Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

Chapter XXI Part IV

The Drive towards Legislative and Social Centralisation and Uniformity

Monarchy to Democracy – Uniformity of Judicial Administration

Just as legal codes evolved from customs and later transcended customs in accordance with the scientific spirit and temper to produce the uniformity in law, the uniformity of judicial administration also shifted from the monarchy to democracy and socialism where the self-consciousness of the social being began to assert itself against the absolutism of the regal authority.

The shift from monarchy to other forms of control actually represents a great question of political science: who is to be the State? ‘Is the embodiment of the intellect, will and conscience of the society to be a king and his counselors or a theocratic, autocratic or plutocratic governing class or body which shall at least seem to stand sufficiently for the whole society, or is it to be a compromise between some or all of these possibilities?’(The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 454) Sri Aurobindo explains that this query underwent many upheavals but finally prepared the way for the expression of self-consciousness of the social being that eventually found a standing-ground in a democratic arrangement.

The three orders of the free nation in its early and elementary form comprised the king as the key-stone along with ‘his council, military and civil, the priesthood and the assembly of freemen converting itself for the purposes of war into host, were perhaps everywhere, but certainly in the Aryan races, the elements with which the self-conscious evolution of society began’ (Ibid, pg 455). In this elementary structure, it was somewhat easier for the monarch to deal with the priesthood and council by ignoring them, replacing them or subordinating them to the position of servility where they would provide political and military support for its actions. It was more difficult for the monarch to deal with the assembly of freemen who represented the vox populi and could undermine the regal authority. That is why we find throughout history that the assemblies of freemen were very often not convened unless under exceptional pressure, ‘like the French monarchy with its States-General summoned only once or twice in the course of centuries and under the pressure of great difficulties’ (Ibid). True, a compromise could be worked out if the monarch left the practical work of legislation to a non-political body like the judiciary but there was no guarantee that there would be no resistance. ‘Therefore the disappearance of the assembly or the power of the monarch to convoke it or not at his pleasure is always the real mark of his absolutism. But when he has succeeded, when his decrees are laws, when he has got rid of or subordinated to himself all the other powers of the social life, there at that point of his highest success his failure begins; the monarchical system has fulfilled its positive part in the social evolution and all that is left to it is either to hold the State together until it has transformed itself or else to provoke by oppression the movement towards the sovereignty of the people’ (Ibid).

Sri Aurobindo explains that in the earlier stages of societal formation, a naturally organic and intuitive development chalked the pathway but now in an era of reason, science and universal values, a self-conscious regulation through a governing body is the need of the Time-Spirit which would more or less adequately represent if it could not fully embody, the reason and will of the entire society. Such an endeavour is never possible to be enacted by the monarch, even if he is a brilliant administrator for in engrossing the legislative power the monarchy exceeds its own law of being. ‘Administration is simply the regulation of the outward life of the people, the ordered maintenance of the external activities of its developed or developing being and the king may well be their regulator…But legislation, social development, culture, religion, even the determination of the economic life of the people are outside his proper sphere; they constitute the expression of the life, the thought, the soul of the society which, if he is a strong personality in touch with the spirit of the age, he may help to influence but which he cannot determine’ (Ibid, pg 456). Only society can itself determine its own law of being; not even a governing class, aristocracy or intelligent theocracy. Therefore the Time-Spirit pressed towards democracy and socialism, which even though imperfect, yet allows the self-consciousness of the social being to assert itself. ‘Certainly, democracy as it is now practiced is not the last or penultimate stage; for it is often merely democratic in appearance and even at the best amounts to the rule of the majority and works by the vicious method of party government…Even a perfect democracy is not likely to be the last stage of social evolution, but it is still the necessary broad standing-ground upon which the self-consciousness of the social being can come to its own. Democracy and Socialism are, as we have already said, the sign that that self-consciousness is beginning to ripen into fullness (Ibid, pg 456-457)’.

Date of Update: 27-Jul-15

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu