The Political Consciousness of Man

Updated: May 3

From the Theory of the State by J.K. Bluntschli, Oxford at the Clrendon Press MDCCC LXXXC, Page 281-283,

It is not enough to refute the current speculative theories. We have still to discover the one common cause of the rise of States, as distinct from the manifold forms in which they appear. This we find in human nature, which besides its individual diversity has in it the tendencies of community and unity. These tendencies are developed, and peoples feel themselves to be nations, and seek a corresponding outward form. Thus, the inward impulse to Society produces external organization of common life in the form of manly self-government, that is, in the form of the State.

This social tendency works at first instinctively and unconsciously. The many look up, half with trust and half with fear, to a leader by whose courage and genius they are impressed, and whom they honour as the supreme expression of their community. They arrange themselves under him, and obey his commands. Gradually, however, with advancing civilization and experience, the hidden impulse reveals itself, and there is formed a consciousness and a will of the State, first of all, as is natural, in the leaders and chiefs of the people: in them it becomes an active consciousness and an ordering and effective will of the State, while the mass of the governed does not as yet advance beyond a passive consciousness of the State. Gradually this consciousness extends itself among the higher, and at last also among the lower classes and orders of Society, and becomes even among them active and effective.

This assumption of a political tendency in human nature at first unconscious, but afterwards conscious, does not contradict the historical origin of States, but explains them.

Among the powerful, it rises to the passion of domination, among the weak it becomes servile submission, but among the free, it is enlightened by understanding and filled by that moral self-consciousness which is in harmony with the moral common consciousness. Only the Free State is a true State, for only in it is there a common political spirit permeating all classes of people.

This view, which had already been expressed by the ancients, contains all that is true in the false speculative theories, without the accompanying errors. The State is indirectly divine, since God has implanted the social impulse in human nature, and has, in this way, willed the realization of the State. Sound religious feeling is thus not injured by our declaring the State to be, in the first place, the appointed work of man. Again, our view recognizes the significance of the real force which is indispensable for the formation of the State; for the essential power depends upon the common impulses of human nature. Finally, the element of free will has its rights accorded to it; but instead of scattered individual wills, we recognize the common will of the nation or the State.

This general will exists in germ among a people as naturally as the tendency to union and organization, which we call the political tendency. This common will, in manifesting itself, becomes the will of the State, whereas mere individual will remains individual even if two individuals make a contract between them. Thus, the proper expression of the common will is not a Contract, but a Law in the case of permanent regulations, an Order in the case of administrative police, a Judgement in the administration of justice. The State has in itself organs which enable the common will to become conscious of itself, to resolve, and to carry out its resolutions.

The State is thus not an arrangement only for the purpose of taming evil passions. It is not a necessary evil, but a necessary good. Only by the realization of the State can peoples and humanity, taken collectively, manifest their real inward unity and attain to a free corporate existence. The State is the fulfillment of common order, and the organization for the perfection of common life in all public matters.

Thus understood, the State is in the first place a human and terrestrial formation; but nothing prevents us from placing alongside of the religious ideal of an invisible Church, which is a community of spirits united by religion, the political ideal of an invisible State which is a community of spirits united politically. Theologians speak of a more perfect Church in heaven, and so the statesmen may consider the earthly State as only a preparation for the heavenly.

But the actual State is that in which we live and work. Political science has to do with it alone, and such a State is to be completely explained and understood from a consideration of human nature.

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