is their relationship, not their isolation, which determines the degree to which his nature is satisfied.

Social organization, therefore, does not present a single problem in relation to its government. On the one hand, it is fairly simple to construct a government for each function in society in terms of the particular purpose each embodies. But no man’s activities are confirmed to a single function. It is necessary to safeguard his interests as a user of services he has n9 part in producing.

It is essential, in other words, to protect him as a consumer. The co-ordination of functions is the sphere in which, to that end, the State must operate. It has so to organize the conditions of their lives that the individual members of the State are assured of reasonable access to those goods without which they cannot fulfill their vocations as men.

Where their needs are identical as undifferentiated persons, at least at some minimum level, it is essential to have a single center of control to achieve them. That does not mean that the State itself will, as the controlling body, provide directly the response to such needs. It means only, that it will direct the functions which produce the required services as to secure effective conditions of response.

In an aspect of this kind, the State is obviously a public service corporation. It differs from every other association in that it is, in the first place, an association in which membership is compulsory. It is, in the second place, essentially territorial in nature.

The interests of men as  consumers are largely neighborhood interests , they require satisfaction, for the most part in a given place. And, at a given level, the interests of its members are identical interests. They all need food and clothing, education and shelter.

The State is the body which seeks so to organize the interests of consumers that they obtain the commodities of which they have need. Within the State, they meet as persons. Their claims are equal claims. They are not barristers or miners, Catholics or Protestants, employers or workers. They are, as a matter of social theory, simply persons who need certain services they cannot themselves produce it they are to realise themselves.

Clearly, a function of this kind, however it is organized, involves a pre-eminence over other functions. The State controls the level at which men are to live as men It is, in administrative terms, a government whose activities are shaped by the common needs of its members. To satisfy those common needs, it must control other associations to the degree that secures from them the service such needs require. The more closely at given function reduction, for example, or the provision of coal-lies to the heart of the society, the more closely it will require to be controlled.

Each function, that is to say, must be so organized in the interest of the consumer that it permits him access to a full civic life. There is a limit to the number of hours of labour  man can work and yet remain a human being. There is an income below which no man can be allowed to fall if he is to maintain himself as a decent citizen. The State is regulating, directly and indirectly, to secure common needs at the level which the society as a whole deems essential to the fulfillment of its general end.

That is the function of the State in society. It is the association to protect the interests of men as citizens, not in the detail of their productive effort, but in the large outline within which that productive effort is made. But we must differentiate sharply between State and government.

To define the function of the State is not to define the powers of government, it is to define only the purpose it is the end of government to secure. Here we meet the problem of internal sovereignty in its sharpest form. It is possible to argue that because the state implicates, in James phrase, the universal aspect of men, the hat of its agents is by itself adequate.

It is possible to argue also that since every action taken by those agents in the name of the State is ultimately a question between the State and some given function, the fiat of those agents is inadequate, since to make it final is ultimately to make them judges in their own cause.

This Without question, is the central issue in the organization of internal power. If, as has been argued here, the nature of the State makes it akin to other associations, even if different and greater in the range it covers, to leave to its agents the final discretion in what action they may choose to take is as impossible as to leave to the legal profession the complete control over its destinies.

For his to imply that judgments made by the agents of the State differ from the judgments of agents of other associations in uniquely regarding the welfare of the members of the State. It is to suggest that their will is, a priori, a general will in a sense that cannot be predicated of any other will that we encounter in social life. That is not, in fact, the case.

The agents of any State are not different in character from the rest of its members. They are liable to the same temptations. They are fallible for the, same reasons. Their outlook, like that of any other person, is limited by the experience they encounter. They exert power for purposes always limited by a system of assumptions derived from the environment about them.

The squirearchy in office protects the country gentleman from a whole hearted belief that his interest is identical with the public welfare. John Bright remained unable to the end of his life to see grounds for the limitation of the hours of labour. William Windham could not understand that the working classes had the right to educational facilities.

The danger of leaving to the State a sovereign position among other associations lies in the fact that it must always act through agents and that those agents are drawn from a body of experience which is not necessarily coincident with the general interest of the community.

They Will even tend, as a rule, to identify their own experience of good with the common needs of mankind, for it is, as Rousseau said, the natural tendency of all governments to deteriorate. Power has the habit of corrupting even the noblest of those who exercise it and it follows that to leave to the State the final control of all other Wills in the community is, in fact, to leave to a small number of men an authority it is difficult not to abuse.

Any State must therefore be, internally, a responsible State. The problem of making such responsibility creative may be approached in two ways. We may seek so to organize the various functions other than the State that they may join with it in a co-ordinate body for the making of final decisions. This, broadly speaking, is the view that has been urged by guild socialist theory.

Its difficulties, however, are insurmountable. There is, first, the question of whether , functional units can be built up which, proportionately to other units, will enable an adequate representative body to be created. It is possible to construct a representative body which will fairly contain the needs of any given class of producers but the problem here is the very different one of weighting functions one against the other in order to secure a just numerical relationship.

It seems very doubtful whether this can be done. Anyone who has followed, for example, the difficulties which attended the composition of the German Economic Council will be driven to the belief that the rough adjustment reached prevents it from functioning as anything more than an advisory body. It seems to be useful as a vehicle of advice upon particular industrial issues, it does not possess moral authority as an organ entitled to speak for the vocational world as a whole.

The same, it may be pointed out, is true of the Trade Union world in England. No one doubts the authority of the Miners Federation to speak for its members on all issues which concern coal but it is legitimate to doubt whether the resolutions of the Trade Union Congress possess, outside a narrow industrial area, any binding force over its individual constituents.

It is, similarly, difficult to see how exactly a body in which business men and trade unionists were combined would usefully construct general industrial legislation especially if, as seems inevitable under a capitalist regime, they were combined in equal proportions. And this, it must be noted, is to omit the grave problem of finding how to combine the reality of the industrial unit with the due emphasis of fairness to the vocations within some given unit of this kind.

A medical guild, for example, would undoubtedly be dominated by general practitioners but they are hardly entitled to make their voice the final statement of expert knowledge upon issues which concern as well the interests of nurses, Of dentists, of bonesetters and medical masseuses.

The value, in other words, of vocational organization lies in the contribution it can make to the particular problems of the craft, not in the help it has to offer upon general social questions. Immediately these are in issue, the members of some particular vocation either approach them in the spirit of their craft, in which case no special validity attaches to their judgment, or they approach them from a larger stand point, in Which case they are no longer speaking as members of their craft. Vocational bodies, therefore, have value for the resolution of functional problems but they are not, by their very nature, built to deal with the general issues which must be faced by society as a whole.

The second problem involved in this question is not less complex than that of structure. Even if we suppose that a , satisfactory functional representation could be secured, the question remains of developing its relations with the political State. There is first the question of deciding how the general boundaries of subject-matter. are to be fixed between them.

That is, clearly, a judicial matter which some such body as the Supreme Court of the United States is best fitted to settle. In such a background, final decisions belong, not to the competence of elected assemblies, but to that of an appointed body which decides whether some given statute is ultra vires or no.

For we know too much of the electoral process to trust to its hazards the choice of men who are to decide the most delicate of all social tasks. Mr. Cole, indeed, proposes to surmount this difficulty by leaving the processes of law and police to the control of a joint body composed of “essential” functional organizations. That, in fact, only increases the complexity of the issue.

What functional organizations are “essential ”? What are to be the numbers of such a joint body ? Are they to choose the members of a Supreme Court by voting? Where is the initiative of nomination to be? Immediately, it is clear, we seek to make the political State a body on the same footing as the Miners Federation, we destroy the chance of that direct intelligibility in social organization which is of decisive importance if it is to remain democratic.

For any governmental system not capable of being grasped by the ordinary elector is certain sooner or later to be perverted by those who have the secret of its manipulation.

Any such view as this of the place of functions in social organization must take account of the vital fact of capitalism. If all industries were socialized, their government would, so far as structure is concerned, be, at least relatively, a straightforward matter.

But in fact we are faced by a division into employers and employed in almost every industry of importance and, short of revolutionary catastrophe, it is unlikely that the majority will pass from the sphere of private enterprise in any period it is now necessary to contemplate.

If this be the case, the government of every industry not publicly administered requires at once the twofold representation of employers and employed and the complexity of the functional assembly built from all industries which would result would probably be fatal to its effective working.

When, in other words, men vote as men, and the postulate of the franchise is identity of need, a working simplicity results. As a matter of influence, the great employer is, of course, more powerful than the individual worker as a unit of governmental reference, they meet upon the same plane.

But when the postulate of the franchise is difference, and not identity, the shades of variation are so manifold that the body which results is too intricate and too unwieldy to be useful. It falls, like the Trade, Union Congress, into the hands of a small number of large bodies who dominate its policy, or into those of a group of men who, like the “bosses ” of an American party, are skillful at the art of electoral manipulation.