Individual Liberty and the Nation-State

As the nation-unit developed, and in order to stabilize its existence, it imposed centralized control over the individuals and smaller aggregates which were being absorbed into the larger unit.  Freedom and liberty were considerably suppressed during this phase.  Once the nation-unit became stable, however, the need to re-establish the principle of individual liberty and the natural expressions of the smaller units became necessary.   This individual liberty is the basis of the dynamic principle of growth, development and response to changing circumstances.

Sri Aurobindo observes that once the nation has been formed and has created the necessary psychological unity, “…Then the old bonds have to be burst; the means of formation have to be discarded as obstacles to growth.  Liberty then becomes the watchword of the race.  The ecclesiastical order which suppressed liberty of thought and new ethical and social development, has to be dispossessed of its despotic authority, so that man may be mentally and spiritually free.  The monopolies and privileges of the king and aristocracy have to be destroyed, so that all may take their share of the national power, prosperity and activity.  Finally, bourgeois capitalism has to be induced or forced to consent to an economic order in which suffering, poverty and exploitation shall be eliminated and the wealth of the community be more equally shared by all who help to create it.  In all directions, men have to come into their own, realise the dignity and freedom of the manhood within them and give play to their utmost capacity.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part One, Chapter 13, The Formation of the Nation-Unit — The Three Stages, pp. 112-113