THE STRUCTURAL PRINCIPLE OF
THE STATE (2)
by Herman Dooyeweerd
The levelling of the individuality structure of the State in the overstretching of functionalistic thought.
In my book De Crisis in de Humanistische Staatsleer (The Crisis in Humanist Political Theory) I have shown in great detail what modern nominalistic sociological and "normological" theories of State have left of the body politic, as a result of this overstrained functionalistic mode of thought. To give only some examples: To LUDWIG WALDECKER the unity of an organized community, as such, is merely a synthetical category of thought. By its means an incalculable multitude of socio-psychical interactions between individuals cooperating in the social process are made accessible to thought in their totality.
From this nominalistic viewpoint there is not any qualitative essential difference between the State and "all other organizations". 'Neither the organizations with a particular purpose (such as, e.g., a limited liability company), nor the autonomous political communities which are components of the State (e.g., municipality, district, and province), are different from the State in a qualitative sense, but only quantitatively and functionally" ["Weder die Organisationen für bestimmte Zwecke, sagen wir etwa vom Typus einer Aktiengesellschaft, noch die Kommunalverbände (Gemeinde, Kreis, und Provinz), unterscheiden sich qualitativ, sondern stets nur quantitativ und funktional vom Staate". (WALDECKER: Allgemeine Staatslehre, 1927, pp. 81-82 and 214-215)]
From this viewpoint it is not surprising that the writer does not mind qualifying also the territorial national evangelical Churches as States. He justifies this view by the argument that however much nowadays we associate the idea of "spiritual interactions" with the notion "Church", this association is only historically determined (Op. cit. p 217).
A similar mentality is evident in MAX WEBER's pronouncement that sociologically speaking a modern State can only be considered as a "large-scale economic business" and that there is not any essential difference between a private economic enterprise, e.g., a large factory, and a present-day State (see: MAX WEBER, Parlement und Regierung im neu geordneten Deutschland, 1918, p 15).
KELSEN could readily subscribe to this statement on his "normological standpoint", and remarked that for this very reason the organizational problem in both cases is identical (see: Vom Wesen und Wert der Demokratie, p 17).
The same tendency is seen in the guild socialist view, which HAROLD LASKI has characterized as the opinion that the State is "a body on the same footing as the Miners' Federation" (see: LASKI, A Grammar of Politics, p. 73).
In opposition to the levelling sociological conceptions of the body politic which eliminate its normative structure, the "normological" theory of KELSEN handled only a "purely juridical" viewpoint, which was found in the "Sollensebene" (ie "The realm of what should be"). His overstretching of the juridical concept of function, denatured in a logicistic way, assumed grotesque proportions in the "normological" identification of the State with a logical system of legal norms deduced in his so-called "pure legal theory".
The dialectical "cultural-scientific" ("geisteswissenschaftliche") method applied to the general theory of the State. RUDOLF SMEND and the former "Berlin School".
The introduction of the dialectical cultural scientific (or "geisteswissenschaftliche") method into the general theory of the State, oriented to LITT's earlier discussed phenomenological sociology, could not show a way out of the crisis. It did not rest on a normative structural idea of the State in which the historicistic relativizing of all normative standards is to be overcome. In my De Crisis in de Humanistische Staatsleer (The Crisis in Humanist Political Theory) I criticized the application of this method of thought to political theory in an analysis of the "Integrationslehre" of the founder of the former "Berlin School", RUDOLPH SMEND. In the meantime this school was definitively dispersed by the national socialist revolution in Germany.
HELLER's dialectical structural concept of the State, and the historicist view of reality.
There is, however, one work on the general theory of the State which, at least partly inspired by LITT's dialectical formal sociology, deserves our special attention in this context. I mean that of the German scholar HERMANN HELLER. HELLER's methodological starting-point and his actualistic view of the unity of the State as always involved in a process of becoming, as "plébiscite de tous les jours" (1), were the reason why I formerly classed him with the "Berlin School".
(1) He borrowed this phrase for the State from RENAN. Cf. his book Die Souveränität (Berlin and Leipzig, 1927, p. 82).
His conception of the State, however, deviated already from the outset from that of SMEND.
And HELLER's Staatslehre (1934), published posthumously and edited by GERHART NIEMEYER, cut through nearly every connection with SMEND's "Integrationstheorie". In spite of his formal maintenance of LITT's dialectical-sociological method, he also relinquished some basic thoughts of LITT's sociology. As a matter of fact he seems never to have quite understood them (Cf. my Crisis in de Hum. Staatsleer, p. 50/1, note 3). He broke with the anti-axiological conception of sociology (Cf. Staatslehre, Leiden, 1934, pp. 51 ff), and recognized the real State-institution as a subjective "Aktzentrum":
"Our task is to show that the State is a real unitary act-centre within the multiplicity of real and independent, either individual or collective act-centres." ["Unsere Aufgabe ist es, den Staat nachzuweisen als ein wirkliches einheitliches Aktzentrum innerhalb der Vielheit wirklicher und selbständiger, sei es einzelmenschlicher oder kollektiver Akzentren".](Op. cit).
His standpoint as to these two points thus became the direct opposite to LITT'S, though HELLER did not realize this (compare p. 254 and pp. 255 ff. of this volume).
But this renders his posthumous work all the more important as a serious attempt to overcome the theoretical crisis in the general theory of the State. By means of a dialectical structural concept of the body politic he at least means to do full justice to the all-sided structural reality of this institutional organized community, and to bridge the neo-Kantian dualism of "sein" and "sollen" ("what is" and "what ought to be") dialectically.
It seems to be promising that the normative functions of the State-institution are recognized and that the functionalistic conception of the latter is rejected. HELLER even seems to make room for a normative idea of the State in his theory. We will, therefore, examine HELLER's dialectical structural concept a little more in detail, in order to give account of its relation to the invariable normative structural principle of every real State-institution we are seeking for.
HELLER's fundamental thesis is: 'The theory of the State is a structural, not a historical science'. This thesis seems indeed to have risen above the historicistic standpoint. Explicitly HELLER opposes a general political theory like R. SCHMIDT's, which exhausts its resources in giving a survey of the "development" of the "State" in the course of the history of the world. For lack of any well-defined concept of the body politic such an historical survey applied the term "State" to intrinsically heterogeneous societal relationships that display some trait of a political organization of power. HELLER is also opposed to SMEND's integration theory which at bottom is equally historicistic and irrationalistic. This theory considers "integration" as the State's essential characteristic, conceiving this process as a perpetual renewal of the unity of the body politic (see: SMEND, Verfassung und Verfassungsrecht, 1928, pp. 18 ff).
But this viewpoint cannot be suited to a general theory of the State: 'For in the multiplicity of succeeding processes of integration', says HELLER, 'exactly that which alone can be the object of political theory must be eradicated and vanish, viz. the unity of the State which maintains itself in all changes" ['Denn in der Vielheit einander ablösender Integrationsprozesse muss gerade das ausgelöst werden und verschwinden, was allein Gegenstand der Staatslehre sein kann: die in allem Wechsel sich behauptende Einheit des Staates'.] (HELLER, Staatslehre, Leiden, 1934, p. 49).
On a higher theoretical level HELLER even wants to do justice in a certain sense to the naïve conception of the "political status" as a relatively constant and real social unit. On closer examination, however, he appears to give up the historicist view of reality only seemingly. His structural theoretical view of the State is meant to overcome the functionalistic historicist theory, but it is not oriented to an invariable, supra-modal structural principle. HELLER only tries to conceive the "historical reality of the State" in all its incessant changes and dynamics according to a viewpoint other than that of the historian. In his opinion the "historical forms of human activity", among which he explicitly mentions the State, the Church and industrial life, cannot be understood, let alone explained, with the logical means of historical science, i.e. with the category of "temporal succession". They can only be understood from the simultaneity of coordinated human activity guaranteed by its social structure, so to say from the cross-section of the stream of history [Op. cit. p. 50: 'Nur aus dem gleichzeitigen Miteinander der gesellschaftlichen Wirkungsstruktur, sozusagen aus dem Querschnitt des Geschichtsstromes sind sie zu begreifen']
This vertical section through the horizontal functional stream of development of history does not display a chaos of separate facts and occurrences, but an ordered coherence of actions with a certain measure of stability and durability, in which the separate structural forms function in mutual interdependence:
'Only because we distinguish different functions and structures within the totality of historical reality, do we become aware of the ordered picture of the stream. In this way alone are we capable of making a meaningful selection from the infinite multiplicity of (historical) facts' (Op. cit. p. 50).
This means a complete acceptance of the historicistic view of reality which conceives all the normative aspects of the State under a historic basic denominator. The concept of function and that of structure, too, are historicized. HELLER does not want his structural concept to be conceived as a concept of the essential nature of the State as such, but only of the modern West-European State as it has developed since the Renaissance (Op. cit. pp. 3 ff.).
This historicistic attitude is also very clear from the following quotation from HELLER's Staatslehre, which we insert here on account of its importance for our insight into his dialectical structural concept of the State:
'This only enables us to point out within historical reality the starting-point for the theory of the State as a structural science. Not for a moment do we forget the genetic historical character of the State; neither, however, do we forget the political form of this process. We do not forget that the very theory of the State has to bring about that which historical science is unable to produce with its historical means: to recognize the State as an historical structure, as a function within the totality of the concrete socio-historical constellation. Under the aspect of historical science, speaking with HEGEL, becoming manifests itself as the truth of being. But in no way does being appear as the truth of becoming under the aspect of the structural theory of the body politic. With such a judgment we would be sanctioning that which political theory and juridical science have always done and especially again in our generation, viz. the absolutization of the momentary State. 'All political categories, however, are historically changeable, even the functions and certainly the structure of the present State. They in no way transcend history. All history is of unique occurrence in the irreversible direction of the stream. The structure of a body politic which is real within a particular basic structure of society, is therefore to be considered fundamentally impossible within another historical total situation' (All italics Dooyeweerd's)[Op. cit. p. 5011: Damit haben wir erst die Möglichkeit innerhalb der geschichtlichen Wirklichkeit den Ansatzpunkt der Staatslehre als Strukturwissenschaft aufzuweisen. Sie vergisst zwar keinen Augenblick den Werdecharakter des Staates, sie vergisst aber ebensowenig die staatliche Geformtheit dieses politischen Werdens; sie vergisst nicht, das gerade sie das zu leisten hat, was die Geschichtwissenschaft mit ihren Mitteln nicht zu leisten im Stande ist: den Staat als geschichtliche Struktur und zwar als Funktion innerhalb der Totalität des konkreten geschichtlich-gesellschaftlichen Gefüges zu erkennen. Unter dem Aspekt der Geschichts-wissenschaft erscheint, um mit HEGEL zu reden, das Werden als die Wahrheit des Seins. Unter dem Aspekt der struktur-theoretischen Staatslehre aber erscheint das Sein keineswegs etwa als die Wahrheit des Werdens. Mit einem solchen Urteil würden wir das sanktionieren, was die Staatslehre und Rechtswissenschaft von jeher und ganz besonders wieder in der letzten Generation getan hat: die Verabsolutierung des augenblicklichen Staates. Alle politischen Kategorien sind aber historisch wandelbar, selbst die Funktionen und erst recht die Struktur des gegenwärtigen Staates sind nichts weniger als geschichtstranszendent. Alle Geschichte ist ein einmaliges Geschehen in unumkehrbarer Stromrichtung und eine Staatsstruktur, die innerhalb einer bestimmten gesellschaftlichen Grundstruktur wirklich ist, muss eben deshalb prinzipiell als unmöglich angenommen werden innerhalb einer andern geschichtlichen Gesamtsituation".]
This quotation makes it clear that HELLER considers the internal structural principle of the State to be a "merely empirical" historical phenomenon. He did see that the historian must base his description of the history of a body politic on a structural concept of the latter. He also saw that only by means of a particular structure the multiplicity of human actions in particular situations are ordered into the peculiar unity of the totality of action of a State. But he only conceives of this totality of actions in a positivistic sense as an "empirical form" or "pattern" of merely comparative stability, which is uninterruptedly carried along in the stream of history. He did not see that the positivized and realized structure of the State is only possible as a formation according to a supra-positive structural principle. Compare the following statement he makes:
'Insofar as this structure has a certain duration, political theory has been given its "Gegenstand"; insofar as this structure or configuration of the State is uninterruptedly carried along in the stream of history and permanently, though hardly perceptibly, included in a process of change, this configuration cannot be thought as closed, but only as open. History flows through it. Therefore it is absolutely necessary for political theory to know the process of becoming in what has come about, the developmental tendencies of the structure of the State'. [Op. cit. p. 51: 'Indem diese Struktur eine Dauer hat, ist der Staatslehre allererst ihr Gegenstand gegeben; sofern aber auch diese Staatsstruktur oder Gestalt des Staates ununterbrochen im Fluss der Geschichte steht und in dauernder, wenn auch oft kaum merklicher Wandlung begriffen ist, kann diese Gestalt nicht geschlossen gedacht werden, sondern nur offen; die Geschichte geht durch sie hindurch. Deshalb ist es unumgänglich, dass die Staatslehre das Werdende im Gewordenen, die Entwicklungstendenzen der Staatsstruktur erkennt'.]
In perfect agreement with this historicistic structural concept is the moderately historicist normative idea of the State, without which in HELLER's opinion a genuine theory of the body politic cannot be set forth.
The following quotation shows the moderately historicistic character of this idea. A radically historicist view leaves no room for normative ideas:
'Theory no more than practice should deduce its leading ideas from the pure mind, both should derive them from the psychological-pragmatic motivations of living men. It is of little importance in this connection whether one believes one can "calculate" the future tendencies of politics from the dialectical tensions of the present — as Marxists do — or whether one holds up a future ideal to the present, as an imperative demand which is more or less in agreement with particular tendencies. For in either case the dialectician's view of the future is an evaluating orientation (transcending reality and consequently the present) in the sense intended by MANNHEIM; hence a Utopia (Cf. KARL MANNHEIM, Ideologie und Utopie, 1929, p. 169), which he cannot give up... Only by assuming that particular developmental tendencies are valid, does he find a leading idea enabling him to orient himself, to make a selection, and to give an interpretation...These political decisions do certainly not imply that the formative will of the political present is morally right, aesthetically beautiful, or valuable from the viewpoint of some general system of values. What they do imply is, that they consider these tendencies to be "the next stage in the history of the world"' ['Die Theorie darf ihre leitenden Ideen ebensowenig wie die Praxis aus dem reinen Geist deduzieren; beide müssen sie den psychologisch-pragmatischen Motivationen lebendiger Menschen entnehmen. Ob man dabei des Glaubens ist die Zukunftstendenzen der Politik liessen sich — wie die Marxisten meinen — aus den dialektischen Spannungen der Gegenwart "berechnen", oder ob man der Gegenwart in mehr oder weniger starker Uebereinstimmung mit bestimmten Tendenzen ein forderndes Zukunftsideal entgegenhält, macht in diesem Zusammenhang wenig aus, denn in jedem Fall ist auch die Zukunftsschau des theoretischen Dialektikers eine wertende, wirklichkeits-, also gegenwarts-transzendente Orientierung, im Sinne Mannheims also eine "Utopie", auf die er nicht verzichten kan... Nur rdadurch, dass er bestimmte Entwicklungstendenzen als gültig setzt, findet er eine Leitidee, die ihm Orientierung, Auswahl und Interpretation ermöglicht... Dass das gestaltende Wollen der politischen Gegenwart moralisch gut, aesthetisch schön oder von einem sonstigen allgemeinen Werstsystem her wertvol erscheine, besagen diese politische Entscheidungen gewiss nicht; wohl aber, dass sie in diesen Tendenzen die nächtste Stufe der Weltgeschichte sehen."](Op. cit. p. 56/7)
In my book De Crisis in de Humanistische Staatsleer (The Crisis in Humanist Political Theory), p. 83 ff., I showed that even the "moral-juridical principles", which according to HELLER alone can justify the State (Op. cit. p. 216 ff), are not considered by him to be "supra-historical". He is strongly influenced by the modern irrationalistic philosophy of life. In his opinion the "Entscheidung des Augenblicks" (the decision of the moment) is superior to any principle, and he therefore rejects the idea of a supra-historical "ordre naturel" (2).
(2) Die Souveränität, p. 176/7; these pages might just as well have been written by EMIL BRUNNER.
(Herman Dooyeweerd, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company 1969. Vol 3, pp 386-392)