Professional Ethics and Civic Morals

By Emile Durkheim; Cornelia Brookfield | Go to book overview

VI

CIVIC MORALS (Continued)

THE STATE AND THE INDIVIDUAL——PATRIOTISM

WE should now set forth how the State, without pursuing a mystic aim of any kind, goes on expanding its functions. If indeed we work on the premise that the rights of the individual are not ipso facto his at birth; that they are not inscribed in the nature of things with such certainty as warrants the State in endorsing them and promulgating them; that, on the contrary, the rights have to be won from the opposing forces that deny them; that the State alone is qualified to play this part—then it cannot keep to the functions of supreme arbiter and of administrator of an entirely prohibitive justice, as the utilitarian or Kantian individualism would have it. No, the State must deploy energies equal to those for which it has to provide a counter-balance. It must even permeate all those secondary groups of family, trade and professional association, Church, regional areas and so on…which tend, as we have seen, to absorb the personality of their members. It must do this, in order to prevent this absorption and free these individuals, and so as to remind these partial societies that they are not alone and that there is a right that stands above their own rights. The State must therefore enter into their lives, it must supervise and keep a check on the way they operate and to do this it must spread its roots in all directions. For this task, it cannot just withdraw into the tribunals, it must be present in all spheres of social life and make itself felt. Wherever these particular collective forces exist, there the power of the State must be, to neutralize them: for if they were left alone and to their own devices, they would draw the individual within their exclusive domination. Now, societies are becoming ever greater in scale and ever more complex: they are made up of circles of increasing diversity, and of manifold

-65-

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