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The Structure of the Commonwealth

THE STRUCTURE OF THE COMMONWEALTH.

§ 1o. If I use the expression "public organizations"rather than "the public organization" it is because the unity that public organization which answers to our con cept of the state presents itself to us in the guise of a multiplicity of organizations, rising one above another and resulting in a totality only through their organic union with one another.

From this point of view the state presents itself to us as a structure making up an undivided whole, rising to a single, cen tral apex, but the constituent parts of which rise one above another in sharply defined gradations.

In the current views of the matter this unity is but imperfectly apprehended, as is shown by this, among other things, that the inclination commonly is not so much to conceive of the state in this broader sense, but rather to narrow the concept far enough to admit of contrasting the state with its own constituent parts. This view has a substantial ground in the sense that it is a sur vival handed down froin an era when the national idea was yet engaged in a struggle to reduce these disjointed members to order and unity ; but it is a conception which falls far short of apprehending the essential character of the modern state.

§III. If we examine the state, considered as a structure of the nature indicated above, the lowest form of political associa tion is the Commune (Gemeinde).

The commune is the elementary structure, both in the sense that it is accepted by the consciousness of the individual mem bers as the immediate fundamental form of public organization, and also in the sense that in point of historical development it is the first link of the chain.

The characteristic feature of the commune is the fact that it is a neighborhood organization, which owes its origin to an exten sion of the relation of kinship beyond the limits of the family and the individual household, and signifies that the members of the commune have come to share in those good offices of human intercourse of which, within its narrower sphere, the family affords a ready illustration.

The nearer we approach its beginnings, the more self-con tained and exclusive is this elementary social organism ; the more does it unite in itself all the essential functions which in the course of development fall to the state. The commune is the ultimate cell, as it were, of the state, from which, by progres sive segmentation and differentiation, arises the organism with which we have here to deal.

§ 112. The character of this neighborhood organization is somewhat modified by the divergent conditions under which rural and urban social life is carried on.

In the historical development, the rural commune, occupying a greater space, is the earlier of the two. The large area occupied by agriculture as contrasted with handicraft and trade, requires a relatively great extent of inhabited country, which distinguishes the rural from the urban commune. On the other hand the intensive character of the distinctively urban occupations brings about a great and constantly growing concentration of the popu lation of the commune within a relatively narrow space.

In the very beginnings of towns and town-life this contrast is not perceptible. During the earlier centuries of the Middle Ages the legal maxim that nothing divides the burgher from the peasant but the town wall, is literally true. The towns are nothing but fortified hamlets—places of refuge and asylum in a country of peasants.I Every town was united in a defensive league with the unfortified villages ; the villages were bound to keep the walls of the town in repair, in return for which they found refuge behind the walls in times of war, with their goods and chattels.

But it is evident that the advantages of continuous residence within the walls would especially accrue to those whose occupation least led them out into the open country, such as handicraftsmen and tradesmen. Hence the mercantile character of the towns was a consequence of that slighter requirement in the way of space, which could find room enough within the town walls. Hence, also,. the towns became the seat of all those occupations, • offices, functionaries, which in this respect resembled handicraft and trade.

As the development goes on the relative importance of the characteristic features of the town is reversed. The walls of the town fall under the sway of the new departure which is changing the face of matters political and military. Concentration of pop ulation and social intercourse now come to be the decisive characteristic.

The shifting character of the concept of the mediaeval town, which is such as to embarrass modern statisticians, comes partly of a failure to distinguish between the historical and the economic connotation of the term, partly from the impossibility of drawing a hard and fast line of demarkation, in the economic sense, between the town and the rural commune.

The facts lying on the border between the two classes do not, however, constitute any obstacle in this any more than in other, analogous cases to the recognition and acceptance of an essential contrast which in a typical way marks off the modern city from the commune of the open country, a contrast founded on the density of population and the higher tension of social life. Hence that dissimilarity of communal life and activity, in aims, functions and powers, which presents itself to our view in an imposing form in the modern city corporation, as contrasted with the rural commune.

§ 113. Although the commune attempts to perform the elementary functions of the state, we still find, even in the ruder stages of culture, an organization wherein the fundamental fact is the submission of a number of communes to a superior power.

This superior power arises partly out of a superimposition of the stronger political organization upon the weaker, partly out of an organization of the smaller units into a larger whole. The ambiguity of the term State, above referred to, is largely due to .

this fact. In its historical development this subordination and incorporation takes the form of a contrast between the greater political unit and the less. From the point of view of the developed state the commune is regarded as a part, the state as the whole.

This contrast between the part and the whole, between the elementary organization of the neighborhood community and the national dominion that includes all these individual primary units and binds them together in a sovereign whole, expresses the most striking fact of the organization of social life.

The State stands forth as "the self-sufficing," the complement of organized social and political intercourse, varying—with respect to the extent of population which it comprises—with the stage of development which it occupies. The commune, on the other hand, is the group next removed from simple indi vidual existence, and its repetition in a series of structurally identical units constitutes the substratum on which national life rests.

§ 114. Within the field of these two fundamental phenomena of political life—the commune as the elementary fact, and the state as the centralized organization of the whole—is further developed a diversified multiplicity, both of intermediate mem bers whose special functions intervene between the commune and the state, and of peculiarities of structure modifying the cen tral organization of the state itself.

Naturally, as the interval between center and circumference widens, expediency leads to the introduction of certain inter mediary institutions, whose purpose is the performance of functions which lie beyond the sphere of the local commune and still do not fall within that of the central authority.

These intermediary structures are the outcome partly of that historical development whereby the smaller political units are subordinated and organized into constituent elements of the greater whole (counties, provinces), partly of systematic con structive effort which, starting from the national center, lays down the boundaries of the lesser administrative units (precinct, ward, arrondissement, department).

Under the head of qualified centralization of the sovereign state we shall have to take up the class of political phenomena of which our recent history affords so many examples.

The relation of the individual states of the North American Union to the Union as a whole, the analogous relation of the Swiss Cantons to the Confederation, the relation of the individual German states to the Empire, the different relations of the same states to the German Confederation before 1866, as well as the relation of the Swiss Cantons to the old Helvetian League pre vious to 1884,— all these are questions which belong under the above head.

The aim has thus far been to call attention to the facts of the organization of public bodies ; we shall now have to discuss further what are the causes to which these facts are due.

commune, organization, political, town and development