Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy

By Robert Michels; Cedar Paul et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
The Need for Leadership Felt by the Mass

A DISTINGUISHED French dramatist who devoted his leisure to writing prose studies of serious social questions, Alexandre Dumas fils , once observed that every human advance was, at its outset, opposed by ninety-nine per cent of humanity. "But this is of no importance, seeing that that hundredth to which we belong has, since the beginning of the world, made all the reforms for the ninety-nine others who are well pleased with them but who nevertheless go on protesting against those which still remain to be carried out." In another passage he adds: "Majorities are only the evidence of that which is" whereas "minorities are often the seed of that which will be."1

There is no exaggeration in the assertion that among the citizens who enjoy political rights the number of those who have a lively interest in public affairs is insignificant. In the majority of human beings the sense of an intimate relationship between the good of the individual and the good of the collectivity is but little developed. Most people are altogether devoid of understanding of the actions and reactions between that organism we call the state and their private interests, their prosperity, and their life. As de Tocqueville expresses it, they regard it as far more important to consider "whether it is worthwhile to put a road through their land."2 than to interest themselves in the general work of public administration. The majority is content, with Stirner, to call out to the state, "Get away from between me and the sun!" Stirner makes fun of all those who, in accordance with the views of Kant, preach it to humanity as a "sacred duty" to take an interest in public affairs. "Let those persons who have a personal interest in political changes concern themselves with these. Neither now nor at any future time will 'sacred duty' lead people to trouble themselves about the state, just as little as it is by 'sacred duty' that they become men of science, artists, etc. Egoism alone can spur people to an interest in public affairs, and will spur them -- when matters grow a good deal worse."3

____________________
1
Trans. from Alexandre Dumas fils, Les Femmes qui tuent et les Femmes qui votent, Calman Lévy, Paris, 1880, pp. 54 and 214.
2
Trans. from Alexis de Tocqueville, op. cit., vol. i, p. 167.
3
Max Stirner ( Kaspar Schmidt), Der Einzige und sein Eigentum, Reclam, Leipzig, 1892, p. 272.

-85-

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