The Evolution of the Concept of a Federated Commonwealth of Nations

As the British Empire came to its end, there arose a new concept which provides a potential direction for a larger than national grouping of human society, namely, the British Commonwealth of Nations.  As the First World War was coming to its conclusion, Sri Aurobindo was already foreseeing such a development:

Owing to the drawing together of the world by physical Science, the resulting tendency towards larger aggregates, changed political world conditions and the profound political, economic and social changes towards which Great Britain has been moving, all the conditions now are altered and it is easy to see that the fusion of the colonial empire into a great federated commonwealth or something that can plausibly go by that name is practically inevitable.”

The difficulties involved in such an attempt, with widely divergent geographical and economic interests were potentially to be solved if England was able to avoid trying to dominate and control in the imperial mould.  It was this type of economic and political dominance that led to the eventual breaking away from Britain of the American colonies, and the formation of the United States.  Pressures of this type also led to the eventual dissolution of the empire during the 20th century.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  England “…has to keep it always in mind that her possible destiny is not that of a dominant country compelling all the parts of her dominions to uniformity with her or to perpetual subordination, but that of the centre of a great confederation of States and nations coalescing by her attraction into a new supra-national unity.  Here the first condition is that she must scrupulously respect the free internal life and will, the social, cultural, economic tendencies of the colonies while giving them an equal part with herself in the management of the great common questions of the Empire.  She herself can be nothing more in the future of such a new type of aggregate than a political and cultural centre, the clamp or nodus of the union.  Given this orientation of the governing mind in England, nothing short of some unforeseen cataclysm can prevent the formation of an empire-unit in which Home Rule with a loose British suzerainty will be replaced by Federation with Home Rule as its basis.”

We see that such a commonwealth actually developed, while other attempts at supra-national groupings developed, such as the rise of the Soviet Union, which followed the old model of centralized domination over the regional states, and which eventually broke apart; and the European Union which has tried the even more ambitious approach of bringing together nations that are widely diverse in language and cultural background into a common economic and quasi-political union of separate free states.

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part I, Chapter 8, The Problem of a Federated Heterogeneous Empire, pp. 61-62

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