The Challenges of Regimentation and Control in Human Society

As humanity moves towards a more unified structure of society, whether to carry out the impulsions of certain ideas of equality and fraternity that have yet to find their footing, or to meet the challenges of a world that is straining under the weight of human growth and development, there is the ever-present tendency to try to create order through forms of regimentation and centralized control.  The challenges posed by individual freedom and choice simply create a level of complexity in solving the larger problems facing the societal leadership that is difficult to resolve.  Modern-day mass society, with its ability to manipulate huge numbers of people through mass communication and media, and through mass education, and through pervasive marketing and propaganda, has made the task of creating a uniform set of ideas, principles and lines of action more achievable than perhaps at any time in the past.  We may therefore witness, not just the extremes of fascist, socialist or communist models that have arisen during the last 120 years, but most recently, the use of media and manipulation to provide an illusion of freedom in the capitalistic model while nevertheless moving swiftly towards an ever-more-regimented society.

Sri Aurobindo comments:  “It may be a rigid regimentation under a central authority such as certain socialistic schemes envision for the nation, a regime suppressing all individual and regional liberty in the interests of a close and uniform organization of human training, economic life, social habits, morals, knowledge, religion even, every department of human activity.  Such a development may seem impossible, as it would be indeed impracticable in the near future, because of the immense masses it would have to embrace, the difficulties it would have to surmount, the many problems that would have to be solved before it could become possible.  But this idea of impossibility leaves out of consideration two important factors, the growth of Science with its increasingly easy manipulation of huge masses — witness the present war — and of large-scale problems and the rapid march of Socialism.  Supposing the triumph of the socialistic idea — or of its practice, in whatever disguise — in all continents, it might naturally lead to an international socialization which would be rendered possible by the growth of science and scientific organization and by the annihilation of space difficulties and numerical difficulties.”

“… it is possible that after a cycle of violent struggle between the ideal of regimentation and the ideal of liberty the socialistic period of mankind might prove comparatively of brief duration like that of monarchical absolutism in Europe and might be followed by another more inspired by the principles of philosophic Anarchism, that is to say, of unity based upon the completest individual freedom and freedom also of natural unforced grouping.  A compromise might also be reached, a dominant regimentation with a subordinate freedom more or less vital, but even if less vital, yet a starting-point for the dissolution of the regime when humanity begins to feel that regimentation is not its ultimate destiny and that a fresh cycle of search and experiment has become again indispensable to its future.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part One, Chapter 16, The Problem of Uniformity and Liberty, pp. 143-144