The Basis of the Idea of the State

The State, the organized societal framework, is a concept that is based on the idea that the collectivity of human beings can have its own separate existence which subsumes and supersedes the prerogatives of any individual member of that society.  It places the abstract notion of State ahead of the reality of the individual lives that make up the living body of that State.  This conception may have a certain truth underlying it, but needs to be clearly understood, since in the name of this abstraction, the individual is frequently controlled, coerced and forced into actions that run contrary to the perceived best interest and direction of development of the person.

Sri Aurobindo observes with regard to the idea of the State:  “Theoretically, it is the subordination of the individual to the good of all that is demanded; practically, it is his subordination to a collective egoism, political, military, economic, which seeks to satisfy certain collective aims and ambitions shaped and imposed on the great mass of the individuals by a smaller or larger number of ruing persons who are supposed in some way to represent the community.  It is immaterial whether these belong to a governing class or emerge as in modern States from the mass partly by force of character, but much more by force of circumstances, nor does it make any essential difference that their aims and ideals are imposed nowadays more by the hypnotism of verbal persuasion than by overt and actual force.  In either case, there is no guarantee that this ruling class or ruling body represents the best mind of the nation or its noblest aims or its highest instincts.”

In Plato’s Republic, the author speculates on the possibility of a development where the State was ruled by the best and highest minds of educated individuals.  Even in such a circumstance, one can recognise that this does not necessarily support the free growth and development of the highest and best talents of each individual member of society, because there remains a predisposition to manage the population through various frameworks, restrictions or limitations.  Yet today we can see that with the rise of mass media and big data computer modeling, along with micro-targeting, it is possible to manipulate, through the use of financial resources, the results of elections in purportedly free societies.  This allows a moneyed elite to dictate the direction, focus and values of the State and convince, or else enforce, those directions on everyone within the social structure.

Since the State is not therefore organised best on the best and highest aims, and does not give each individual the freedom to grow in their best and highest directions, it is quite easy to recognise that the State concept has severe limitations that must be understood and addressed in the larger attempt to achieve human unity that still supports the growth and development of the individual in the evolutionary progression of consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part I, Chapter 4, The Inadequacy of the State Idea, pg. 26

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