Formation of Primitive Communities and the Conditions Necessary to Their Existence
The formation of primitive communities has been ascribed to a peculiar feeling in man of sympathy towards his kind, but more careful observation proves that humanity owns no such innate sentiment. The appearance of such a feeling results from a need for mutual support, and from the interests evoked by this need. A community of interests and needs is the foundation of human friendship, while the opposition of needs and interests is not only capable of provoking antipathy, but it is notorious that nothing on earth has the same power of moving a man to violent and implacable hatred as a member of his own species. Human associations were, in fact, the product of simple necessity. Thus, and only thus, could man realise pleasures and avoid sufferings which he must otherwise have been satisfied to imagine or endure.
When, on the other hand, any living creature was best adapted to a solitary existence, it adopted this mode of life, as do the carnivore. The need of mutual assistance led other orders to a gregarious habit, and human society was originated in this way. Social life imposed itself upon men as the one means to their desired end—first in their duel with the beasts, of which they were at once competitors and a prey; later, when individual fought individual and tribe opposed tribe. The physically inferior unit, possessed of sufficient intelligence to make common cause with his like, was enabled to arbitrarily incline the balance, and survive for the profit of the race.
This first step led naturally to others, for the mere capacity to combine under actual threat of destruction by the more powerful was insufficient. The new confederacy had to learn the means of perpetuating itself, and how to organise and combine those means so as to yield the greatest obtainable power, whether for offence or defence. Hence arose an organisation which can be traced through the most backward societies, and is visible, in a rudimentary form, even among the beasts. This is government.
A cursory survey of the conditions under which primitive societies were able to maintain their unity and to consolidate their forces, at once exhibits the part played by this organisation and the nature of its growth. These conditions can be summarised as the guarantee of internal and external security. In other words, those acts which are harmful to the community must be distinguished from those which are beneficial to it; the two categories must be clearly defined and maintained by a penalty as between man and man. An organisation intended to assure the integrity of the association—an integrity with which the welfare of each member was bound up—could only be formed by combining all individuals capable of discerning the opposition between the socially harmful and the socially profitable with those members, the individually strong, who were most capable of repressing such acts as were judged injurious to the body politic.
Doubtless the rules called laws, which distinguish the useful from the harmful, good from evil, are purely the fruit of observation and experience, and always more or less adapted to their purpose. They are by so much the more valuable, so much the more "just," as they contribute more to the maintenance of the community by augmenting its strength. In any case they were, even from the first, a far better guarantee of their intended object than those individual rules to which they succeeded.
Similarly, however unjust or imperfect might be the government of an early state, it secured a greater security to the individual than he could ever have obtained for himself. In place of defending himself single-handed against those risks which were the common burden of each member, corporate protection became a personal right, while it was also secured, at a far less proportionate cost. Before the advent of a "State" the isolated individual maintained a most precarious existence at the price of the major part of his time and labour. Henceforward much of that time and labour was set free, and the "member of a State" was enabled to expend it on the satisfaction of minor desires, or in the discovery of material, or the invention of instruments and processes, by which he at once obtained a greater return for his outlay and an increase of enjoyment or a diminution of suffering.
Members of one society are united by common interest, whether it be mere personal security or the guarantee of their livelihood. This common interest naturally excites, and later develops, a feeling of sympathy between the associates, and next between them and the community. It embraces nothing beyond the limits of the association, horde, clan, or tribe. Individuals outside those limits, and the communities to which those individuals belong, are regarded with the scorn or hatred naturally due to a competitor in matters so vital. And competition between individuals or States is vital at this time, for until man has learned how to supplement the natural supply of the materials of subsistence his existence depends on that supply, and his own share can only be increased at the expense of a rival.