While we may acknowledge that “bigger is not always better” in terms of societal organization, when it comes to the dynamic developmental force of the society, or the ability of the individual to grow and flourish, yet it does not follow that “small is beautiful” as an organizing principle for all of humanity either. Smaller organized groups of humanity, such as tribes, villages and municipalities, etc., have their own issues, limitations and defects, which have historically led to the rise of the larger groupings of nations, regional alliances, commonwealths or empires.
Sri Aurobindo observes: “Nevertheless, in this regime of the small city state or of regional cultures there was always a defect which compelled a tendency towards large organisations. The defect was a characteristic of impermanence, often of disorder, especially of defencelessness against the onslaught of larger organisations, even of an insufficient capacity for widespread material well-being. Therefore this earlier form of collective life tended to disappear and give place to the organisation of natinos, kingdoms and empires.”
In the modern world, there are additional limitations whereby the smaller groupings are unable to address the needs developed by the pressure of increasing population and resource utilization across the globe, as well as the inability to finance and manage the infrastructure required for what is now a “global village”. Small village or tribal culture is simply unable to scope with the scale, the intensity of use or the interactive requirements of the current world and its technology. It is thus impossible to simply go back, as some may desire, to a “simpler life and a simpler time.”
By recognizing both the advantages and disadvantages of both the larger societal organizational structures and the smaller, it is possible to identify key characteristics that can help to resolve the defects while enhancing the benefits of whatever new methods of organization need to emerge for the future.
Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part I, Chapter 1, The Turn towards Unity: Its Necessity and Dangers, pg. 12