Mind Self and Society
Section 36 Democracy and Universality in Society
There is in human society a universality that expresses itself very early in two different ways-one on the religious side and the other on the economic side. These processes as social processes are universal. They provide ends which any form that makes use of the same medium of communication can enter upon. If a gorilla could bring cocoanuts and exchange them in some sort of market for something he might conceivably want, he would enter into the economic social organization in its widest phase. All that is necessary is that the animal should be able to utilize that method of communication which involves, as we have seen, the existence of a self. On the other hand, any individual that can regard himself as a member of a society in which he is-to use a familiar phrase a neighbor of the other, also belongs to such a universal group. These religious and economic expressions of universality we find developing in one form or another in the Roman Empire, in India, and in China. In the outgrowth of the Empire into Christianity we find a form of propaganda issuing in the deliberate attempt to organize this sort of universal society.
If evolution is to take place in such a society, it would take place between the different organizations, so to speak, within this larger organism. There would not simply be a competition of different societies with each other, but competition would lie in the relationship of this or that society to the organization of a universal society. In the case of the universal religions we have such forms as that of the Mohammedan, which undertook by
(282) the force of the sword to wipe out all other forms of society, and so found itself in opposition to other communities which it undertook either to annihilate or to subordinate to itself. On the other hand, we have the propaganda represented by Christianity and Buddhism, which merely undertook to bring the various individuals into a certain spiritual group in which they would recognize themselves as members of one society. This undertaking inevitably bound itself up with the political structure, especially in the case of Christianity; and back of that lies the assumption, which found its expression in missionary undertakings, that this social principle, this recognition of the brotherhood of men, is the basis for a universal society.
If we look at the economic proceedings, there is no such propaganda as this, no assumption of a single economic society that is undertaking to establish itself. An economic society defines itself in so far as one individual may trade with others; and then the very processes themselves go on integrating, bringing a closer and closer relationship between communities which may be definitely opposed to each other politically. The more complete economic texture appears in the development of trading itself and the development of a financial medium by means of which such trading is carried on, and there is an inevitable adjustment of the production in one community to the needs of the international economic community. There is a development which starts with the lowest sort of universal society and in which the original abstractness gives way to a more and more concrete social organization. From both of these standpoints there is a universal society that includes the whole human race, and into which all can so far enter into relationship with others through the medium of communication. They can recognize others as members, and as brothers.
Such communities are inevitably universal in their character. The processes expressed in the universal religion inevitably carry with them that of the logical community represented by the universe of discourse, a community based simply on the ability of all individuals to converse with each other through
(283) use of the same significant symbols. Language provides a universal community which is something like the economic community. It is there in so far as there are common symbols that can be utilized. We see such symbols in the bare signs by means of which savage tribes who do not speak the same language can communicate. They find some common language in the use of the fingers, or in symbolic drawings. They attain some sort of ability to communicate, and such a process of communication has the tendency to bring the different individuals into closer relationship with each other. The linguistic process is in one sense more abstract than the economic process. The economic process, starting off with bare exchange, turns over the surplus of one individual in return for the surplus of another individual. Such processes reflect back at once to the process of production and more or less inevitably stimulate that sort of production which leads to profitable exchange. When we come to bare intercourse on the basis of significant symbols, the process by itself perhaps does not tend to such an integration, but this process of communication will carry or tend to carry with it the very processes in which it has served as a medium.
A person learns a new language and, as we say, gets a new soul. He puts himself into the attitude of those that make use of that language. He cannot read its literature, cannot converse with those that belong to that community, without taking on its peculiar attitudes. He becomes in that sense a different individual. You cannot convey a language as a pure abstraction; you inevitably in some degree convey also the life that lies behind it. And this result builds itself into relationship with the organized attitudes of the individual who gets this language and inevitably brings about a readjustment of views. A community of the Western world with its different nationalities and different languages is a community in which there will be a continued interplay of these different groups with each other. One nation cannot be taken simply by itself, but only in its relationship to the other groups which belong to the larger whole.
The universe of discourse which deals simply with the highest abstractions opens the door for the interrelationship of the different groups in their different characters. The universe of discourse within which people can express themselves makes possible the bringing-together of those organized attitudes which represent the life of these different communities into such relationship that they can lead to a higher organization. The very universality of the processes which belong to human society, whether looked at from the point of view of religion or trading or logical thinking, at least opens the door to a universal society; and, in fact, these tendencies all express themselves where the social development has gone far enough to make it possible.
The political expression of this growth of universality in society is signalized in the dominance of one group over other groups. The earliest expression of this is in the empires of the valleys of the Nile, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. Different communities came in competition with each other, and in such competition is found a condition for the development of the empire. There is not simply the conflict of one tribe with another which undertakes to wipe out the other, but rather that sort of conflict which leads to the dominance of one group over another by the maintenance of the other group. It is of importance to notice this difference when it signalizes the expression of self-consciousness reached through a realization of one's self in others. In a moment of hostility or fierce anger the individual or the community may seek simply to wipe out its enemies. But the dominant expression in terms of the self has been, even on the part of a militaristic society, rather that of subjection, of a realization of the self in its superiority to and exploitation of the other. This attitude of mind is an entirely different attitude from that of the mere wiping-out of one's enemies. There is, from this point of view at least, a definite achievement on the part of the individual of a higher self in his overcoming of the other and holding the other in subjection.
The sense of national prestige is an expression of that self-
(285) respect which we tend to preserve in the maintenance of superiority over other people. One does get the sense of one's self by a certain feeling of superiority to others, and that this is fundamental in the development of the self was recognized by Wundt. It is an attitude which passes over, under what we consider higher conditions, into the just recognition of the capacity of the individual in his own fields. The superiority which the person now has is not a superiority over the other, but is grounded in that which he can do in relation to the functions and capacity of others. The development of the expert who is superior in the performance of his functions is of a quite different character from the superiority of the bully who simply realizes himself in his ability to subordinate somebody to himself. The person who is competent in any particular field has a superiority which belongs to that which he himself can do and which perhaps someone else cannot do. It gives him a definite position in which he can realize himself in the community. He does not realize himself in his simple superiority to someone else, but in the function which he can carry out; and in so far as he can carry it out better than anyone else he gets a sense of prestige which we recognize as legitimate, as over against the other form of self-assertion which from the standpoint of our highest sense of social standards is felt to be illegitimate.
Communities may stand in this same kind of relation to each other. There is the sense of pride of the Roman in his administrative capacity as well as in his martial power, in his capacity to subjugate all the people around the Mediterranean world and to administer them. The first attitude was that of subjugation, and then came the administrative attitude which was more of the type to which I have already referred as that of functional superiority. It was that which Virgil expressed in his demand that the Roman should realize that in his ruling he was possessed with the capacity for administration. This capacity made the Roman Empire entirely different from the earlier empires, which carried nothing but brute strength behind them. The passage in that case is from a sense of political superiority and
(286) prestige expressed in a power to crush, over into a power to direct a social undertaking in which there is a larger cooperative activity. The political expression starts off with a bare self-assertion, coupled with a military attitude, which leads to the wiping-out of the other, but which leads on, or may lead on, to the development of a higher community, where dominance takes the form of administration. Conceivably, there may appear a larger international community than the empire, organized in terms of function rather than of force.
The bringing-together of the attitude of universal religion on the one hand and the widening political development on the other has been given its widest expression in democracy. There is, of course, a democracy such as that of the Greek cities in which the control is simply the control of the masses in their opposition to certain economically and politically powerful classes. There are, in fact, various forms of democratic government; but democracy, in the sense here relevant, is an attitude which depends upon the type of self which goes with the universal relations of brotherhood, however that be reached. It received its expression in the French Revolution in the conception of fraternity and union. Every individual was to stand on the same level with every other. This conception is one which received its first expression in the universal religions. If carried over into the field of politics, it can get its expression only in such a form as that of democracy; and the doctrine that lies behind it is very largely Rousseau's conception, as found in the Social Contract.
The assumption there is of a society in which the individual maintains himself as a citizen only to the degree that he recognizes the rights of everyone else to belong to the same community. With such a universality, such a uniformity of interests, it would be possible for the masses of the community to take the attitude of the sovereign while he also took the attitude of the subjects. If the will of each one was the will of all, then the relationship of subject and sovereign could be embodied in all the different individuals. We get what Rousseau referred to as the "general will of the community" only when as a man is able to
(287) realize himself by recognizing others as belonging to the same political organization as himself.
That conception of democracy is in itself as universal as religion, and the appearance of this political movement was essentially religious in so far as it had the gospel of Rousseau behind it. It proceeded also with a sense of propaganda. It undertook to overthrow the old organization of society and substitute its own form of society in its place. In that sense these two factors-one the dominance of the individual or group over other groups, the other the sense of brotherhood and identity of different individuals in the same group-came together in the democratic movement; and together they inevitably imply a universal society, not only in a religious sense, but ultimately in a political sense as well. This gets an expression in the League of Nations, where every community recognizes every other community in the very process of asserting itself. The smallest community is in a position to express itself just because it recognizes the right of every other nation to do the same.
What is involved in the development of a universal society is just such a functional organization as we find in economic development. The economic development is one which starts off on the basis of the exchange. You offer what you do not want in exchange for something which another does not want. That is abstract. But after you find you can produce something you do not want and exchange it for something you want, you stimulate by that action a functional development. You are stimulating one group to produce this and another to produce that; and you are also controlling the economic process, because one will not continue to produce more than can be offered in exchange on the market. The sort of thing ultimately produced
(288) will be that which answers to the demand of the customer. In the resulting functional organization one develops an economic personality of a certain sort which has its own sense of superiority but which is used in the carrying-out of its particular function in relation to the others in the group. There can be a self-consciousness based on the ability to manufacture something better than anybody else; but it can maintain its sense of superiority only when it adjusts itself to the community that needs the products in this process of interchange. In such a situation there is a tendency toward functional development, a functional development which may take place even in the political domain.
It might seem that the functional aspect is contradictory to the ends of democracy in so far as it considers the individual in relation to a whole and in that way ignores the individual; and that, accordingly, real democracy must express itself more in the tone of the religious attitude and in making secondary the functional aspect. If we go back to the ideal of democracy as presented in the French Revolution, we do reach just such a sort of conflict. There you have recognition of quality; you demand in yourself what you recognize in others, and that does provide the basis for a social structure. But when you consider the functional expression of that time there is not the same sort of equality. However, equality in a functional sense is possible, and I do not see any reason why it should not carry with it as deep a sense of the realization of the other in one's self as the religious attitude. A physician who through his superior skill can save the life of an individual can realize himself in regard to the person he has benefited. I see no reason why this functional attitude should not express itself in the realization of one's self in the other. The basis of spiritual expression is the ability to realize one's self in the many, and that certainly is reached in the social organization. It seems to me that the apparent conflict under consideration refers to the abstract and preliminary development of the functional organization. Until that functional organization is fully carried out, there is the opportunity for ex-
(289) -ploitation of the individual; but with the full development of such organization we should get a higher spiritual expression in which the individual realizes himself in others through that which he does as peculiar to himself.