Replying to LO28445 --
THE NEW STATE
By Mary Parker Follett
The True Democracy
Democracy is the rule of an interacting, interpermiating whole. The
present advocates of democracy have, therefore, little kinship with those
ardent writers of the past who when they said they believed in the people
were thinking of working-men only. A man said to me once, "I am very
democratic, I thoroughly enjoy a good talk with a working-man." What in
the world has that to do with democracy? Democracy is faith in humanity,
not faith in "poor" people or "ignorant" people, but faith in every living
soul. Democracy does not enthrone the working-man, it has nothing to do
with sympathy for the "lower classes"; the champions of democracy are not
looking down to raise any one up, they recognize that all men must face
each other squarely with the knowledge that the give- and-take between
them is to be equal.
The enthusiasts of democracy to-day are those who have caught sight of a
great spiritual unity which is supported by the most vital trend in
philosophical thought and by the latest biologists and social
psychologists. It is, above all, what we have learnt of the psychical
processes of association which makes us believe in democracy. Democracy
is every one building the single life, not my life and others, not the
individual and the state, but my life bound up with others, the individual
which _is_ the state, the state which _is_ the individual. "When a man's
eye shall be single" -- do we quite know yet what that means? Democracy
is the fullest possible acceptance of the single life.
Thus democracy, although often considered a centrifugal tendency, is
rather a centripetal force. Democracy is not a spreading out: it is not
the extension of the suffrage -- its merely external aspect -- it is a
drawing together; it is the imperative call for the lacking parts of self.
It is the finding of the one will to which the will of every single man
and woman must contribute. We want woman to vote not that the suffrage
may be extended to women but that women may be included in the suffrage:
we want what they may have to add to the whole. Democracy is an
infinitely including spirit. We have an instinct for democracy because we
have an instinct for wholeness; we get wholeness only through reciprocal
relations, through infinitely expanding reciprocal relations. Democracy
is really neither extending nor including merely, but creating wholes.
This is the primitive urge of all life. This is the true nature of man.
Democracy must find a form of government that is suited to the nature of
man and which will express that nature in its manifold relations. Or
rather democracy is the self-creating process of life appearing as the
true nature of man, and through the activity of man projecting itself into
the visible world in fitting form so that its essential oneness will
declare itself. Democracy then is not an end, we must be weaving all the
time the web of democracy.
The idea of democracy as representing the all-will; gives us a new idea
of aristocracy. We believe in the few but not as opposed to the many,
only as included in all. This makes a tremendous change in political
thought. We believe in the influence of the good and the wise, but they
must exert their influence within the social process; it must be by action
and reaction, it must be by a subtle permeation, it must be through the
sporting instinct to take back the ball which one has thrown. The wise
can never help us by standing on one side and trying to get their wisdom
across to the unwise. The unwise can never help us (what has often been
considered the most they could do for the world) by a passive willingness
for the wise to impose their wisdom upon them. We need the intermingling
of all in the social process. We need our imperfections as well as our
perfections. So we offer what we have -- our unwisdom our imperfections
-- on the alter of the social process, and it is only by this social
process that the wonderful transmutation can take place which makes of
them the very stuff of which the Perfect Society is to be made.
Imperfection meets imperfection, or imperfection meets perfection; it is
the _process_ which purifies, not the "influence" of the perfect on the
imperfect. This is what faith in democracy means. Moreover, there is the
ignorance of the ignorant and the ignorant of the wise; there is the
wisdom of the wise and the wisdom of the ignorant. Both kinds of
ignorance have to be overcome, one as much as the other; both kinds of
wisdom have to prevail, one as much as the other.
In short, there is not a static world for the wise to influence. This
truth is the blow to the old aristocracy. But we need the wise within
this living, moving whole, this never-ceasing action and interaction, and
this truth is the basis of our new conception of aristocracy. Democracy
is not opposed to aristocracy -- it includes aristocracy.
As biology shows us nature evolving by the power within itself, so
social psychology shows us society evolving by the power of its own inner
forces, of _all_ its inner forces. There is no passive material within it
to be guided by a few. There is no dead material in a true democracy.
When people see the confusion of our present life, its formlessness and
planlessness, the servile following of the crowd, the ignorance of the
average man, his satisfaction in his ignorance, the insignificance of the
collective life, its blindness and its hopelessness, they say they do not
believe in democracy. But this is not democracy. The so-called evils of
democracy -- favoritism, bribery, graft, bossism -- are the evils of our
lack of democracy, of our party system and the abuses which that system
has brought into our representative government. It is not democracy which
is "on trial," as is so often said, but it is we ourselves who are on
trial. We have been constantly trying to see what democracy meant from
the point of view of institutions, we have never yet tried to see what it
meant from the point of view of men.
If life could be made mechanical, our method would be correct, but as
mechanics is creature and life its superabounding creator, such method is
wholly wrong. When people say that the cure for the evils of democracy is
more democracy, they usually mean that while, we have some "popular"
institutions, we have not enough, and that when we get enough "popular"
institutions, our inadequacies will be met. But no form is going to
fulfil our needs. This is important to remember just now, with all the
agitation for "democratic control." You cannot establish democratic
control by legislation: it is not democratic control to allow the people
to assent to or refuse a war decided on by diplomats; there is only one
way to get democratic control -- by people learning how to evolve
collective ideas. The essence of democracy is not in institutions, is not
even in "brotherhood"; it is in that organizing of men which makes most
sure, most perfect, the bringing forth of the common idea. Democracy has
one task only -- to free the creative spirit of man. This is done through
group organization. We are sometimes told that democracy is an attitude
and must grow up in the hearts of men. But this is not enough.
Democracy is a method, a scientific technique of evolving the will of the
people. For this reason the study of group psychology is a necessary
preliminary to the study of democracy. Neither party bosses nor
unscrupulous capitalists are our undoing, but our own lack of knowing how
to do things together.
The startling truth that the war is bringing home to many of us is that
unity must be something more than a sentiment, it must be an actual system
of organization. We are now beginning to see that if you want the fruits
of unity, you must _have_ unity, a real unity, a cooperative collectivism.
Unity is neither a sentiment nor an intellectual conception, it is a
psychological process produced by actual psychic interaction.
How shall we gain a practical understanding of this essential unity of
man? By practicing it with the first person we meet; by approaching every
man with the consciousness of the complexity of his needs, of the vastness
of his powers. Much is written of the power of history and tradition in
giving unity to a community or nation. This has been overemphasized. If
this were the only way of getting unity, there would be little hope for
the future in America, where we have to make a unity of people with widely
differing traditions, and little hope for the future of Europe where peace
is unthinkable unless the past can be forgotten and new ties made on the
basis of mutual understanding and mutual obligation. To have democracy we
must live it day by day. Democracy is the actual commingling of men in
order that each shall have continuous access to the needs and the wants of
others. Democracy is not a form of government; the democratic soul is
born within the group and then it develops its own forms.
Democracy then is a great spiritual force evolving itself from men,
utilizing each, completing his incompleteness by weaving together all in
the many-membered community life which is the true Theophany. The world
to-day is growing more spiritual, and I say this not in spite of the Great
War, but because of all this war has shown us of the inner forces bursting
forth in fuller and fuller expression. The Great War has been the Great
Call to humanity and humanity is answering. It is breaking down the
ramparts to free the way for the entrance of a larger spirit which is to
fill every single being by interflowing between them all. France,
England, America -- how the beacon lights flash from one to the other --
the program of the British Labor Party, the speeches of our American
President, the news of the indomitable courage of France -- these are like
the fires in Europe on St. John's Eve, which flash their signals from
hill-top to hill-top. Even the school children of France and America
write letters to each other. American men and women are working for the
reconstruction of France as they would work for the reconstruction of
their own homes -- and all this because we are all sharing the same hope.
A new faith is in our hearts. The Great War is the herald of another
world for men. The coming of democracy is the spiritual rebirth. We have
been told that our physical birth and life are not all, that we are to be
born again of water and the spirit. Not indeed of _water_ and spirit, but
of _blood_ and spirit, are the warring children of men, a groaning,
growing humanity, coming to the Great Rebirth.
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