Front Page Titles (by Subject) (c) the differentiation: group theories and group psychology - The State
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(c) the differentiation: group theories and group psychology - Franz Oppenheimer, The State 
The State: Its History and Development viewed Sociologically, authorized translation by John M. Gitterman (New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1922).
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(c) the differentiation: group theories and group psychology
On the other hand, as in all organic growth, there develops pari passu a psychic differentiation just as powerful. The interests of the group produce strong group feelings; the upper and lower strata develop a “class consciousness” corresponding to their peculiar interests.
The separate interest of the master group is served by maintaining intact the imposed law of political means; such interest makes for “conservatism.” The interest of the subject group, on the contrary, points to the removal of the prevailing rule, to the substitution for it of a new rule, the law of equality for all inhabitants of the state, and makes for “liberalism” and revolution.
Herein lies the tap root of all class and party psychology. Hence there develop, in accordance with definite psychological laws, those incomparably mighty forms of thought which, as “class theories,” through thousands of years of struggle guide and justify every social contest in the consciousness of contemporaries.
“When the will speaks reason has to be silent,” says Schopenhauer, or as Ludwig Gumplowicz states the same idea, “Man acts in accordance with laws of nature, as an after-thought he thinks humanly.” Man’s will being strictly “determined,” he must act according to the pressure which the surrounding world exerts upon him; and the same law is valid for every community of men; groups, classes, and the state itself. They “flow from the plane of higher economic and social pressure to that of lower pressure, along the line of least resistance.” But every individual and each community of men believe themselves free agents; and therefore, by an unescapable psychical law they are forced to consider the path they are traversing as a freely chosen means, and the point toward which they are driven as a freely chosen end. And since man is a rational and ethical being, that is, a social entity, he is obliged to justify before reason and morality the method and the objective point of his movement, and to take account of the social consciousness of his time.
So long as the relations of both groups were simply those of internationally opposed border enemies, the exercise of the political means called for no justification, because a man of alien blood had no rights. As soon, however, as the psychic integration develops, in any degree, the community feeling of state consciousness, as soon as the bond servant acquires “rights,” and the consciousness of essential equality percolates through the mass, the political means requires a system of justification; and there arises in the ruling class the group theory of “legitimacy.”
Everywhere, the upholders of legitimacy justify dominion and exploitation with similar anthropological and theological reasoning. The master group, since it recognizes bravery and warlike efficiency as the only virtues of a man, declares itself, the victors,—and from its standpoint quite correctly—to be the more efficient, the better “race.” This point of view is the more intensified, the lower the subject race is reduced by hard labor and low fare. And since the tribal god of the ruling group has become the supreme god in the new amalgamated state religion, this religion declares—and again from its view-point quite correctly—that the constitution of the state has been decreed by heaven, that it is “tabu,” and that interference with it is sacrilege. In consequence, therefore, of a simple logical inversion, the exploited or subject group is regarded as an essentially inferior race, as unruly, tricky, lazy, cowardly and utterly incapable of self-rule or self-defense, so that any uprising against the imposed dominion must necessarily appear as a revolt against God Himself and against His moral ordinances. For these reasons, the dominant group at all times stands in closest union with the priesthood, which, in its highest positions, at least, nearly always recruits itself from their sons, sharing their political rights and economic privileges.
This has been, and is at this day, the class theory of the ruling group; nothing has been taken from it, not an item has been added to it. Even the very modern argument by which, for example, the landed nobility of old France and of modern Prussia attempted to put out of court the claims of the peasantry to the ownership of lands, on the allegation that they had owned the land from time immemorial, while their peasants had only been granted a life tenure therein,—is reproduced among the Wahuma, of Africa,46 and probably could be shown in many other instances.
Like their class theory, their class psychology has been, and is, at all times the same. Its most important characteristic, the “aristocrat’s pride,” shows itself in contempt for the lower laboring strata. This is so inherent, that herdsmen, even after they have lost their herds and become economically dependent, still retain their pride as former lords: “Even the Galla, who have been despoiled of their wealth of herds by the Somali north of the Tana, and who thus have become watchers of other men’s herds, and even in some cases along the Sabaki become peasants, still look with contempt upon the peasant Watokomo, who are subject to them and resemble the Suaheli. But their attitude is quite different toward their tributary hunting peoples, namely, the Waboni, the Wassanai, and the Walangulo (Ariangulo) who resemble the Galla.”47
The following description of the Tibbu applies, as though it had been originally told of them, to Walter Havenaught and the rest of the poor knights who, in the crusades, looked for booty and lordly domain. It applies no less to many a noble fighting cock from Germany east of the Elbe, and to many a ragged Polish gentleman. “They are men full of self-consciousness. They may be beggars, but they are no pariahs. Many a people under these circumstances would be thoroughly miserable and depressed; the Tibbu have steel in their nature. They are splendidly fitted to be robbers, warriors, and rulers. Even their system of robbery is imposing, although it is base as a jackal’s. These ragged Tibbus, fighting against extreme poverty and constantly on the verge of starvation, raise the most impudent claims with apparent or real belief in their validity. The right of the jackal, which regards the possessions of a stranger as common property, is the protection of greedy men against want. The insecurity of an all but perpetual state of war brings it about that life becomes an insistent challenge, and at the same time the reward of extortion!”48 This phenomenon is in nowise limited to Eastern Africa, for it is said of the Abyssinian soldier: “Thus equipped he comes along. Proudly he looks down on every one: his is the land, and for him the peasant must work.”49
Deeply as the aristocrat at all times despises the economic means and the peasants who employ it, he admits frankly his reliance on the political means. Honest war and “honest thievery”∗ are his occupations as a lord, are his good right. His right—except over those who belong to the same clique—extends just as far as his power. One finds this high praise of the political means nowhere so well stated as in the well-known Doric drinking song:
“I have great treasures; the spear and the sword; Wherewith to guard my body, the bull hide shield well tried.
With these I can plough, and harvest my crop, With these I can garner the sweet grape wine,
By them I bear the name ‘Lord’ with my serfs.
“But these never dare to bear spear and sword, Still less the guard of the body, the bull hide shield well tried. They lie at my feet stretched out on the ground, My hand is licked by them as by hounds,
I am their Persian king—terrifying them by my name.”50
In these wanton lines is expressed the pride of warlike lords. The following verses, taken from an entirely different phase of civilization, show that the robber still has part in the warrior in spite of Christianity, the Peace of God, and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. These lines also praise the political means, but in its most crude form, simple robbery:
“Would you eke out your life, my young noble squire, Follow then my teaching, upon your horse and join the gang!
Take to the greenwood, when the peasant comes up, Run him down quickly, grab him then by the collar, Rejoice in your heart, taking from him whatever he has,
Unharness his horses and get you away!”51
“Unless,” as Sombart adds, “he preferred to hunt nobler game and to relieve merchants of their valuable consignments. The nobles carried on robbery as a natural method of supplementing their earnings, extending it more and more as the income from their property no longer sufficed to pay for the increasing demands of daily consumption and luxury. The system of freebooting was considered a thoroughly honorable occupation, since it met the demand of the essence of chivalry, that every one should appropriate whatever was within reach of his spear point or of the blade of his sword. The nobles learned freebooting as the cobbler was brought up to his trade. The ballad has put this in merry wise:
“To pillage, to rob, that is no shame, The best in the land do quite the same.”
Besides this principal point of the “squirearchical” psychology, a second distinguishing mark scarcely less characteristic is found in the piety of these folk whether it be of conviction or merely strongly accentuated in public.
It seems as though the same social ideas always force identical characteristics on the ruling class. This is illustrated by the form under which God, in their view, appears as their special National God and preponderatingly as a God of War. Although they profess God as the creator of all men, even of their enemies, and since Christianity, as the God of Love, this does not counteract the force with which class interests formulate their appropriate ideology.
In order to complete the sketch of the psychology of the ruling class, we must not forget the tendency to squander, easily understood in those “ignorant of the taste of toil,” which appears sometimes in a higher form as generosity; nor must we forget, as their supreme trait, that death-despising bravery, which is called forth by the coercion imposed on a minority, their need to defend their rights at any time with arms, and which is favored by a freedom from all labor which permits the development of the body in hunting, sport and feuds. Its caricature is combativeness, and a super-sensitiveness to personal honor, which degenerates into madness.
At this point a small digression: Cæsar found the Celts just at that stage of their development, in which the nobles had obtained dominion over their fellow clansmen. Since that time, his classic narrative has stood as a norm—their class psychology appears as the race psychology of all Celts. Not even Mommsen escaped this error. The result is that now, in every book on universal history or sociology, one may read the palpable error, repeated until contradiction is of no avail, although a mere glance would have sufficed to show that all peoples of all races, in the same stage of their development, have showed the same characteristics; in Europe, Thessalians, Apulians, Campanians, Germans, Poles, etc. Meanwhile the Celts, and specifically the French, in different stages of their development, have showed quite different traits of character. The psychology belongs to the stage of development, not to the race!
Whenever, on the other hand, the religious sanctions of the “state” are weak, or become so, there develops as a group theory on the part of the subjects, the concept, either clear or blurred, of Natural Law. The lower class regards the race pride and the assumed superiority of the nobles as presumptuous, claims to be of as good race and blood as the ruling class—and from their standpoint again quite correctly, since according to their views, labor, efficiency and order are accounted the only virtues. They are skeptical also as to the religion which is the helper of their adversaries; and are as firmly convinced as are the nobles of the directly opposite opinion, namely, that the privileges of the master group violate law as well as reason. Later development is not able to add any essential point to the factors originally given.
Under the influence of these ideas, now clearly, now obscurely brought out, the two groups henceforth fight out their battles, each for its own interests. The young state would be burst apart under the strain of such centrifugal forces, were it not for the centripetal pull of common interests, of the still more powerful state-consciousness. The pressure of foreigners from without, of common enemies, overcomes the inner strain of conflicting class interests. An example may be found in the tale of the secession of the “Plebs” and the successful mission of Menenius Agrippa. And so the young state would, like a planet, swing through all eternity in its predetermined orbit, in accordance with the parallelogram of forces, were it not that it and its surrounding world is changed and developed until it produces new external and inner energies.
[∗]Compare this with the prevalent justification of “honest graft” in municipal or political contracts.—Translator.
[46.]Ratzel, l. c. II, p. 178.
[47.]Ratzel, l. c. II, p. 198.
[48.]Ratzel, l. c. II, p. 476.
[49.]Ratzel, l. c. II, p. 453.
[50.]Kopp, Griechische Staatsaltertümer, 2, Aufl. Berlin, 1893, p. 23.
[51.]Uhland, Alte hoch und niederdeutsche Volkslieder I (1844), p. 339 cited by Sombart: Der moderne Kapitalismus, Leipzig, 1902, I, pp. 384-5.