Philosophy; Posted on: 2008-01-27 01:27:07 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
Michael Walker is part of the slate of stellar speakers appearing at the upcoming American Renaissance conference. Michael Walker is editor of The Scorpion, and the only English speaking writer commonly considered to be an important figure in the European New Right. For information on this important event, visit the conference site.
by Michael Walker
Talking about the state we are confronted from the start with a great paradox: never in history has the state enjoyed such extensive and intrusive powers whilst simultaneously being the near universal subject of suspicion, indifference and scorn. Few are those who trust the state yet fewer still are those who openly challenge its legitimacy. With the contested exception of Antartica, there is not an acre of land on the planet neither owned by a nation state nor acting as inaccessible buffer between two nation states. No woman in the Western world may give birth without being obliged, under threat of sequestration, to register her newborn with the authorities of "her" nation state. The state exercises the right to take what property it so wishes, to send its subjects into wars declared in their name, to tax its subjects as much as it chooses and to excercise a total monopoly of all money in use. Many nation states do not allow parents to educate their children at home but order that all children attend a school which the state deems acceptable, indeed, in many cases, notably where social democrats fix the political agenda, all or nearly all schools are state schools. Nothing is theoretically out of bounds, for the state, whatever its claims to the contrary, has always represented the subjugation of the individual to itself. While it may claim, and the "liberal democratic" theory of the state leads it to so claim, (in contrast to socialist and fascist theories of the state which dominated so much of political philosophy in the earlier part of this century), that the state exists to serve the individual, not the individual the state, yet the brutal fact remains that the individual counts as nothing compared to the state. This is so regrdless of the ideology of the state and can not be otherwise, for by definition the state exists only to the extent that it exercises that very power which defines it: to be more than a sum of individuals. When such power ceases to exist the state itself ceases to exist. Its power is expressed in authority but the authority is no more than the endorsement of its legitimacy. It is the actual source of that authority, of the legitimacy of a given state, which has been the principle point of contention concerning the the state down the centuries.
At a time when the authority of the state, in the West at least, is ignored by all and sundry in matters of detail at every opportunity, the orders of the state and its intentions circumnavigated and flouted by nearly all the subjects of the state whenever possible, yet the legitimacy per se of the modern state is hardly challenged at all. Put another way: the modern state is sacred in the eyes of hardly anyone yet legitimate in the eyes of nearly all. Challenged incessantly in particulars, the right of the nation state to exist in more or less its present form is taken for granted. While every government and every nation is the subject of the most intense scrutiny and analysis, the legitimacy of the state as such, or in other words the source of its authority is unquestioned. So far as it exists at all, the debate about the nature of the modern state pivots on the capitalist-anarchist or "libertarian" challenge to the very right of any state to exist. Fabian and Keynsian economic theories having fallen out of fashion, the temptation to return to the "pure milk of Adam Smith" (Viscount Stansgate,) has been strong. According to this (anarchist) analysis, the state is the ultimate tool of collectivism, quintessentially reactionary, because it hinders the "natural" outcome of the struggle among free men for the benefits of existence. The choice, then, seems to be between either accepting the state as the legitimate source of ultimate administrative authority or seeking to abolish it; for all differences as to what kinds of laws should be passed are differences which exist within the consensus that the state is the source of power by means of which government decisions are made effective. The state is the medium of governmental power. But what is this creature "state" which is omni-present and yet which today seems to have lost all sense of purpose other than survival, but which survival seems to depend on its perpetual growth and extension of power, a power not challenged in principle by subjects who nevertheless habitually depricate its every single initiative?
The word "state" comes from the Latin status which word itself comes from the Greek istanai signifying that which endures, what is permament in the flux. The state has indeed always been seen as something representing permanence and stability in opposition to the instability of government and politics. But what is the legitimization of this permanent structure in the affairs of men? Does the state originate in the word of God, is it established by custom, is it the embodiment of a contractural agreement, or simply the legal embodiment of the reality of power in a given society? Or does it have a deeper significance than that? What is the relation today and what should be the relation, of the state to society, to the economy, to the nation? Is the state the name we give to the sum of all these or is it something more than the sum of all these things? While suspicion of too much state power as "potentially totalitarian" is widespread among the theorists of limited government (where the government is seen as the officer of the state), no notion of what the state ideally should be exists in modern Western society at all. The state simply is, something opaque; if defined at all, then as a "guard dog" over human social affairs, but then a veritable monster hound so dangerous as to require regular sedation in the form of "human rights" "state rights", "checks and balances", constititutions, et al so that it does not break loose and establish itself as an omnipotent and cruel divinity living like Moloch on the blood of youth. For all but the most uncompromising admirers of power and pomp, the state has something fearful about it. Its potential power seems limitless.
Despite this fear, the state is generally accepted as a "necessary evil", a kind of glorified insurance company, as Hobbes and Locke viewed it. Certainly the state exists to protect or secure but where the modern state has become ambiguous is in its no longer being able to clearly define whom or what it is supposed to secure and why. Despite this ambiguity, the nation-state of the West has become a norm in most people's eyes, the basis for progress and development throughout the world. In mainstream political debate throughout the Western world, the Western model of the state is sacrosant, its power not open to question, its legitimization taken for granted, the consensus from which all "sensible" political debate proceeds. Governments may come and go, even nations may come and go, but the state, which tends us from the cradle to the grave, she goes on for ever, yet the purpose of the modern state is a matter which the majority of pundits and creators of opinion give no thought to. Change government by all means. Condemn the administration and the country's leaders? Fine. But challenge the contemporary state? That is subversion! On the left, especially since the collapse of widespread belief in Marxism, subversion is now devoid of any attempt to conceptualise an alternative vision of the state. The decadence of modern leftism is shown in the inability to think about, let alone try to work towards, the socialist state. The great body of "leftwing" politics today is an unthinking fulfilment of what it perceives to be moral obligations, organized around hostile reaction to initiatives which threaten the political or economic well- being of "good" persons. The old rhetoric is dragged out of the cupboard for ceremonial demonstrations of righteousness, maybe a sticker against one of the endless "dangerous" right-wing parties of the day or a demonstration against immigration controls, but always the action is in response to an initiative. The left today has abandoned all ability to champion a positive vision of another society or another state.
Issue 44 of Elements (January 1983) was devoted to the subject of the state. In a riveting article entitled Contre L'Etat Providence Guillaume Faye and Alain de Benoist distinguish two fundamental ideological influences, as they see it, present at the birth of the modern state in the sixteenth century. What is meant here by "modern state" is really "nation state", although the writers do not say this in so many words, for their entire thesis is indeed that the nation should be the political expression of the nation. (The writers confine themselves to the genealogy of the modern state in practice; of course notions of the ideal state which have influenced the two ideologies the writers describe go back to much earlier times.) The modern state has often been named the "nation state", according to which the nation is made manifest only by the state: the nation was not realised so long as it was "stateless". Faye and de Benoist subscribe to this view wholeheartedly and deplore the trend away from "nation state" to "welfare state". It has become fashionable, they point out, to always blame the state for every social problem, be it inflation, crime, unemployment, the Social Security deficit, bureaucracy, rampant collectivism. The radical hostility to the state which had characterised early classical liberal thinking has been given a new lease of life with the popular fear of the "all invasive state". Faye and de Benoist also point to the paradox that, as they put it, "if the critique of the state is flourishing, statism is doing even better." Of the two influences which Faye and de Benoist set at the heart of their discussion of the state, they identify one as classic, inspired by the Roman notion of the Imperium, a notion of the state defended by Machiavelli and later by Hobbes and in modern times by Mussolini or more philosophically by Julius Evola. This is a pragmatic, and even brutally "realistic" notion of the state, one that seeks to restore or maintain the respublica which had been lost, Faye and de Benoist argue, in the Middle Ages. The state in this case represents a will which transcends private wills and gains a life of its own (some, like Spengler, would say "destiny") in history. When Louis the Fourteenth uttered the famous claim L'etat, c'est moi, he was expressing this notion of the state as concentrated in the figure of one man, the king, source of all legitimacy and guardian of the destiny of all that pertains to the state, the state made flesh, so to speak.
The second influence at work, according to Faye and de Benoist, is based not on a political conception of the state but on a juridical one. Here the state represents neither a people nor a nation, but a society of interests with the function not of directing, but administering. According to Faye and Benoist, this notion of the state reduces the multiplicity of associations and bonds which form the organic tissue of society, for in its role as administrator, the state withdraws from its role as the perpetrator of historical initiatives and becomes simply a reactive force which makes decisions concerning the administration of public welfare. (In a recent interview given to the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger, the Hungarian writer Gyorgy Konrad expressed exactly this view of the role of the state, saying that the ideal state should be "like an electric company...offering service but without having authority"!) It may well then increase its influence in laws concerning the economy and the private lives of its citizens (and Faye and de Benoist argue that it is indeed doing so in modern times) but at the cost of losing its political initiative to the economists and managers. The state in this situation is gradually replaced by the economy; that is to say, it is the economy which acquires a life of its own and represents permanency in the affairs of men, economics becomes all important in a nation's affairs, replacing the proper business of the state: politics. Politics becomes subordinate to the economy and is ultimately absorbed in it. Omnipresent, the modern state nevertheless looses all power to initiate or mobilise. It becomes the insurer or regulator of the economy and the economy is raised to the supreme level of society. In this and many other articles writers of the French New Right argued the case that the nation, where it is dominated by this second notion of the state, the state as an economic compromise, is doomed to disappear. Certainly the ambiguity of the notion of the modern state rests in the fact that it represents an admixture of two conceptions, one of the state as an authority above society, the other of the state as an element within society, one hierarchical the other egalitarian, one the former of values the other the reflection of values.
The conflict between the two roles of the state was resolved in the theoretical writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau, who saw the state as both supreme authority and guardian of freedom, justice and equality. Faye and de Benoist, however, do not see this ideological antithesis as being reconcilable. It lies at the heart of the modern identity crisis and decadence of the state. They blame the triumph of the non-political view of the state for the decline of the state. Liberalism, anarchism, Marxism, all characterised, according to Faye and de Benoist, by a view of the state firmly anchored in the second historical tradition, ultimately intend that the state should wither away in the wake of ever increasing human material prosperity. The era of managers replaces the era of Caesars. Knowledge replaces power as the arm of the state, the hallmark of its legitimacy. Administration replaces government, society replaces the state, the politician is no longer a statesman but an administrator. Finally,
"It is notable that, whatever the differences of government all Western societies are evolving in the same direction. The reason is that they have submitted to three elements over which political parties have no hold: the weight of bureacracy in the social and economic sphere, the internal logic of technical administration and an implicit ideology which has become common to the whole world. This is the fulfilment of the movement which began with the liberalism of the eighteenth century. The public domain has come to "produce" the private domain, in organizing its "culture", its consumer habits, its very daily life, all the more effectively for not being immediately perceptible. The supposed "liberation" of the individual, his emancipation from "servitude" linked to organic attachments, has changed to a total dependence of society on a multiform techncial structure. The transitory phase of the central statist adminstration is now in the process of being accomplished.... The state makes way for statism, then it is the turn of society itself, which exists less and less as a living whole,....which is more and more a mass, "acted upon", "produced" "in-formed", by techno-economic unformity...the coerciveness exercised by the modern state leads....to fossilisation, implosion, ultimately the disintegration of the social...the societies administered by the welfare state are ultimately based on a legitimacy of the lowest common denominator....the state, which now regulates daily life, and which becomes confused with society, is reduced to being a system; as such it is taken for granted by the depoliticised masses, for whom the election of a government has ever less significance.<170> (op cit. p.12) This critique seems to me in large part timely and valid. The ideological split which existed at the inception of the modern state as described by Faye and de Benoist certainly plays a major role in the history of the state and in the different forms the state has taken. Nevertheless this is not the only ideological divide which exists concerning theories of the state and to imply that it is is to suggest that the only alternative to the modern welfare state and its accompanying "statism" be either a total rejection of the state, as favoured by libertarians and seen by Faye and de Benoist as nothing more than classic liberalism in modern clothes, or a return to the ideological roots of what Evola called the "true state", the political state, the nation state as conceived by de Gaulle or indeed the Imperium Romanum. This means raising the authority of the state to a point of absolute authority. Less inclined to intervene in the economy, the state compensates for its loss of weight here by subordinating economics to politics and vigorously asserting its political prerogatives while also reserving the right to intervene in economic affairs whenever the interests of the nation as a whole are deemed (by the state of course) to be at stake. Seen from the perspective of two rival theories of the state, one "statist" the other "Caesarist", one economic and individualist, the other political and national, the closest to a "pure" realisation of the latter concept took place in the fascist-Imperialist tradition, according to which the state claims absolute political and ultimate economic prerogative, the state being embodied not in the law but in the "strong man" the "Caesar", the "Leader", who has been chosen by the Heavens to accomplish not so much a task as a destiny and this takes priority over rationalism, utilitarianism and materialism in afffairs of state. If the raison d'etre of the liberal state is Progress, that of the fascist state is War. What both perspectives share is a belief in growth, be it growth in material prosperity or growth in political might, through, respectively, economic or military aggrandizement. This view of the state is Spengler's. For Spengler, man, a beast of prey par excellence affirms himself by the affirmation of his avidity, of which his technical achievement is the means and the symbol. But is this the only fundamental ideological division concerning a theory of the state? The political State versus "statism"? Faye and de Benoist imply as much. This obliges us when discussing theories of the state to class together liberalism, libertarianism, anarchism and Marxism, by virtue of their common rejection of the sovereignity of the state and their faith in individual betterment. This is what Faye and de Benoist do. They claim that this contractural ideology of the state produces not the desired withering away of the state but on the contrary an expanionist "statism". Notably absent from this theory (of the ideological antithesis running through the genealogy of theories of the state) is any reference to the theocratic state, to the relationship of state to tribe and to nation, to the notion of the ideal state or "Utopia", and, perhaps most significantly of all, to theories of the relationship of the state to Nature. The antithesis between "classical" and "welfare" state certainly exists but it is not the only way of classifying theories of the state.
In their article Faye and de Benoist do not mention two important ideological or theoretical divides which also exist in theories of the state and which cut across that of "classical state" versus "statism". Firstly, there is the division between notions of the state in which Man is deemed to possess some kind of immutable "human nature" which can be realised, retrieved or lost by the state, against a theory of the state based on a belief in individual human progress, in which the role played by the state is one of either improving Man or spoiling him, enabling him, (in optimal circumstances) to achieve ever greater rationality, sapience and ultimately happiness, thanks to the civilizing process of such societies as flourish in the well managed state. Is there an immutable "human nature" or is there not? The view that there is generally produces a broadly politically "reactionary" or "conservative" attitude to the state. It is this that which we find in Plato, Aristotle, Thomas More (Utopia), Edmund Burke down to the anti-scienticism of Theodore Roszac and the modern Greens. It is a moral theory because it postulates the notion of a pre-exising, non-relative and immutable "good" in the light of which the state must be judged. It would include the Islamic conception of the state, too, in which the state is only legitimate when it is the legal tongue and arm of Al Haqq, 'the Truth-in-Faith' of revelation. It would include the Catholic notion of the state as exemplified in Saint Augustin's Civitas Dei and implied in the Roman Pontiff's claims down the centuries to represent God on earth, and would also include Calvin's Geneva, which, in the subordination of the secular to the ecclesiastical authorities, bore close resemblance to the Islamic notion of the true state. According to this conception, the state should represent the highest good possible on earth and strive to fulfil that good, which is God's will and therefore "true destiny". Men may only be united in the one vision, the one faith. According to such a view of the state, taken to an extreme (which extreme separates the theocratic from merely conservative and religious state), the exploitation of the power of the state for personal aggrandisement is an intolerable "decadence" of the state to which the only solution is revolution. While obedience to the "true" state is unconditional, it is the duty of man to do his utmost to overthrow a decadent or "illegitimate" state, the state being "true" where and when it follows the path laid down by God/the Heavens and "illegitimate" where it has become the tool of personal ambitions. For Western theories of the state this has made it itself felt through the strong influence of the Bible and the notion of a purity in public affairs which can be won back through revolution. The desired "cleansing" of the body politic, whether racial or ideological in inspiration, has decidedly relgious overtones, to say the least. The "progressivist" "relativist" view aligned against this would include socialism, (except for Marxism, which includes something of both elements being at once progressivist yet ultimately religious) liberalism and strange as it may seem, fascism, as distinct from racialist or national-socialist conceptions of the state.
There is a third important ideological antithesis, namely between the perception of the state as an organic phenomenon, originating naturally and fulfiled when most closely reflecting the harmony of nature, most "decadent" when divorced from that harmony, against a theory of the state as something inorganic, in which the state is on the contrary, seen as an improvement upon nature. One may also designate these two conceptions of the state as respectively cultural and contractural. One may prefer to consider this third antithesis as a version of the second, for (2) and (3) are closer to one another than either is to the ideological distinction noted by Faye and de Benoist. There is however, an essential difference, (between the second and third antitheses) and that is that the one is a conflict between two notions of the human individual, the other is a conflict between two notions of human society. The third antagonism would place on the one hand all notions of the state as something introduced to society opposed to all views of society and the state as integral aspects of human intercourse. The latter view would be expecially suspicious of all moves away from social harmony and towards social mobilisation, be it under economic or political constraint. What the two sides of the argument concerning the state share in the Faye de Benoist paradigm, is a belief in the necessity of change. What both sides share in the second paradigm is a belief in absolute good and evil. What both sides share in the third paradigm is a striving towards an idea of what is the optimal political association for any given group of human beings. The upsurge in libertarian-inspired hostility to the state as such has been accompanied by very persuasive arguments, which most socialists and proponents of the welfare state generally have been conspicuously unwilling to seriously discuss, contenting themselves with disingenuously pointing out the failures of certain libertarian/monetarist experiments in practice (the "failure of Reaganism" the "failure of Chile" etc). But if the "proof of the pudding" is to be the argument, then the champions of the "Nanny State" have a record even worse than their free-market oponents. Everywhere that wide scale nationalisations have been introduced, not to speak of collectivisation of industry and agriculture (associated, not without reason, with state organized genocide in countries like China, Cambodia and the Ukraine) economic mahem has followed. The total "Nanny State", the state which affirms its prerogative to determine the political and social destiny of the nation from A to Z while at the same time claiming legitimacy in a "scientific" theory (dialectical materialism) in a word, Marxist-Leninism, has been totally discredited. But libertarianism shares with its "statist" foe a disbelief that there is ultimately any higher good than the individual. Here Faye and de Benoist rightly point to the association of all currents of thought which make individual man and his welfare the highest aim of the state.
To criticise the state which places the individual at the centre of the world stage and the end of all political and economic endeavour is not to say that the state should be unconcerned with the welfare of its subjects. As an individual I am directly concerned with the satisfaction of personal wants and to ignore them or sacrifice them for some greater good requires a supreme effort. To impose total and permanent sacrifice on human who have a high level of consciousness of their individual personality is unnatural and cruel. But we all know that "no man is an island" and that it is inconceivable for Homo sapiens to achieve anything (even the perpetuation of the species) behaving as if he were. Libertarians know this of course, but their notion of the state, founded in Locke, and to a lesser extent in Hobbes, is that social association is first and foremost useful rather than natural. The difference is one of emphasis but nevertheless very important. If the state is useful rather than natural, then it is inorganic, it can be traced back to a hypothetical contract, the result of a negotiated agreement between free men. According to this theory of the state the ultimate authority is the law and the state has no right to impose any form of imperative which conflicts with its contractural obligations as established by precedent or law. Proponents of this contractural notion of the state have always been quick to warn of the dire consequences of falling back into a state of anarchy or lawlessness on the one hand or too much state power on the other. In this respect, there is a difference between democratic socialists and their free-market opponents, for while both believe in law as a necessary protection against injustice, the one believes that the state should be the prime mover of laws, the other believes that contracts at the level of the individual are preferable to laws administered by the state. But common to both and common to fascism too, is faith in science. (Scratch an anti-scientific "fascist" and you will invariably find another ideological creature not far below the surface. Instinctive hostility to science and instinctive admiration for fascism are wholly incompatible). The captain of industry, like the captain of the state, imposes his private will on matter, for that is the imperative of his existence. He is "beyond Good and Evil". An excellent example of such a figure in literature is Gerald Crich in D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love who takes over the mining concern from his utilitarian farmer. His life is his will, the will to dominate, but it is a blind will. It involves the submission of nature to the machine. This is the "new man" of Stalinism and fascism and his destiny is realised in the new state. Culturally it was expressed in Futurism, where Bolshevism and Fascism become indistinguishable in their lust for the new, the clean, the technical. The state then must work like a factory, indeed the state is a factory and the Captain of State and the Captain of industry become indistinguishable. The state is centralized, for the structure of the state resembles the structure of a factory. Everything must have its exact place and exact role. Everything is compartmentalized. Democratic socialism and liberalism have historically accepted less ruthless versions of precisely the same attitude towards the state. Where they differ is in rejecting the theoretical ideal "Man" in favour of the "Voter". The citizen is replaced by the consumer but the sterile and contractural notion of the state is the same. Now, the citizen is the customer of the state, the state being not unlike the "Closed Shop" of British Unionism. Membership is compulsory, but all will benefit from such enforced solidarity.
Who should be favoured by the state? Here we have another division, the socialists and liberals favouring the support of the weak by the imposition of the strength of the state. Opposed to this is the belief that the state should do the very opposite, either by "letting nature take its course" or by favouring the support of the strong by the imposition of the strength of the state. Thus the submission of the weak to the will of the strong in a Darwinian struggle of the fittest links anarcho-liberalism to fascism. (This was the theme of Jack London's famous novel The Iron Heel.) But libertarians do not believe that the state can improve upon the "natural course of events" in this respect. Libertarians, who tend to condemn all restraint as inherently "fascist" (other than the restraints of fortune and ability of course, which are "natural") seek to dismantle the state to remove the danger of one individual imposing his power in a manner which is liable to interfer with the "freedom" which is the basis, as they see it, of economic efficiency. In other words, it is not in their view of human nature that they differ from those who believe in the strong state, but in their views as to the purpose of association. For the libertarian it is efficency and progress of the free contract holder. (The fascist is little interested in contracts!) In both cases however, the name of the game is power. "Do what Thou wilt shall be the whole of the law". Shall the doing be accomplished with the iron heel or the irrevocable contract? Therein lies the essential difference. In respect of the state absolute antagonists, but in respect of their view of the driving force of human life, and therefore their attitude to those who favour a state in which Man is humble before Nature, the fascist and libertarian are hard to differentiate.
"Nature", Rousseau tells us, "does not lie" and it is to nature that theoreticians of the state turn when propounding their beliefs as to what the state should be. Rousseau sought to establish the essential nature of man by considering man divested of all the accoutrements of civilization. The much ridiculed "noble savage" which Rousseau used as the point of departure for his investigation of the origins of social inequality, was not, as been often suggested, modelled on savages observed in the state of nature in his day; Rousseau explicity insists that such savages had already been "corrupted" by various social attributes. Rousseau's "noble savage" is a hypothesis, the first man, "Adam" in the Garden of Man, in this case a Garden of Eden without God. The role of the state, for Rousseau, is to restore so far as possible, the pre-lapsian joy of man in his "natural state". Laws were the first stage in the progression of institionalised inequality, whereas in nature each man is socially the equal of his brother. (Rousseau, unlike Marx, was very careful to distinguish between social and natural inequality.) Strength in the course of time is transformed into "right" and obedience into "duty". Man is neither "naturally" good nor evil. Here Rousseau parts company with Hobbes, who also began from a model of man in the condition of nature but for whom the natural condition was so dire that to save himself from himself and the nature "red in tooth and claw" into which he is orginally born, man does well to submit by contract to the protective strength of an omnipotent sovereign. In both cases, though, the role of the state is to protect man from himself. But who decides what the state decides? Rousseau's insistence that man should be "forced to be free" has for many, distinctly ominous overtones in the wake of our experience of certain modern states.
Hobbes may be taken as the supreme example of the defender of the strong state. His view of man recalls that of Stirner and Nietzsche: we are possessed by a restless desire for power and domination but are equipped with very different faculties for the fulfilment of our ambitions. Our more "gentle passions" as Hobbes called them, such as love, grow weaker to the extent that anarchy prevails in society while our violent passions grow correspondingly stronger. In view of certain historical experiences, such as the Thirty Years' War, where the state more or less ceased to exist over large parts of Germany, and the most ghastly misery was the result for nearly the entire population, Hobbes' view that only an omnipotent sovereign ruler can save us from ourselves had much to be said for it. The fear of a "breakdown of law and order" which haunts the "law abiding citizen" in modern societies stems from this and such "Hobbesian" fear of anarchy was and could be in the future the springboard for popular support for the man with the iron fist. But Hobbes' theory of the state, like that of Locke or any believer in majority rule is contractural. The state is the guarantor that each man will adhere to obligations which are advantageous to the individual only provided that everyone adheres to them. The state is there to foresee and ensure that each person does keep his obligations and to do so the state must be the ultimate authority in all matters (except in the arbitrary taking of life, in which situation the citizen could defend himself but given that the Hobbseian state would invest the ruler with the right to deprive a citizen of his livelihood, this can hardly be described as a significant limitation of state power). The state has supreme authority so that it has no interest to protect or represent and justice can be seen to be done. This is an important point, for it is precisely a point of crisis in the modern state, that this kind of justice is not seen to be done. A simple example: as a user of a public transport system I am able to see the sense of paying for my ticket but I shall become progressively less inclined to pay for my own ticket the greater the number of passangers whom I notice who do not pay for their ticket and get away with it. Obedience to the law and ultimately respect for the state itself is to a large extent determined by the extent to which it is perceived that such obedience and such respect is the norm. From this it can be seen that the decline of state legitimacy tends to be self perpetuating. The more Mr H. Citizen sees others being dishonest or "cutting corners" and not being caught, the more his sense of a bond between himself and the law, and ultimately the state, is weakened. This has reached an especially dramatic level in the modern state in the matter of paying taxes. The evasion of tax payments has become socially acceptable to the point that honesty is abnormal, and would, if practiced, lead many citizens to ruin, for the modern state now invites tax evasion as a natural part of business life and includes tax fraud as a norm to be taking into account when assessing fair taxes. A surer indication of the decadence of the modern state can hardly be imagined.
Hobbes made no attempt in his writings to distinguish between the qualities of human desires. He merely noted that they were there and that they compelled human beings to act in certain ways. This materialist, thoroughly unreligious view of society and the state was was also to be that of Bentham and Spencer. The belief that "might is right" takes two directions so far as theories of the state are concerned. Where this belief dominated a view of the state as having a primarily political function we move towards fascism, but where the view of the state is primarily economic we move towards laissez-faire liberalism. In both cases there is the rejection of the belief that authority or "right" can exist outside the facts of the relationship of power which exists between individuals in society. To be fair, most libertarians would assert the right to life and property, as originally laid down in the writings of John Locke, but this is not an organic "right" but the result of an original contract. Whether a man has the right to sell himself into slavery is a ticklish one for the libertarian, but the tendency would be to conclude that he did. A problem here is that when one take the argument to the literal deduction that all government and all state which can appeal to the contractural authority of the popular vote is legitimate, a popularly elected fascist government may not be legitimatly opposed, unless by appealing to "rights" which are not contractural, but that of course, begs the question: where do such natural "rights" originate? From the same grim view of human nature we thus arrive at two possible views of the state as diametrically opposed as it is possible to be: veneration or repudiation of the very principle! The best known champion of the repudiation of the welfare state was Sir Herbert Spencer (1820-1903). Spencer wrote at a time of immensely significant geological and biological discoveries (Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species and Sir Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology, were published only about 40 years before his own famous Man Versus the State) in 1884. Religion, ethics, principles at odds with human reason were characterised by many thinkers of the time as fraudulent. In Spencer's mischievous phrase, "There is no God but the Unknowable and Herbert Spencer is his profit." Society is a never ending progress of discovery. Organisms naturally tend to diversify, therefore evolution is natural and to be welcomed in society. The state is replacing the Church as the force of reaction, according to Spencer, for with its misapplied charity towards the unsuccessful, it impedes the natural evolution of man. Theories which gave comfort to the believers in the state were so many fancy ways of enslaving men. But evolutionist theories do not necessarily involve an immediate rejection of the state. For Marx, also a materialist evolutionist, the state has to be first controlled (by means of an international dictatorship) before it can be, sine die, abolished. Both Spencer and Marx, however, believed in the ultimate dissolution of the state. Their ideal of the free man was man free of the state, free of everything which in human history has made the state necessary. For one this was to be accomplished by the dictatorship of one class within the state for the time it would be necessary to extirpate the source of the division of labour, for the other, the best way to defeat the state was simply to dismantle it and let nature take its course. By an ironic twist of fate these two champions of Progress and Evolution lie side by side (I do not say rest) in Highgate cemetry.
Is individual variety desirable or not? This question is crucial to any approach to the state. For thinkers such as Plato and Rousseau and indeed all thinkers whose view of the state was "contractural" and this includes Hobbes (of whom Rousseau wrote enigmatically that he was praised for where he should have been condemned and condemned where he should have been praised) and views based on a state founded on a "covenant" between God and Man or between men, the answer must be "No". The driving force here is the eradication of differences, collective or individual, which threaten to undermine the stability of the state. Homogeneity is the aim, not heterogeneity. The highest virtues of the statesman are simplicity and virtue: we find this in Plato's Guardians, in the citizens of More's Utopia, in Rousseau's noble savage, in the "incorruptible" Robespierre, the leaders of Iran, themselves influenced by the French Revolution, the idealism of socialists like Nasser and so on. Here the notion, implied by evolutionist theories of the state, that "might is right" is a kind of tautology, is emphatically rejected. The state may certainly be in the wrong hands and in our corruptible world very often is in the wrong hands. The supreme ruler is a "guardian" (cf. Plato), a shepherd (cf. More) or the "voice of the general will" (cf. Rousseau). Supreme powers are claimed by the individual in the name of the people. Needless to say, it is not always easy to distinguish between genuine belief, cant and cynical manipulation of doctrines. It is said that both Lenin and Mussolini were avid readers of Machiavelli, whose writing is characterised by a refining of the art of statecraft to the survival of the fittest devoid of any presuppositions concerning the purpose of it all. Another notion of the state which needs to be mentioned at this conjuncture is that of "progressivist Imperialism" according to which a dictatorship is necessary for certain peoples at a certain stage of evolution towards a "higher level" of civilization. Most black African states operate on just this principle, although how far this is truly a principle and how far a convenient justification for dictators whose only understanding of state legitimacy is indeed that of "might is right", is a point of interpretation which is likely to play an important (and bloody) role in African politics for many years to come.
Rousseau's theory of the state was also one in which the aim is seen as homogenity, virtue, simplicty imposed by state authority. But in contrast to Hobbes or Plato he believed there was a crucial distinction to be made beteeen the subject and the citizen. The individual should be simultaneously subject and citizen, that is to say a part of the General Will but also subject to its decisions. In a despotism those who lived within the range of the power of the state were subjects but not citizens, that is to say, they did not share in the formation of the will of the state but were subjected to it. This fundamental notion of what constituted an illegitimate state was echoed in the cry of the American rebels, "no taxation without representation!" Rousseau begins with the hypothesis of an ideal state of nature which should be the guiding light of the state, even though that state is only a hypothesis and can never be retrieved in any case. The religious quality of such a theory of the state is obvious and Rousseau's theory is arguably little more than a secular adaptation of the the Christian or Islamic "city of God"; thus the Iranian and French revolutions and their ideal of the state are in many ways identical.
The state of Nature can never be achieved again, says Rousseau, but we do the best we can with a state on earth in which interests are subjected to the General Will, which is more than the Will of all. The greatest good, for Rousseau, as for Marx, consisted in two things, freedom and equality. But Rousseau's theory of the state was not internationalist as Marx's was. Freedom and equality for Rousseau were to be attained in "each country according to the local situation and character and history of the inhabitants". So far as the forms of government are concerned, Rousseau is astonishingly pragmatic. He saw a direct relation between form and size, noting well before anybody had thought of a "Fourth World" that "democracy is best suited to the small state, aristocracy to the medium and monarchy to larger states". Montesquieu, whose face currently adorns the French 200 Franc note, noted in L'esprit des Lois that "since freedom is not a fruit that governs in all climates, it is not within the reach of all people." Such relativism did not characterise either the French or Russian revolutions, for whom "exporting the Revolution" was a major preoccupation from the Year Zero. Rousseau was also a romantic, and as such entirely at odds with the view of the state with which he is generally associated. In his novel La Nouvelle Heloise the hero says, "I am never less alone than when I am alone. I am only alone in the crowd." In other words, solitude is not a matter of physical isolation but moral isolation, a matter of empathy. No wonder that many leftists regard Rousseau with deep suspicion. Diderot's Le Fils Naturel points to the moral dangers of just such an attitude as this. Certainly there was little notion of the rights of the individual vis-a-vis the citizenry once the French Revolution was in full swing. It is a chaacteristic of the modern state that it abhores unfilled space, the incomplete and the aberrant. It is the fate of all romantics to be torn between the poles of virtue and liberty, the one inclining them towards the state, the other driving them away. Rousseau is a consummate example of this dichotomy.
In his attitude to science and progress Rousseau departed from the Enlightenment school entirely. His hostility to learning verged on fanaticism; his attitude to science was as reactionary as it is possible to be. He had no notion of a "universal right", since he believed, or at least wrote as though he believed, that the structure of the state must be adapted to natural and geographical circumstances. For Rousseau, the optimal state was a small state and he signalled out Corsica and the Swiss cantons for especial favour. At the same time he believed that the surest sign of the health of the state was the rate of increase in its population. He seemed unaware of any potential conflict between the small state and the need of said state to expand if it were enjoying a rapid population growth, as according to Rousseau it necessarily would be. But many theories of the modern state, many aspects of the modern state itself, would have been unthinkable but for the massive population growth of the last three centuries. Ignorance, innocence and poverty are the great virtues championed by Rousseau. Contrary to what some writers have suggested, Rousseau's views are clearly not dominant today and it hardly makes sense to call the champion of the small state and individual solitude, the "father of leftism", which appears to have been the view of Professor Revilo Oliver, among many others. His ideals more closely correspond to those of Savanorola or any number of religious thinkers and in more recent times the Greens.
The notion of the state as incorporated in the American Constitution bears the mark of Rousseau more surely than the French Revolution, even down to the contradiction between love of the great outdoors and the hope to vastly increase the population. George Washington's deep distrust of parties and factions certainly bears the mark of Rousseau's condemnation of factionalism in Le Contrat Social. Of course it was not long before party and faction came to dominate American political life. Where the American Constitution (the Declaration of Independence is another matter) differed in its model of the state from anything Rousseau had ever propounded was in its fanatical belief in evolution and progress, a belief which was to have murderous consequences both for raw nature and for the indigenous population and for those settlers who wished to preserve a feudalistic, non- progressivist way of life. The ideal of the American revolutionary was Benjamin Franklin, scientist and statesman in one, of whom Turgot said "(he was)... the modern Prometheus...who snatched lightening from the heavens and sceptres from kings."
The evolutive view of the state is the official orthodoxy of our time, characterised by the worship of science. As the bill is run up however, notably in the destruction of the non-human part of the planet in order to make way for Jeremy Bentham's "greatest happiness of the greatest number" regardless of any criterion for judging the value of that number, this rational utilitarianism, the "consensus of values" which underlies parliamentary democracy and the modern notion of the omnipotent welfare state which it serves, is coming under attack. It is under attack from all those whose view of the state is not progressivist, inorganic, contractural or utilitarian.
I have argued that it is simplistic to reduce opposition to the modern state to a conception of the state which is "politicial" as opposed to "economic". Similarly, the paradigm of "left" and "right" in political theory, and especially where notions of the state are concerned, are wholly inadequate. The very term "liberal" so often used by the champions of the strong state to describe those who favour a weak state or no state, is glib and unworthy of the intellectually discriminating, for "liberal" must here serve to cover at least three different attitudes towards the state. What might be termed traditional liberalism consists of an "open ended" attitude to the state and its development opposed to the conservative tendency to rely on tradiiton. There is not necessarily an unbridgeable gap here. Both believe in a limited state and both beleive that the whole is more than the sum of the parts but that the parts themselves are not worthless nor expendable, other than in exceptional circumstances, such as war. In recent times the German thinker Othmar Spann (1878-1950), in opposition to the Vienna Circle as characterised by Rudolph Carnap, emphasised the totality of all being and preached "small is beautiful" at a time when all political leaders from Hitler to Rooseveldt to Stalin, were set on the opposite, expansionist, course. In arguments recalling Edmund Burke's detraction of the French Revolution, Spann emphasises that a state founded on revolution is invariably bad, since it cuts man's links with the past which links make society and ultimately the state function well in the first place. The role of the state is to protect and not to destroy the roots of society. The state emerges through a desire to cooperate, not as Hobbes maintained, through fear. Here in both conservative and liberal notions of the state, some notion of an immutable good towards which the state and citizen should strive, and by which both can be measured, is adhered to. The negative side to this is a tendency towards a universalist model of the state and right and wrong in general, a tendency towards a universally applicable model of the ideal society and the ideal state. "Patriotic" Americans today are enthused with this faith in the timeless and placeless "just" state which also had an importaant influence on European Imperialism in the last century and the assumption of the so-called "white man's burden".
This is not that "liberalism" which, in the context of their paradigm of a fundamental antagonism between "political" and "economic" theories of the state, Faye and de Benoist associate with Marxism, (on the grounds that both look forward to the emancipation/alienation of the individual through the abolition or withering away of the state). This is libertarianism, which like anarchism and Marxism, but unlike classical liberalism, does not believe that the power of the state should be a matter of compromise because of the weaknesses of human nature. The state has no right to try to train human nature, according to the Anarchist and the libertarian, while for the Marxist the very notion that human nature even exists independently of the prevailing mode of production protected by the state is a class determined value judgement. For the Marxist and the libertarian then, the power of the state is the expression of a certain relationship between various power interests and nothing more. The notion of permanent values and therefore of a permanent state is quite alien to this perspective. The state is seen as ephemeral and not an integral element of human association. Thus Benjamin Constant in his critique of Rousseau in Principes de politique insisted that there were certain "human rights" which exist prior to and independently of the state. But it is John Locke whose works first articulated what is today an influential current of thought. The preservation of property is the chief end of man's association in the commonwealth. (I>Second Treatise of Government p.124 Bantam ed.) When all is said and done this means that society and every kind of behaviour is "ideally" dominated by one element: money. This is epitomised by the hero of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged making the "sign of the dollar" over the prosperous land of her capitalist Utopia. The role of the politician decreases as this notion of the state is realised. Increasingly politicians are obliged to ape the sales promoters and advertisers whose activities dominate the social scene. This is the kind of society which increasingly prevails in the West today. To some extent it is fair to characterise "right/left" political debate today as nothing other than a dog fight between Locke's principles of the sanctity of property on the one hand and Benthamite utilitarianism on the other.
Liberal attitudes to the state can be yet further divided between the pragmatic economic liberalism of the school of Locke and Mill, which saw the abolition of the state as an unrealisable ideal, and libertarainsim pure and simple which does not view this as an ideal but as a desirable and attainable end. The state is here associated with theft and serfdom. For the out and out libertarian, the state should be abolished, and the sooner the better. Modern theorists of this school of thought include the much admired Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises; the latter has gone so far as to claim that the very notion of solidarity is an indication of, as he puts it, "failure in the game of life." Taxation, in the words of one writer for the Libertarian Alliance, is "highway robbery", (Income Tax, be it noted, was first levied in England by a Liberal administration) economic theories are hocus-pocus, state laws for the regulation of the economy and protection of worker or customer incipient slavery. If the state has any function at all, it is to dismantle the edifices and laws created by the state! Like Marxism to socialism, so libertarianism to traditional liberalism and radicalism: compromise with the enemy is death of the ideal. The notion that the state should intervene to counteract social injustice is anathema to the libertarian, yet state measures such as "positive discrimination" are widely conceived as being liberal initiatives. The reluctance of writers like Faye to make any sensible distinction between such radically different attitudes to the state as those of the libertarian and the "liberal democrat", labelling them all "liberals", constitutes a very misleading oversimplification of the matter indeed. The same sloppy semantics occurs among the coiners of the term "liberal capitalism" used especially by those who are hostile to tolerance and internationalism. Do such persons wish to say they are in favour of "illiberal capitalism" or "liberal socialism", whatever such creatures may be?
To be blunt, the use of the blanket term "liberal" in this context serves the end of bracketing together many diverse theories of the state in order to champion a theory of the state which is dynamic, progressive and amoral, for the only aspect of their attitude to the state which liberal, libertarian, Green, Anarchist and religious theorist do have in common is a hostility to an amoral admiration for the state for the sake of its power alone, regardless of ulterior values. A Tito or an Attaturk are thus more worthy of admiration than a Che Guevera or General de Rivera. Ideology is only a tool of power. This is the view of the state which was dominant in Marxist-Leninism and constitutes the essence of fascism. The state is admired in so far as it strong, the stronger the better. The use of strength is an indication of fidelity to the ruthless amorality of nature. The state and with it, human life itself is endowed with no higher meaning than the opportunity to affirm the will to power of the strong over the weak. The way is thereafter open for the affirmation of the strong sovereign state based on the spiritual strength of tradition or religion and the physical strength of technics, but both are made to serve the individual will being nothing more than instruments in the attainment and maintenance of power. An uncompromisingly anthrocentric view of the world this, its ideal state exploitative, collectivist, scientific, irrational.
This notion of the sovereign state, irrational but taking full advantage of every discovery of science, has no notion of even the question "is this state to the advantage of the individual"? The question is meaningless in such a perspective, because to the extent that the state is realised the individual as we know him ceases to exist. The state serves itself and the individual is little more than fuel to the Moloch of Blood and Iron, so, if liberal fears of the Moloch state are frequently exaggerated, they are nevertheless not unfounded. Of course, torture, exploitation and oppression are not unique to the state (as anarchists and libertarians sometimes seem to believe) nor on the other hand simply the consequence of weak rule (as Hobbes and many conservative inclined writers since him have tended to believe). For those for whom the strong state is in itself desirable, the inadequacies of "liberal" theories of the state may be a pretext for arguments, superficially pragmatic, in favour of "tough measures". These "tough measures" may then be more concerned with moving towards the strong state than to the solution of the given problem which calls them into being. A fascination for the strong man has lead many who are liberal with their head to be illiberal with their heart: the Stalin cult, often paraded by its Western liberal adherents as an indication of intellectual genorosity, was a case in point. The national-socialist Savitri Devi in her book The Lightening and the Sun expressed admiration for Stalin, an admiration which can hardly be interpreted in any other way. Discipline, terror, duty, have a "clean" beauty all their own, both for those who seek in them a model to imitate (the would be future leader) and those who lust with admiration for what they themsleves entirely lack. The cynical adulation of the state by the fascist is not so very far from the cynical rejection of the state by the libertarian, as we have seen. The national-socialist attitude, however, contrary to what is generally believed, showed in its brief history tendencies at marked variance with its predominant fascistic adulation of the state for the state's sake. Indeed, national-socialism, in its attitude to the state, is far from being purely fascist at heart, although it was largely fascist in practice. The notion of the organic community of the Volk, rooted in nature, is ultimately incompatible with the modernistic fascist notion of the technocratic super-state. The respect for nature which existed within the national-socialist world view was entirely at odds with the devotion to the will to power in man to dominate and mould nature. The belief in the goodness and virtue of a Volk is ultimately incompatible with the worship of strength and success for their own sake. The discrepency between the apologia for peace and the rural idyll on the one hand and the glorification of war and conquest on the other in the history of the national-socialist state can hardly be overlooked, but historians generally interpret this as proof of the cynicism of fascism in general and Adolph Hitler in particular and do not see it for what it was: evidence of a breach between two theories of the state, one organic and one inorganic, which struggled for the soul of national-socialism. Inevitably perhaps, the latter, truly fascist, view of the state came to dominate the entire spectrum of state activity in Germany. "Gerald Crich" turned the state into a frenzied factory. Man is now the supreme Raubtier of creation, the state his head and technics his claws.
The technical, I should say "inorganic" notion of the state, be it "fascist", "socialist" or "liberal" by its nature consumes anything which falls within its grasp as it pursues the course of self propelled growth. All inorganic notions of the state, that is to say, a belief that the state does not emerge from nature but is imposed upon it, are inherently more destructive than constructive. In most cases the concept of the inorganic state is also a concept of a contractural state. There is a covenant between ruler and ruled. The leader will lead the people to glory, fame and conquest. If he fails then the state has failed. Or, there is an agreement between politician and citizen: the politician produce the goodies or if he fails to do so the voters vote him out. In each case, responsibility is based upon performance according to a list of promises. This is true also of religious based concepts of the state. Here the people or the state have made a covenant with God not man, but the same notion of the state being the vehicle by means of which the promises are kept, applies in both cases. The modern voter, the fascist militant, the chosen tribes of Israel, the religious revolutionary of every kind, they are all fuelled on promises, very material promises in most cases. Their spokesmen promise them a reward, namely the material benefits of power. In every case, the state is ultimately the fulfilment of a contractural agreement, or, as the New Testament puts it, "covenant". But is it for the state or for the market to be the arena of the struggle of life? "The state", says the fascist; "the market" says the libertarian. "They are ultimately one" , says the Marxist. "Both are subordinate to the folk", says the believer in the organic state, for whom the state is neither made nor destroyed by the makers of contracts.
News Source: Occidental Origin