Various Sociologists have also criticised the traditional structure of society. They regard the political side of the life of man as only one part of human activity and, accordingly, would seek to concentrate on group life in its various manifestations.
Emile Durkheim argues for the restoration of the ancient occupational groups as a definitely recognised public organisation. “We have at present,” he maintained, “no clear principles and no clear juridical sanctions through which to determine relations between employers or employees and the public.”
The activities of any profession could be regulated only by a group embracing its functions and needs, such as a guild or a trade union. The professional groups must, therefore, be established for securing the economic regulation of all such professions and for purposes of political representation.
Geographical representation, it is asserted, had lost its political, economic and social utility and, as such, geographical divisions should be replaced by vocational divisions which will reflect more accurately the various social interests.
There are other writers who have emphasized the autonomous rights of particular groups or who support some special type of social organisation. They protest against the omnicompetence of the State. Figgis criticises the efforts of the modern political leaders, “to invade the proper spheres of such essential social groups as churches, trade unions, local communities, and the family.”
The State, he says, did not create the family nor did it create the churches; nor even in any real sense can it be said to have created the clubs or trade unions, nor in the middle ages, the guild or the religious order, hardly even the universities or the colleges within the universities.
They have all arisen out of the natural associative instincts of mankind, and should all be treated by the supreme authority as having a life original and guaranteed to be controlled and directed like persons, hut not regarded in their corporate capacity as mere names.” Figgis gives to the State a superior right over all other associations, but this superior right is only for coordination and adjustment.
Laski recognises complete autonomy for all associations. He emphasises that the parts of the State are as real as the whole. “We do not proceed,” he says, “from the State to the parts of the State on the ground that the State is more fundamentally unified than its parts, but we, on the contrary, admit that parts are as real and as self-sufficient as the whole.”
The essence of his arguments may be stated in his own words. He says, “But because society is federal, authority must be federal, also.” Laski assails the moral validity of the doctrine that attributes sovereignty to the State.
The State, in his opinion, has no right to the allegiance of an individual except in so far as his conscience assents to. “The claim of authority upon myself is legitimate proportionately to the moral urgency of its appeal.”
He further said, “The only State to which I owe allegiance is the State in which I discover moral adequacy; and if a given State fails to satisfy that condition, I must, to be consistent with my own moral nature, attempt experiment. Our first duty is to be true to our conscience.” He tersely summed up, “We give to this particular group (the State) no particular merit.”
Laski would, thus, deny to the State any superior claim over other associations. He would even condition obedience to its authority. His general view is that the “sovereignty of the State will pass, as the divine right of the kings had its day.”
The State will continue only to coordinate the functions of various other associations without any right to assume omnipotence. Powers, in this way, will become coordinate instead of being hierarchical, and authority federal.
There are many other contemporary political writers who have advocated Pluralism— Maclver, Lindsay, Barker, G.D.H. Cole, Miss Follet and others. Maclver, for example, accepts the State as an association like various others within the community, although it exercises functions of a unique character. He gives the State an essential character of a corporation possessing “definite limits, definite powers and responsibilities.”
The business of the State, in his opinion, is merely to, give “a form of unity to the whole system of social relationship.” Barker does not accept the conception of the “real personality” of groups, but he admits that permanent groups within society existed prior to the State, and each of them has a corporate character and functions of its own. The State to him is a group of groups or a community of communities.