The Organic Nature Of The State

There are many speculations regarding the nature of the State and the relation between the State and the individual. Six important theories deserve special mention. The first is the monistic theory. The monistic theory advocates argue that individuals who compose the State have no independent existence but are mere automatic units in the whole mass, each dependent on the other and upon the whole for its continued existence.

They have no independent individuality of their own, and all that they are, they owe it to the society of which they are apart. This is really the Idealist or the Absolutist theory of the State, and we discuss it at a later stage. Sharply opposed to the monistic theory is the monastic or purely individualistic theory which conceives society as a mere aggregation of individuals each in large measure living in isolation and independent of his associates, capable of surviving and even flourishing without the aid of the State beyond a mere minimum of collective restraint for the protection of the weak against the aggression of the strong.

Thus, every individual is a self-contained unit, and there is no interdependence of one on the other. He can survive and even flourish Without the aid of the State. The State’s necessity is found in giving protection to the weak against the aggression of the strong. Accordingly, the State is a police state, and it exists to protect and restrain, not to foster and promote.

Then, there is the dualistic theory, a compromise between the monistic theory and the monastic theory. According to this theory, every individual leads a life of his own, but each is, in a way, dependent upon others for his welfare. His existence is neither merged in that of the whole nor is he entirely isolated from and independent of his social surroundings. Fourthly, we have the organic theory, which considers the State as a unity similar to that which characteristics a biological organism. The Juristic theory and the Marxist theory are the other two.


The organic theory explained. The union of individuals forming the State has been described as similar to the union between the several parts of an animal body. All parts are functionally related, and none can exist in isolation from the rest. Just as the body has a natural unity, so it has a social group. An arm lives and moves only as a part of an organic whole. Amputated from the body, it dies. The Organic Theory is a biological conception which describes the State in terms of natural science, Views the individuals who compose it as analogous to the cells of a plant or animal, and postulates a relation of interdependence between them and society such as exists between the organs and parts of a biological organism and the whole structure. In other words, as the animal body is composed of cells, so is the State composed of several individuals, and as is the relation of the hand to the body, or the leaf to the tree, so is the relation of man to society. He exists in it, and it in him. The State is an organic unity, a living spiritual being.

History of the Theory.

The Organic Theory is as old as political thought itself. Plato compared the State to a man of great stature and conceived a resemblance in their functions. He said that the best-ordered commonwealth was one whose structural organization resembled most nearly in principle to that of the individual. Cicero, too, relied upon the same analogy and likened the State’s head to the spirit that rules the human body. Among writers of the Middle Ages and early modern times, the theory was supported notably by John of Salisbury, Marsiglio Althusius, and many others. It also found favor with Hobbes and Rousseau, although the analogies and comparisons which they made were Superficial.

With the decline of the Social Contract Theory in the early part of the nineteenth century, the theory of the State’s organic nature found a new and vigorous expression. The ancient and medieval writers had merely drawn an analogy between the State and an organism. They held that the State resembled an organism. But writers of the nineteenth century regarded the State as an organism. Even fanciful and very often vain elaborations of the organic. Conception attributing, for instance, to the State an alimentary system a nervous system, -a circulatory system, etc., became the theme of the time. Indeed, the fascination of the theory with its biological analogies and parallelisms became so widespread that political science, for a time, seemed in danger of being swallowed up by natural science.

The new theory that the State is an organism took root in German soil, and there it found its most notable advocates. But the culmination of the theory Was reached in the writings of Bluntschli. The State, he asserted, is the very image of the human organism. Like an oil painting, he said, is something more than a mere aggregation of drops of oil, as a statue is something more than a combination of marble particles, as a man is something more than a mere quantity of cells and blood corpuscles. Hence, the nation is something more than a mere aggregation of citizens, and the State something more than a mere collection of external regulations. He stretched his biological analogy to the extreme and endowed the State with the quality of sex, describing it as having a male personality.

Theory as expanded by Spencer.

The theory that the State is an organism received a most scientific treatment at the hands of Herbert Spencer, the English philosophy.  Spencer believed that social life is a part of an ever-evolving nature, and starting from the idea of universal evolution, he afterward included biological evolution in his analysis. He asserted that society is an organism, and it differs in no essential principle from Other biological organisms.

The attributes of an organism and society, he maintained, are similar, and the permanent relations existing between their various parts are also the same. Both exhibit the same process of development. Spencer affirmed the animal and social bodies, beginning as germs, all similar and simple in structure. As they grow and develop, they become unlike and complex in structure. Their process of development is the same, both moving from similarity and simplicity to dissimilarity and complexity. As the lowest type of animal is all stomach, respiratory surface, or limb, so primitive society is all Amory, all hunter, all builder, or all tool maker. As society grows in complexity, the division of labor follows, i.e., new organs with different functions appear, corresponding to the animal’s differentiation of functions. It is a fundamental trait they become entirely alike.

In either case, there is a mutual dependence of parts. Just as the hand depends on the arm and the arm on the body and head, the social organism’s parts depend on each other. Every organism depends on its life and the full performance of the units’ proper coordination and interrelation. As the diseased condition of one organ affects the health and proper functioning of other organs, similarly, individuals who form the society are inseparably connected for the retaliation of their best self.  There is so much dependence of one on the other that the distress of one paralyzes the rest of the society. If the ironworker in the social organism stops work, or the miner or the food producer, or the distributor fails to discharge his natural functions in the economy of the society, the whole suffers-injury just as the animal organism suffers horn the failure of its members to perform their functions. Society and organism, further pointed out, are both subject to wear and tear and then replacement. Just as cell tissues and blood corpuscles in, the animal organism wear out and are replaced by new ones, in the same manner, old infirm and diseased persons die, giving place to newly born persons.

Spencer, then, gives some structural analogies between society and organism. He says society has three systems corresponding to the sustaining system, the distributed system, and the organism’s regulating system. The sustaining system of an organism consists of mouth, gullet, stomach, and intestines. Utilizing this system, food is digested, and the whole organic machine is sustained. Society has its own sustaining system, and it is the productive system comprising the manufacturing districts and agricultural areas. The distribution system in an organism consists of the blood vessels, heart, arteries, and veins, and they carry blood to all parts of the body. Means of communication and transport in the social structure correspond to the distributor system in an organism. The arteries and veins mean to the human body roads, railways, post, and telegraph services mean to society. Family, the regulating system, is the never-motor mechanism which regulates the whole body. The government in the body politic regulates and controls the individuals’ activities, and it is analogous to the regulating system.

From these points of agreement, Spencer concludes that the State is an organism. But he himself admits that the identity between the two is not complete. There is one extreme unlikeness in the structure of the body politic and that of the animal organism. The animal organism is concrete in the structure. That is, its units are bound together in close contact, and they form a concrete whole. The social body, on the other hand, is discrete. Its parts are separate and distinct, or, to quote Spencer, the social body units are free and more or less widely dispersed.

Spencer also points out another difference between an organism and a social body. He admits this difference is significant because it greatly affects our notion of the ends of social organization. He says that there is no nerve sensorium in the social body. That is to say, there is no single center of consciousness in society as is found in the living body. In an organism, consciousness is concentrated in one definite part of the whole, the cerebrum or brain in society; it is disused or spread over the whole. Every individual member m a society has his own conscience, and he acts independently of others.

But even these “fundamental” points Of difference in the structure of the body politic and that of the animal organism did not deter Spencer from his thesis that the State is an organism. As a matter of fact, he built on those differences in his theory of Individualism. He concluded that the State should leave the individual alone to pursue his own welfare for society exists for the benefit of its members, not its members for the benefit of society. However, Herbert  Spencer did not realize that his conclusion was the very negation of the organic nature of the State.

Other Advocates of the Theory.

The organic theory lost its prestige after Albert  Schaffel, the Austrian publicist, who emphasized at great length the anatomical, physiological, biological, and psychological resemblances between society and the animal body. He asserted that society is an organism whose protoplasm or unit is man, the State, or government corresponding to the other’s brain. Among others who have emphatically defended the organic theory are the French writers, notably August Comte, Fouille, and Rene Worms. Comte described human society as the highest in organic evolution, embodying the completest development of that natural harmony or organization and action. Rene Worms says that society’s anatomy, physiology, and pathology possess striking similarities to the structure, function, and pathology of living beings.  But the attempts to draw literal analogies between society and living organisms have now been abandoned. Today, the organic conception of the State has survived (with insignificant exceptions) only in the older Hegelian form the State an end in itself its evolution controlled by its own laws its functionally different parts, interdependent and inseparable, all existing for and dependent upon a Vigorous life of the corporate national life.

Evaluation of the Theory.

There are two points of view about the organic nature of the State. Barker says, The State is not an organism, but it is like an organism. The organic analogy has a useful purpose of serving as it emphasizes the unity of the State. The State is not a mere aggregation of people. It is a social unity Man Cannot lead a life of isolation. Dependence is his very psychology, and individuals depend on one another and the State as a whole. The welfare of each is involved in the welfare of all. He cannot be separated from society, just as a hand or a leg, without losing its utility cannot be separated from the body. The State has a collective life like an organism.

The attainment of the common purpose depends on every individual’s proper performance of his functions or duties.  Every citizen has social obligations to himself, his family, his neighbors, and society; he is a unit. Hobhouse rightly sums-up, the life of society and the life of an individual resemble one another in certain respects. The term organic is as justly applicable to the one as to the other, for an organism as a whole, consisting of interdependent parts. Each part lives and functions and grows by subserving the life of the whole. It sustains the rest and is sustained by them and through their mutual support comes to common development.

So far, we agree and accept the proposition that the State is like an organism. But the farther these analogies are carried, the more misleading they become. The analogy user tends to forget that the resemblances he notices hold good only within the limits where they overlap. The objects compared are plainly not identical, as to compare identical is useless, but possess, besides their common features, other traits that distinguish them.

At many points, the comparison between society and an organism is exceedingly superficial. There is no similarity between the cells of an organism and the individuals who compose society. The cells have no independent life of their own. They are mechanical pieces of matter. Each is fixed in its place, having no power of thought or will, and existing solely to support and perpetuate the whole life. The individuals, on the other hand, are independent, intellectual, and moral human beings. They do not act as a machine. Each individual has a physical life independent of the whole, and each strives to make his own destiny. Indeed, man cannot be the best of himself independently of society, but he can live, if he so wishes, an independent life of his own.  This is not possible m an organism. If parts are cut off from their parent body, they die. Chop off a branch from a tree, a limb from a human body, and both perish.

Again, it is true that the State has grown from similarity and simplicity to dissimilarity and complexity. But even a common reason does not believe that it is subject to the same birth, growth, and decay process as an organism. An animal organism comes into existence by the union of two organisms. This is not the method of the birth of the State. The process of its growth is also not similar. Organisms grow from within and through internal adaptation. They grew unconsciously independent of volition, entirely dependent on its environment and the biological world’s natural laws. On the other hand, the machinery of the  State and its laws change to adjust themselves to the altered cheek and requirements of the people, And all this change is brought about as a result of volition and conscious efforts of its members. If such, its growth may be called,  largely the result of its individual members’ conscious action and is, to a great extent, self-directed. Then, an organism dies. The State is not liable to death. It is permanent. It endures. To sum up, in the words of J Jellinek, “Growth, decline, and death are no necessary processes of State life though they are inseparable from the life of the organism. The State does not originate or renew itself as a plant or as an animal does.”

The Organic Theory does not help us answer the baffling but practical question of what the State should do. In fact, the Organic Theory has been used to support views on the province of the State ranging from Individualism to Socialism. Herbert Spencer uses it as a basis for the theory of laissez-faire and limits the State’s functions only to the prevention of violence and fraud. The State should, accordingly, limit its activities to those particular functions for which it arose. From the “discrete” nature of the social body, he Concluded that every individual exists for his own good only and not for the happiness of the whole. In close contrast to Spencer’s theory of Individualism are .the supporters of extreme socialism and absolutism of the State. Relying upon the State’s organic nature, the German writers maintained that the State, as the highest organism, is the important unit. Collective activity is the ideal of social progress.

Herbert Spencer’s conclusion that the individual should otherwise believe alone is a forced one. The Organic Theory, with all its analogies, in the form in which it is usually stated, is pregnant with dangerous results. Some of these biological comparisons are ingenious and well stated to many writers. They have proved fascinating and seductive to others. They have constituted the basis of an argument for a theory of the State which would sacrifice the individual to society.  The theory’s central idea is to merge the individual in the social group and consequently regard him as a vulgar fraction. To repeat the words of Leacock, “As is the relation of the hand to the body, or the leaf to the tree, so is the relation of man to society. He exists in it, and it in him.” What this relationship actually means, the world witnessed in Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. Communist countries, like Soviet Russia and China, also amplify it. Jellinek has rightly said, “We had better reject the theory in Toto lest the danger from the larger amount of falsity in the analogy should outweigh the good in the little truth it contains.”

Juristic Theory.

The Juristic Theory of the State embodies the jurists’ point of view who seek to explain the nature of the State in terms of legal concepts. They endow the State with a fictitious legal personality, as they look upon the State as a legal “person” possessing, like a natural physical person, an individuality, self-consciousness, and a will of its own. They view the State as an organ for the creation, interpretation, and enforcement of the law and the protection of all legal rights.

Not all jurists agree amongst themselves. Some regard the State as the sole and exclusive creator of law, while others reject this opinion and maintain that a large body of law in the past was never enacted or created by the State. It essentially, the latter claim, consisted of customs and usages which no legal sovereign could afford to ignore. A jurist like Duguit Would go to the length of asserting that law may exist anterior to the State’s creation, and therefore is independent of its will and that the State is bound by this law and has no right to override or disregard its prescriptions.

But German jurists, like F. J. Stahl, Lorenz Von Stein, Otto Gierke, and H.G Trietschke, vest the State with a real, as opposed to a fictitious, personality having a legal will of its own distinct from the sum of the wills of the individuals composing the State, and a capacity for expressing its will in words and acts, and as the creator and possessor of rights.

Thus jurists themselves look differently at the nature of the State. As long as the State’s conception is a person means nothing more than that it is a sovereign corporation, that is, an artificial person, as the law regards all corporations. As such possesses a collective will, a legal Capacity, and power of collective action, apart from the Will, the capacity and the power of action of the numerous individuals who compose it, just as a private corporation has a continued existence and possesses rights and obligations which are distinct from those of the shareholders, the juristic analysis is good and useful and may be accepted.

But the conception of the State’s real personality, as asserted by some eminent German jurists, is pregnant with pernicious results. Que may accept the proposition that the State, like other corporations, has a legal personality and can sue and be sued. It may own property, and States do, direct and undertake economic enterprises, and perform other functions as the custodian of the present and future generations’ interests. Citizens of the State suffer from telescopic defects. They discount the future and put a premium on the present.

Moreover, individual interests change and shift. The State is a permanent legal entity, and it suffers from no telescopic defects. It endures and represents the collective will and collective interests of the rally, the citizens gather than individual interests represented by individual Will to say that the State has a real personality apart from that of the citizens is to vest that entity with absolute powers which may prove antagonistic to the interests Of a citizen and may dwarf his individuality, if not altogether suppress it. The Juristic Theory of the State is, therefore, to be accepted only to the extent of attributing to the State a fictitious legal personality for certain specified purposes. For example, International Law characteristic the State as a “person,” and it is nothing more than the nation’s juridical personification.

Marxian Theory of the State.

The Marxian or Communist theory of the State finds its full expression in the philosophy of Karl Marx. The basis of his doctrine is a philosophy of history, supplemented by a theory of the State and a body of economic theory. Briefly stated, the State, according to this theory, is a “super-structure.” Its form is determined by the exigencies of class struggle and the demands of the underlying material situation. Defined as an instrument of exploitation and coercion, the State is regarded as the product and manifestation of the irreconcilable class antagonism. At every stage of its development, a single class is dominant. This dominant class controls the State and uses its machinery to exploit further the exploited class, which is the non-possessing class. Under capitalism, the State is, in essence, a committee of the bourgeoisie for the oppression and exploitation of the working class, the proletariat.

The Marxian theory rejects the State’s very basis, namely, that it is a natural and necessary institution. The State is an artificial vehicle of coercion and is a product of society at a certain stage of its economic development. The State, Federick Engels wrote, has not existed from all eternity. There have been societies without it, which had no conception of the state and state power. At a certain stage of economic development, which was necessarily bound up with society’s cleavage into classes, the state became a necessity owing to cleavage? The State has, therefore, no moral stature and useful purpose to serve. It is an organ of class rule, an organ for the Oppression of one class by another. It creates order which legalities and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the collision between the classes.

The ancient and feudal states were organs for the exploitation of the slaves. The serfs and the contemporary representative state is an instrument of exploitation of wage-labor by capital. The revolution of the past was that of the slaves and serfs against feudalism, and it found its expression in the French Revolution. The one in the future, Marx predicted, will be the revolution of the wage-earners against the bourgeoisie in their bid to establish the Socialist Commonwealth.

When the revolution comes, the capitalist class will disappear, and a classless society headed by the Dictatorship of the Proletariat takes its place. “To break down the resistance of the bourgeois,” says Marx, “the workers invest the State with a revolutionary spirit.” A few remaining elements of capitalism must be swept away, and the minds of men purged of the remnants of the capitalist mentality with which they were infected. The Proletariat’s Dictatorship will continue with the State, but it will be a revolutionary State invested with oppressive and autocratic powers. The proletarian dictatorship takes up both the construction and destruction construction of Socialism and the destruction of Capitalism. Once the bourgeoisie has been completely suppressed, and the remnants of the Capitalist system are removed, the State’s necessity will cease to exist. The State will “wither away,” and the emerging society will be classless and Stateless.

The Marxian Theory of the State ignores human nature altogether and the development of historical events and processes. The entire historical economic thesis of Marx is untenable. The influence of non-economic interests, such as religious and historical, cannot be brushed aside with contempt. Both these influences, inter alia, have played a significant role in society and the State’s historical growth. Then, the State is not the result of exploitation pure and simple, as the Marxist theory claims. Exploitation may have played a vital role in the formation of the State, but it cannot be the only cause of the State’s origin. Maclver has tightly said, Significant as that motive was, it did not work alone. The elders’ authority over the younger kin was not exploitation, but it played a part in the making of the State. The tribal sense of justice evoked jurisdiction agencies, and they too were conditions of the emerging State. And many factors contributed to creating the kind of political loyalty without which the State would have never grown to maturity.

Marx’s entire emphasis on the origin and development of the State is on the force. He considers the State as a vehicle of oppression. He maintains that the capitalist class has arisen to power, consolidated its position and authority, and retains its pre-eminence through force. He concludes that power can be Wrested from this class only through force, no matter how ruthless it may have to be. Therefore, the Communists will capture the capitalist State by force and consolidate the Dictatorship of the Proletariat by force. Force is the essence of the Proletarian State. Two questions mark the discussion here. Will the use of force come to an end when the State withers away.

Secondly, Will the State at all “wither away”? There was no trace of it under former Soviet Russia. Nor is there any in China and other Communist countries that exist. Both these vital instruments of Communist ideology constitute the whole of the development of a Communist Society.

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