Pluralism and the Personality of the State (Ideas in Context)

By David Runciman

Pluralism and the character of the nation tells the historical past of English political concept from 1900 to 1933, focusing on the paintings of the political pluralists and their assault at the inspiration of nation sovereignty. It explores the history to their paintings within the principles of the English thinker Thomas Hobbes and the German jurist Otto von Gierke. It additionally seems at what wider relevance their principles may have this day, quite with reference to the query of the relation among the kingdom and voluntary institutions.

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Because individuals will commonly belong to more than one association,  it cannot be assumed that the association to which they all belong is the one that each values most highly. It is, for example, in everyone's interest that goods should be  freely available for consumption; but this is of greater interest to those for whom consumption is the primary business of life (those who live off their capital) than it is to  those whose lives are bound up with the business of production (those who live off their labour).

P. 152. Page 188 23 identifies Hegel with Hobbes. He does so when alluding to Hobbes's comparison between corporations and worms in the body of the state, from which he concludes  that 'we have made our State absorptive in a mystic, Hegelian fashion'. 24 Once two thinkers so different, and so different in ways it was precisely Gierke's purpose to  elucidate, are conflated like this, the force of Laski's argument is entirely dissipated. Unlike Cole, Laski believed it was possible to embrace the concept of real group  personality in a distinctively English idiom, and use it to construct a distinctively pluralistic political theory.

136. 19 Rousseau famously insisted that 'there should be no sectional associations within the state' (Rousseau, The social contract, p. 73). 20 Johannes Althusius (1557–1638), who although born in Germany lived and worked in the Netherlands, was effectively 'discovered' by Gierke. His writing had been more or less  entirely neglected until Gierke devoted a monograph to him in 1878, entitled Johannes Althusius und die Entwicklung der naturrechtlichen Staatstheorien. Page 44 21 Gierke calls 'an organic place in the structure of civil society'.

Thus a choice had to be made between the ideas which could no longer be reconciled, which meant in essence a choice between the juristic and  moral conceptions of order contained in Hobbes's thought. A choice was made. Natural­law theory did not die, and European political thought continued its fixation with the juristic conception of sovereignty. What is more,  sovereignty soon revealed itself to be anything but a narrow idea, and within the framework established by Hobbes it proved possible to challenge many Hobbesian  assumptions.

First, I am very      Page xiii conscious that this is a book written by a man about men, in which human beings in general are referred to by the epithet 'men', and particular groups of human beings,  including all political theorists, are referred to as though they always were men. For the first two of these facts I can offer no excuses. For the third, I can only say that  one of the central themes of this book is the distinction between 'persons' and what are usually referred to as 'natural men', and this is a distinction I did not wish in any  way to blur.

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