The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order and Freedom, by Robert Nisbet
The argument of this book is that the single most decisive influence upon Western social organization has been the rise and development of the centralized territorial state.
You will get no argument from me. But why? What influences brought this on, or what other influences had to be crushed in order that it could be brought on? These are the questions that must be explored if one is to hope to move toward a society grounded in liberty and free from the state.
The State today has become the institution of supreme allegiance for man and the refuge from all of life’s uncertainties. Man today considers the “State” and “society” as synonymous, as one and the same being. Society is no longer comprised of decentralized and varied social institutions: family, church, guild, kin, the university. Each role has been taken over by the State.
The State also cannot be regarded as the natural extension of these decentralized social institutions; it was not by voluntary choice that these institutions gave up authority. Instead, the aggrandizement of the State took place in forceful opposition to these very same institutions.
While the beginnings of the State can be found even while these decentralized institutions held authority, what can truly be identified as the State as we have come to know it might have best been exemplified in Revolutionary France. In the intervening centuries, one will find the transition.
The Quest for Communit…
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Nisbet refers to Walter Lippmann, who offers that the State is absolute power, and it matters not if this power is…