The Evolution of a Centralised State As Exemplified in Europe

The development of Nation-States which consolidated the ruling power in formerly loose feudal kingdoms or principalities, has followed a consistent path, albeit with different speed in various parts of the world.  Sri Aurobindo reviews, primarily, the evolution of the nation of France, as a clear example of this developmental process, the importance of which lies in the guidance it may provide for the development of a single world government.

“…the stages of the process are most clearly indicated in the political history of France; for there the confusion of feudal separatism and feudal jurisdictions created the most formidable difficulties and yet by a constant centralising insistence and a final violent reaction from their surviving results it was there that they were most successfully resolved and removed.  The centralising monarchy, brought to supreme power by the repeated lessons of the English invasions, the Spanish pressure, the civil wars, developed inevitably that absolutism which the great historic figure of Louis XIV so strikingly personifies.  His famous dictum, “I am the State”, expressed really the need felt by the country of the development of one undisputed sovereign power which should concentrate in itself all military, legislative and administrative authority as against the loose and almost chaotic organisation of feudal France.  The system of the Bourbons aimed first at administrative centralisation and unity, secondarily at a certain amount of administrative uniformity.  It could not carry this second aim to an entirely successful conclusion because of its dependence on the aristocracy which it had replaced, but to which it was obliged to leave the confused debris of its feudal privileges.  The Revolution made short work of this aristocracy and swept away the relics of the ancient system.  In establishing a rigorous uniformity it did not reverse but rather completed the work of the monarchy.  An entire unity and uniformity legislative, fiscal, economic, judicial, social was the goal towards which French absolutism, monarchical or democratic, was committed by its original impulse.  The rule of the Jacobins and the regime of Napoleon only brought rapidly to fruition what was slowly evolving under the monarchy out of the confused organism of feudal France.”

“In other countries the movement was less direct and the survival of old institutions even after the loss of their original reason for existence more obstinate; but everywhere in Europe, even in Germany and Russia, the trend has been the same and the eventual result is inevitable.  The study of that evolution is of considerable importance for the future; for the difficulties to be surmounted were identical in essence, however different in form and extent, to those which would stand in the way of the evolution of a world-state out of the loose and still confused organism of the modern civilised world.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 19, The Drive towards Centralisation and Uniformity — Administration and Control of Foreign Affairs, pp. 173-174