Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters


The Peril of the World-State Pragmatic Beginnings

The urge to human unity tries to express itself in many ways and proceeds through many experiments. Sri Aurobindo explains that one such important experiment has been the pursuance of ‘the principle of mechanical unification, -- that is to say, by the principle of the State’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg.505).

The State Idea took time to develop and did not appear as a meteor. Sri Aurobindo explains that it was incipient in ‘the work of the Alfreds and Charlemagnes and other premature national or imperial unifiers’. It later consolidated in the State principle leading to uniformity, regulation and mechanization and inevitably culminated in socialism (Ibid)

Though the concept of the Ideal State was developed by Plato in his treatise on the Republic, it was left to great pragmatic temperaments (and not philosopher-kings as conceptualized by Plato) to initiate the attempt of consolidating the psyche of the peoples to be collectively ready for a political and cultural homogeneity. Alfred the Great, who ruled Wessex from AD 871 to 891 was not only a military commander but a wise lawgiver and an educationist promoting literacy and advocating the use of English, thus consolidating the psyche of the people to be ready for acknowledging cohesive governance. He was preceded by Charlemagne who conquered almost all of mainland Europe during a rule spanning from AD 768 to 814 and succeeded to consolidate a common identity in the psyche of the people from the south of Spain to the East of Germany. His important move was to abandon the gold standard and bringing Europe on the same silver currency, facilitating trade. He enacted common laws, uplifted the masses and advocated education throughout his kingdom thus consolidating a commonality that would later be the precursor of the State-Idea. Sri Aurobindo notes that unknowingly, the likes of Alfreds and Charlemagnes initiated the seeds that would much later turn into a pragmatic State-Idea, ‘for men work almost always without knowing for what they have worked’. (Ibid)

It is interesting that Sri Aurobindo mentions the Alfreds and Charlemagnes as unknowing practical forerunners of the State-Idea without referring to the ideal State of Plato formulated in a much earlier era. Intellectual stalwarts like Aristotle and Karl Popper had criticized Plato’s concept. Karl Popper even ventured to suggest that the idea of philosopher-king was implicit in the rise of fascism in the 20th century. (Kumar, Anup: International Journal for Excogitation Education and Research, Vol.1, No.1,2017)

The question that is relevant in the modern era is whether a mechanical unification as envisaged in the principle of the State can be projected to be a base for world-unification. Sri Aurobindo attempts to understand in this chapter if a ‘strict unification, a vast uniformity, a regulated socialisation of united mankind’ can be the ‘predestined fruit’ of the labour directed towards building a World-State. (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg.506)


Date of Update: 25-Jan-17

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu