To start with the latter question, I owe to my colleague, Warren Bennis - an expert on management - the exception that (as we say) probes this rule. He was in Iceland, to meet all the 78 people (I think it was) in management jobs. While there, he was struck by one extreme of Icelandic national consciousness. The Acadˇmie Fran¨aise has tried to keep foreign barbarisms out of the French language - notably, those French-English hybrids known as Franglais - "Un outsider a gagnˇ dans un walkover", and the like.
But, whereas the French battle for linguistic purity is a lost cause, Iceland has defended the purity of its culture and language successfully. As with the German word Fernseh, mandated in the Nazi years for Television, Iceland responded to radio with a flurry of neologisms, and computers have produced a local word for "computer screen" that for the rest of us might just as well be Inuit. Yet, extreme though these manifestations are, can any of us point to the pitiful victims of rampant Icelandic nationalism? Set beside Serbia and a dozen similar horrors, Icelandic nationalism seems comparatively benign, or at least comparatively lacking in maleficence.
Why is Iceland an exception? A glance at the map suggests one reason. Iceland's form of nationalism reflects its unusual isolation: hundreds of miles of Atlantic from other islands and continents. Yet things need not have ended so. Earlier Icelanders were no pacificists: there is enough bloodshed in the Sagas to satisfy any Rambo or Terminator. Using Vargas's definition of a ficcion maligna - one that impoverishes experience and leads to violence - Icelanders may decide that defending their language from computer jargon impoverishes them; but no one expects this to lead to violence - to a War with Greenland, to attacks on the F¾roe Islands, let alone to a campaign for a Greater Iceland. For once, the beneficial effects of national consciousness apparently outweigh the maleficent ones.
Iceland is in fact the nearest thing in real life to the imagined country Thomas More described in 1516, in his satire, Utopia - Nowheresland. For the first thing More had the King of Utopia do, in preparing the largest kibbutz ever planned, was to separate his island from neighboring lands by a Sea channel 15 miles wide. He had a purpose in this. More was not just a thinker, but a statesman: before political theory was born, he saw the weaknesses of any plan to give the State a theoretical basis alone. He knew that the intellectual abstractions from which theoretical analyses begin can serve only as templates, never as blueprints. For More, as for Aristotle, political organization and practice were topics for a practical art: rooted less in theory than in human experience. Utopia may be an intriguing dream, but it is no less a dream, realizable in practice only in a country even more absolutely isolated than Iceland. The very name of the traveller, Hythloday, in whose mouth More puts the story of Utopia means peddler of nonsense: political good sense is found rather in Thucydides, Machiavelli and Plutarch, who were steeped in first hand experience, and read it with historical understanding.
Vargas's other question "Is the Nation the indispensable basis for State formation?" takes me to the central subject of my lecture. My answer is historical: the Nation State became a preoccupation of political thinkers and agents not just in one part of the world - Western and Central Europe - but also at a particular time in history. It was a element in Western thought and practice throughought the period we call Modernity; but before the late 1500s it played scarcely like this part; and now, as the 20th century is ending, it has become an obstacle to effective thought and action.
In what follows, I refer interchangeably to pre-modern, modern and post-modern times, and to pre-national, national and post-national times. The "pre-national" covers the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and lasts until about 1600. The "national" covers the three centuries from the Peace of Westphalia at the end of the Thirty Years War, to the 20th century World Wars - from 1648 to 1945. The "post-national" is the time in which we find ourselves now, as the limits to the traditional system of Nation States make themselves clearer every month.
I want to do two things today: Firstly, remind you how deeply the bases of social organization and political thought changed in the transition from each age to the next, showing that, in both practice and theory, the decline of the Nation State leaves us in a situation more like that of pre-modern than of modern times. Secondly, I will use this historical account to sharpen the questions we need to ask, and the problems we need to solve, if our modes of social or political thought and action are to meet the demands of a new "post-national" time.
Only yesterday, it seems, political and social thought and practice took for granted what (borrowing a term from the computer manuals) I will call the "default" position - a set of assumptions that, if not universal, at least hold good as strong presumptions. To begin with their practical aspects, they teach us that:
1) Each Country is entitled to form its own autonomous Sovereign State, and to pursue its own interests as it chooses.
2) Any Sovereign State is free to run its domestic affairs - not least, to make its own laws - without interference by outside agents.
3) The citizens of such a State are similar enough to constitute a "Nation."
Taken separately, these maxims guaranted the sovereign immunity of a country's government, protected its right to establish (e.g.) a religion of its choice, and set limits to the representative character of its institutions. When the Habsburg lands were split up in 1919, for instance, the first of these propositions was called by Jan Masaryk the "principle of nationality"; yet we can see now that - whatever the position of Masaryk's Czechs and Slovaks - this principle is ill suited to the Balkans. Taken together, the maxims define the right to National Sovereignty claimed by all Member States of the United Nations.
Each practical assumption had a theoretical aspect, also:
1) Since each State is autonomous, we can best formulate political, social or economic theory One State at a time. What is essential to any State is its internal structures: its external relations are accidental.
2) Since each State decides its own Laws, all Law is in theory positive law - that is, the explicit Will of the Sovereign. Claims that positive law are overriden by a broader Natural Law only express personal preferences.
3) Since the citizens of any State are equivalent, fairness in theory requires treating them as essentially alike, and so ignoring their differences as accidental. In a rational State, electoral procedures take refuge behind a veil of ignorance, and are blindly impartial.
As theory, these presuppositions were the axioms of modern political thought for Grotius in 1625, and elaborated by Thomas Hobbes 30 years later. They are found in the texts of political thought quoted by the U.S. Founding Fathers: from John Locke, via Adam Smith - did Smith not call his economics The Wealth of Nations? - and so on to Durkheim and Parsons. As practice, they embodied the "Westphalian" compromise: the system of class structured sovereign Nation States set up after 1648 as a diplomatic outcome of the treaties that ended the Religious Wars. Those axioms keep their charm, today, bothfor rulers of suspect motives (Saddam Hussein or the Burmese military) and for respectable if nostalgic nationalists such as Charles de Gaulle or Margaret Thatcher. In countries that can at last form Nation States, the ruling oligarchies - unsurprisingly - envy the unfettered sovereignty of Louis XIV.
This parallel between the patterns of social and political practice and the axioms of social and political theory in the modern era had a scientific face, also. The fathers of political science looked for a theoretical model in the physics of their time: they set out to find a Stable Order of Society behind the flux of historical events, as physicists had found a Stable Order of Nature behind astronomical phenomena. Analysing history and society one nation state at a time, they looked for representative institutions by which a Nation's Will can control the "forces and motions" in the State. In this way, they competed to be the Newton of social theory. Laplace, for instance, reworked the Newtonian theory of the planets to remove the mathematical "inequalities" or deviations his predecessor had left unresolved. But he also produced a new theory of probability, that set out in part to "predict the decisions of parliamentary assemblies"; and shared a general belief that, under the guidance of the Sovereign, the orderly activities of a State mirror the orderly movements of the Planetary System, under the guidance of the Sun.
This image of the Nation State as the Solar System writ small - with Louis XIV as le roi soleil - carried over into the 19th century. Do you recall how, in Les Misˇrables, the Police Inspector vows to capture the story's hero, whom he sees as a "subversive"? Only so (he says) can Heaven's Justice be restored. The idea of seeing astronomy as a basis for politics was an early accident - dating back to the "monthly prognosticators" in ancient Babylon and the "celestial kingdom" of classical China - but still an accident. It sprang not from a genuine similarity between the Solar System and Society, but from a belief that Social Stability is a human replica of the Stability of the Heavens. So, in the belief that Society is a stable, homeostatic system, the language of Social Order took on a scientific underpinning, as it entered our modes of thought and practice in the century following the Westphalian settlement.
In "social statics" (Herbert Spencer's phrase) scientific students of society are pure observers, like watchers of stars and planets: their standpoint is as detached from the social facts they report as the astronomer's is from the planetary facts that he records. From the 18th century on, social scientists divided "facts" from "values" and hung their respectability on the ability to stay on the factual side. Today, this detached conception of objectivity is rarely relevant even in physics. Given the position and velocity of all the atoms in the Creation - Laplace had argued - Newton put an Omniscient Calculator in the position to calculate the entire history of the physical world. Yet this has always been an illusion: Newton made longterm calculations of the movements of bodies only for two bodies at a time: e.g. for the Sun acting on one single planet. But the instant a third body enters the calculation (say, another planet) his dynamical equations became formally insoluble. And with many atoms, closer together - as Henri Poincarˇ pointed out in 1889 - the movements of individual bodies become radically unpredictable, and we are on the verge of today's "chaos" theory.
It is not that Science can provide no useful models for thinking of social processes: only that we cannot discuss political order and social change in terms from physics like "structure" and "universal law". If we are to reformulate our political and social ideas, Biology is a better starting point. Is this any surprise? Have not people always known (in Aristotle's phrase) that the human being is a zoon politikon - i.e. a "social animal"? Colloquially, politics has always intersected, and developed in parallel with, biology. The Latin word functio covered both society and physiology - a social function and the function of the kidney, a functioning heart or a civil service functionary. (You need not be Heidegger to find etymologies worth learning from.)
Nor are we limited to preDarwinian biology. If political and social ideas are to come into line with the language and thought patterns of late 20th century biology: not stable or essential, but populational and adaptive. A species of animals or plants comprises a set of populations in a range of habitats, linked by family resemblances and ancestries. Time turns variants into distinct species; oaks and whales replace the essential Oak and Whale. Regional patterns of language use too replace the authoritative Language. Time turns Latin dialects into Italian or French, Rumanian or Portuguese. So too for families or the Family, states or the State, democracies or Democracy, societies or Society, local temporary practices and Culture. Evolutionary accounts of politics, society and culture go as far beyond Weber's ideal types as biologists go beyond Aristotle's and Linnaeus' "essentially" fixed species.
So much for the modern point of view. Compared with the modern position, the premodern view of politics was untheoretical. The Sovereignty of medieval monarchs rested on possession or title. Visit the great Romanesque basilica at Speyer am Rhein, SW of Frankfurt. On the South wall of the nave is a monument to the first Habsburg: a local landowner whose holdings had not yet expanded as they would later under his descendants: downstream to the Netherlands, up river to the Alps, West into Spain or East along the Danube to Vienna, before branching into the Balkans.
Then, Sovereigns were less like the King, Queen, People or Constitution of a Nation State than like real estate developers. Subjects having a common Sovereign need not share anything else - language or culture, habits or beliefs: as late as 1550, citizens of Amsterdam shared a Sovereign with the citizens of Madrid, Milan and Budapest. The Habsburg lands embraced Countries and Peoples with languages as varied as Slovene or Portuguese, Friesian, Magyar or Basque; and equally different religions or cultures. Did this mixture of people form a single Nation? - in no sense. Were they citizens of the same State? Even that question is anachronistic.
Once recognized in Law and by the Church, a Sovereign could require from Subjects loyalty and services. But the relation between Sovereign and Subjects cut both ways - a Sovereign had duties, as surely as a Subject. So the medieval debate about the Unjust Sovereign never treated Sovereignty as absolute in a modern sense. At a certain point, any Sovereign who failed to protect his Subjects forfeited all his claim on their loyalty.
The issue was defined pragmatically: typically, the duties of loyalty held good - in exceptional cases, it was justly challenged. The only questions were, how gravely the Sovereign must afflict his Subjects before they justly withheld loyalty, and by what means they might do so: in a broad range of options, tyrannicide - killing the bastard - was the most extreme. This remained the case as late as the 1580s. Fifty years before Grotius, eighty before Hobbes, the citizens of the Netherlands, most but not all of them Protestants, agreed on an Act of Abjuration framed in strictly medieval terms. Far from protecting them, Philip II of Spain tried to force them back to Catholicism, sending the Duke of Alva as his Viceroy, with orders to oppress them until they converted. By all accepted standards (they declared) Philip had thereby forfeited his right to their loyalty, and they were entitled to declare their "United Provinces of the Netherlands" as a new and independent Sovereign State.
Compare these premodern, practical arguments, in the 1580s, with the theoretical arguments used to sustain the U.S. Declaration of Independence, two centuries later. English writers from Hobbes and Locke on saw political obligation as the relation of an individual citizen to the Sovereign, or Leviathan - the wielder of supreme power. The Dutch saw matters otherwise: in freeing themselves from Spain, they joined together as Cities and Provinces - their movers were institutions not individuals. Once established, the State was like a corporation, with Burgermeestern (or Mayors) as directors, and the Stadthouder (President) as the C.E.O. True, the Rise of the Dutch Republic was also a story of brave individuals like William the Silent; but the citizens of the new State saw it primarily as an alliance of self sustaining collectives, not individual citizens.
The emergence of the Nation State took hold bit by bit, with variations. The chief models were Britain and France. Austria-Hungary kept to the older mold until 1918: Germany and Italy, too, were slow to follow the course. At first each new Nation State claimed the right to its established Religion, in conformity with the old tag, cuius regio eius religio ("the Sovereign decides a Country's Religion"); but this compromise took effect only at a price. Holland apart, scarcely a country in Western or Central Europe maintained religious toleration. In 1600, three quarters of the citizens of Vienna were Protestants: once Austria became the Catholic standard bearer in the Thirty Years Year, after 1618, forcible conversion and expulsion made it the most "Catholic" country in Europe. In England, those who did not conform to the Anglican Church were subject, if not to expulsion or forcible conversion, at least to discrimination: they were excluded from Parliament, or - like Joseph Priestley - from Oxford and Cambridge.
From the start, insistence on Nationhood has not only united the people it includes: it also oppressed the people it excluded. (The process continues today.) The modern view gave us terms into which political or social discussions still fall, when we drop our guard. They were picked up too by peoples whose lands were seized in Europe's imperial expansion. When, in 1989, Parisian thinkers reflected on the Bicentennial of the French Revolution, it evoked in them as much embarrassment as triumph: had not the Khmers Rouges learned their slogans at the Sorbonne?
For 300 years - from the 1640s to the 1940s - this "default" position was not just the basis of social theory: it was the engine of State formation and social construction. At first, however, the Nation State was still the outcome of an historical compromise; and as such it had only a conditional (so temporary) validity: it survived unchallenged as a principle of State formation, only so long as the conditions of social life were close to those that held good when it was established in the 17th century: That time is over.
About our present situation, one thing is clear. Neither in fact nor in thought do the presuppositions we are accustomed to make, in discussing social and political issues, fit our actual conditions at all exactly. To return to the three "default" maxims -
1) Few spheres of social, cultural, economic or political activity are any longer bounded within a single State: the frontiers of States are increasingly porous, and national limits are increasingly circumvented.
2) National governments are no longer immune to criticism from outside: both by international financial agencies whose monitoring they accept, e.g. the I.M.F., and by transnational humanitarian agencies whose monitoring they might prefer to avoid, such as Amnesty International.
3) As for the idea that the citizens of any Nation State constitute a homogeneous national population: thanks to both Empire and slavery, and to the development of global commerce and communication, that assumption can in practice no longer be taken even as a first approximation.
In Western Europe immigration and customs controls are less and less strict: people living in Lorraine cross five countries on weekend drives without stopping. Meanwhile - see the troubles of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism - the financial networks joining Tokyo to London, New York and Singapore are beyond the control of national governments. (They handle $1,000,000,000,000 in exchange transactions each day!} The last major attempt to defend a single Nation State against the flow of information was the Ceausescu rˇgime's law requiring samples from all typewriters to be given to the police, in order that the sources of any subversive typescripts could be identified. Were typewriters a threat so recently? How fast the world has moved! The power of the Soviet Union, by contrast, was undermined by e-mail; and, by now, the Beijing government has about given up trying to censor faxes. This interruption of the global telephone network is too costly to justify.
So sovereign national governments can no longer insulate economic or political acts. In pre-modern times, the Church shamed an errant King like Henry II of England into atoning for the murder of Thomas Becket, by humiliating him before the Papal legate. After 1648, no Sovereign State let outsiders question it on moral grounds: the English dismissed all French criticisms as Papist, and the French ignored British objections as heretical. Since 1945, however, all Nation States have become increasingly subject to outside criticism. Most strikingly, nongovernmental humanitarian agencies (Amnesty, Africa Watch or Save the Children) operate outside the network of State governments: they are influential just because they are transnational, keep the freedom to criticize all national governments equally, and have no command of "deadly force".
Unlike traditional Churches, these agencies - which had a leading role in focussing the World's attention on Somalia and Kurdistan, and shamed the rulers of Nation States into acting when they would rather have turned a blind eye - have built up a global reputation for impartiality. This is one thing that lies behind my claim that our present situation is like the premodern - pre1600 - situation more than like Modernity. We see a revival of the medieval tension of Church and State; only now the custodian of human conscience is Amnesty, not the Pope. The status of the United Nations as a cartel of Nation States puts it at a moral disadvantage: any Security Council speech is read as reflecting national interests, in a way nongovernmental organizations can avoid. (The governments of Indonesia and Malaysia complain that human rights are a Western preoccupation; but there is an element of log rolling in this, too.)
Finally, the increasing diversity in populations - the growing multiethnicity of most countries - requires us to rethink traditional ideas of representative government. Does not this diversity give rise to legitimate differences of interest? Can the existing institutions do proper justice to those interests? Or are other methods and institutions needed, so as to get them on the public agenda? Certainly, "multiethnicity" undercuts traditional ideas about the Nation. The terms "nationality" and "nationhood" at first assumed a shared ancestry. In medieval Padua, residence halls at the University were divided by birth or language - a German natio, a Scottish natio, and so on - birth, not culture or religion, defined national affiliation. Later, attempts were made to impose stricter criteria of nationhood: a shared culture, a common religion, similar customs or ways of life. In the 1590s, the Catholic League in France insisted that all loyal citizens of France ought to share un roi, une loi, une foi - one King, one Law, one Religion. Henri IV, the former Huguenot, replied with his Edict of Nantes, a declaration that proved premature, asking toleration of a community split over theological doctrines.
However Nationhood is defined, multiethnicity makes nonsense of it. The Greek word ethnos means nation or people: antethnikos is used, as unAmerican was in the 1950s, to mean antinational: it is antethnikos to call any part of Yugoslavia Macedonia. So calling the U.S. a "multiethnic [multinational] nation" comes close to a contradiction in terms: at least the phrase "a nation of nations" clearly uses the term in two senses. Still, so long as this ambiguity persists, scoundrels can go on using the term "Nation" to rouse their neighbors to violence against any whom their conception of "nationhood" excludes - and so excuse atrocities like "ethnic cleansing".
To return to Mario Vargas Llosa. His verdict on the nacion is harsh; but harshest on those who gain most from its perpetuation. We cannot ignore Hobbes's central point, confirmed in Somalia, that the survival of a State rests not just on communal solidarity, but on the Sovereign having a monopoly of legitimate deadly force. But Hobbes writes of States, not of Nations. Domestic use of State power in no way depends on a shared ancestry of the people. In Chicago, Serb and Croat Americans live next door to each other without violence: properly, people in both communities denounce the horrors into which the fantasia maligna of national purity is plunging their native country.
Let us turn to another text: from the poem Omeros, by the West Indian writer Derek Walcott, who won the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature. Early in the poem, Walcott has his father recall a time when all ships calling at St Lucia were refuelled with coal, which was carried by local women on their heads up a narrow gangplank in hundredweight baskets, at a wage of one copper penny a basket. Looking at a distance like a train of ants, this procession of coalwomen reappears throughout the poem, to recall all humans who have little or no command over their lives.
The carriers were women . . .
We may gloss this passage by placing it beside an observation by Amartya Sen, the Indian philosopher-economist. Half a dozen years ago Sen presented an argument that some readers found academic, even speculative. Looking at the economics of famine, he asked, "Has there ever been a full scale famine in a well functioning democracy?" When TV pictures of starving infants first caught attention, the reaction was to look for natural disasters - a drought, locusts, fire, floods or blight. "Not at all," Sen replied: "Well functioning human communities are experienced at dealing with fluctuations in food supply due to natural causes: the catastrophes that lead to famines are man made."
By now, Sen's argument strikes us very differently. The disintegration of Somalia transformed a country that used to be not just self supporting, but a grain exporter, into a disaster zone: the worst (many observers say) they have ever seen. After months of outside intervention, few doubt that a prime cause of famine is anarchy in the aftermath of Siad Barre's fall. The Somali people's short term need might be food: their deeper need is for the war lords to be disarmed, and properly functioning institutions restored. As to Somalia, this comment is by now widely accepted. Everyone will breathe freely, when the fabric of Somali society is restored, and offers adequate protection from the random violence of selfserving men. Yet Sen's analysis has wider implications, which require us to rethink representative institutions not merely in Africa, but nearer home: notably, in coping with the problems of multiethnic societies.
South Africa, South Chicago, or South Central L.A. - if Amartya Sen is right, we must ask how to adapt democratic procedures devised in monoethnic societies, to deal with the problems of multiethnic society. Here we see the converse of Sen's argument. Looking outward, we deplore the way in which weak institutions in Angola or Somalia or Bosnia let war lords seize power, which they use in ways that drive their compatriots out of regular work, into homelessness, disease or starvation. Yet, while we grant this connection abroad, we find it hard to see hunger, homelessness and lack of health care or jobs, next door in Mexico or across the road, as due to a structural weakness in our institutions. We fail, that is, to ask how the methods of monoethnic societies can serve multiethnic societies, whose history fates varied communities to live together and dream of institutions that provide equal justice for all.
This is not to challenge the Constitution of the United States - so far as it goes. But the framers of the Constitution did not find in their respected authors any analysis of multiethnicity: it was enough for them to devise forms of government for the country they actually lived in. In Democracy in America, Tocqueville remarks on the problems European settlers faced, on account of the co‘xistence of "three races" in America - the American Indians, the Europeans themselves, and their African slaves; but he did not share our aim, of achieving a just accommodation not just among these three peoples, but among communities with several dozen origins and backgrounds. The democracy he wrote about was, essentially, a system of government of Europeans by Europeans.
By now, we are aware how hard it is to get things done, and it is no longer tabu to question the structure of our institutions. So, we have seen dozens of experiments in community organization, not least here in L.A. Does this reflect the current health of our institutions? - quite the reverse. Such experiments cut across the grain of existing institutions, where people see them as failing to meet the current needs. Nor do the problems of multiethnic cities and countries call for purely economic remedies, either: they are a challenge to our society. Not that failure to keep in step with changing needs is only American. There is some sclerosis in America: Los Angeles County has more residents than 43 States; yet, in a century, Rhode Island will still have two Senators. In any event, many vexing problems arise on the global as well as the domestic scene. The boards of the I. M. F. and World Bank, for example, comprise representatives of Nation State governments; but their decisions affect the lives of millions who have no say in shaping them, and no reliable ways of making the representatives of their Nation State governments - their self appointed "betters" - understand those effects. Is there not a case, then, for making such international financial agencies accountable to their effective constituencies?
Not least, we need to re‘xamine our beliefs about democracy. A country proud of a commitment to Democracy may allow that a child's need for health care or education is not dependent on its father's Green Card; and see that the participation of such people in our civic institutions strengthens the Society in which we live. Yet our ideas about democratic procedure are limited. At home or in Angola, it is often taken to mean only "free and fair" elections: good people in the Carter Center, or Swedish Foreign Office, devise new ways to monitor polling and vote counting. But there is more to democracy than this. Is it clear (e.g.) that multiethnic societies need only a single set of impartial, color blind, one man one vote elections? Are not other kinds of representation needed in this case? be needed in this case. From monitoring the abortive election in Angola, our colleagues for U.S.C. know that the value of elections depends on other, broader considerations. Voting day is one day in a long history, and we know too little about the days before and after. How receptive will this political culture be to a secret ballot? How will rival candidates (e.g. Jonas Savimbi) respond to the outcome? How little we yet know about the answers to such questions!
Knowledge as captured in Euclidean axiom systems, Social Order as embodied in a hierarchy of offices, Business Organization in a personnel chart: these stable pyramids too easily become their own justification. The logo of Modernity is, thus, the Pyramid. Its message is Metternich's watchword, Stability . Here, social thought faces a change of theme as much as biology and management. Rather than struggling to maintain the status quo ante, the institutional task is to "manage" change. By itself, Stability is not enough: any organization too rigid or top heavy to transform itself, as new situations arise, will not in the long run saved by stability alone.
This change of theme brings us back to the methodological points touched on earlier: in particular, the value to the human sciencs of taking Biology not Physics as a model. Biology is more helpful than physics in three ways. Its subject matter is more concrete: studying (say) individual plants, habitats and bodily mechanisms, not the supposedly universal Laws of Life. Its focus is more practical: Agriculture and Medicine were in at its birth, molecular biochemists still win Nobel Prizes in Medicine. Finally, it verges on the clinical: physicians follow the history of this patient, here and now, zoologists the evolution of this animal and its mode of life, ecologists the demands of this habitat on the species that now occupy it. In everyday applications of biology, particularity is crucial, narrative the beginning of Wisdom. In social and political understanding, too, each community has a history it is foolish to ignore. To study a social habitat, nothing is as helpful as the testimony of those on the receiving end: Who knows where a Shoe pinches like the one who wears it? The name of this game is the name Derek Walcott gives it - Voice.
A new period calls for new Social Studies. As natural science changes, the social sciences cannot afford to remain fixed in out of date Euclidean or positivistic stances. The move from Modernity and Nation States, to a postnational multiethnic age, means that social inquiry is no longer confined to the detached, factual objectivity considered scientific earlier: it needs a more participatory mode, in which observers participate, by engaging all relevant Voices among the people whose lives they study. Colleagues in Anthropology do not need to be told this: "participant observation" has long been their central method. But we may recall that the success of "mathematical philosophy" in the 17th century set back ethnography and anthropology, so that a field ready to develop just after Montaigne, in the 1590s, won its academic spurs only around 1900.
Knowledge of social relations ismoe like the practical wisdom of clinical medicine than (say) theoretical grasp of molecular genetics. This message would be no surprise to Thomas More or Aristotle, let alone Tolstoy. In Anna, Tolstoy shows how little the theorist Katavasov can teach Levin or Tolstoy about social issues: county government, land ownership, marriage and family. Is this to say that the social sciences are more humanistic than scientific? No, only that they combine goals of both these kinds - the concrete particularity of human practice, and any general ideas reflective theories can establish. Not that we should expect too much of Theory in the social sciences. We may still prefer the historically based political wisdom of Thucydides or Machiavelli, as we prefer the historically based medical wisdom of a William Osler or a Lewis Thomas. (Harry Truman, for instance, said that he learned about his Washington contemporaries as much from the portraits in Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans as from any other source.) In social or political theory as well as in social and political practice, our central task is to re-humanize our ways of thinking and acting, wherever they are in danger of becoming purely technical.
To give one illustration of this point: consider our current ideas about the function of Police work. Coming from Europe, I am puzzled by the American concentration on the idea of "law enforcement": to outsiders' ears, this term carries the "modern" tone of detached objectivity at its worst. From early on in history, another tradition grew up, around the figure of a constable who lives in the community, and put an understanding of the community to work in the duty of keeping the King's Peace. The King's Peace is a tranquility sustained among the King's Subjects, not because the King enforces His (positive) Law on His inferiors, but because Peace is in the interest of all, and one of the King's cherished tasks is to sustain it.
Of course, Law must be enforced. Yet, since King Henry I in the 12th century, one strand in Anglo-American Administration and Law chosen amicitia (pax) over iudicium - peaceable agreement over enforcement. We may welcome "community" policing, if only as a first step. But a preference for Peace over Enforcement, like a preference for settling cases, rather than imposing judgments, has shaped the constabulary tradition. It reminds us that it is not just possible, but also effective, for a multiethnic community to staff its police from people to whom listening is no problem - for whom hearing the Voices of their fellow citizens is no effort - since those Voices are their own.
This message is available to us, not only in Derek Walcott's poem, but in the plays of Tom Stoppard. Starting with Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead, these plays show a string of would-be onlookers sucked willy nilly into the drama as participants. As detached academics, or private citizens preoccupied only with our personal interests - what the Greeks called idiotoi - we have something to learn from Tom Stoppard. For so long as the habit of detachment makes it so hard for us to listen with close attention - let alone empathy - to the Voices of fellow humans in other communities, with whom we share a City and a World - people whose needs and interests are so like our own, yet about whom we are tempted to theorize instead of listening - we too may risk the fate of Rosencranz and Guildenstern.
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