Principles of Social & Political Theory

By Ernest Barker | Go to book overview

BOOK II
STATE AND SOCIETY A General View of their Relations

§ 1. THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN SOCIETY AND THE STATE

TURNING from this historical retrospect back to the ideas of today, as they were summarily described in the beginning of the argument,1 we may now proceed to develop and amplify that description, with a special reference to English conditions and the general structure of English life. We start from the primary fact of the existence of national society. The nation, one in itself and always retaining the same identical body of members, confronts us, none the less, in a double aspect. This double aspect may be seen from three different points of view.

The first point of view is that of purpose or function. On the one hand, the nation, legally organized and assuming the aspect of a single legal association, acts in the terms and under the 'articles' by which that association is constituted (that is to say, in the terms and under the rules of the 'constitution') for the single legal purpose of making and enforcing a permanent system of law and order. On the other hand, the nation, socially organized (within the framework, but not by the act, of the legal association), and assuming the aspect of a plurality of associations (owing to the number and variety of the different social impulses), acts for a variety of purposes other than the legal purpose; purposes religious, moral, intellectual, aesthetic, economic, and recreational. ( The Football Association and the Marylebone Cricket Club must also be counted among 'associations'.) In personal composition the legal association and the social organization--or in other words the State and Society-- are one: they both include the same body of persons. In purpose they are different: the State exists for one great, but single, purpose; Society exists for a number of purposes, some great and some small, but all, in their aggregate, deep as well as broad.

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1
In Book I, § 2.

-42-

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