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Chapter 6: Society and Government


The comparison between Sparta and Athens, in which we indulge for a few pages, may be remote from the experience and background of the students, but it does have a certain advantage of coolness. Perhaps you may wish to add another set of examples, as between the United States and the U.S.S.R., or between Great Britain and France, or between Egypt and Israel. The students, too, may be asked to prepare a report on two countries and the ways in which the society and government in each are strongly connected and differ from their counterparts.


Proposition VI is simple enough but produces an exceedingly rich number of observations. For instance, the old Marxist thesis of economic determinism of the form of the state is buried here, plus the anti-Marxist criticism that the state has its own effect upon the ownership of the means of production.


I hope that the students may gather from the cartoon of Alice and Belinda at Delphi that a good Persian historian might have made a good case not only for the behavior of the Persian army but also for that of the kings of Persia, (who were by no means uninvited to Greece), and for the imperial principle for the organization of peoples, just as the Romans managed such nice justifications of their empire several centuries later.


I tried to get across in this college journalists' interview the bewilderment of a politician in the face of many demands, as well as the tendency of the many interests of American society to adjust to the political order and to make the political order adjust to them.


I have the two orders beginning with the first settlement and the plantation order ending with capitulation to the north, while the end of the puritan order is dated at 1870 because by then the country had become significantly nationalized and the internal mobility of New England had caused significant changes. The internal American example is to be compared with the external Greek example. At one time, Sparta--and Athens--could have gone another way. I would stress that not only have the South and North moved in a common direction rapidly since World War II, but the political system has become remarkably homogenized. Lines of cleavage in Congress, for example, are less marked nowadays.


I hope to show that stability does not mean simple conservatism, but can rather be as dynamic in character as the solar system. A discussion of what destabilizes a political and social order indicates that for both orders to be changed wholesale at the same time is rare in history, except by the literal eradication of the elite in all the institutions of a society. Attempts at such--for instance, the attempts of several great empires to destroy the ancient Hebrew nation, of Russia to truly revolutionize modern Poland and Czechoslovakia by the destruction of their leadership, or of the new regime of China to put itself on a comfortable basis by shaking all the foundations of the social order--have frequently failed.


In justification of the statement that the United States mobilized more thoroughly than Nazi Germany in World War II, one may cite the facts that only very late did the Nazis fully employ German women, while the United States did so almost immediately, and that the United States achieved a mobilization within one year that took the Nazis seven years. The point is disputable.

It will be noted that my three conditions for destabilization imply that we will destabilize if we fail to change enough.


In Principle VI and Policy VI, I am attempting briefly to persuade our readers that the important social institutions of our society have to be governed by the same rules that apply to good government in the fully political arena. In the checklist of social institutions, sports and athletic institutions are not mentioned. You might ask the students to suggest some important area whose activities carry over and affect the political order, hoping to have the recreational area introduced in discussion. The Duke of Wellington was supposed to have said that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. I think he was giving too much credit for the victory to the English, rather than to their continental allies, and among the English to the corruption-ridden, careless, and snobbish officer corps. Howsoever, the connection between educational institutions and performance in was may be noted.

Members of the class might well pick up individually on one of these exemplified social institutions and prescribe a way of matching institutional behavior with what we take to be good government.

Conversely, it may be in order to ask whether our actual government as it really behaves can be a model for our actual existing churches, professional associations, cooperatives, and high schools.


I assert offhandedly an important change in the corporate governing order: "Ownership should be shared with the workers, and workers should participate in many of the decisions that affect them." That is billed as socialism, profit-sharing, etc., and you may wish to bring up the question of whether shared ownership is necessary to bring good government to a corporation. How would the ownership be divided then: part to capitalists, part to management, and part to the workers as individuals (or to their unions)?


With respect to the concluding paragraph of the chapter, I appreciate that the problem of determining whether to make an exception is not easy to follow and that rigidity in making exceptions can cause general damage. Perhaps the students should be asked to recall an instance, the latest one they can remember, in which they sough to be excepted from a general rule of a group, and to justify or retract their request. Then ask others in the class to judge the request for an exception and see, over the whole class, how many exceptions would have been granted.


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