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The State and Authority

THE MAJOR CONCERN of political scientists is the study of the state - a subject that often seems to be infinitely complex. The state today is a rambling organization of human relations that affects a good part of the activities in which man is normally engaged; its functions and officers change constantly. Matters that once did not concern the state are now state functions; even the disposal of garbage, to take a humble example, was once purely a private matter. Furthermore, the state has its analogue in certain organizations such as colonies, armies, political parties, churches, labor unions, trade associations, and families. These often act like states, they may be organized like states, and they may even become states. A thorough study of the state is thus the study of a wide variety of human action, past and present.

Defining the State and Sovereignty


The state is an independent organization of land and people. It has a territory, which may be as small as Andorra or as large as China. Second, it has a population, which may vary greatly in size and in degree of homogeneity. The people may or may not be of the same race, religion, ancestry, or occupational habits, and may not even speak the same language; nevertheless, belonging to the state usually develops enough likemindedness and like interests in a population to differentiate it from the population of outside states. In addition, this population located within a territory is organized: it possesses specialized governing officials who operate in the name of the land and its people. These officials we call the government. They carry out whatever may be the operations of the state at the moment; they may collect taxes, administer justice, or declare the law to the people at large. For the most part these men operate free from dictation from beyond their territory. That is to say, the state as here defined is an independent organization.

These several characteristics of the state-a territory, a people, a government, and independence-in combination distinguish well enough for our purposes the state from other forms of social organization, such as the political party, the church, or the family. However, in studying past ages, we sometimes have difficulty in finding social organizations that meet these requirements. The term "state" as we describe it here is most useful in discussing the ninety-odd entities that exist today, rather than for describing the whole medieval and ancient world.

The ancient Greeks and early Romans, for instance, thought of the political community as the city-state, as a close community, like Athens or Sparta (or like a small city in America today), where the citizens shared common ancestors and common interests from day to day. They felt they had nothing in common with the strange collection of peoples and cities that formed the Persian Empire. On the other hand, in many periods of the past and in some areas of the world today, the state is no more than a wandering tribe with no fixed territory. Yet such tribes had and have a homogeneous population, specialized hereditary chieftains, and independence of their neighbors. The German tribes that overran the late Roman Empire, the Huns who invaded medieval Europe, and the Moslems who swept over North Africa and southern Europe in the Middle Ages were organized in this fashion. At other times and among other peoples are found organizations that number only a few members of a single family, that are led by a dominant or oldest member, and that have no fixed territory. Also somewhat different from the state as defined are the feudal regimes that flourished in the Middle Ages in Europe and that exist in countries like Burma today. Such a state is a patrimony of a family; the land and its inhabitants belong as a kind of property to the barons or kings. The state is then a huge family holding-company, as was the empire of the "marrying Hapsburgs" before World War I.


It would be convenient if one could say that our modern state has been the goal of political evolution or is a stage in the evolution towards some ideal state. A number of writers have tried to apply a "law of evolution" to states; first, they have suggested, came the family, then the clan, then the tribe, then the city-state and the empire, and finally the complex, highly organized modern state. But most political scientists now think this theory is a gross caricature of history. Some states may have come up this road, but others have not, and still others have gone in the opposite direction. Many tribes have never developed into settled states; their members go on gathering nuts and berries, or fishing, without ever finding a necessity for a full-fledged state. On the other hand, complex states have been reduced to simple ones; the Roman Empire in the West, for example, broke down into many small principalities. Such a theory, furthermore, is not without dangerous consequences; it gives some state-worshippers a comfortable feeling of being in step with a natural law.

The evidence concerning the evolution of states might better be put this way: When a number of influences-new inventions, an infusion of different culture or ideas into its composition, or a peculiar kind of governmental organizationcombine, a society transforms its state organization and may well bring change to its neighbors. The Huns' light horse cavalry proved effective in transforming a tribe into a crude empire and reducing more complex states, which had "evolved" beyond the loose imperial form of government, into simple dependencies. A new commercial and trading class in the American colonies raised up a new nation with some novel state institutions (an elective president, a written constitution, and so on).


If the idea that states evolve rigidly according to some law is in large part false, so also is the idea that all states were originally formed by a compact among their inhabitants. From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, political theorists were fond of reciting that men, because they wanted to co-operate, once upon a time gathered together and set up a state. This state was legalized by a "social compact" or "contract," to which the inhabitants promised to adhere. This theory is largely myth. All evidence indicates that as long as man has been man, he has known authority in some form.

In the centuries when the social contract theory was popular, it provided the intellectual basis for social revolutions; the "old regimes" were supposed to have violated the original compacts, and new governments were to be established, based on new compacts. But the fact that men of action once firmly believed in the social contract does not alter its mythical character. Revolutions require new beliefs. When men were revolting against kings, they expressed their belief that kings were wrong by declaring that the people were right-that only the people should set up governments, and that they should upset them, too, when governments become despotic. These revolutionaries believed that if the people were to contract among themselves to set up a government, this popular agreement would be a genuine social contract. The doctrine of the social compact was in reality a pledge of faith in the right of the people to rule and in the necessity of making a clear agreement between the people and their officers. It marked the beginning of the modern age of written constitutions; to some extent it was expressed in the American Constitution and all the state constitutions. But it was not a true explanation of the origins of the state.


Another common word in the vocabulary of political writing since the sixteenth century has been "sovereignty." It has caused endless trouble because it has been given several different meanings. It was put forth by Jean Bodin, a supporter of monarchy during the times when the kings were trying to get more power from the nobles and clergy. Somewhere, he wrote, there must be a final right to make laws over men; this repository of right must be the state. "Sovereignty" is the "absolute and perpetual power of the republic," he declared. It is indivisible and inalienable, and is entrusted to the rulers: With a great deal of clever legal language, Bodin tied together absolute right and absolute power. The monarch had the right to do whatever he thought proper; the subjects had the duty to submit. What could be more acceptable to the chiefs of state than this formula?

But the formula fell into other hands. A competing theory of "sovereignty of the people" arose. What the king could do, so could the people. The absolute and perpetual power of sovereignty belonged to the people, wrote a growing body of democrats. They had merely delegated it to the king.

Impartial political scientists call down a plague on the logic of both houses. They can see that, as ordinarily used, this word "sovereignty" is really a slogan, a war cry. It acts as a legal spell to justify what power the people or the king have or would like to have. The word has acquired a magic that causes many to accept power from whoever claims sovereignty.

It is important, therefore, that we use this word, which is still necessary in political discussion, in a careful manner. The meaning we shall employ is the following: Sovereignty is the claim to the power to make final decisions affecting a state when that claim is authorized by the existing legitimate order. Sovereignty is a claim to power, not the actual exercise of power. Power is the ability to make decisions influencing the behavior of men. And sovereignty can exist without full exercise of the power claimed. As we shall see, those who hold sovereignty may be feeble rulers; or they may be reluctant to make many of the laws that they are entitled to make. Sovereignty has to do with final decisions. Human conflicts very often can be resolved only by an authority from which neither party believes he has the right to appeal. Men are forever looking for "the court of last resort." That "court" is the sovereign.

Nevertheless, sovereignty may be consigned, not to one, but to several offices or individuals. Thus, a federal state (the United States, for example) usually distributes the claims to the power to make final decisions among local bodies and the central government. Each unit is entitled to claim the right of final decision for certain matters within its jurisdiction. Even bodies such as churches, industries, and individuals are considered by the laws of some states (such as the United States) to have a legitimate claim to make certain kinds of final decisions. Furthermore, especially today, the distribution of sovereignty is changing. Laws transfer legitimate claims to power from one group to another or from local groups to the central government. Thus sovereignty can be differently located and differently distributed in different states.


Sovereignty, we have said, is a claim that is authorized by the existing legitimate order. Of what does this authorization consist? What is the legitimate order? Legitimacy itself is the lawful condition or quality of an act or person. When a whole range of behavior is legitimate, it may be called a legitimate order. The laws of a state usually are clear enough about what actions are legitimate. There is always some disagreement, of course, over new problems, but the resulting conflict is usually not sufficient to destroy the prevailing fundamental authorities -courts, legislatures-and the belief of the overwhelming majority of people in the existing order and process of government.

When the overwhelming majority of people regard the existing order as unlawful, or when there is a basic dispute among powerful political groups over what is right or wrong, lawful or unlawful, we have what we may call the absence of legitimacy. Legitimacy is being contested. Without it, there is no sovereign, only various groups that may be seeking to establish their sovereignty.

The recent history of China provides an illustration. As World War II ended, the Kuomintang government of Chiang Kai-shek was the sovereign government of China. Its claim to make final decisions affecting China was authorized as legitimate over the larger part of the country, but a generation of civil war had reduced the chance of any government's establishing a claim to power that all Chinese would accept as legal. The uncertainty and insecurity induced by past revolutions and wars weakened any claim to final power. Furthermore, the power of the government itself, which might have contributed to a growth in the belief in the legitimacy of the Chiang government, was enfeebled by war and maladministration. Most important of all, in the northern parts of the country the Chinese communists were competing for sovereignty. Under Mao Tse-tung, they claimed the power to make final decisions for all of China, and in northern China, at least, that claim was regarded as legitimate by the laws and, apparently, by the people.

Mao's conquest of the whole of mainland China from Chiang destroyed Chiang's already weak legitimacy and sovereignty, but it did not create a new legitimacy and sovereignty, as we have defined these terms, even though Mao's regime may have had in fact huge powers, effectively administered. Given an interval of time and the successful employment of various devices to gain general acceptance within China and to set a new pattern of laws and beliefs, Mao's government may then come to be regarded as legitimate and sovereign.


Among states there are different kinds of legitimacy, which we might compare to different kinds of marriage. Most marriages today are legally consummated; a set of relationships governing the positions of husband and wife is declared by law as legitimate. Hovfever, a man and woman who have lived long enough together as husband and wife, even if they have not gone through the legal ceremony, are considered to be legitimately married; theirs is a "common-law" marriage. Then there is the illicit romance. If passionate enough, completely mutual, and powerful enough to overcome all convention, even this relationship is regarded as somehow legitimate in the sense that "Heaven meant them for one another." Nevertheless, save among certain small religious sects, legal marriage is the norm; the other two relationships are not accorded full legitimate status.

There are three similar kinds of legitimacy that determine the existence of sovereignty and thus, by necessary implication, the legitimacy of acts of authority: rational legitimacy, traditional legitimacy, and charismatic legitimacy. In different times and places, and in different amounts at the same time and place, people regard a claim to power and an act of power as right and legitimate for different reasons. So sovereignty, a court judgment, a police order, or a tax law is regarded as right in proportion as it satisfies the current character of legitimacy.

Rational legitimacy is the accord of a people with all claims and acts that are clearly defined as to meaning and objective and that are governed by respect for legal regulations. Acts must observe constitutional and legal procedures. The strong belief of Americans that ours is "a government of laws, and not of men" and the constant effort to get rid of personal, incongruous elements in government indicate that rational legitimacy is the strongest form of legitimacy in America. Indeed, Americans frequently set up a written constitution before they will act even in voluntary association together. Where rational legitimacy is strong, hereditary nobility is laughed at, and "reason and efficiency" are demanded of every institution, official, and act.

Even in a society whose belief in rational legitimacy is fairly weak, some activities may be organized according to the principles of rational legitimacy. Business enterprises throughout history have tended to be organized in a "rational" fashion with a hierarchy of offices, rules and regulations, and the selection of officers according to their technical qualifications for the job. Long-established armies and long-established government bureaucracies also develop this "rational" character, and all claims to office and all acts performed in them must be "according to the rules" before the other members of the organization consider them legitimate. A society in which the prevailing beliefs of governors and governed demand the extension of such methods of organization to all activities is a society ruled by rational legitimacy.

Traditional legitimacy is accord with claims and acts of rulers because these rulers have "always" made these claims and committed these acts. "The king's desire is law" because the king (the most common type of traditional ruler) is descended from the established Hohenstaufen or Bourbon or Savoy line, and the officers of the state owe him personal allegiance. Rights that are transmitted from generation to generation are sacrosanct. When traditional legitimacy is very strong, as in feudal times, the whole of the state is administered as a family affair. When it is weak, as it has been in America, each generation wants to make all decisions for itself. Jefferson, who believed in the "insurrection of science, talents and courage against rank and birth, which have fallen into contempt," also wanted each generation to write its own constitution.

Still, no state is without certain beliefs in the rightness of the traditional. There is a sanctity to certain "nonrational" customary laws in America; for example, the attempt of a presidential elector to vote for whomsoever he pleases is regarded as illegitimate, although the Constitution gives him this "right." "Old families," venerable constitutions, and other "old" things are respected over new, quite apart from the question of their legality. Naturally, rational and traditional claims often conflict; sometimes both are challenged.

The third form of legitimacy, charismatic legitimacy, is rarely found in a pure form. "Charisma" distinguishes those persons or acts that are deemed to be right because possessed of "the touch of grace"; certain persons and events are supposed to be miraculous and possessed of a special mission in, or significance to, society. All ordinary persons must toe the line of prescribed rational or traditional behavior, but the claims and acts of special individuals are sometimes considered legitimate because they seem to be "God-given." In a period of great confusion and change, a state may acquire a truly charismatic leader who asks no acknowledgment of his authority save the immediate recognition on the part of his followers that he, and he alone, has a divine mission to save the country or the world. To varying degrees, such have been men like Alexander the Great, Oliver Cromwell, Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, and Winston Churchill. As citizens, we must pass judgment on these men, but as political scientists, we are interested instead in a certain kind of legitimacy they all express-a legitimacy that comes from the belief of people that the men are endowed with superhuman powers, that they have a divinely appointed mission, and that their word is law. In the charismatic, popular movements that follow such men, the word of the leader is all the authority needed traditions and rational procedures go by the board.

As charismatic movements grow older, they may take on more and more legitimacy from rational and traditional sources, either because of or despite the efforts of the leaders. Napoleon had himself crowned Emperor of the French, even though the French people had accepted him as a charismatic leader. Hitler, though he sought revolution and preached violence, nevertheless insisted on holding office. Each step in the violent career of the Nazi movement was justified by the stamp of legality; charisma was not enough. Not even the Communist Party, sworn enemy of Hitler, could be destroyed until Hitler passed a series of enactments "legalizing" his conduct.


All three types of legitimacy are frequently mingled. The administrative branch of the English government, for instance, is an intricate compound of the traditional and the rational. Offices with queer-sounding titles that mark their ancient origins in a personal relationship to the king more recently have been given regular duties, pay, and a place in the chain of command in the administrative hierarchy. On the other hand, the office of the king of England acquires a certain charismatic quality by virtue of its awesome character. People often expect superhuman qualities and deeds of high officers. In fact, one may say of all legitimate authority that a halo of charisma surrounds it.

The controversy over a third term for the President of the United States provides another kind of example. The President holds a powerful, legally created position that was provided with a rational set of functions, but no constitutional clause covered his standing for re-election more than once. A century and a half of tradition, however, faced Franklin Roosevelt when he decided to run for a third term in 1940. In a debate that followed, all three kinds of legitimacy became issues. True to American habit, the main battle was fought over the legal and constitutional question "What does the law say," though there was little "law" on the subject. Another struggle was waged over the "illegitimacy" of violating tradition. A third issue was the charismatic character of the President himself; some people felt that "only F. D. R. should be allowed to run again," or that "only Roosevelt could save the country."


Each form of legitimacy is most powerfully at work when people will not even consider changing to an alternative form. The Roman Republic was so deeply committed to rational legitimacy that it could not tolerate a traditional king, although it was not so immune to charisma. Legitimacy is less powerfully at work when its major forms contend openly against one another. Then revolutions may break out. For instance, in America in 1776, in France in 1789, and in England in 1832 (The Great Reform of Representation) switches were made from traditional to rational legitimacy. Such revolutions may shed much blood; at the least they cause psychological distress to a great many people.

Most disastrous to stability is the situation in which no claim to legitimacy is honored, in which neither laws, nor traditions, nor men are respected. Such, according to Guglielmo Ferrero, the late historian, is the situation today. The twentieth century, he wrote, inherited from the nineteenth century no principle of legitimacy. The result is constant change, a continual fight for boundless power, an insecurity of all ruling classes that leads them to take ruthless measures. There are no signs that people believe in either dynasties or elective officers. Messianic leaders have appeared, but sad experiences with such leaders have produced an even greater reluctance to accord them legitimacy. We bave come to the point where we ask, not what kind of legitimacy "ought to exist," but whether any kind of legitimate order will be stoutly defended by the people and officers.

The Instruments of Authority


Legitimacy is not only a fundamental characteristic of government, it is a powerful weapon. People often believe what legitimate authority tells them to believe, and act accordingly. They stop buying silk, they pay more taxes, they hate their enemies more cordially, when told to do so. Legitimacy gives an important magic to acts of state.

There are three other weapons by which governments typically carry out their policies: education (or propaganda); force (or violence); and economic measures (or economic manipulation). When people think these methods are used legitimately, they call them education, force, or economic measures; when they think such methods are used unfairly or illegally, they call them propaganda, violence, or economic manipulation.


Political education and propaganda are attempts to build support for policy by using psychological techniques. The government constantly instructs its citizens, young and old, how to decide the merits of various issues, how to behave as citizens, how to protect their health, how to treat foreigners, and how to treat one another. The line between government education and propaganda is often hard to draw. When a policy being discussed is generally accepted, the government "educates"; when the policy is controversial, the government "propagandizes." What is in one context propaganda in another may be education. Take, for example, some of the films and reports put out by the government during the New Deal. One dealt with soil conservation by showing how farmers individually could do much to prevent soil erosion. It was accepted universally as legitimate educational material. Another film showed how soil erosion could be prevented by large dams owned and operated by the government. But government ownership was a controversial question, and the New Deal was attacked for using public funds for political propaganda. Instructions to the electorate on how, when, and where to vote provide another example. Such education is universally recognized as a legitimate undertaking of the state. However, when James I inserted in election writs containing such instructions a good deal of "educational" advice on behalf of his favorite candidates, this practice was frowned upon even under the loose system of election administration of his time; in America today, it would be regarded as a gross misuse of a state-controlled educational weapon.

When there exist sharp differences of opinion among the people or in the government, no use of government education goes uncriticized. A plea for better relations between white and colored citizens, though quite in line with all constitutional principle and with the beliefs of the greater part of the American people, is regarded in parts of the United States as an illegitimate intrusion on private rights. Important segments of public opinion in our country have been so suspicious of government propaganda that only in recent years has the government been able even to report fully on its normal performance of established duties.


Force is a basic weapon of the government; it is physical compulsion exercised by legitimate authority. Violence is unauthorized force. Some great political writers have called force the single essential characteristic of all states. All institutions and groups can propagandize, or spend funds, or even order their members to do certain things, but with one exception, only the state through its government can ordinarily employ physical coercion to make people behave in a certain way. In practically all communities force, it is true, may be also used by the heads of families towards family members, over whom they are considered to have legitimate authority. Otherwise, its use is usually allowed only to specified agents of the state, such as police, sheriffs, and soldiers.

The great public anxiety that is aroused whenever private individuals or groups make use of unauthorized force (that is, of violence) attests to the strength of the idea that the state alone should employ physical coercion. Although acts of vigilantes, acts of private revenge, duelling, and like behavior are not considered completely evil, they are frowned upon and in the long run repressed by most societies today. At most, there is a certain restricted area for unorganized, nongovernmental action.

When the customs are changing, the line between force and violence tends to be confused. When Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a pistol duel, the participants and many other persons regarded this resort to force as legitimate. But a larger body of people considered his action a violent disregard of lawful procedure for settling disputes. The times and customs were changing, and he was one of those trapped between contradictory attitudes. His political influence diminished, and his friends decreased in number.

As we have already pointed out, in states where the conception of legitimacy is changing or legitimacy is absent the use of physical coercion increases, and here, too, the line between force and violence becomes difficult to draw. What the followers of Hitler, infatuated by his charisma, thought was legitimate force, a great many other Germans and non-Germans were convinced was illegal violence; or, significantly, they could not make up their minds where and to what extent it was right to use physical coercion at all.

Many societies dislike force even as a government weapon and prefer to use education and economic policy to regulate human affairs, reserving force for use only as a last resort. Others accept force as the most preferred way of making people conform to public policy. Herbert Spencer, in fact, divided all societies into "militant" and "industrial" types, according to the predominant way in which they get things done.

The United States today, for instance, is at least internally an "industrial society." The authorities in America try to convince and persuade persons, or to make it worth their while to conform to the government's policy. An elaborate court system is provided to give complete hearings to protesting parties before the coercive machinery of the state is called into play. The abrupt command, backed by the police, is disliked by the public and discouraged by the laws. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration (A.A.A.), for example, gets farmers to reduce plantings by asking their consent and by paying them not to plant crops. The Soil Conservation Service tries to educate farmers not to exhaust their soil by overuse. The agencies in the administrative branch of the government, which in other countries act freely as the executors of policy, in the United States must make their decisions in many cases with as great care and as much consultation as ordinarily occurs in the judicial branch of the government.

Even in its international relations, the United States has tried to implement its policies with loans, gifts, and technical assistance to potentially allied countries, rather than with its overwhelming military force. The Marshall Plan (The Economic Co-operation Administration) was created as a form of economic warfare against bolshevism. Nevertheless, America maintains strong armaments, not trusting to economic means of propaganda alone, and subscribing thereby to Clausewitz's dictum: "War is not merely a political act but a real political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, a carrying out of the same by other means."

The Fascist movement in certain European and Asiatic countries, especially in Italy, Germany and Japan, sought to "recapture" for force its place as the supremely good political weapon, a place that the laws and public opinion of most Western societies had relegated to the "dark ages." Whereas Western thought constantly demanded further restrictions on the use of even legitimate force in the treatment of criminals, rearing of children, and the regulation of internal affairs, the Fascist movement demanded the re-establishment of force as a proper weapon of internal authority. In fact, it went far beyond and applauded "force for force's sake." In our terms, of course, when force is used for its own sake, it becomes violence and is illegitimate; it is no longer a weapon of, but a threat to, legitimate authority.


As an alternative to force, the government may employ various economic measures, which, taken together, constitute a broad power to compel conformance to government goals. The most common measure is taxation. Manipulation of the currency is another; regulation of the disposal of property by inheritance, gift, sale, or exportation is a third. Still others are the regulation of business enterprise and the ownership or management of productive enterprises, techniques aimed at realizing, among other goals, a higher standard of living for lower income groups.

Like education and force, such measures are not always clearly legitimate. They may have drastic effects and still be acceptable; for instance, colored oleomargarine may be taxed out of existence. But measures must not clash with the ideal expectations of society. For example, government officials must not disregard long practice or legal procedures in order to increase their personal fortunes; no matter how widespread such corruption, it is never regarded as entirely right and proper. Machiavelli wrote in The Prince that heads of states had to commit many crimes, such as the illegal seizure of property; but he still recognized that all acts of the "Prince" could be classified as moral or immoral. He merely insisted that power and goodness (or legitimacy) were very often incompatible, and that when they conflicted, goodness had to be sacrificed to power.

When in violation of stated public "policy" or general public sentiment, a private group uses its wealth to injure individuals or other groups, it is not exercising legitimate authority; it is using economic manipulation, tolerated more in some societies than in others. Vague or precise rules of the game dictate the amount of economic manipulation that can be used by private individuals and groups in the political process. For example, English election law limits the number of vehicles a political party may use to transport voters to the polls. American state law often restricts campaign expenditures used to employ or persuade individuals directly and allows only indirect use of money. Thus a man may be sent a hundred propaganda tracts by a candidate, but may not be given the equivalent in money in order to influence his vote. Organizations may pay lobbyists to influence legislators, but may not pay legislators to vote a certain way.

In thinking of economic measures and their relation to political authority, we may visualize the whole economic structure of the community-the ways in which men make a living, the control they have over their economic behavior, and the ways in which goods are distributed among them-as a map that is constantly being revised by the government. Sometimes the revisions come slowly, sometimes rapidly. Sometimes the government consciously directs the changes. At other times it may perform acts that cause unforeseen economic change; for example, the religious persecutions of the French Huguenots, who were skilled artisans, drove them from France to Prussia, England, Holland, and America, hurting the economy of France and aiding those of her rivals. Sometimes the government may be a mere cartographer, not causing change, but registering giant economic transformations, such as the Industrial Revolution, that alter the social and political map.


These three principal methods used by the government to carry out its policies-the psychological, coercive, and economic-are hardly ever used separately. American aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean, although instruments of violence, are also effective propaganda. Education on the conservation of the soil effectively guides agricultural production, an economic goal. Force applied to reduce labor-management violence educates the contestants to accept the supreme authoritative position occupied by the state. Just as we can look for a combination of the three main kinds of legitimacy in any given political event, so can we look for a combination of the three main methods of obtaining conformity to goals. The political authority of government, of the officials of the state, typically represents a concentration of legal, traditional, and charismatic legitimacy founded in the law and in acceptance by the governed; it acts through education, force, and economic measures. When legitimacy is disputed, the acts of those in authority may be deemed propaganda, violence, or economic manipulation.

The Classification of Governmental Forms


Given the essential character of the state and of government, we are now prepared to ask ourselves whether there is any pattern by which governments, and hence states, are organized. We may, of course, classify governments according to their underlying principle or combination of principles of authority: the legal, traditional, and charismatic, each of which has tremendous impact on their organization. For example, a government that chooses its officials by elections or open competitive examination can hardly be called charismatic or traditional in form; it is legal and "rational."


There are, however, four other useful ways of classifying forms of government. First there is the classical division of all governments into three forms-monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy. Monarchy is government by the one, oligarchy, by the few, and democracy by the many. Each form may be good or bad, depending on how power is exercised. Plato, for example, held in his Republic that there was a natural succession of forms of government. An aristocracy (his ideal Republic) that abuses its power develops into a timocracy, which, through greed, develops into an oligarchy (both are governments of the few), which in turn is overthrown by the democracy of the people, which through excesses becomes an anarchy (a lawless government) from which only the tyranny of one man can come. The tyranny in turn is overthrown, and the cycle begins again. Aristotle accepted this classification but thought there was no necessity for any one form to succeed another. Many succeeding political scientists followed the Greek theory, among them Polybius, Machiavelli, Campanella, and Spinoza. In fact, it is the "schoolboy's" classification; we learn it first of all.


The most systematic attack on the Greek classification of governments came from Gaetano Mosca, who advanced instead his own theory of the "elite." His predecessors were found among thinkers like Burke and Taine, and his followers have included twentieth century political scientists like Pareto, Michels, and Burnham. Forms of government, wrote Mosca, are often mere camouflages for the real rulers of a state. Whatever the form, be it monarchical, aristocratic, or democratic, there is always one political ruling group or "elite" that holds power in its own hands. The mass of people has little voice in politics. States are always ruled by the few; they are all oligarchies of some kind.


A third system classifies governments as federal (or feudal) or unitary according to their degree of centralization. Federal and feudal states divide up the power of making important decisions among local and central authorities. A "confederation" generally refers to a weak federation in which the central authority has few powers. Unitary states, by contrast, give the right of decision on all important political matters to the national government. Such power may or may not be delegated to local authorities. If it is delegated, then the state is called a decentralized rather than a centralized unitary state. In the early nineteenth century, England exemplified the first, France the second.

An empire is harder to classify. Its central government holds sovereignty and power over countries of dissimilar nationality or culture. Generally, since all important decisions tend to be made by the imperial government, the empire has a unitary character; but many important cultural and social events and customs are determined by the colonies, which have, therefore, a considerable amount of decentralized autonomy. Indeed, certain components of the so-called British Empire are quite in a position .to make very important political decisions by themselves; Canada and the other Dominions of the British Commonwealth of Nations are really independent affiliated nations nowadays. But other possessions of the British Empire are ruled directly by the central government in England as colonies, protectorates, or military bases.


A final system classifies states and governments according to their degree of integration, that is, the degree to which the apparatus of the state ties together all the activities of the political community.

One index of integration is the amount of government control of and contact with the various political groups of the society. There are, for example, "one-party states," (Fascist Italy or the Soviet Union), in which the government and party are closely intertwined, and, by contrast, "two-party states" (the United States) and "multiparty states" (France), in which the parties are quite distinct from the government.

Another index is found in the relationship of the government to the economy. In the laissez-faire state, for instance, there is little integration of government and economy. Economic practices such as investment and profit making are left to private persons and groups; the state does not plan or control them to a large extent. In a feudal state, on the other band, community activities of all kinds, social and economic, are more closely tied into the political system. Each classthe clergy, the nobility, the administrative bureaucracy, and the commoners-is entitled to certain social, economic, and political privileges and must perform corresponding duties; there is no one law for all men, nor do all have the right to participate to the same extent, or in the same way, in social, economic, or political affairs.

A third level of integration is found in the corporate state, as essayed in Italy, Germany, and Portugal. All vocational groups are absorbed into the government. Fishermen, manufacturers of machinery, farmers, and other occupations are organized separately into councils to which the government adds representatives. Each council is given certain limited powers of government in its area of the economy. A final level of integration is found in socialism, as exhibited in England under the Labour Party and in the Soviet Union. The governments own a large share of the resources and wealth-producing machinery of their countries.

We need scarcely add that in the same nation one may find several different kinds of integration at work at the same time. Unlike Russia, for example, England has a liberal two-party system to offset its socialism. In the laissez-faire United States, the states give medical associations rights of representation on boards that examine candidates for licenses to practice medicine, and the state governments carry out the policies of these doctor-dominated boards: moreover, the federal government and many states own and operate various public utilities and own huge tracts of land.

The Limits of State Activity


We have now defined the character of the state, discussed the legitimacy of governments and of their methods of inducing conformity, and classified governments (and in effect, states) by their basic organization. But we have not answered the question: What are the limits of governmental activity? We know that it is difficult to think of any activity, however remote, that has not at one time or another been regulated or performed by the government. Governments have taken upon themselves the tasks of regulating the morality, the property, and the civil and political activities of persons and groups. The censorship of movies, the fixing of prices, the banning of political clubs, and the protection of civil liberties by courts are only several instances of governmental intervention in human affairs.

Certain terms have been used to classify the forms of government intervention, but they are not precise. The "laissez-faire" state is supposed to intervene in human activities only to protect property and persons from criminal attack. The "positive" state or the "welfare" state is supposed to regulate or manage some of the major industries and regulates most of the important economic and social activities. The "totalitarian" state is supposed to dominate and regulate all behavior.

These terms are not very useful. They are full of emotional meaning, good for inciting political action, but poor for building a political science. Rather than discuss the forms they supposedly describe, we shall try to understand in what major ways government intervention varies with social conditions. For the problem of analyzing such intervention-the problem of defining the "limits" of governmental activity-is one of showing what basic factors increase or decrease the tendency of political authority to interfere in each of the several areas of moral, economic, and political behavior.


An Inventory of Governmental Activities in the United States, prepared by Carl H. Chatters and Marjorie Leonard Hoover in 1947, listed almost four hundred services performed by American units of government. Federal, state, county, and city governments often carry on the same general kind of service. "Nearly all major activities of government are performed by some unit of government at all three levels, federal, state, and local." There has been a striking growth in the formal assumption of responsibilities by government, especially in .the last fifty years.

One cannot, however, on the basis of this one index assert that government is swallowing up society. The new functions of government are often thrust upon it. Take, for example, the growth in America of two early government responsibilities, road tending and fire protection. The early nineteenthcentury American communities placed on all citizens the responsibility for work on the roads and for the fighting of fires. These functions were performed in a completely decentralized fashion. For the sake of an efficient division of labor, however, men gradually substituted taxes for labor and professionalism for universal participation. A man could make more money and pay more taxes if he pursued his own vocation and joined with everyone else in hiring road workers and firemen.

Furthermore, basic social change can make the expansion of governmental functions unavoidable. In America the movement of women from the home into outside work, for instance, has indirectly caused a striking increase in government assistance to children and the family. These women have greatly increased national productivity, but they have left in the home a vacuum that the government has been charged with filling. Thus the schools teach children home economics, personal hygiene, and "family living"; social workers are hired to help problem children who have "working mothers." Many other examples may be found to illustrate our point that the expansion of government functions is only in small part the result of an abstract belief in government interference; more often it has been the unexpected result of division of labor and specialization of activity.

As we shall point out in the last chapter, the profound consequences of some of these piecemeal, unplanned changes are often not realized. Their moral effects are great but are often too deeply buried to be uncovered in time for effective remedy. When our grandmother took a job, neither she nor the governing officials thought that she was demanding (1) alonger school day, (2) more public assistance for child welfare, (3) new labor laws, (4) the right of women to vote, (5) a lower birth rate, (6) increased taxes for vocational education, and other changes that her action indirectly influenced, including shorter skirts and fewer ruffles so that she could move more easily around desks and machinery. Most of the government's new activities have been caused indirectly by such individual actions of masses of people who have been responding to uncontrolled social forces. The few who have foreseen the future have been quite helpless to forestall the great initial changes. A changing culture cannot be thrown from high speed into reverse.

Thus one must always go below appearances to measure state activity. Functions of the state accrue when many people are aware of a problem. However, this awareness sometimes comes easily and at other times with difficulty. People can readily see, for instance, a severe scarcity of housing in wartime and may demand prompt governmental action. But a scarcity of housing owing to slow shifts of population, technological incompetence, or conspiracy between labor and capital, is perceived with less ease; opponents of public housing then are more able to blame proposals for change on some "whimsical" or "fanatic" idea that government should "do things for people."

On the other hand, new state activities may be so "obviously useful" that their indirect consequences are utterly ignored. In the nineteenth century, the various states and the federal government were so anxious to have railroads built quickly that they granted vast territories and many special privileges to private groups who gained in several cases a stranglehold on the politics and economy of the states.

If one surveys the Athenian commonwealth, the Roman government under Augustus, the medieval French and English feudal monarchies, or the sweeping changes introduced by the Labour government of England after 1945, he comes to realize that governmental activities are always numerous, but that at times some of them are not recognized as governmental. For example, governmental functions are often so incorporated into the individual's personality and his culture that he scarcely perceives them as functions. Thus the feudal serf worked for the state a good part of the time, but in ways that he scarcely realized; he was merely following customs he had learned from his ancestors. Or again, certain public functions are often unrecognized because they are carried on by nongovernmental subgroups, rather than by the formal organization of government. For example, mediation of disputes among private parties, which in the United States is regarded as a duty of government, was in the medieval Italian states often left to university professors of law.


The limits of governmental intervention within a given society depend on several basic factors. The organization of the state and the efficiency of its officials is one; permanent, trained administrators are well adapted to organize human beings for getting things done. The emotional statement of a one-time United States Chamber of Commerce official gives striking support to this generalization: "The best public servant is the worse one," he declared. A thoroughly firstrate man in public service is corrosive. He eats holes in our liberties. The better he is and the longer he stays, the greater is the danger."

Second is the degree of complexity of the division of labor in a society. If the society is complex, that is, highly "civilized," a great deal of government intervention may occur easily. New, specialized jobs grow out of old, generalized tasks, and the government takes over a certain number of the new jobs.

Third is the ideology of the people. How firmly are they committed to working as a collective group or as individuals? An Italian writer once remarked to the author that he perceived "a basic difference" between Americans and Germans in the behavior of their soldiers on leave. When the German soldiers visited Naples from the front, they would descend from their trucks, lock arms, and march down the street singing lieder. The American soldiers would disperse alone or in pairs on their private business. The lesson of this little story about cultural differences seems to be borne out by anthropological surveys. Margaret Mead, in summarizing studies of primitive peoples who occupy similar cultural levels of civilization, finds three basic forms of community life. Certain societies are fundamentally competitive in their politics, economics, and mating customs; others are individualistic; still others are highly co-operative and integrated. Most members of each culture see the world, including the political world, through the eyes of their cultures.

The limits of governmental intervention are thus determined by impersonal social and economic forces: the organization of the state, the complexity of the economy and society, and the cultural ideology of the people; but the actual amount of intervention will be partially determined by the kind of leadership in a society. The men in power can reduce or increase state intervention; their personalities will help to determine what methods-for instance, force or education-are likely to be used in new intervention and how effective those methods will be.

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