H C Singh

Pluralism Vs State Sovereignty

Pluralism vs State Sovereignty

Laski as a pluralist is the most forceful and sweeping critic of the theory of absolute sovereignty of state. In his ‘A Grammar of Politics’ he goes so far as to declare that it would be of “lasting benefit to political science, if the whole concept of sovereignty were surrendered” and more particularly the ‘arid’ and ‘unfruitful’ concept of legal sovereignty.

The views of Laski and other pluralists are at variance both in the way they attack the traditional theory of state sovereignty and the position they precisely assign to other associations in the pluralist society. Laski is not at one with everything that Dugnit, Figgis, Barker, Cole, Lindsay or Maclver has to say on this subject. While Dugnit attacked the absolute theory of sovereignty mainly from juristic point of view; Figgis sought to provide autonomous right of churches and communities; Barker was concerned more with economic and professional groups, Laski was anxious to assign a place of honour to trade unions. Just like the advocates of idealism, utilitarianism, liberalism and communism, exponents of pluralism laid different and varied emphasis on certain aspects of their theory. Again, like these “isms”, pluralism was not a rigid theory as is often mistaken from Laski’s radical views and often forgotten that later on Laski himself had abandoned these views as leading to anarchy of association and jumble of trade unions, competing, quarrelling and fighting among themselves. Caker is, therefore, right in defining pluralism in such words. According to him Pluralism, is a term applied to the somewhat varying doctrines which are alike in their common opposition to the traditional theory of state sovereignty.

We are here to examine chiefly Laski’s views on this subject, who, as Coker says, is most sweeping and emphatic of all pluralist in his theoretical attack on monistic conception of state sovereignty. No theory of state is created ex-Nihieio. Laski, who, like Machivelli, was amenable to the influence of his age, was not expected to fly in the high airs of abstract imagination. He never created a Utopia like that of Thomas More. Laski, as an exponent of pluralism, shows the influence of Mill and Green who had already questioned the states claim to omnipotence by assigning to the individual a moral personality whose personal liberties state had a duty to safeguard.

“All pluralist theory” says Coker (Including Laski’s theory) ‘‘shows the influence on the one hand, of earlier sociological and juristic discussion of the states relations to economic and professional groups and, on the other hand, of broader ethical and philosophical ideas as to the value of variety and freedom in self-expression as J.S. Mill’s moral and intellectual individualism and in T.H. Green’s idealist doctrine of self-realization”.

Besides the influence of utilitarianism of Mill, idealism of Green, Fabianism of Webb, Shaw, Juristic discussion on the relations of social and economic group with the state had significant impact on Laski’s political thought. Before we describe the nature, implications and consequences of attack it is relevant to explain in brief the object of attack. Crushing blows have been dealt to the so called absolutist view of state sovereignty.

The most sought for target of disparagement is Hobbes concept of absolute sovereignty (and Austin’s view of legal sovereignty). In fact case for pluralism is a straight fight between Hobbes and Laski. Both have their supporters and camp-followers. If Hobbes is prince of absolutism, Laski can be regarded standard-bearer of pluralism’s attack on absolutism. The former is the godfather of the traditional theory of state sovereignty while the latter has come to be regarded its grave- digger.

October 11, 2009 Posted by | Laski | , , | 1 Comment