October 11, 2006

The drive towards world-union

Reflections on THE IDEAL OF HUMAN UNITY By Debashish Banerji by Debashish on Mon 09 Oct 2006 11:33 PM PDT Permanent Link THE IDEAL OF HUMAN UNITY - Chapters XXXII - XXXV: Internationalism, Internationalism and Human Unity, The Religion of Humanity, Summary and Conclusion.
In these last chapters of The Ideal of Human Unity, Sri Aurobindo draws together the threads that he has introduced earlier in the work, leading to his conclusion. Though Jan Smuts was yet to coin the word "Holism" to encapsulate the idea that a directed tendency towards the formation of ever-larger aggregates is observable in Nature, each such distinct stage marked by the presence of an identity and properties exceeding those of the sum of their parts, Sri Aurobindo's model of History follows this course. Indeed, this teleology follows naturally from Sri Aurobindo's master-idea of the progressive manifestation of intrinsic spiritual Oneness in Time, expressing itself politically as the drive towards world-union.
In earlier chapters an analysis of the processes of historical identity-formation, leading from tribes, through city-states and empires to the birth of the nation and its universalization as an unit of collective identity in the modern period has been carried out by Sri Aurobindo. In the course of this analysis, he has taken us through the determinable formative steps of the modern nations of Europe, expressing the contentions of centrifugal and centripetal forces in the process through brilliant impressionistic selections of historical event. He has concluded from this that (1) the forms that political unity has evolved in the formation of modern nations can be reduced to the ideas of the nation as State and the nation as Federation; and (2) all political unities, however cleverly or stringently maintained, are precarious unless accompanied by a real psychological unity.
These conclusions are important for the development of the last chapters, since they are now applied to the future scenario, seen as inevitable by Sri Aurobindo, of world-union. Just as past collective units of political and psychological identity have seen enlargement through history to their present reality as nation, so the nation-unit will be enlarged to the future world-unit. Thus the processes which have gone into the political and psychological building of national identities may very well apply in the transition from nation to world. Let us note at this point, however, that such a model of History, for Sri Aurobindo, does not translate into an ideology, as for instance, in Marx, an attempt to push the process along by constructed means. Rather, it takes the form of an analysis of possibilities and a measuring of their advantages and limitations. What is left as subtext only, is Sri Aurobindo's knowledge, expressed in his letters, that when the Supermind descends, it will decide for itself the forms of its action. In the meantime, a clear seeing of tendencies and their consequences provides us with useful hueristics of evaluation and choice.
The idea of a World-State, like that of the Nation-State, Sri Aurobindo sees as a danger. This may come about by the domination of one or a block of a few nation(s) over the world or through the ascendance of an internationalist ideology, such as Socialism. At the time of writing the book, both forms of danger lurked unseen by common eyes in the imminent future, in the imperialistic world-designs of Nazi Germany and the Communistic expansionism of Stalinist Russia. But the insidious moves towards global State-control may take other and more innocent seeming initial forms, leading eventually to complete totalitarian centralizations and the regimentation of individual lives worldwide.
One such form may be a world-organ, formed by the common consent of free nations, whose sole initial function may be to mediate international conflicts through an appeal to reason and the common good. But reason is not the sole driving power of human goals and the "common good" is an ambiguous idealism, relativistic and prone to hegemonic appropriation. Such a world-organ could be driven to ensure its function through progressive interference in the internal affairs of nations, and to secure its existence through the progressive centralization of information, economy, administration and finally, legislation and defense under its World-Statehood.
Sri Aurobindo is at his most eloquent when exposing the insufficiencies of the rational ideal of State control, its inevitable uniformitarian and totalitarian consequences, its destruction of individual liberty and the spiritual life. Moreover, he sees the rationally designed and enforced equalizations of Socialism as resting, in their maintenance, on just such State totalitarianism, a socially engineered utopian idea, "not only the logical outcome, but the inevitable practical last end of the incipient urge towards human unity, if it is pursued by a principle of mechanical unification - that is to say, by the principle of the State.... The State principle leads necessarily to uniformity, regulation, mechanization; its inevitable end is socialism. There is nothing fortuitous, no room for chance in political and social development, and the emergence of socialism was no accident or a thing that might or might not have been, but the inevitable result contained in the very seed of the State idea... A strict unification, a vast uniformity, a regulated socialization of united mankind will be the predestined fruit of our labour". [SABCL, pp. 482-3]
Further, on Socialism, he has to say, "Socialism pursued to its full development means the destruction of the distinction between political and social activities; it means the socialization of the common life and its subjection in all its parts to its own organized government and administration. Nothing small or great escapes its purview. Birth and marriage, labour and amusement and rest, education, culture, training of physique and character, the socialistic sense leaves nothing outside its scope and its busy intolerant control. Therefore, granting an international Socialism, neither the politics nor the social life of the separate peoples is likely to escape the centralized control of the World-State". [SABCL, p. 479]

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