a1 University of California
“More and more it is clear,” wrote J. N. Figgis in 1911, “that the mere individual's freedom against an omnipotent State may be no better than slavery; more and more it is evident that the real question of freedom in our day is the freedom of smaller unions to live within the whole.” The prophetic quality of these words can hardly be lost upon even the most insensitive observer of our own time. The effects of two world wars together with influences of totalitarianism have been to expand the power of the state and—what is more striking—faith in the power of the state to a degree never before reached in European history. The spontaneous social unities of men become fewer and weaker, and ever more subject to governmental suspicion. Yet at no time has the individual—American, Englishman, Russian—with all his solitary virtues been the object of greater adulation by government and press. “Man versus the state” is as false an antithesis today as it has always been. The state grows upon what it gives to the individual; and the individual cannot but find a kind of vicarious power satisfaction in what he freely grants to the state.
Robert A. Nisbet is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. His article, “The Politics of Pluralism,” is one of several written on the general subject of the sociological bases of political authority in Western Europe which have appeared in such journals as the Journal of the History of Ideas and the American Journal of Sociology.