M. N. Roy Jawaharlal Nehru



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GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS

  1. "The dream of my life" (Renan writes with regard to Germany), ". . . .was to work in the feeble measure of my forces for the in­tellectual, moral, and political alliance of France and Germany in­cluding that with Britain, and forming a force capable of governing the world in the way of liberal civilization, at an equal distance from democracy and from the puerile anticipation of a return to the past which cannot be relieved."

  2. But this dream of Renan was finally and irrevocably destroyed. Renan was also not satisfied with the politics of France. He seemed to be profoundly apprehensive of the future of France. He wrote : "Until now France has known only two poles: Catholicism and demo­cracy ; always oscillating between one and the other, she never finds rest. To serve penance for her demagogic excesses, France throws herself into a narrow Catholicism ; to react against a narrow Catho­licism, she throws herself into a false democracy."

  3. But Renan's warnings remained quite unheard. As Renan was not at all satisfied with French political system and its false demo­cracy, so was not Sorel. And the influence of Renan, a great French historian, was decisive on Sorel.

  4. Sorel's Activism


    1. Russell, B, : A History of Western Philosophy (Louaon, 1947), pp. 826-27.

    2. Ibid.

    Sorel's political philosophy is a doctrine of action. His activism reveals itself in his theory of knowledge, where he is much indebted to Henri Bergson. Although Sorel stood for giving into the hands of the workers all the powers, he refused to give details regarding the syndicalist society. He used Bergsonian irrationalism to justify a revolutionary labour movement having no definite goal. The future of society, according to Sorel, was to be known by intuition. He drew his philosophy of 'intuition' and 'action' directly from Bergson. Examine Bergson's remarks : "There are in truth no things ; things and states are only views, taken by our mind, of becoming. There are no things, there are only actions."5 This view of the world, which appeared difficult and unnatural to intellect, is, according to Bergson, easy and natural to intuition. Under the guidance of intuition, we perceive that "form is omy a snapshot view of transi­tion," and the philosopher "will see the material world melt back into a single flux."8 In the same way, Sorel was of the view that only action is the criterion of truth. There is no monism of thought. The ancient philosophy of unity has finally abdicated : "enough of metaphysics. . . .Let us descend to the level of daily life." The proletarian elites alone can build a new world : they will replace the old static metaphysics by the right and the ethics of the world of the worker.



  1. GEORGES SOREL

  2. 473



  1. In the same way, Sorel's doctrine of general strike was nothing but a 'myth' which needs no intellectual interpretation. It was a myth like the second coming in Christianity. In fact, it is nothing, but an intuitional formula which to the modern mind is hardly defensible. Though Sorel vehemently rejected political socialism whether represented by Guesde or Jaures, it seems that he orientated his political philosophy in a too one-sided sense towards the 'prole­tariat'. He clearly underrated "the social differentiations amcr^ the industrial workers themselves ; he has also hardly analysed the rising new strata between the bourgeoisie and the workers which have entirely altered the structure and the balance of modern society."'

  2. Effect of Sorel's Social and Political Philosophy


    1. 7 Mayer, J. P. : Political Thought in France, p. 120.

    However, it must be admitted that Sorel's social and political philosophy was a definite attempt to liquidate the rigid orthodoxy of Marxist system in spite of the fact that he showed his indebtedness to Marx and stated, as said earlier, that his philosophy of revolution could only be interpreted and well understood in the light of Marxian thesis of capitalism. He tried to relate the ideas of Marx to the philosophy of Nietzsche and Bergson in order to relieve the entire philosophy of Marx from its orthodox character. Unlike the latter, he was fully conscious of the moral forces in history and appreciated the significance of political and legal institutions in social history. Likewise, his doctrine of elites forms the most important and funda­mental part of his philosophy, in spite of its gross distortion by Fascists, although it is a fact that Sorel's philosophy of action and his anti-intellectualism bring him near Fascism. Contrariwise his faith in the moral values and his philosophy of intuition make him the spiritual father of the movement of the working classes. And Sorel belongs to the same spiritual family to which Tocqueville, Montal-embert, Renan and Peguy belong. His theory of moral elite will ever inspire the best part of a further political philosophy.

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  2. GRAHAM WALLAS (I 856-1 932)



  3. His Career and Works

  4. Graham Wallas was born in 1858 in a clergyman's family. He received his education at Shrewsbury School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He started as a school teacher, but later on he became famous as a great scholar. He was partly instrumental in the foundation of the London School of Economics. Later on, he be­came head of the department of Political Science in that School and taught for about 30 years. On his retirement, he was succeeded by Prof. Harold J. Laski. Wallas served for about twenty years on the Senate of the London University and made valuable contributions to­wards the administration of the University. He showed his interest in practical politics as a member of the London School Board, the London County Council and the Royal Commission on Civil Service.

  5. His important works are Human Nature in Politics (1908), The Great Society (1914) and Our Social Heritage (1921). All of them are marked by the desire to interpret political phenomenon in terms of psychological forces, and not in terms of form and structure. He speaks that politics is largely "a matter of subconscious processes of habit and instinct, suggestion and imitation," and only slightly of conscious reason. Although Wallas, in his later writings, discussed the organization of thought and will, and gives more attention to the rational element in political psychology, his approach was more or less anti-intellectual. With a view to studying politics in a psycho­logical context he emphasized the necessity of a new approach to the study of politics and changed from the qualitative to the quantitative methods of argument. Rockow rightly remarks that "while Professor McDougall is Platonic, Professor Graham Wallas is obviously an Aristotelian."1


    1. 1 Contemporary Political Thought In England, Chapter on G. Wallas.

    It is admitted that Graham Wallas received a lot of help from books on psychology, but his own admission is that he based his con­clusions on material derived from his own experience as a teacher, administrator and practical politician, and also from the accounts of their thought processes as given by some of his students and friends in England and America. He himself says that "My main material has been derived from my experience, during more than 40 years, as a teacher and administrator, and from the accounts of their thought-

  1. GRAHAM WALLAS

  2. 475



  1. processes given by poets and others who were not professed psycho­logists, by some of my students and by friends in England and America." The problem before Graham was as to how far the knowledge accumulated by modern psychology could be made useful for the improvement of thought-processes for a working thinker.

  2. The Quantitative Method in Politics

  3. Wallas advocated the need of following the quantitative method in politics if the people were not to face disappointment in their day-to-day affairs. He felt that every year larger and more exact collections of detailed political facts were being accumulated. He found that the intellectual work of preparing legislation, whether carried on by permanent officials or Royal Commissions or Cabinet Ministers, took every year a more quantitative and less qualitative form.

  4. For the sake of comparison, be referred to the methods followed by the Commission on Poor Law of 1833-34 and the Poor Law Com­mission of 1905. The argument of the earlier commission was in a priori form. All men seek pleasure and avoid pain. The a priori argument is admirably illustrated by indicating that labouring men will not exert themselves unless they are offered the alternative of starvation or rigorous confinement, though no attempt is made to esti­mate the proportion of the working population of England whose character and conduct is represented by each instance. The a priori deduction is illustrated and not proved by the example given. The Poor Law Commission of 1905 was drivec to new lines. It does not assume that humaq energy is dependent solely on the working of the human will in the presence of the ideas of pleasure and pain. It has been forced to tabulate and consider innumerable quantitative observations relating to the very many factors affecting the will of paupers and possible paupers. It cannot avoid the task of estimating the relative industrial effectiveness of health which depends upon decent surround­ings, of hope it may be made possible by state provision for old age, and of the imaginative range which is the result of education, and of comparing all these with the purely economic motive created by ideas of future pleasure and pain. The evidence is collected, not to illustrate general propositions otherwise established, but to provide quantitative answers to quantitative questions. Instances in each case are accu­mulated according to a well-known statistical rule until the repetition of results shows that further accumulations are useless.

  5. It was to be considered, after the commissions of 1834 and 1905, whether men voted best in areas where they kept up habits of political action in connection with parliamentary as well as municipal contests, and whether an election involving other points besides poor law administration was more likely to create interest among the electo­rate. If more than one election was held in a district in any area, it may be found by the record of the percentage of votes that electoral enthusiasm diminished for each additional contest allowing for their



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  2. GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS

  1. rapidly descending curve. The final decisions must involve the balan­cing of all these and many other considerations by an essentially quantitative process. Throughout the argument, the population of England was to be looked upon not "on the average or en masse" but as consisting of individuals who could be arranged in 'polygons of variation' according to their neryous and physical strength, their character and the degree to which ideas of the future were likely to affect their present conduct.

  2. Human Nature in Politics

  3. On the basis of his keen observations of different political situa­tions in England and elsewhere, Wallas concluded that "the study of politics is just now (1908) in a curiously unsatisfactory position."' The position was unsatisfactory because the expectations aroused in the minds of thinking people had not been fulfilled ; the actual work­ing of democracy which was deemed to be the best form of govern­ment had left people disappointed. People thought that the failure of democracy was due to defective political institutions, to restricted franchise and inadequate education, but Wallas held a different view. He was of the view that enough attention had not been paid to the facts of humsn nature. Wallas' work is an attempt to interpret poli­tical phenomena in terms of psychological forces rather than in terms of form and structure. The fundamental forces considered were those of Intelligence, Love and Happiness, on the basis of which he endea­voured to rebuild a political theory and a political structure. His work in this field was suggestive rather than conclusive, however, inspiring and stimulating further inquiry.8


    1. Human Nature in Politics (opening Paragraph).

    2. Lippmann, Walter : Preface In Politics, Public Opinion, and other works.

    Wallas pleaded that the study of politics must not be separated from the study of human nature. His own works were attempts towards overcoming the separation between the two which was a marked future of the writings of the early and middle-nineteenth century writers. The student of politics must deal not with the abstract man, but with the full man who is a creature "compact of emotions, impulses and instincts as well as conscious reason." If the political doctrines in which a man is educated are based on the view of man as a rational being whose every act is the result of an intel­lectual process by which he "first thinks of some end which he desires and then calculates the means by which that end can be attained," he would have to leave aside his text-books and change his views when he comes to deal with practical issues and with living men and women ; he would discover that his views bore no relation to reality. Therefore, Wallas asked his readers to do away with the intellectual fallacy, and overcome their "tendency to exaggerate the intellectuality of mankind." He said that if a faithful record of all that an indivi-



  1. GRAHAM wallas

  2. 477



  1. dual did and said in the course of a day were to be kept, we would find that a very small number of activities were a result of a deliberate search for the means of attaining ends. Most of them would be found to be either half-conscious repetitions, under the influence of habit, of movements which were originally more fully conscious or to have their basis in the impulsive and instinctive endowment of human nature. The conclusion naturally follows that politics must "legally be a matter of subconsc'ous process of habit and instinct, suggestion and imitation" and "only in a slight degree the product of conscious reason." It contrasts to tb.* rationalistic and collectivistic approaches of Hobhouse and Clifford, Graham Wallas in Human Nature in Poli­tics suggests that reason has little to' do with the whole process. The secret of politics, according to him, lies in man's suggestibility, his habits and emotions. Names are set up for artificial entities (my country, my party, my nation) and the emotional or 'suggestive' power of these symbols is the real basis on which politics rests and by which it operates.

  2. Since not all our impulses and instincts are of value and signi­ficance to the politician, Wallas described the most important of them. The most important of them is affection or love ; the next is fear and the desire for property may be placed third. To these may be added the fighting instinct and the instincts of suspicion, curiosity, and the desire to excel. If we want to rebuild political theory and political structure, we shall have to pay attention to intelligence and the desire for happiness which are also fundamental forces shaping human life. It must be borne in mind that Graham Wallas was not an irrational-ist ; he did not exclude reason or intelligence completely from political life ; he simply drew attention to the fundamental role played in it by subconscious factors. According to him, the "empirical art of politics consists largely in the creation of opinion by the deliberate exploitation of subconscious non-rational inference." In his later writings, when he discussed the organization of thought and will, he gave more attention to the rational element in the psychology of politics.

  3. The Shaping of Human Political Behaviour

  4. Graham Wallas was of the opinion that human political behaviour is influenced not only by psychological equipment but also by political environment. This environment is subject to constant change ; new political entities and new habits of thought and feeling come into existence and shape our political behaviour. The national flag and national anthem, and political parties are among the chief political entities round which habits of thought and feeling develop. They do stand for intellectual ideas and may therefore have intellectual origins ; but to the mass of people they are something more than bare ideas ; they are 'emotion-charged and emotion-making names'. The art of the politician consists in attaching certain



  1. 478

  2. great political thinkers

  1. emotions to them and then exploiting those emotions. The appeal to emotions is the stock-in-trade of all skilled political leaders 4 Emo­tions, according to Wallas, tend to associate themselves with certain political slogans, or with a party : "White Supremacy" in the Southern States, "The Party of Lincoln", "Jeflfersonian Democracy", "The Grand Old Party", are all symbols which arouse in the appro­priate hearer a complex of feeling and impulse which are sufficient for all practical purposes. Those interested in the party management furnish all the reasoning which they regard as necessary.

  2. Graham Wallas indicated the manner in which party leaders are able to make an emotional appeal to the citizens through party symbols and shibboleths, and thus reduce to a nullity the critical capacity of the voters and make them easy victims of the party propa­ganda.5 This is most clearly manifest during elections. Each party coins a few slogans and makes them emotional symbols. Great efforts are made to create public opinion by a deliberate appeal to the emo­tional suggestibility of the people. As a consequence, elections become or tend to become, 'psychological orgies' and 'exercises in spell-bind­ing.' "The party names and symbols, the party colours, placards and songs are all let loose on the suggestibility of the electorate."

  3. The Voter Lives under Excitement


    1. Human Nature in Politics, Chap. II.

    2. Ibid.

    Wallas maintained that in politics men act under the immediate stimulus of affection and instinct, and that affection and interest may be directed towards political entities which are very different from those facts in the world around us which we can discover by deli­berate observation and analysis. He showed that when people form inferences as to the results of their political actions, they do so, not by a process of reasoning, but in a non-rational way. Their minds act like a harp, "all of whose strings throb together ; so that emotions, impulse, inference, are often simultaneous and intermingled aspects of a single mental experience." This non-rational character of our mental processes is heightened when we act in excitement and as a part of a crowd. According to Wallas, a great majority of people live, so far as their mental and intellectual life is concerned, under the conditions of a crowd ; they substitute non-rational for rational inference. Urbanization has increased this tendency manifold. It is no longer even necessary to be gathered together in one place for suggestion to have its effect. The radio, the press and the cinema do their work too well. The excitement caused everywhere during World War II and the manner in which President Roosevelt induced the people of the U.S.A. to enter it afford excellent illustrations of the way in which suggestion and sympathetic excitement influence public opinion. It is the great merit of Graham Wallas to have revealed the subtle

  1. GRAHAM WALLAS

  2. 479

  1. and pervasive way in which public opinion is formed by non-rational processes.

  2. According to Wallas, there is a great disparity between actual democracy and the intellectual assumptions of the eighteenth and nineteenth century philosophers of democracy. We are struck by the gullibility of the masses. Majorities can be secured by manipulating the subconscious mental lives of individuals. Politicians exploit names, images and symbols to secure the votes of the people. Vote for a particular party does not indicate that we have given the same after an impartial examination of the whole problem. Votes are given because the name of a particular party arouses the sympathy of the voter. In certain cases, clever posters do the trick. Elections tend to be floods of mass suggestions. Voters are made to vote for a particular issue without being conscious of the nature of their mental processes.

  3. The electorate can be hypnotized by the popular press, drugged with advertisements, deafened by the boosting of the business candi­dates. It can be influenced by centralized mass suggestion, exercised through all the organs which form and control public opinion, into condoning and even encouraging a policy of hatred and passion of which each individual would in his private capacity be ashamed. It may be suborned by powerful financial groups into voting for mea­sures which though prejudicial to the common welfare, are advantage­ous to the groups in question.

  4. If what has been said above regarding the non-rational character of the forces which influence the judgment of the voters and shape public opinion is true, there seems to be little hope for democracy or representative government; the arguments of Graham Wallas cut the ground from under the feet of the democrat. Education of the people is no remedy ;'instead of minimizing the evil, it tends to maximize it. Since elementary education gives to the voter merely the power to read, it leaves him or her at the mercy of the clever manipulator of the public opinion even more than before.

  5. Social Improvement from Social Invention

  6. Graham Wallas was no anti-democrat; he did not advise the people to leave everything to the most intellectual persons. He argued that the best intellects may themselves be the victims of suggestion ; leaving matters to them would not necessarily improve matters. More­over, "government without consent is a complicated and ugly pro­cess." According to him, the remedy lies in the gradual extension of the sphere in which intelligence can play a greater role in politics. Man does think and knowledge is still a power. We must increase the part to be played by reason in the management of our common business. Our ideal should be to make the casting of vote as much based upon the impersonal weighing of scientific evidence as the deci­sions of a jury. On the positive side, he expected that modern psy­chology would offer a much truer, though a more complex conception



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