Front Page Titles (by Subject) II: Political Analysis - Literature of Liberty, Winter 1980, vol. 3, No. 4
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
II: Political Analysis - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Winter 1980, vol. 3, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
This work is copyrighted by the Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and is put online with their permission.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The following group of summaries cover a diverse but interrelated set of issues involving political analysis. The topics dealt with include (in order) human rights, toleration, coercion, the apparent conflict between the individual and the common good, obedience, and a survey of various historical theories or regimes that raise the problems of political power and hegemony.
Particularly important for the dialectical commentary they offer on each other are the initial three summaries concerned with human rights (Reichert, Machan, and Schlesinger) and the concluding group of eight summaries (beginning with Helm's and Morelli's study of obedience, authority, and legitimacy in regard to Stanley Milgram's classic obedience experiments) which deal with various ways to analyze or manipulate political and cultural oppression.
Society, State, and Right in Proudhon
“Natural Right in the Political Philosophy of PierreJoseph Proudhon.” Journal of Libertarian Studies 4(Winter 1980):77–91.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's (1809–1865) philosophy of law and natural right stands in contrast to the “hopeless confusion of contemporary political theory,” whose un-unclear notions of justice stem either from social contract theorists or advocates of state socialism. For Proudhon justice and law derived from norms which “express the fundamental will of people organized within voluntary relationships which they create in the course of living their lives.” Morality and justice related to mutual respect for human dignity.
Proudhon attacked Rousseau because he saw him as “chiefly responsible for advocating ‘an infantile dependence upon governmental paternalism.’” Rousseau had little trust for individuals and denied the capacity of people for self-government. The State, which would insure equality, was outside and above society.
Proudhon, on the other hand, saw that the State bureaucracy, and centralization had undercut the family and other voluntary associations. Despite his comment that “property is theft,” Proudhon's toleration and lack of dogmatism is much closer to the spirit of liberal thinkers, such as Adam Smith, than to the state socialism of Karl Marx. For anarchists such as Proudhon, freedom, or liberty resembled its meaning to libertarians such as F. A. Hayek, “a relationship of men to each other that permits the individual the greatest possible room for privacy and initiative in all undertakings.”
Since the problem was the State, it was logical that Proudhon advocated natural, rather than positive law. Economics must be subordinated to ethics and not controlled by political power. His separation of State and Society reflected the use of later scholars such as sociologist Franz Oppenheimer, who taught that the State represents coercion and privilege, and Society a cluster of voluntary and natural relationships. Decentralization was fundamental to such an outlook. Social pressures might exist, but they lacked the coercive mechanism of state power.
Human Rights and Political Change
“On Human Rights, Feudalism and Political Change” in Alan S. Rosenbaum, ed., The Philosophy of Human Rights Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980, Chapter 12.
Machan challenges the relativist conception of human rights: that different societies could have different but equally valid ideas as to what rights human individuals have. He provides a brief history of this issue and discusses why even the absence of a clear conception of human rights are universal moral/political principles.
Machan develops the case for human rights very briefly and in plain terms, appropriate to a nontechnical book. Such rights mean that because human beings are moral agents living in this world, others in society should not interfere with their lives, liberty, and property and may be rebuffed when they do so (by the victim or by his or her agents, possibly governments).
The essay next turns to some of its most novel features, namely, what is to be done where human rights are not respected in law and practice. Machan develops an ethics of striving to have a constitution of human rights established and administered, urging that this ethics must not lose sight of the very principles which are being fought for. Some examples are explored. Feudalism in Hungary is used as the model by which the ethics is tested and developed.
The last portion of the essay examines the foreign policy of a society in which a constitution of human rights is being administered in law. What should such a society's relations be with others which do not respect human rights? Is there cause for hostility or armed conflict? The general point stressed is that a constitution of human rights does not imply that a society should strive to implement it everywhere, especially not if this requires force.
The last section of this essay considers the delicate moves of diplomacy to demonstrate the respect for human rights which serve as principles to respect and protect human individuals in their persons and properties.
Carter's Human Rights Policy
“Human Rights and the American Tradition.” Foreign Affairs 57, 3(1979):503–524.
Despite the confusion caused by the Carter administration's policy on human rights, the campaign has plainly touched exposed nerves throughout the world—from Moscow to Santiago, from Kampala to Peking. American concern for the status of human freedoms in foreign nations may be traced back to the early years of American foreign policy.
The movement for a universal application of natural rights is basically a product of the experience of the last four centuries. Tocqueville has persuasively attributed this new humanistic ethic to the rise of the idea of equality. The perception of a common dignity shared by all human beings inevitably nurtured a mood of compassion for the whole race.
Since their proclamation of the “inalienable” rights of man in 1776, Americans have generally agreed that their country must serve as a beacon of human rights to an unregenerate world. Disagreement has always turned on the question of how America is to execute her mission. Should the United States make an active effort to influence governmental policies in other nations, or should it merely set an example to the rest of the world by improving and refining its institutions at home?
One historical case clarifies American alternatives: the efforts of Sen. Lewis Cass of Michigan to promote a suspension of diplomatic relations with Austria because of the bloody Austrian and Russian suppression of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. During Congressional debate on this proposal, Sen. John Parker Hale of New Hampshire raised classic objections to an active pursuit of the cause of human rights in other nations.
He declared, first of all, that the Cass proposal was hypocritically selective—singling out Austria for punishment while omitting Russia with its greater commercial and diplomatic importance to the United States. He also pointed out that, within sight of the nation's Capital, human beings were being openly sold at auction. America must first put her own house in order, he asserted, before launching on a crusade to reform the enfeebled Austrians.
Turning his attention to the Carter human rights policy, Schlesinger traces its immediate roots to a widespread disaffection with Realpolitik in foreign policy during the Kissinger years. However, soon after President Carter affirmed that “our commitment to human rights must be absolute,” this new emphasis in foreign policy drew numerous criticisms—many recalling those of Senator Hale a century earlier. There were charges of hypocrisy, double standards, messianism, cultural imperialism, racism, as well as accusations that the U.S. was undermining anticommunist allies and scuttling détente.
Despite premature obituaries, the repeated resurrections of the human rights campaign demonstrated both the continuity of the administration's concern, as well as the underlying vitality of the issue. For all its vulnerabilities, the policy encouraged fighters for freedom around the globe and helped secure the release of political prisoners in countries such as South Korea, Brazil, and Cuba. It has also placed the burden within the American government upon those who wish to embrace despots and has significantly altered the world's view of the U.S. as a rampant capitalist power bent on global hegemony.
In Prof. Schlesinger's view, therefore, the Carter human rights policy must stand as a qualified success, but as a success nonetheless.
Locke's Tolerance: Prudence or Right?
“John Locke: From Absolutism to Toleration.” The American Political Science Review 74(March 1980):53–69.
What accounts for Locke's transition from secular absolutism (in which the state imposes an arbitrary uniformity for the sake of civil peace) to liberal toleration (in which the state disestablishes religion altogether and confines itself to protecting civil interests? Contemporary scholars have either denied that Locke's early writings are absolutist or denied that there is any necessary connection between Locke's early authoritarian views and his subsequent appeal for toleration.
But Locke in his Two Tracts on Government (1660) was more of an absolutist than Hobbes, and the connection between his early and latter views represent a change in strategy rather than a change in basic principles. Both strategies Locke defended by an appeal to what is required for civil peace. Toleration and absolutism differ only as strategies in the political management of religion.
In Locke's early writings, religious sectarian warfare is seen as the fundamental problem of politics, a problem that can be controlled by either absolutism to be a better strategy, since sectarian warfare occurs either when the state is obligated to uphold a “true religion” or when the state allows total freedom to follow one's own conscience.
But in the Essay on Toleration (1667), Locke advocates toleration on prudential grounds. Presumably, he came to believe that the acceptance of an imposed uniformity, even a uniformity that did not claim “truth”, would go against Christian conscience. It isn't that people have a right to freedom of conscience, it is simply that man's pride in his opinions will cause him to resist all attempts to change his beliefs by forceful means. If it is inevitable that people will believe that their opinions are necessary, and if it is impossible to change necessary beliefs by force, then liberty of conscience must be allowed. This liberty will not upset civil peace because worship is a private matter and because following one form of worship is not necessary for salvation.
Finally, in the Letter on Toleration (1689), toleration is defended as the right principle as well as the better policy. By presenting the disestablishment of religion and the right of conscience as principles, Locke minimizes the possibilities for political intervention. And by raising moral doubts about any authorities who proclaim the “true way”, Locke hopes to encourage citizens to leave each other alone. However, sincere belief is not necessarily true belief and Locke gives no principle for judging freedom of conscience to be a right. Instead, we are left with a prudential accomodation to the political turmoil that results from man's pride in his reason. Absolutism and toleration remain justified by the same principle, and liberalism is left resting insecurely on prudence and a general distrust of religious and moral authorities.
“Political Intolerance: The Illusion of Progress.” Psychology Today (February 1979):87–91.
Americans have not become more tolerant of dissent and nonconformity. Contrary to recent surveys, a new study by the authors claims that Americans are just as intolerant today as in the early 1950s. Only the targets of intolerance have changed.
Samuel Stouffer's pioneering work in the empirical study of intolerance (1954) revealed that substantial majorities of Americans were unwilling to grant Communists, socialists, or atheists civil and procedural rights (the right to speak in public, be immune from wire tapping, etc.). Has tolerance increased since Stouffer's time? Two studies (that of James Davis in 1975 and that of Nunn, Crockett, and Williams in 1978) purported to track liberalizing trends of American tolerance to the extent that “citizens who are most supportive of civil liberties have emerged as the majority in our society...”
Such conclusions, however, go beyond their studies' empirical findings. Intolerance towards Communists, socialists, and atheists may have declined, but this is because people now are as intolerant toward different groups or ideas. These findings of intolerance are supported by two new surveys conducted in Minneapolis and St. Paul in 1976. The results showed greater tolerance toward allowing Communists and atheists to have their books in libraries. However, when the survey allowed respondents to pick those groups they least liked (e.g. Ku Klux Klan, homosexuals, or Black Panthers) and substitute these for Communists, the levels of intolerance toward the new groups was substantially as large as towards the older targets of hostility. New undesirables have replaced the old undesirables. We need to be more careful in conceiving and measuring intolerance over time.
The authors believe it is impractical to believe that greater tolerance in a democratic society will come as a result of respect for an abstract principle such as allowing for the free competition of ideas. They subscribe to James Madison's belief that the very diversity and “multiplicity of sects” and interests provide the best safeguards against intolerance. The “diversity of targets of intolerance prevent an immediate threat to civil liberties” even though levels of intolerance are alarmingly high in America.
Hayek: Reason, Relativism, and Liberty
“The Cognitive Basis of Hayek's Political Thought.” In Robert L. Cunningham, ed. Liberty and The Rule of Law (Texas & London: Texas A & M University Press, 1979):242–267.
The central theme underlying F. A. Hayek's mature writings is the importance for politics and science of our correctly understanding the limits of human reason.
Along with two theories of liberty that emerged in the eighteenth century—the British and the French—came two theories of reason: British “empiricism” and French rationalism. Hayek judges French rationalism to be incompatible with the proper limits for social planning, but he does not enable us to make a rational choice among conflicting traditions of liberty. Even though he strives to avoid historical relativism, his exclusive reliance on modern empiricism may undercut his opposition to relativism and thereby weaken the very principle of liberty he hopes to defend.
Hayek opposes rationalism by minimizing the role that reason plays in human affairs, while affirming that much of the order which we find in society can be understood as the spontaneous and unforeseen result of individual actions rather than the result of deliberate, centralized design. He thus outdistances even Hume or Kant in questioning reason's power to know the nature of things. Reason itself, Hayek thinks, may change and evolve, largely without conscious direction.
Hayek believes that the mind's classification of things is never based on the discovery of “natural kinds” or classes. For Hayek there are no sense data that are simply “given,” prior to interpretation or theory. This means that we can never conclusively test any scientific theory. Hayek has shifted from his earlier conviction that the human mind is invariable among historical epochs to his present stress on the variability of the mind and its cognitive structure. However, in putting such stringent limitations on human reason, Hayek has joined “the moderns” as opposed to classical writers like Aristotle and Plato. He thereby eliminates the possibility that we can make rational choices among traditions on the basis of what is true or good by nature. In doing so, Miller claims, Hayek undercuts his own traditional defense of liberty.
Hayek on Coercion and Freedom
“F.A. Hayek and the Concept of Coercion.” In Ordo: Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft Vol. 31(Stuttgart, New York: Gustav Fisher Verlag, 1980):pp. 43–50.
F. A. Hayek's impressive attempt to define a systematic political philosophy of individual liberty in his book The Constitution of Liberty (1960) fails largely because of his flawed concepts of freedom and coercion. Defining freedom as the absence of coercion, Hayek's understanding of the crucial term “coercion” is both fuzzy and self-contradictory. It is fuzzy since for Hayek, coercion loosely includes, in addition to the use or threat of physical violence, also voluntary, nonviolent actions that we are free to avoid. Hayek's notion of coercion is also self-contradictory since it lumps together in the same moral-legal category of coercion not only forced actions and exchanges but also certain types of nonviolent, voluntary refusal to make an exchange. On Hayek's criteria, some innocent nonviolent acts are judged “coercive” (e.g., being invited to a party on the condition that one wear a suit), whereas some tyrannical, violent acts are judged “noncoercive” (e.g., government imposed taxation and military conscription).
We should either confine the concept of “coercion” strictly to the invasion of another person or property by the use or threat of physical violence or scrap the term “coercion” altogether, and simply define “freedom” not as the “absence of coercion” but as the “absence of aggressive physical violence or its threat.” “Economic power,” that is, the right to define when one will work or exchange is not coercive. The alternative is to outlaw the refusal to work, which is a form of slavery.
Hayek, by blurring the distinction between aggressive force and justified defensive force, illogically legitimizes the existence of the state which depends on such aggressive force as taxation and the military draft. Hayek asserts that state coercion is justifiable if its edicts are the “rule of law,” that is, general rules knowable in advance. He argues that if we can foresee such edicts we can avoid putting ourselves in such a position. Yet Hayek's avoidability criterion for noncoercion leads to absurd or totalitarian conclusions. For example, one could logically frame a Hayekian general “rule of law,” knowable in advance, which would enslave everyone every third year, forbid anyone to criticize the government under pain of death, and oblige everyone to worship in a particular fashion.
“Advanced Liberalism” as Managed Capitalism
“The Identity of English Liberalism.” Politics and Society 9, no. 1(1979):1–32.
The author takes issue with the conventional view of English liberalism: “that during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries liberalism blossomed from a sectional ideology into a dominant mode of consciousness and that it achieved ascendency because its separation of the economy from the polity, together with its sanctification of individual property and other private rights coincided with the development of productive forces.” The conventional view goes on to attribute the political eclipse of late nineteenth-century liberalism at the polls to its inability to define a program of social reconstruction that would adapt capitalism to “an epoch of state intervention and social welfare.”
Eccleshall dissents and accepts the recent British New Left and analysis of Perry Anderson and Tom Nairn. This view maintains that English classical liberalism, constitutionally born in the 1688 Glorious Revolution and favoring men of property, never dislodged the premodern conservative ideology of social hierarchy and deference, which prevailed over the liberal ethos of individual rights and liberties. Yet, paradoxically, late liberalism attained a maturity (in theory and practice) at the close of the nineteenth century at the moment of the Liberal party's electoral collapse. This new, reformulated liberalism then “permitted dominant groups to abandon the aristocratic heritage” of conservative Whiggism for a more authentic “liberal ethos.” This late nineteenth-century liberalism promised to secure the rights of individuality to all classes while evolving an ideology of “managed capitalism.” Today, this new, socially aware liberalism is the dominant English ideology shared by all major parties. Contrary to conventional views, the new cross-party liberalism did not fail to keep pace with the changing socioeconomic realities.
Classical liberalism contained inherent theoretical ambiguities resolved by post-classical liberalism (in the latter half of the nineteenth century). Classical liberalism's “Achilles heel,” maintains Eccleshall, was its overemphasis on individual autonomy or private judgment at the expense of social harmony and public goods. The free market distributed wealth unequally along class lines and thus prevented social harmony. The state, to correct the political disunity and inequality generated by the market, “was required to exercise a more positively coercive function than the liberal doctrine allowed.” The weakness of the older liberalism meant that a conservative Whiggism of the dominant classes ruled. The market was subordinated to the Burkean conservative view of society as a corporate organism controlled by propertied members.
Eventually, however, English liberals became pioneers in purging the conservative Whig ideology from their system. These nineteenth-century liberals created a state-managed capitalism. The policies of this “advanced capitalism” though applied under the auspices of the twentieth-century Conservative and Labour parties had, in fact, been nurtured by the adaptive liberal ethos.
The author, covering the relevant scholarly bibliography, traces his version of liberalism's historical evolution from the sixteenth-century Levellers to the nineteenth-century liberals Mill, Green, and Hobhouse. In this evolution the older, classical liberalism's tension between individualism and social cooperation or unity, gradually was transformed to the “advanced liberalism.” This new liberalism, espoused now by all English parties, is characterized by social consciousness and state intervention to secure “a one class community.” Thus the liberal ethos came into its own maturity after electoral liberalism waned.
Common Good & Public Interest
“The Common Good and The Public Interest.” Political Theory 8(February 1980):103–118.
Douglass attempts to distinguish between the common good and the public interest. The two were originally separate but have now come together.
Traditionally, the common good was the chief political goal of the state. The common good consisted of a number of specific objectives designed to promote human well-being, and government was thought to have a crucial role in promoting such objectives. The common good was common because its benefits obtained for all and because they were shared benefits (not reducible to individual advantage even though all benefitted). The common good was good in the objective sense, not in the subjective sense. Also, the common good was considered above the individual good; however in a well-functioning society, like in an organism, these two goods were in harmony. In times of conflict the common good took precedence over the individual good. Finally, in the traditional view the notion of the common good involves a paternalistic view of political authority: the government defined the common good and educated the citizenry in its meaning. Rulers could intervene in the society to protect the common good whenever it appeared private initiative was not doing the job.
The notion of the public interest arose with the breakdown of feudalism and the rise of the nation state. Since the common good tended to be identified with the interests of the crown in foreign adventures, the idea fell into disrepute. Opponents of the crown adopted the banner of “interest.” Though the idea of the public interest need not be identified with a mere agglomeration of individual interests those who used the concept did tend to have a individualist view of the public interest, as well as a subjectivist view of values (derived from Hobbes.)
Today the concept still reflects its history. “Interest” tends to be identified with people's choices or choices they would make if they were informed. Even in the second case, interest is not synonomous with objective well-being. “Public” tends to be identified not with all the members of society, but with the majority or the many. The public interest, then, is today equivalent to the common good. Two types of redefinition would push these concepts together. First, “public” might be redefined, as suggested by Brian Barry, to be equivalent to the common interests of all people in their roles as citizens. Second, a redefinition of “interest” might make it more synonomous with “good.” These redefinitions have three problems: a conclusive argument against noncognivitism in values is needed; second, it is unclear whether the concept of interest can really bear the burden of being redefined in a way that goes radically against conventional usage; and, third, it's not clear whether the redefinition suggests a return to illiberal authoritarianism.
The author ends with a suggestion that a plausible definition of the public interest would be akin to that offered by Walter Lippman: “what men would choose if they saw clearly, thought rationally, and acted disinterestedly and benevolently.”
Uncrowding the “Commons”
“The Commons Problem: Alternative Perspectives.” American Psychologist 35(February 1980):131–150.
The dilemma of the commons involves the conflict between individual and group interests over resources held in common. Problems arise when the collective demand of individuals on resources exceeds the supply and the rate of consumption threatens the future functioning of the total resource pool. Examples of commons problems include range land, whales, and oil. An individual who increases his or her rate of consumption may derive a short-term personal gain while others may sustain an immediate loss and all will suffer if the resource pool vanishes.
Prof. Edney reviews a number of psychological perspectives and discusses how these may illuminate the nature of the commons dilemma. Using Platt's reinforcement theory, the commons dilemma is shown to involve problems in the timing of the rewards and costs to consumers. In a commons situation, each individual's cost-benefit analysis leads to an escalation of the problem behavior. Biosocial theories involving territoriality appear to apply to commons problems in animal societies but have little relevance to human communities. Also discussed is Dawkin's “selfish gene” theory which rejects any biological basis to altruism.
Under conditions of scarcity of a resource held in common, we need to limit consumption. However, this poses hazards both to principles of social equality and to community democratic structures. Although providing all members of the community equal (but limited) allotments to the common resource preserves equality, all may suffer if the allotment is insufficient. Alternatively, access may be limited to a few, but these will have a sufficient allotment. Social psychological rewards may reinforce logical or functional justifications for inequality.
Democracies are not well suited to solving commons problems since the wish of a majority to freely consume will destroy the pool. Also, even where the majority do vote to restrain consumption, the actions of a dissenting minority may destroy the pool if it defies complying with majority wishes. Providing information and incentives is unlikely to be particularly effective in solving usage dilemmas.
Edney offers two potential solutions to the commons dilemma which emphasize voluntary, self-determined action. The first involves territorializing, i.e., conveying resources held in common into private property. The second focuses on the possible benefits of increased trust and mutuality among the members of a community.
Milgram: Obedience, Authority, & Legitimacy
“Stanley Milgram and the Obedience Experiment, Authority, Legitimacy, and Human Action.” Political Theory 7(August 1979):321–345.
The authors analyze the concepts involved in Stanley Milgram's famous “obedience to authority” experiment. Milgram sees obedience as an “agentic state” wherein an individual views himself as a mere instrument of authority, lacking any responsibility for the acts he performs. He sees obedience as having an essence which underlies all the diverse situation where we can speak of obedience—school, psychological lab, home, military, bureaucracy, etc. On this view the concepts of obedience, authority, and legitimacy pose no problem since they are defined operationally. Obedience is pressing the shock lever when the experimenter tells the “teacher” to do so. Authority is identified with the person perceived to be in a position of social control (such as the experimenter). But Milgram does not realize that these concepts must be clarified so that it is possible to evaluate whether a particular act falls under them. The criteria for these concepts cannot be viewed in total isolation from distinctions made in ordinary language.
First, there is the distinction between someone in authority (in some office, occupation, role, or status) versus an authority—someone who is supposed to have special insight on knowledge which vindicates the layman's accepting the expert's judgment even though the laymen cannot fully understand the authority. These two distinct types of authority imply that Milgram's conception that obedience to authority has single essence (a disposition to obey) is at best a hypothesis. In Milgram's lab the scientist (the “experimenter”) was deceiving the “teacher” by pretending to be an authority, not in authority. For one in authority, the criteria of assessment tend to be more public (e.g., did he get elected by a fair process?) while for an authority the criteria depend more on trust. This means there is a difference in the types of deception that can occur.
A second distinction is between de facto and de jure authority. De facto authority presuppose some legal conventions or rules to determine who has certain rights to rule, whereas de jure authority involves people deferring to someone because of some legal right the authority may have, or because of his personal qualities. Milgram disregards this distinction and on his own view it is impossible to say that the psychologist lacked the authority to order his subjects to shock the victim. But this means Milgram cannot explain how a subject can resist some legimately enacted law on the grounds that it was morally illegimate. This implies that obedience to political authority is not the same as obedience to a scientist in a lab.
This raises the question: why did the subjects obey? The authors suggest that rather than a mechanism (an agentic state) which is triggered by a certain environment, the psychological lab contains some unique social factors which are not transferrable to other realms. The doctor-patient relationship like the parent-child one involves a setting where a wide variety of requests as carried out without little question; this is not true in other realms. Since almost any subject is permissible within a lab, odd requests in that context will be taken with more ease than in other contexts. Furthermore, we hear little talk of anyone being killed in a psychological lab, which is again unlike other realms of “authority” which concern Milgram. Finally “the authority” in the lab was of a peculiar sort: it was a face to face situation. Milgram found that subjects gave shocks much more often when the experimenter was physically present and much of this so-called obedient behavior only occurred after much prodding. The closest analogue to this politically is the policeman and the traffic offender. Most adherence to laws in a state does not rest on such personal contact, and certainly it does not rest on personal prodding.
Syndicalism & “The Servile State”
“Syndicalist Theories of the State.” Sociological Review 28(February 1980):5–22.
Marxist commentators have frequently criticized revolutionary syndicalism for its supposed reluctance to consider the role of the state in capitalist society. Prof. Holton submits that such assessments grossly distorts syndicalist political reviews. Rather than neglecting the state in favor of an aggressive economism, syndicalists were acutely aware of its functions within the capitalist power structure.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a period in which the syndicalist movement appeared throughout the Western world, a number of problematic developments forced syndicalists to reassess conventional Marxist political theory and to reconsider their strategic position toward the structures of power. The foremost developments of this kind centered on state monopoly capitalism and the establishment of social welfare programs. Were these to be viewed as positive steps toward socialism or, instead, as a tactic for incorporating a docile proletariat into capitalist society.
In France, syndicalist theorists such as Pataud, Pouget, and Pelloutier regarded the state as an instrument of physical coercion in the service of bourgeois morality and ideology. Stressing moral preparation and working-class self-education for a renewed, revolutionary society, Fernand Pelloutier championed the work of the bourses de travail (loosely similar to British trades councils). He viewed the bourses as a “state within a state,” a center of alternative revolutionary purpose through which a new revolutionary man would emerge. This strand of French syndicalist thought provides little support for the old notion of syndicalism as purely economistic movement obsessed above all with Direct Action at the point of production.
British syndicalists were less concerned than the French with revolutionary upheaval. Instead, they pursued a vigorous and influential critique of corporate welfare capitalism as introduced by reforming Liberal governments at the beginning of the century. The “Servile State” slogan played a crucial role in popularizing this anti-state stance. The phrase was of course coined by Hilaire Belloc as early as 1908 to describe adopted by syndicalists, guild socialists, and the shop stewards movement.
Setting aside Belloc's vision of peasant proprietorship in a Catholic England, they nonetheless retained his essential critique of the new “enlightened” activities of the capitalist state such as the use of national insurance for social control of workers. The syndicalists also criticized the ideological controls perpetrated by the new capitalism. These fostered a passive acceptance on the part of the workers of the current system, effectively neutralizing any impulses to overthrow their oppression and work out their economic freedom. Thus, despite certain theoretical and practical limitations, syndicalists may be exonerated from the charge of “neglecting” the state. As a result of their critique of the organs of power, syndicalists were able to enter the new phase of revolutionary activity (1917–1926) as revolutionaries worthy of serious, if critical, attention.
The Parisian League
“La Ligue Parisienne (1585–94): Ancêtre des partis totalitaires modernes?” French Historical Studies 11(Spring 1979):29–57.
The latter half of the sixteenth century witnessed a new development in the political history of France and the West. During that period, French Catholics grew increasingly concerned over Henri III's weakness in dealing with the Protestant threat in their country, in particular with the influence of his distant Protestant cousin and probable heir, Henri de Navarre (later Henri IV). To counter this danger, zealous French Catholics led by the Duc de Guise formed the Sainte Union (otherwise known as la Ligue) for the purpose of restoring undisputed Catholic hegemony in the realm. Established in all major French cities, the League succeeded in capturing control of Paris in 1588, relinquishing its hold on the city with the accession of Henri IV, newly converted to Catholicism.
Regarding the organization, membership, and ideology of the League, it becomes clear that the characteristics of the traditional political faction have been superceded and that something resembling a political party (and a revolutionary one at that) has come to birth. Unlike most factions, for example, the League's existence did not seem to depend on the leadership of a particular individual. Henri III sought to extinguish the threat of radical Catholics by executing the Duc and Cardinal de Guise on Christmas Eve, 1588. To the King's surprise, however, the League survived to struggle against him with renewed vigor.
In addition, the power of the League rested on an extremely broad social base, again unlike traditional factions. It incorporated members of the aristocracy and clergy, to be sure, but also merchants, butchers, tradesmen, and even sailors. In numbers, membership in Paris alone has been variously estimated at between eight and thirty thousand.
The League also incorporated a carefully structured series of deliberative councils which directed the organization's activities and set its policies. As with modern political parties, close-knit organization assured the movement's survival even after the passing of a prominent leader.
Many of the League's characteristics thus link it to the political groupings of our own day. However, its ideology specifically identifies it as a distant ancestor of revolutionary parties, active in the West since the eighteenth century. Like all opposition movements of the time, League members claimed to be struggling for a restoration of ancient French traditions. However, this necessary cloak of tradition grew thin as government persecution pushed the League to ever more radical positions.
In their defense of the Catholic faith and Christian society, League theoreticians completely redefined the notion of nobility. Aristocracy by birth was viewed as mere usurpation of privilege. Religious zeal conferred the mark of true aristocracy. Without devotion to God, the king himself might be considered base-born.
In keeping with this revolutionary spirit, League partisans championed an elective monarchy and the sovereignty of the “people.” To stem the march toward tyranny among even elected monarchs, the ideologists of the League espoused the “primacy of the law,” as a bulwark against arbitrary government. They even set forth proposals for a “loi fondamentale,” a constitution which would empower the Estates-General to act as the highest court and supreme legislative authority of the land.
Finally, the League evidenced revolutionary traits in deed as well as in words. After their takeover of the French capital in 1588, leaders of the League created the Conseil des Dix, a veritable Committee of Public Safety which inflicted a reign of total terror on all suspected enemies of the regime.
The power of the League was to evaporate in the 1590s, when the conversion of Henri de Navarre to Roman Catholicism and his military victories assured the restoration of the traditional Catholic monarchy to France. Despite its eventual demise, however, the organization of the League stands as a new departure in the political experience of the West.
Conservatism in Spain
“Political Conservatism: The Spanish Case, 1875–1977.” Journal of Contemporary History 14(October 1979):561–580.
In defining conservatism in modern Spain, Prof. Robinson relies heavily on the insights of such American theorists as Rossiter, Kirk, Viereck, Wilson, and Huntington.
“Conservative” may ambiguously denote “status quo” politics or “rightist” graspings. Along with Clinton Rossiter, Prof. Robinson finally settles for a conservative model deriving from the tradition of the Irish Whigs, liberals, and free-trader Burkeans. The dilemma plaguing conservatives lies in distinguishing the primary, unchangeable elements of a constitutional state from those secondary factors which may change with changing conditions.
Turning to Spanish political history, Prof. Robinson, along with other Anglo-Saxon historians, identifies the “contemporary” period as beginning in the last quarter of the nineteenth century —the era of the “Restoration Monarchy” of Alfonso XII. The great architect of that monarchy was Antonio Cánovas, conservative framer of the Constitution of 1876. The most influential conservative politician of the modern period, Cánovas embodied a broadly pragmatic position within the framework of liberal constitutionalism. He defined his program more by opposing threats to the “middle way” than by adherence to clear-cut principles. In his views, the lack of sharply defined principles would provide the monarchy with much needed flexibility. Thus, the constitutional system which Cánovas established featured both traditional and liberal elements, so as to include all sectors of opinion which were prepared to compromise and accept the rules of the game.
Like many politicians of this day and our own, Cánovas made strong appeals to “tradition” to legitimize his mixed monarchical and representative institutions. The “nation” was the central feature of his beliefs. He looked upon centuries-old reservoir of experience, not as the ephemeral product of a daily plebiscite. For Cánovas, the experience of the Spanish nation demonstrated incontrovertibly that “the hereditary Monarchy with the Cortes is the essential constitutional form of the country.” The same experience required the establishment of the Roman Catholic faith as Spain's official religion, although non-Catholics would be allowed the right to worship in private.
Cánovas's British-inspired system of compromise held together for over forty years. However, it proved difficult to perfect. Electoral corruption and the manipulation upon which it depended created too many vested interests which thwarted internal reforms.
Cánovas' conservative successors, Francisco Silvela, Antonio Maura, and Eduardo Dato, encouraged democratic reforms to broaden the base of the Canovite system, but were not able to preserve it from overthrow in 1921 by General Primo de Rivera. Thereafter, conservatism continued to make real, though modest contributions to Spanish political life during the Rivera period, the Republic, and the Franco regime. Currently, under the restored parliamentary monarchy, it is represented by two political formations: the Union de Centro Democratico and the Allianza Popular. Nevertheless, the philosophy has not yet regained sufficient respectability for any Spanish party to use the word “conservative” in its title.
Soviet Intellectual Orthodoxy
“The Establishment of Intellectual Orthodoxy in the U.S.S.R. 1928–1934.” Past and Present 83(May 1979):141–164.
At the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s, intellectual life in the Soviet Union underwent a transformation no less sudden and extensive than those which occurred in the economic and political spheres. The launching of the First Five-Year Plan in 1928 inaugurated a period in which the relatively relaxed and pluralist atmosphere of the New Economic Policy gave way to compulsory consensus and dogmatic orthodoxy.
The dramatic change occurring between 1928–1934 has generally been explained by Stalin's “revolution from above.” According to this view, Stalin's decisions to accelerate industrialization and agricultural collectivization led quite naturally to efforts at controlling intellectual expression.
Close examination of the period, however, yields little evidence that the leadership pursued a consistent policy of intervention in intellectual affairs. At the same time, considerable evidence may be advanced to show that these were years of real controversy and militancy, albeit within narrower ideological limits.
The Soviet intelligentsia of the period consisted of three generally antagonistic groups: liberal “bourgeois intellectuals,” who could work as badly needed teachers, bureaucrats, and technicians as long as they made no overt protest against the new system; older Marxists (also of bourgeois origin) educated before the Revolution; and the ever more numerous products of the new “proletarianized” Soviet educational system. Graduates in the third category acquired majority status by 1931. With their growing numerical strength and the increased centralization effected under the Five-Year Plan, a wave of Purist militancy swept across the Soviet academic world between 1928–1932.
One of the earliest and most widespread forms of this “cultural revolution” involved the total and violent rejection of all non-Marxist scholarship. In addition, all intellectuals (even Marxists) who received their education in Czarist days fell under suspicion and were commonly labeled with charges of “liberalism,” “apoliticism,” “lack of militancy,” “compromise with the bourgeosie,” etc. Now the communist party commitment of intellectuals was to be gauged by whether their work contributed to the implementation of party policies.
Throughout this militant period, party and government officials played a surprisingly small role. Preoccupied by pressing economic problems, they did not have the opportunity to formulate a clearly defined policy concerning the content of intellectual work. As a result, far from being a revolution from above, the militant movement arose among intellectuals themselves.
By late 1931, however, a turning point occurred. Apparently alarmed by the tumultuous accusations of ideological impurity among scholars, Stalin himself stepped in to settle a historical controversy then hotly debated. In laying down the party line on a point of scholarly interest, Stalin set the stage for a radical transformation of Soviet intellectual life. Soon, brigades of young graduates were organized to review existing academic literature and to replace works found unacceptable by new collectively written text-books produced under supervision of the Central Committee.
Intellectuals who had thundered demands for uniformity were now taken at their word and forced to tow the party line. The revolution which had begun at the grassroots was now coopted by top officials.
The Clergy & The American Revolution
“The Dove and Serpent: The Clergy in the American Revolution.” American Quarterly 31(Summer 1979):187–203.
By the spring of 1774, American colonists were realizing the futility of peaceful protests and demonstrations against British injustices and beginning to wonder if the time had come for a permanent solution to the quarrel of government. Aware that events had reached a crisis, the leaders of the colonies faced an urgent problem: how to convince the common American, ignorant of the writings of Locke or the British Whig radicals, to suffer personal hardship for the American common good. Thomas Jefferson proposed using the American Puritan heritage for political advantage by calling for a day of prayer and fasting. “We were under the conviction of the necessity of arousing our people from the lethargy into which they had fallen as to passing events; and thought that the appointment of a day of general fasting and prayer would be most likely to call up and alarm their attention.”
Jefferson and his fellow intellectuals realized the depth of the religious undercurrent that flowed throughout the colonies. The clergy enthusiastically responded to the call to fervor, since this promised to revive their waning political leverage and added fire to the cooling religious spirit. “The awe-inspiring occasion of a day of humiliation and prayer would serve to recall the people to the sacred mission of their forefathers and place the clergy at the forefront of that movement.”
The sermons of that year reveal the tension felt by the clergy to evade the question of military conflict while creating a mood of rebellion. They emphasized prayers for peace and reconciliation and finally offered strained rationalizations for the impending war.
Once war was underway, sermons showed a marked decline in the use of inflammatory rhetoric. Some clergymen felt assured of a continued war, but more were uneasy about the alliance between religion and war developing into a ‘combative Christianity.’
The emphasis soon shifted to social projections of a post-war America. The clergy anticipated this to be an era “of purest virtue when the American garden would be cleared of the tangles of European corruption and the fruits of moral and spiritual perfection would spring forth.”
Sincere as these prophecies were, ministers maintained a measure of self-interest. Should the victory of America not be a stage in America's development toward the fulfilment of the divine plan, it might be reasoned that clergy had used the sacred calling to serve Satan. The clergy had good reason to be concerned: the closer America came to military success, the less the people appeared to be interested in moral and religious progress. “Internal corruption had already begun to crumble the structures of the new Jerusalem even before they had been completed.”
The clergy's other major concern was how the separation of church and state would shape the future of the Church in the United States. The immediate results were a reduction of the status and power of established clergy and a rapid increase of untrained preachers free to teach heresy. “Having counted upon an increase of religious feeling in the nation to result in the people's gratitude to God for their victory, many ministers were faced with a populace more concerned with land, goods, and politics than with saving their souls.”
In the 1780s the problem facing the clergy was that of forging a role for themselves in a republican society. The next two decades of sermons reveal a rebuilding of relationship of ministers to leaders of society, redefining a function of the clergy, and enlivening the Puritan ideal with imagery appealing to the post war generation.
As civil reform movements arose the clergy used these benevolent organizations as a new connection to establish Christianity as an essential element of the new republic. “By associating themselves with these societies, the clergy provided an aura of divine approval to such organizations while gaining in return a measure of social status.”
These were difficult years for the clergy, but just as their seventeenth century predecessors had done, the ministers adapted the Christian message to new needs and conditions with faith in the fulfillment of the American mission.
Russian & American Defenses of Servitude
“In Defense of Servitude: American Pro-Slavery and Russian Pro-Serfdom Arguments, 1760–1860.” The American Historical Review” 85(October 1980):809–827.
Kolchin compares the arguments for slavery offered in the United States with those for serfdom in Russia. Both Russian and American defenders of an unfree labor system used racial arguments. Even though there was no obvious racial differences, between Russian lords and serfs, arguments about serfs' inherent and native inferiority occurred, though not as elaborated as arguments about Southern American blacks' inferiority. American slaveowners and Russian lords alike employed paternalistic, class oriented arguments which claimed that the superior class's care of their inferiors made the latter better off than they would be if freed. In the case of the USA, slaveowners contrasted the slaves' lot with the free workers in the North and contended that, racial difference apart, their system was necessary for civilization.
The need to defend unfree labor apparently led to similar arguments occurring in different social climates (though American slaveowners did use religious justifications that Russian lords tended to avoid). Indeed, both slaveowners and lords played the same semantic games, claiming their system was not of bondage, or at least not of severe bondage. Both groups took reactionary views on most social issues. Being opposed to the main intellectual currents of the day (natural rights, democracy, Jeffersonianism, etc.), they were deeply suspicious of change.
The arguments for slavery and serfdom differed in their development over time. Up till 1800, defenses of the institutions were not widespread and the idea of gradual emancipation was raised. After 1800 the cautious antislavery sentiment in certain parts of the South disappeared and was replaced by awkward, hesitant defenses of the institution, usually on racist grounds that it was a necessary evil. Starting in 1830, however, there began a flood of militant, unapologetic defenses of the virtues of slavery, often on the “practical” grounds that it was the best way to organize society. In Russia, however, the liberal trend of the eighteenth century continued into the nineteenth. By the 1840s free labor ideas had spread among the nobility. Russia never had a militant proserfdom movement.
Why the differences? The author provides five reasons. (1) Though Russian nobility did employ racial arguments, the fact that slaves in the USA, unlike serfs in Russia, were of an obviously different color than their masters made the idea of freedom more threatening in the USA—it was like the idea of releasing aliens. (2) In a country where the “people” were politically equal (“all men are created equal”), freeing black slaves was a threat to slaveholders and nonslaveholders alike since they had previously thought of the “people” as white adult males. In Russia, on the other hand, the peasants were the “people”; they were 4/5 of the country. An all white America was a bureaucratic, closed, nondemocratic society, the gentry was not in a position to shape policy. The Czars and many of their close advisors were committed to eventual liberation, and the nobility could not change this. Southern slaveholders, however, could attack abolitionist sentiments in newspapers, magazines, meetings, petitions, etc. (3) Russia lacked a free press. The gentry had no audience which they could appeal; the slaveholders did. (4) The South felt that not just their institution of slavery but their own region was under attack; in Russia serfdom lacked this sectional cast. (5) Because of the first four factors (racial differences, democracy, a free press, the sectional nature of the institution) the Southern slaveholders were more independent and had a strong sectional civilization with which they identified and they were very reluctant to give it up. Russian nobility, on the other hand, had more of an absentee mentality with regard to their institution— they were both literally and figuratively not around enough to supervise their serfs, or identity with a culture of serf holders. Emancipation threatened the slave-owners very way of life; it threatened the Russian nobility only in its pocketbook.
Croce's Hegemony: How to Win Minds
“Hegemony before Gramsci: The Case of Benedetto Croce.” The Journal of Modern History 52(March 1980):66–84.
The political theory of the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, centers around the concept of cultural hegemony, the indoctinated “common sense” or belief system by which a dominant class controls the oppressed. Gramsci sought to understand the techniques of “bourgeois hegemony” in order to replace the cultural hegemony with one that would serve the interests of the proletariat. In the hegemony of the Italian Idealist philosopher Benedetto Croce (1866–1952) over Italian intellectual life Gramsci discovered the techniques of social and political change that would establish a dominant culture in the minds of one's contemporaries. Gramsci appreciated Croce's skillful use of the scholarly journal and press “to saturate the intellectual life of Italy with a single point of view, a particular culture” and thereby bring about ideological and social change.
Croce's aim was the cultural transformation of Italy through conversion to his Idealist philosophy. He sought to annihilate positivism, materialism, and their roots in eighteenth century thought (with its abstract, antihistorical opposition to developmental modes of thought). To install his opposing culture, Croce appealed to writers and intellectuals outside the “official culture” of the Italian universities. In all his techniques to achieve his revolution in cultural values, he had a “determinate” point of view, one that was sectarian and partisan to his Idealist faith, and he opposed as misguided the notions of tolerance practiced by “false liberalism.”
One technique of achieving cultural hegemoney for Idealism among young minds was Croce's founding in 1903 of the scholarly journal, La critica. Together with Giovanni Gentile, Croce's La critica dominated the rising generation of Southern Italians in thought and culture, and attracted such luminaries of the Idealist movement as Guido de Ruggiero (author of the Idealist movement as Guido de Ruggiero (author of the History of European Liberalism). Through the decades, La critica appeared on schedule, reassuring its readers by its dependability of the sure foundations of its ideology.
Other scholarly techniques by which Croce asserted Idealism's cultural hegemony were the many book series and publications of his friend Giovanni Laterza's press at Bari. Laterza's press was a “serious” and ideological instrument for disseminating Idealist doctrine—through the Library of Modern Culture of which Croce was the director (500 volumes by Croce's death in 1952), which published Croce, Sorel, and de Ruggiero. Other Crocean-dominated book series included Croce's own works and The Classics of Modern Philosophy. This last series introduced Italians, for the first time, to easily available translations of Hegel and Kant. The British Empiricists (Bacon, Locke, and Shaftesbury) did not appear until the 1950s and 1960s; no works appeared devoted to the French philosophes of the eighteenth century just as there had been no publication of the Italian Enlightenment thinkers Galvani, Beccaria, or Volta in the Writers of Italy Series (some 600 volumes).
Croce's impact on twentieth century Italian culture was pervasive. Given voice by the publishing house of Laterza and by his journal La critica, Croce dominated the educated Southern Italian middle class. The cultural hegemony soon flowed into libraries and the official cultural bastions, the universities. Croce's hegemony served Gramsci as an influential model for far different ends.