chapter  2
14 Pages

Lecture 2 Social Cohesion and Government

The original mechanism of social cohesion, as it is still to be found among the most primitive races, was one which operated through individual psychology without the need of anything that could be called government. There were, no doubt, tribal customs which all had to obey, but one must suppose that there was no impulse to disobedience of these customs and no need of magistrates or policemen to enforce them. In Old Stone Age times, so far as authority was concerned, the tribe seems to have lived in a state which we should now describe as anarchy. But it differed from what anarchy would be in a modern community owing to the fact that social impulses sufficiently controlled the acts of individuals. Men of the New Stone Age were already quite different; they had government, authorities capable of exacting obedience, and large-scale enforced cooperation. This is evident from their works; the primitive type of small-tribe cohesion could not have produced Stonehenge, still less the Pyramids. The enlargement of the social unit must have been mainly the result of war. If two tribes had a war of extermination, the victorious tribe by the acquisiton of new territory would be able to increase its numbers. There would also in war be an obvious advantage in an alliance of two or more tribes. If the danger producing the alliance persisted, the alliance would, in time, become an amalgamation. When a unit became too large for all its members to know each other, there would come to be a need of some mechanism for arriving at collective decisions, and this mechanism would inevitably develop by stages into something that a modern man could recognise as government. As soon as there is government

some men have more power than others, and the power that they have depends, broadly speaking, upon the size of the unit that they govern. Love of power, therefore, will cause the governors to desire conquest. This motive is very much reinforced when the vanquished are made into slaves instead of being exterminated. In this way, at a very early age, communities arose in which, although primitive impulses towards social co-operation still existed, they were immensely reinforced by the power of the government to punish those who disobeyed it. In the earliest fully historical community, that of ancient Egypt, we find a king whose powers over a large territory were absolute, except for some limitation by the priesthood, and we find a large servile population whom the king could at his will, employ upon State enterprises such as the Pyramids. In such a community only a minority at the top of the social scale-the king, the aristocracy, and the priestsneeded any psychological mechanism towards social cohesion; all the rest merely obeyed. No doubt large parts of the population were unhappy; one can get a picture of their condition from the first chapters of Exodus. But as a rule, so long as external enemies were not to be feared, this condition of widespread suffering did not prevent the prosperity of the State, and it left unimpaired the enjoyment of life by the holders of power. This state of affairs must have existed for long ages throughout what we now call the Middle East. It depended for its stability upon religion and the divinity of the king. Disobedience was impiety, and rebellion was liable to call down the anger of the gods. So long as the upper social layers genuinely believed this, the rest would be merely disciplined as we now discipline domestic animals.