Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

Chapter XX Part I

The Drive towards Economic Centralisation

The State and the Society

One of the most important prerequisites for the ideal functioning of any human grouping like the society is that it should be organized around certain norms, follow a set of guidelines to maintain an optimal cohesion and prevent disruption and develop in obedience to law and logic that is in consonance with its own collective psyche.  However the development of law and logic can only be possible when the human mind has reached a certain sophistication of intellect, after having overgrown its rustic moorings and subconscious influences. A certain degree of intellectual development is needed for the human mind to be able to enact laws (legislative functions) and a certain degree of collective will has to consolidate to execute the laws (judicial functions).  The transition from the human animal to the self-conscious being needs a growth in individual as well as collective consciousness.

‘Logically, one would suppose that the conscious and organized determination of its own rules of life should be the first business of a society from which all others should derive and on which they should be dependent and therefore it should naturally be the earliest to develop. But life develops in obedience to its own law and the pressure of forces and not according to the law and the logic of the self-conscious mind; its first course is determined by the subconscient and is only secondarily and derivatively self-conscious. The development of human society has been no exception to the rule; for man, though in the essence of his nature a mental being, has practically started with a largely mechanical mentality as the conscious living being, Nature’s human animal, and only afterwards can he be the self-conscious living being, the self-perfecting Manu. That is the course the individual has had to follow; the group-man follows in the wake of the individual and is always far behind the highest individual development. Therefore, the development of the society as an     organism consciously and entirely legislating for its own needs, which should be by the logic of reason the first necessary step, is actually in the logic of life the last and culminative step. It enables the society at last to perfect consciously by means of the State the whole organization of its life, military, political, administrative, economic, social, cultural’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 445-446). 

One of the main hurdles between the State and the society is that the State possesses the monopoly of legislation, particularly the legal use of violence.  Sri Aurobindo explains that if a society is able to perfect itself by consciously legislating its own needs and priorities which in turn acts as a pivot for uniformity of its political, military and administrative functions, then the way is paved for the State and the society to be progressively synonymous. ‘That is the importance of democracy; that is the importance also of socialism. They are the sign that the society is getting ready to be an entirely self-conscious and therefore a freely and consciously self-regulating organism’ (However nearly three decades after writing this in 1917, Sri Aurobindo commented in a footnote: ‘Fascism, National Socialism have cut out the “freely” in this formula and set about the task of creating the organized self-regulating consciousness by a violent regimentation’) (Ibid, pg 446). Even as of now, a perfect State synonymous with a perfectly self-conscious society is yet to be a reality while ‘modern democracy and modern socialism are only a first crude are bungling attempt at that consummation, an inefficient hint, and not a freely intelligent realisation’ (Ibid). A progressively ideal State can only emerge from a progressively evolving mind-set of a society manifesting through the individual and collective consciousness of the society.  The anarchists even dream of a Stateless society which is an extension of the yet Utopian concept of a freely developing society that does not need any coercion or imposition of the State. A coercive State would never tolerate a freely growing society that respects individual variations and build harmony in the bosom of a variegated diversity.  No wonder, the ISIS, who have been carrying on the most horrendous genocide to establish the Islamic State at the cost of the freely evolving organic society, have declared, albeit in a retrograde vein, and that too in the second decade of the twenty-first century (so much for human progress!) that ‘All faiths who back democracy must die’ (The Times of India, 22nd December,2014).

Date of Update: 31-Dec-14

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu