History of Ideas Exam December

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1 In the following paper I will first of all outline the role of the state as it is seen by respectively Thomas Hobbes and Emile Durkheim. Then I will compare and discuss their perceptions of the role of the state while bringing in perspectives to modern times. The reason for looking into exactly these two is on the one hand their view on the contracts in society and on the other hand because they have to some degree similar and at the same time diverging views of how the role of the state in keeping society together. Finally I will use the theory of Foucault to discuss how the view on the role of the state has developed over time and how this relates to the views of Hobbes and Durkheim. Thomas Hobbes started out by looking into how the world of men would look like in the absence of a state or government, meaning without order. He called this the State of Nature which is to be seen as a thought experiment. In this state it would be a war against everyman. Nobody would feel safe and this fear is what would lead to conflicts and war, because every man would want to preserve his own life. This is what Hobbes defined as the Right of Nature: the right to do whatever is needed to remove your fear, to protect yourself and preserve your life. The development in Hobbes view would happen when the people realized that they would actually be better off if they handed over this Right of Nature to a Sovereign in a social contract which allowed the Sovereign to rule over them and thereby creating the missing order. This means that the people would give up their sovereign right to protect themselves by all means but they would at the same time be released of the constant fear of every other man. The way they realized this was through passion and reason of what would be the best solution for them. Because in the State of Nature the society cannot work, there will be no innovation or progress or culture due to the lack of order and the fact that every man would constantly have to fear the others. The Hobbesian contract should be seen as a decision between a group of men to make one man (or it could be a group of men) the Sovereign of them all. This contract will only be able to be sustained if there is a common power that makes sure that nobody violates the contract. This is where the state comes in, because this power could, as mentioned, both be one man or an assembly of men. This reminds of e.g. the former supreme monarchs of Europe and later the parliamentarian system. The only important thing is just that there is a common power no matter what type it is, and that it cannot be judged by any man except itself. If any other man tried to judge over the Sovereign this would mean that the Sovereign was not sovereign anymore and this would bring the society back to the state of Nature. Therefore the state can only be judged by itself and the people 1

2 over which it govern have to remember that they themselves handed over the power to the state and therefore it is actually their will that the sovereign state will carry out in its laws and actions. Emile Durkheim takes a holistic approach and looks at the society as a whole, which is not just the sum of individuals in the society. There is something more which gives the society its sui generis. To explain this sui generis it is not enough for Durkheim to use conventional psychology, science, economics or history. So he starts to look into the social facts of society. These facts are what exists outside or independent of individuals and impose constraints on them. This could for example be norms, values, laws and the received ideas of the individual. These constraints that the social facts impose are for example when norms are internalized in people and they automatically follow the rules and norms. This is what Durkheim sees as the basis for a stable social life. Constraints could be of material nature meaning how technology or urbanization impact on people s lives, they could be structural constraints through hierarchical patterns or kinship and family networks, cultural constraint is more creative than restrictive and is when people s ideas and perceptions of the world are shaped by culture or finally it could be normative constraints which is when the external constraint has become internal and shapes the person s needs and motives from the inside. All these constraints are forces that are above the individual and explain the human behavior and thereby make up the sui generis of the society. Durkheim believed that it was only through both internal and external constraints that society could be integrated into a stable social order. Further people would constantly be acting through contracts with each other, being in the economy or the family and social life, and Durkheim believed that there needed to be a non-contractual foundation of contracts. Meaning that when to people agree on a contract they must believe in a pre-supposed system of norms and values that would lead to a system of sanction if the contract was broken in order for them to trust each other to begin with. This system of sanction is very likely to be the role of the state in the modern society. Maybe in traditional societies as e.g. the Viking society it was the role of the family to take revenge when a contract was broken and do it according to the norms and traditions. But today the state makes sure that it will be possible for everyone through the laws and court system to check if the contract has been broken and that some kind of sanction will be put on the other contracting party. This all in all leads up to Durkheim s understanding of social order in a society. To have this order there must be social cohesion to bind the people together. This came out of solidarity between people and in traditional societies this solidarity was mechanical and was a result of the collective consciousness that the small communities shared. But in modern times it is the division of labor that brings us the organic 2

3 solidarity through that fact that everybody is interdependent of each other s skills. For example the baker is dependent on the butcher and his meat and the butcher is dependent on the baker and his bread and so on. Over time, society developed into a more complex organism with this high division of labor which gave everyone in the society a function to carry out. Similar, but yet so different For Durkheim conflicts in a society would be due to lack of social cohesion which again would be caused by lack of internalization of the norms and values in the people causing the conflict. Furthermore it could be due to problems with the division of labor which could cause people to lose their function in the society and this could lead to conflicts. This again becomes up to the state to take care of. Either the education in the society s norms and values have not been good enough or the state does not function well enough as an organism, because some are being left out. On the other hand Hobbes would see conflicts as a clear break with the social contract. There should be no reason for people in going against the state because they have themselves chosen (In modern democratic Europe and also foreseen as possible by Hobbes) the people to rule them. By violating the laws of the society it can be seen as a person trying to take back his sovereignty, which will bring conflicts and lack of trust in the system. Therefore the state has to be tough on these violations to make sure it does not give precedence and risking bringing society back to the State of Nature. People have to be able to live without fear and only through the state legislating and judging will this be possible. Durkheim goes beyond this by not just saying that society is based on the contracts between people that is only part of the everyday life but he goes on to say that it is the norms and values and thereby the constraints that form the society and bring social cohesion and order. It is not just the functioning of the legal system but something broader and you could say, more abstract that the state must facilitate in order for itself to survive. The society is becoming more and more complex and the collective consciousness is not enough to keep all the individuals together. For this to be possible the state has to secure the functioning of the division of labor. It would not be possible for the state just to get rid of the rebellious parts of the society; it would still have to find a way to secure the cohesion. This was a very important point for Durkheim; he wanted to find the key to the harmonious and balanced state without conflicts and rebellions. Hobbes does not speak much of what is necessary to keep the society together after the sovereign state had been created, though it is clear that no society can function in the State of Nature, because no trade 3

4 can go on and no innovation and progress is possible. In this way it is possible to say that the different functions of population will not emerge until the sovereign state has been created, but he does not see them playing an important role in keeping the society together. Moving on to look at these two ways of thinking of the role of the state in the modern society and the implications it would have in a globalized world, Hobbes might see it as the world getting closer to signing one social contract with all countries as the contracting parties. Let us imagine that this happened, what would then be the order of the world. Even if the countries agreed on a contract right now, who would be there to control that all parties lived up to their obligations. As the world looks right now the United Nations is the most likely body to be given the power, but looking at current events worldwide it does not seem likely that the countries in the near future will give up completely their sovereignty to any overarching supra-national power. The positive outcome of the COP16 is a good example of how the states agree that there should be some kind of social order but that they do not want to be controlled by it themselves and hand over any of their sovereign power. So according to Hobbes these global political systems are likely to fail because no Sovereign is given the power enforce the agreements. For Durkheim the globalization would be a sign of more and more complex divisions of labor. The countries difficulties in agreeing on an environmental contract at COP16 is a sign of their lacking collective consciousness but the fact they keep trying and this time actually succeeded in signing a contract shows that they do share some values, in this case the environmental consciousness and will to try to stop the worsening of the environment and climate. But actually this norm and value-sharing is not the most important factor in creating a world order, on the other hand that is the division of labor. In the modern society the way to keep a stable order is to make sure that the State is a well-functioning organism. Taken up to the global level this means that as long as all countries have something to contribute with to the world society through their specific functions and at the same time that all countries are interdependent it will be possible to keep a conflict free world order. Internally in the countries it would be interesting to look at the integration problems through the eyes of Durkheim. Taking point of departure in the Danish debate over how to integrate foreigners it becomes clear that norms and values are ranked very high on the scale of what factors are most important for success. It becomes the role of the state to teach foreigners Danish and our traditions and norms and values and then finally test them to see if they know them well enough though this does not indicate whether they have actually been internalized in the individuals. If Durkheim was to say how the 4

5 integration should be done in the modern society, he would not look at the norms and values, but he would be concerned with whether or not the foreigners were integrated into the organism through the division of labor, meaning have they got a job! If people are given a function in a society they are woven into the pattern of interdependent functions and people and are thereby given a place to be and function to fulfill. So the problems for foreigners to get a job cannot be separated from the overall plan to get them integrated in the society. The State has to at least coordinate between the norm indoctrination and the division of labor in the society and best it would be if the State decided to focus mainly in bringing the foreigners into the organism s division of labor. Using Hobbes to explain the development within the European Union (EU) through the last decades, it becomes clear that what has actually happened is that through the handing over (slowly) of more and more sovereignty to the EU level it has also created more stability and alignment within the region. The fact that a supra-national power is allowed to judge the individual countries wrong doing resembles the handing over of sovereignty to the common power in the process of moving out of the State of Nature and letting this power be the ultimate legislator and judge. In this way the EU has also found a way to make sure that everyone follows the rules and if they do not they will be punished according to the laws that the EU has made. The same cooperation between the European countries would not, in the view of Hobbes, have been possible if not they had allowed a supra-national body to judge their actions and make sure they got aligned within the European society. Bringing in Foucault To bring in a completely different view on the role of the state I will here use Foucault to discuss how the view on the role of the state has changed over time and how this relates to the views of Hobbes and Durkheim. Foucault s works are concerned with how the discourse about things changes our perception of them over time and the power that lies in this change. He tracked the change in discourse of the state and mapped how the state as we perceive it today was developed. First of all, the concept the state was equal to the position of the prince in the beginning, but later on the independence of the state developed and today the government is separated from the state itself. If the government is overthrown it does not automatically imply that the state will also fall. Linking to Hobbes, the risk of ending back in the State of Nature would be immense if the Sovereign was overthrown, if not another person or group of persons were able to establish a contract with the whole population about handing over the sovereignty to this new ruler. For Durkheim everything depends on 5

6 the mechanical solidarity to create social cohesion and order and thereby a society, but who ever rules is not important for the cohesion and order as long as they are not obstructing the order but facilitating the division of labor and the mechanical solidarity. Secondly, Foucault looks at how the definition of the state as a not completely fixed territory has developed to a more or less fixed area which is made up of the population living there. Previously alliances could change between kings and landlords and so on and this made the area under control to a non-fixed territory. In this sense the way Durkheim perceived a society is very similar to the modern view on the state. The division of labor and the interdependence of people were necessary to tie a country together and thereby it becomes a very specified area and group of people that make up the organism. It cannot constantly change because the society needs all its functions to operate. For Hobbes the social contract is also defined for a specific territory between a certain group of contracting parties. He was not able to explain why the presumably worldwide State of Nature was changed into many different contracts for different territories, but he could that was how it was and so the theory had to fit the empirical evidences. The third point of Foucault looks into the power of the state. The change has gone from the state being able to and exercising physical power and legislating laws and giving rights to the population as the way to keep it in control, to more recently a type of bio-power where the state first disciplines the individual and keeps the whole population under control. This is done by normalization and control not just by direct laws. Here is an example where the Hobbesian state would fit best in the old perception of the state. The sovereign would rule through laws and exercise of power solely, but it is not clear whether it would have been different if Hobbes had been from a more modern time. For Durkheim the more modern version of the role of power might be more fitting. To reach his society of harmony and balance it is important that the individuals do not go against the order of the society. This is achieved by both internalizing the right norms and values in them but also disciplining them into a certain position in the division of labor and then overseeing that no contracts are broken and everyone stick to their position. Fourth and lastly, the possession of wealth has gone from belonging to the sovereign, king or prince etc., to being part of the national economy, meaning belonging to the state and not the ones in power at a certain moment. For Hobbes everything that the sovereign does is also what the population wants, so they are closely tied together and thereby it could argued that what is the property of the state is also the property of the sovereign and vice versa. But at the same time it would be impossible for the population to actually check whether the sovereign was using the possessions for entirely its own gain 6

7 or in accordance with the greater gain of the society. In the view of Durkheim the possessions are probably seen as the belongings of the society independent of who is the ruling body, similar to the argumentation under the first point. Final remarks The way we look at the role of state has changed over time and this has of course affected the way people theorize of how the state functions, who are to rule and how they should do this. Would Hobbes have defined his Sovereign differently or would Durkheim have missed out on his development from traditional to modern society had they both lived in other historical eras? It is not possible to know. But when comparing Hobbes and Durkheim s view on the role of the state it becomes clear that the role of the state is to exercise some kind of power to be able to create and keep a stable and fearless society. The foundation for the state differs between them, either it is a contract or it is the norms and values shared by the population and division of labor tying them together, but all in all the state is necessary to bring this social order. 7

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