The Rise and Fall of the Monarchical State

The rise of the monarchical state may have been necessary for the development of the nation-unit, but it had its serious drawbacks, which eventually led to the failure of monarchy as a governing form in the world.  What remained were the now solidified nation-states.  The rise of the monarchy required the suppression or co-opting of the other powers of the society–the religious, sacerdotal class, the trade, business and artisan class, and the service and worker class.  In addition, the power of the aristocracy, the “ruling” class, was focused on supporting the monarchy rather than building a separate power base of its own.  The core issue here, however is that as uniformity and control became the dominating principle, the dynamic vital force of all the other groups was vitiated and, to the extent that merit was overshadowed by hereditary advantage, unequal access to the production of the society and class warfare and tension arose.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The monarchical State in this evolution crushed or subordinated the religious liberties of men and made a subservient or conciliated ecclesiastical order the priest of its divine right, Religion the handmaid of a secular throne.  It destroyed the liberties of the aristocracy and left it its privileges, and these even were allowed only that it might support and buttress the power of the king.  After using the bourgeoisie against the nobles, it destroyed, where it could, its real and living civic liberties and permitted only some outward forms and its parts of special right and privilege.  As for the people, they had no liberties to be destroyed.  Thus the monarchical State concentrated in its own activities the whole national life.”

“But all this powerful structure and closely-knit order of things was doomed by its very triumph and predestined to come down either with a crash or by a more or less unwilling gradual abdication before new necessities and agencies.  It was tolerated and supported so long as the nation felt consciously or subconsciously its need and justification; once that was fulfilled and ceased, there came inevitably the old questioning which, now grown fully self-conscious, could no longer be suppressed or permanently resisted.”

“By changing the old order into a mere simulacrum the monarchy had destroyed its own base.  The sacerdotal authority of the Church, once questioned on spiritual grounds, could not be long maintained by temporal means, by the sword and the law; the aristocracy keeping its privileges but losing its real functions became odious and questionable to the classes below it; the bourgeoisie conscious of its talent, irritated by its social and political inferiority, awakened by the voice of its thinkers, led the movement of revolt and appealed to the help of the populace; the masses–dumb, oppressed, suffering– rose with the new support which had been denied to them before and overturned the whole social hierarchy.  Hence the collapse of the old world and the birth of a new age.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part One, Chapter 13, The Formation of the Nation-Unit — The Three Stages, pp. 111-112