Religion and the Modern State

By Christopher Dawson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
RELIGION IN THE NEW STATE

WE have seen that the most striking feature of the new political order is the increasing claims of the State on the individual. The sphere of action of the State has grown steadily larger until it now threatens to embrace the whole of human life and to leave nothing whatsoever outside its competence.

As I have written elsewhere,1 " the modern State is daily extending its control over a wider area of social life and is taking over functions that were formerly regarded as the province of independent social units such as the family and the church, or as a sphere for the voluntary activities of private individuals. It is not merely that the State is becoming more centralized, but that society and culture are becoming politicized. In the old days the statesman was responsible for the preservation of internal order and the defence of the State against its enemies. To-day he is called upon to deal more and more with questions of a purely sociological character and he may even be expected to transform the whole structure of society and re-fashion the cultural traditions of the people. The abolition of war, the destruction of poverty, the control of the birth-rate, the elimination of the unfit—these are questions which the statesman of the past would no more have dared to meddle with than the course of the seasons or the movements of the stars: yet they are all

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1
" Sociology as a Science," in Science To-day (p. 171; Eyre and Spottiswoode; 1934).

-45-

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