The Need for Defense and the Drive for Aggressive Domination Underlie the Push Toward National Centralisation

The need to defend against an external enemy has long been a primary force in drawing people together and centralising control in a ruling elite.   A generally loose confederation finds quickly that without a centralised control the decisions and focus needed to defend the nation cannot be easily or quickly effectuated.  There is a need to mobilize forces, deploy them in a common action, and rally the citizenry to support the action with their economic power and political will.  Similarly, a nation that has adopted an aggressive expansionist policy requires the centralisation to harness the power of the nation and use it to dominate others.  This political realism has been recognised throughout the world by Sun Tsu in the famous treatise The Art of War, by Jesus in the New Testament of the Christian Bible ( “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”  Matthew 12:26 King James version) and by President Abraham Lincoln of the United States, when he echoed the Bible with his statement “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”    The “external enemy” has been one of the strongest forces to build cohesion in any societal aggregate,  

Sri Aurobindo summarizes:  “For the growth of national centralisation is due to two primary needs of which the first and most pressing is the necessity of compactness, single-mindedness, a single and concentrated action against other nations, whether for defence against external aggression or for aggression upon others in the pursuit of national interests and ambitions.  The centralising effect of war and militarism, its call for a concentration of powers, has been a commonplace of history from the earliest times.”

Sri Aurobindo reminds us of the risk to democracy and liberty from a continuation of this concentrating power beyond the time of an immediate crisis.  “A loose federation in one form or another serves well where peace is the rule; wherever peace is insecure or the struggle of life difficult and menacing, looseness becomes a disadvantage and may turn even into a fatal defect, the opportunity of fate for destruction.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 19, The Drive towards Centralisation and Uniformity — Administration and Control of Foreign Affairs, pp. 171-172