Chapter XX Part III
The Drive towards Economic Centralisation
Shift from foreign to internal politics
The transition of the collectivity from its early mechanical and anarchic mode to a self-regulating mechanism needed the consolidation of the community around a central authority, ‘at first a distinct central force but afterwards more and more conterminous with the society itself or directly representing it , -- which gradually takes over the specialized and separated parts of the social activity’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 448). It is only natural that the first leader of the collectivity was one who organized the group to repulse attacks by extraneous agents or who conquered other people or habitats in the zeal of expansion. It was only after consolidating this leadership in external affairs and thus making the community secure against external disruptive forces that one turned inward to take up executive power within the community. Sri Aurobindo writes about the genesis of the central authority in developing communities, ‘At first this authority was the king, elective or hereditary, in his original character a war-leader and at home only the chief, the head of the elders or the strong men and the convener of the nation and the army, a nodus of its action, but not the principal determinant: in war only where entire centralisation of power is the first condition of effective action, was he entirely supreme. As host-leader, strategos, he was also imperator, the giver of the absolute command. When he extended this combination of headship and rule from outside inward, he tended to become the executive power, not merely the chief instrument of social administration but the executive ruler’ (Ibid).
As the natural choice of the central authority was initially vested on the one who was adept in dealing with external pressure, it was natural for the leader to be ‘thus supreme in foreign than in internal politics’ (Ibid). The subject people of a nation, country or kingdom could understand and criticize the internal policies of the sovereign power, could usurp the sovereign by mass-power but had no inkling of secretly conducted foreign pacts and treaties. The vox populi had no impact on foreign policies and the commoners could not really withhold their sanction in a crisis, whether for war and peace, as anyway they were consulted at the last hour (Ibid). The old monarchies conducted foreign affairs according to whims, fancies, passions, predilections, personal ambitions and family interests (Ibid, pg 449). The situation remained the same from the early times to the time of the World Wars in the twentieth century as European governments who were compelled ‘in internal affairs to defer to the popular will or to persuade or cajole the nation’ were in the same breath allowed ‘to determine their acts by a secret diplomacy’ in which the people had no voice ‘and the representatives of the nation’ had ‘only a general power of criticizing or ratifying its results’ (Ibid, pg 448). ‘The demand for real parliamentary control for foreign policy and even for an open diplomacy …..indicates one more step in the transformation, far more complete in spite of the modern boast of democracy, from a monarchical to and oligarchic to a democratic system, the taking over of all sovereign functions from the one sovereign administrator or the few dominant executive men by the society as a whole organized in a democratic State’ (Ibid, pg 449).
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu