Some opposition to the contemporary and future shape of public regulation and provision was hostile to state intervention per se, or rested on a conception of human life which made state action external. The weight of the argument was either an objection to interference, or an assertion of self-help and individual initiative and creativity. There was the collective, and there was the individual.
But state collectivism and libertarian individualism in no way incorporated the whole of the debate in the last quarter of the nineteenth and the first quarter of the twentieth century. Many, whilst no less hostile to state collectivism than were the shock troops of laissez faire, asserted against the state neither a natural comprehensive social order nor the self-realization of individuals, but the values of groups, communities and associations. This assertion was made by people whose political variety was as great as, if not greater than, that of those whose main energy was directed towards attacking collectivism. Anarchists, conservatives, Christians, communists and socialists all contributed to the interest which was both practical and theoretical in forms of life which were not properly understood in terms either of the state or of the individual, and which traditional conceptions of citizenship seemed unsuited to encompass.
This concern ran throughout nineteenth-century conservatism, with its stress on traditional associations and on the importance of groups, the corporations and autonomous bodies which for many conservatives had constituted the substance of society and set limits for the proper operations of the state. There was a kind of pluralism in the arguments of men like Lord Salisbury for whom, in an ideal, balanced constitution, there was a check imposed on ‘every class by another