The Failure of Small Societal Aggregates in Relations Between One Another

The advantages of the small societal aggregates, the community, the tribe, the clan, the village, the city-state, were the intimacy and involvement of its members in the entire life of the community.  This allowed the individuals to participate in a meaningful way, reduced any possible sense of alienation, and created a tight-knit social bond as well.   At the same time, this created something of a sense of isolation and separateness from other communities, with the unfortunate effect of making interaction with other groups either fearful or aggressive in most cases.  For the purpose of building a larger sense of human unity, this latter characteristic is obviously a hindrance and major obstacle that must be overcome.

Sri Aurobindo observes, with respect to the relations between the smaller societal groupings:  “War remained their normal relation.  All attempts at free federation failed, and military conquest was left as the sole means of unification.  The attachment to the small aggregate in which each man felt himself to be most alive had generated a sort of mental and vital insularity which could not accommodate itself to the new and wider ideas which philosophy and political thought, moved by the urge of larger needs and tendencies, brought into the field of life.  Therefore the old States had to dissolve and disappear, in India into the huge bureaucratic empires of the Gupta and the Maurya to which the Pathan, the Moghul and the Englishman succeeded, in the West into the vast military and commercial expansions achieved by Alexander, by the Carthaginian oligarchy and by the Roman republic and empire.  The latter were not national but supra-national unities, premature attempts at too large unifications of mankind that could not really be accomplished with any finality until the intermediate nation-unit had been fully and healthily developed.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part One, Chapter 11, The Small Free Unit and the Larger Concentrated Unity, pg. 92