The End Of The State

From such an outlook we may derive a sense of the purpose embodied in the State. In this aspect it becomes an organization for enabling the mass of men to realize social good on the largest possible scale. Necessarily, it is clear, its functions are confined to promoting certain uniformities of conduct and the area it seeks to control will shrink or enlarge as experiment seems to warrant.

There are obvious regions of life into which it has no thought of entry. It will promote a minimum of courtesy between neighbors as that minimum is set by the observance of order but it will not compel Jones of Belgravia to invite Robinson of Brixton to dinner, whatever may be the social ambitions of Mrs. Robinson. It is less and less likely, as time proceeds, to set special store by the religious opinions of its citizens, it has discovered by painful experience that social welfare is unthinkable in terms of religious intolerance.


It seems to be driven more and more to control, in, some shape or form, those obvious commodities, water, power, transport, on which the welfare of its members so intimately depends, but it is equally driven to assume that the manufacture, say, of perfumes and cosmetics may be left, within certain limits, to the play of private enterprise. What it is and does will be determined by the history it encounters.

The State, therefore, does not set out to compass the Whole range of human activity. There is a difference between the State and society. The State may set the keynote of the social order, but it is not identical with it. And it is fundamental to the understanding of the State that we should realize the existence of this distinction. That is apparent from an analysis of the way in which the State acts  as a source of reference the will of the State is the will of government. The teeming millions it seeks to organize cannot be deliberately articulate about the mass of decisions that are required for the most part, they can do no more than indicate in a vague fashion the general direction in which they wish to see events move.

They desire to see houses built but the policy which brings houses into being cannot be formulated by twenty million people. Granted that, in any ultimate analysis the real rulers of a State are discoverable, the legal source of daily power is resident in those who legislate. A State is, of course, conceivable in which the whole citizen body takes part in the making of decisions, as ancient Athens gathered the members of the State into the market place. But to the modern State of forty, seventy, or even one hundred millions, that experience is impossible in any continuous way.

In practical life, therefore, the effective source of State action is the small number of men whose decisions are legally binding upon the community. They are at once the trustees and governors of the Whole. It is their business to glean the needs of the society and to translate those needs into terms of effective statutes. The purpose of the State finds its personification in them.

But there is a difference between the purpose they embody  and the substance they give to that purpose. There, was a difference between the philosophic theory Which sought to justify the institutions of the Ancien Regime in France and , the realization of that theory in the facts. Our obligation to obey the State is law apart, an obligation dependent upon the degree to Which the State achieves its purpose.

We are the judges of that achievement. What it is, and the difference therein from what it has the actual power to become, is written into the innermost fabric of our lives. We must obey the State, not because its theoretic purpose is a splendid one, but ,because of our conviction that it is genuinely seeking to make that purpose valid in events, Power is thus in itself morally neutral what gives it colour is the performance it can demonstrate.Our ultimate allegiance is always to the ideal and to the legal power that seeks to bind us our loyalty is conditioned by the purpose and substance we can discover in its effort.

The performance of the State, moreover, is significant for each one of us. It seems clear, therefore, that unless we can assume an a priori knowledge of the social value of each citizen, the State must be democratic. We shall, of course, differ as to what is implied in the notion of democracy. What, at the moment, is here alone intended is the argument that every man and woman is entitled to act upon What experience  of the State is theirs.

The final case against the government of one or a few is that either will, in the end,identify their private good With the good of the community. No class less than the adult population is entitled to consider its experience final. The judgment of Poplar is as urgent and imperative as the judgment of Mayfair. The purpose of the State affects each alike in its working, and its performance is therefore of equal interest to each. This has been the obvious lesson of history.

Classes excluded from a share in power have always been classes excluded from a share in benefits. The limitation in the number of those upon whom social good is conferred, whose personality, that is to say, finds satisfaction in the working of political institutions, has always meant, in the end, an assault upon the foundations of the State by those excluded from its direction. For the identity of men’s nature makes them need a common minimum of satisfaction for their wants. The implication of that common minimum is a share in power that they may protect the fulfillment of their desires.

The equal interest of men in the results of its working thus implies a responsible State. It does not possess power without conditions. It possesses power because it has duties. It exists to enable men, at least potentially,to realize the best that is in themselves. It is judged not by what it is in theory but by what it does in practice.

The State, accordingly,is subject to a moral test of adequacy. There is no a priori rightness about its decisions. It issues orders in the back ground of seeking consistently to make possible the expression of those impulses by which the common life is enriched. It is dangerous, of course, to exaggerate its powers in this regard. No State will directly lead its members to appreciate the beet In life.

But it is at least equally dangerous to underestimate the influence it can contribute. A State which builds, for example, an educational system which regards its citizens, not as helots, but as men, in Which, as Plato desired, the Minister of Education is more important than the Minister of war can at least mould conclusively an environment in which an appreciation of the best lies Open to its members. Its order, therefore, must be scrutinised in terms of its powers. Its true purpose is that which lies implicit in the achievement it encompasses by its actions.

To discuss the actions of the State involves, in the first place, knowing precisely what the State. And here we must avoid the elementary confusion of identifying the State with the whole hierarchy of social institutions. Any true theory of political action must be a theory which visualises the men who operate the daily administration of its machinery.

A theory of State, that is to say, is essentially a theory of the governmental act. To understand the latter we must doubtless consider all the influences which play upon it. The will it expresses may be the largest Will we normally encounter. But it is not the will of society as a whole. The interests, social, artistic, religious, personal, political, which make up the substance of civilization cannot be reduced to a single category. The will of the State is a particular aspect of the whole. It is an urgent aspect, in the same sense that the skeleton is a vital aspect of the body. But it is not one With the will of society any more than the life of the body is in its supporting skeleton.

Nor, in fact, can the State claim such universality as its identification with society would imply. For churches lime always asserted their right not merely to transcend national limits, but to go beyond a given social order to the expression of a world ideal.

An English. Roman Catholic does not and his religious allegiance enfolded within the margins of his Political loyalty. So, too, with organizations like the Labour International. Its members would admit a measure of allegiance to the State  but they would insist that they owe allegiance also to the theory of right embodied in an organization which reaches outside the boundaries of the State. They might agree With the State will. But the chance of disagreement does not involve an ultimate moral right in the State to exact obedience from them. Their ultimate obedience is to a conception of right which the State may seek to attain but which, also, it may fail in serious measure to express.

The will of the State, therefore, seems to mean the will of government as the orders of that will are accepted by the citizen body. Clearly, such a will, however important, has no special moral claims. It is doubtless a will to which is attached force of a peculiarly majestic kind. But the exercise of that force is always a moral issue, and the judgment passed upon it is a judgment made by each one of us.

Citizenship, that is to say, means the contribution of our instructed judgment to the public good. It may lead us to support the State  but it may lead us also to oppose it. The will of the State is only my will in so far as I freely lend my judgment to its enforcement. I make my own obligations from scrutiny of its demands, or they are not, in any real sense, obligations at all.

My support must be freely given, for, obviously, if I am penalized in weighing right and wrong, I become, sooner or later, a merely vacant recipient of decisions and lose the qualities, which make me distinctively a person. I am a part of the State, but I am not one with it. An adequate theory of social organization must always begin by recognizing that the individual is finite. If he is a member of the herd, he is also outside it and passing judgment upon its actions.

State And Society:

This is, of course, a purely realistic view of the State and it is worth while to inquire what is involved in the Opposite view. Broadly speaking, this view goes back to the Greek equation between State and society, and it has been redefined in successive generations by Rousseau, Hegel and Bosanquet.

It seeks in the individual that real will of which did he know all the facts, he would without doubt be the expression. For could each of us count the cost of wrong and reason out in detail its meaning and consequence, it is obvious that we should choose the right. We are, it is urged, most truly ourselves when this real will finds embodiment in our actions.

This will, moreover, is the same in every member of society and this identity exists because, at bottom, the real will in each of us is part of a common will which finds its highest form in the State. In such an aspect,therefore, the State is the highest part of ourselves. What it is and does represents the thing we would strive to be if the temporary, the immediate, and the irrational were stripped from the wills we desire.

It is, so to say, the long and permanent end that, in the long run, we come individually to will after a private experience of wrong direction and erroneous desire. From such a standpoint, the problem of political obligation can, of course, be easily resolved. We obey the State because in the end it most truly represents ourselves. we discover the identity of our will and its own the more clearly we grasp the nature of social relationships.

What it does, it is doing always in the expression of that good which we ourselves would seek if all the facts were open to us. When we obey  it we are, in truth, obeying ourselves or, rather, we are obeying that best self which makes us one with and of our fellows. The State is thus the universal in which each of us, as particulars, finds our meaning.

Where our knowledge and the will we build upon it are limited in range and purpose, it is compounded of the myriad intelligence from the interplay of which social organization derives its ultimate form. Liberty, in such a context, is a kind of permanent tutelage to the real self embodied in the State and I may, in fact, be free even when I am suffused with the sense of compulsion.

The argument is an attractive one and in the form given to it by Rousseau particularly it has had an immense influence upon the substance of State action. But it is important at the outset to insist that a true theory of politics depends above all things upon its rejection. For what,at least ultimately, is involved in its acceptance is essentially the Paralysis of will.

If the citizen is not to find the source of his judgments in the contact between the outer world and himself, in the experience, that is, which is the one unique hing that separates him from the rest of the herd, he ceases to have meaning as an individual in any creative sense.

He is what he is not merely by reason of the contacts with the world that he shares with others, but, above all, because those contacts are reached through a channel which he alone can know. His true self, that is, is the self that is isolated from his fellows, and contributes the fruit of isolated meditation to the common good which, collectively, they seek to bring into being.

Let us take separately each assumption of this theory. My true self, it is argued, is the self that I would be if I were consistently so rational in my conduct that means and ends were always perfectly correlated for good. But, in fact, no such self exists in me, and, if it did, it is unlikely that I should recognize it.

My true self is the total impression I produce upon the fellowship of which I am part. It is an impression produced by a bewildering variety of acts, good and bad and indifferent. For the memory of some I am grateful others come from a mood a sudden fit of anger, perhaps, which is a permanent source of regret.

But they are all of them the self which relates me to my neighbors and even those which seem outside the normal experience of what I am are so only because an expectation uniform enough to be recognized has, on some occasion, failed to secure the wanted realization.

Nor is it true to say that the will that is willed by this real self is identical in every member of society. For the starting point of every political philosophy is the inexpiable variety of human wills. There is no continuity between them. There are common objects of desire. City aldermen may will with equal intensity a low municipal rate. Chancellors of the  Exchequer may will the boon of an unexpected surplus. But each alderman and each Chancellor is distinct from every other. The objects they encounter may affect them similarly.

The wills those objects may arouse may be kindred in each. But kindred sensation and kindred will dd not unite to produce  will in any sense that is not purely metaphorical.The wills converge to a common purpose but they are separate in everything save the substance of the thing willed.

If the will itself is separate in each member of Society it is still more clear that it does not form a single and common will. Anyone, indeed, who looks at the character of modern life would find its most distinguishing feature in the existence of a multiplicity of wills which have no common purposes which drive them to identity.

The will of a good Roman Catholic to whom membership of his Church is the condition of salvation is for him the most real part of himself and it has nothing in common with the will of a member of a secularist society. The will of the average, English banker has n6 identifiable relation with the will of a South Wales Communist engaged in promoting the objects of the Third International.

These wills doubtless, act upon one another. Their conflict produces restatement of the substance to be detected in the purpose of each. But they are not at any point part of a common general purpose which lies,  somehow, at the back of the myriad purposes to be discovered in the general flow of action. It is true that, in classifying the wills we encounter in politics, we describe them in terms of unity. We speak of the will of the Conservative Party,the will of England, the will of the Anglican Church. But that predication of unity is a predication of wills united as to give predominant appearance, not of some will ever and above the separate wills of Which it is compounded.

The unity is the recognition by me of the way in which the wills I shall encounter are related to each other. It is to use technical terms, a unity, not of object, but of subject. It is not a unity in the sense that my personality, or that of Brown r Jones, is unified. Corporate personality, and the will that it embodies, is real in the sense that it makes those upon whom it acts different from what they were before. But it remains different from the uniqueness which makes me separate from the rest of the universe. The unity of England is in the historic tradition which orientates a vast number of wills in a similar direction it is not in some mystic super will built from their fusion.

The rejection of this notion of a common will has important bearing upon the problem of freedom. If my will is not the Will that appears, but the common will that is embodied in the State, I may legitimately, as in Rousseau’s famous phrase, be forced to be free. For to express what I truly desire is to be most truly myself  and to be most truly myself is of the essence of freedom.

Yet if there is one thing fundamental to the life of the spirit it is the absence of force. In the view here combated, there is ultimately no real constraint when the prisoner in the dock is sentenced to penal servitude. He would, in fact, will his own imprisonment were he in full possession of the facts upon which his will is based. Yet the truth surely is that there is all the difference in the world between a restraint I put upon myself and a restraint put upon me by others.

If I voluntarily refrain from the use of tobacco for twenty-four hours, the force I put upon myself does not seem to me a violation of my freedom. I have myself willed a certain harmony of impulses and if that harmony does not work, I can alter the substance of my will, can, in other words, alter the balance of impulses at which I am seeking to arrive.

But that is not the same thing as to be restrained from the use of tobacco by a will I do not recognize as my own. Force, that is, means imposition from without in a sense entirely antithetic to freedom because it is not welcomed as self desired. It is the compulsory subjection of the individual to an experience the would not voluntarily share.

That does not mean, of course, that the use of force is wrong. There are rules, the law of school attendance for example, which I ought to obey even if I disapprove for, obviously, if each man is to follow his every impulse wherever it leads, an organized social life would be impossible. It means that force must be used in those directions only where the common sense of society is on the side of the type of conduct it seeks to compel.

But it means also that, in extreme cases, I may decide that I shall disobey the law and accept whatever punishment it inflicts. That is the only way, at least ultimately, in which I can make the unique contribution of my personality to the life of the community. Luther is Luther because he defied the Roman Church at Worms Nevil Beauchamp was not less truly a citizen when he fought against his country because he loved it.

My freedom, in fact, consists in emphasizing my differences from the rest of society, and in acting upon the basis of those differences, some of them may be, most will be, too trivial to be the cause of conflict but the surrender of those I deem to be fundamental to a will in which my own discovers no apparent identity is the frustration of personality and not its fulfillment.

Still less than the notion of a common will can we accept the doctrine that it finds embodiment within the State. It is argued, to use a phrase of Dr. Bosanquet, that all State action is, at bottom, the exercise of the real will of society. But if this means that social life is ultimately the product of a single and rational mind organizing its activities in terms of a logical process, it is contrary to every fact we encounter in daily experience.

The things about us, customs, institutions, beliefs, grow up in haphazard, semi-conscious fashion Deliberation there often is, but it does not inform the whole. He would be an Optimist indeed who could discover any system of governing principles applied to civilization. The paths-we tread are too often the result of accidental experience for us to dignify them as rational searches for the right direction.

Nor are they based upon the effort of some unified will. What, rather, exists is an amazing welter of wills which press upon each other. What, in fact, we call the State is simply a source of ultimate reference which makes a decision upon grounds that it deems adequate. It is not a will unified in the sense that my will is unified when, for example, I send for a book I have seen in a bookseller’s catalogue.

There I have weighed cost of purchase against desirability of acquisition and counted the balance as advantage. But the decision of a State to act has no such simple environment. When England declared war in 1914, a majority of the Cabinet decided first that they must repel the invasion of France and Belgium, and second that they could carry their fellow citizens with them in so doing.

But in fact the decision was not a unified act, but the coherence in varying degrees of separate wills so to act as to achieve a single end. The unity was in the objective purpose at which they aimed. And, as a rule the decision to make war is a simple one because the emotional penumbra it implies is hostile to difference of outlook.

If we take domestic legislation an Insurance Act, for instance-it is clear that there goes to the making of the will it embodies influences, compromises, amendments, pressure, which clearly reveal how chaotic and indeterminate are the sources of its origin. The will of the State, in short, is the will which is adopted out of the conflict of myriad wills which contend with each other for the mastery of social forces.

It is never deliberate in the sense that it is always determined by rational considerations. It is never single, in the sense that it derives from a unanimous agreement of those to whom it applies. Often enough, as in the Ancien Regime in France, it is not even instinct with good will. And if this is the case we have not the right to attach any special moral attribute to the will of the State until we have estimated the results of that will at work. It is a good will when it combines good intention with beneficent consequence. But it is to be judged not by the purpose it embodies in theory so much as by the effort that it makes in practice.

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