William Sweet

St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, NS CANADA

[Originally published in Liberalism, Oppression, and Empowerment, (ed. Creighton Peden and Yeager Hudson), Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1995, pp. 3-34]

In recent years, there has been a renewal of interest in 19th century British idealist political thought. One finds, for example, several studies of the work of T.H. Green and, more recently, of F.H. Bradley.(2) Yet the most developed statement of this tradition is to be found in neither Green nor Bradley, but in the philosopher and social reformer, Bernard Bosanquet (1848 - 1923).

In The Philosophical Theory of the State(3), the lengthiest exposition of his political thought, Bosanquet's central concern is to provide an account of self-government, though he also wishes to present a philosophical justification for political obligation and rights. But in order to do this, he argues, one must first abandon the individualist assumptions of Hobbes and Locke (and, in his own century, of Bentham, Mill and Spencer) concerning the nature of, and the relationships between, society and the state.

Bosanquet's alternative to these `individualist' accounts did not, of course, go unchallenged. In his own time, critics such as L.T. Hobhouse(4), R.M. MacIver(5), G.D.H. Cole(6), C.E.M Joad(7) and Harold Laski(8), argued that the analysis of society and the state provided by the later British Idealists was vague, ambiguous, inconsistent and dangerous. In fact, some held that Bosanquet's views were incompatible with those of Green and, thus, reflected a departure from the liberal roots of the British idealist tradition in political thought.(9)

The force of these early criticisms has been so strong that, even today, they are generally held to be conclusive. This paper will suggest, however, that many of them fail, and that they do so because they rest on an incomplete and inadequate understanding of Bosanquet's argument. If this suggestion is correct, not only will one have gone some way in challenging the claim that Bosanquet's work lies outside the liberal tradition, but perhaps one may have reason to look again at his accounts of self-government, political obligation and the nature and source of rights.

Some criticisms

A survey of classical and contemporary discussions of Bosanquet's political thought reveals four major points of criticism. Perhaps the most frequent concerns his characterization of the nature and role of the state. G.D.H. Cole and Stefan Collini(10) argue, for example, that Bosanquet confuses (or equivocates between) two different pictures of the state: that of a set of existing institutions and that of the paradigm or ideal of what civil authority should be like.(11) At the very least, there is simply no working example of the state as Bosanquet describes it.(12) Thus, Hobhouse objects to Bosanquet's account as being non-empirical(13) and Laski and Cole reject it as too "metaphysical."(14) The state is neither a `mind',(15) nor rooted in minds, nor a personality.(16) Moreover, states are products of "law in action,"(17) force(18) and of historical accident, whereas the analysis given by Bosanquet is ahistorical.(19) Others argue that Bosanquet's view is "too narrow"--that it ignores the role of economic life and the actual realities of practical politics.(20) And many, such as Joad, Laski and MacIver, deny Bosanquet's (apparent) view that the state can properly be compared to an organism.(21)

A second set of criticisms concerns the putatively undesirable implications of Bosanquet's account concerning the authority and the moral legitimacy of the state. It is argued that, in liberalism, the state is, in the end, subject to limits imposed either by individual rights, by individual or collective consent, or by society as a whole. Bosanquet's failure to recognize or respect this, clearly places him outside of that tradition.

Criticism of Bosanquet's theory of the state does not stop there. His account of the relation of the state to society and social institutions has also been the subject of debate. H.B. Acton, A.D. Lindsay and C.E.M. Joad allege that Bosanquet does not adequately distinguish between society and the state--and that, when he attempts to do so, he is unclear, if not simply wrong, about the relation between them.(22) (One may note parenthetically here the argument of Joad and Nalini Pant that it is just this that leads Bosanquet to fail to differentiate between moral, social and legal rights.(23)) And Cole and Laski claim that Bosanquet ignores that society is something more than the state, that the state is just a "particular association" among other institutions in society and that there is no necessary connexion between the two since social institutions have their own justification, independently of the state(24). Similarly, other critics have charged that Bosanquet does not appear to consider that there are often no clear boundaries between states, and that he specifically overlooks the fact that there are usually overlapping boundaries or competing loyalties both within the state and without--e.g., between institutions and the state or between church and state.(25)

One final set of criticisms suggests that, if Bosanquet's analysis of society and the state is allowed, the state cannot be subject to moral criticism or evaluation.(26) For example, if there is "no standard by which the present may be criticized" except the present, then it seems that the state can do no wrong.(27) Bosanquet's view also allegedly "encourages us to believe that our own state expresses the general will adequately."(28) Or again, as G.D.H. Cole puts it, given the idealist's tendency to find the ideal in the real, Bosanquet's theory seems to be just a glorification of the status quo(29). And, since each state determines its own standard of order, international law would seem to be impossible. Indeed, some insist that this view implies, not only that war is "necessary",(30) but that whoever "wins is right".(31) To avoid these unacceptable consequences, Laski says, the state must be subject to independent moral scrutiny, and this means that "both individuals and groups must have the right and opportunity to judge the policies of the state".(32)

Given the fundamental character of these objections, one wonders whether Bosanquet could provide any adequate response or defense. Clearly, if they hold, their effect would not only undermine his political thought but provide solid evidence for the claim that his work lies well outside of the liberal tradition. Still, Bosanquet was quite aware of most of these criticisms and did not consider them decisive. To understand how he could maintain this, one must consider the following four questions: what is the nature of society and of the institutions which compose it? What is the nature and rôle of the state? What is the basis and limit of the state's moral authority? And, finally, what is the connexion between society as a whole, social institutions and the state? Once these questions have been answered, Bosanquet's theory of the state may well prove not to be as incomplete, inaccurate, inconsistent or dangerous as alleged.

Bosanquet's view of society

Bosanquet's account is close to the classical view in which society is seen as a unity of a number of "natural" institutions. He says, for example, that his greatest master was Plato,(33) and that "there is no sound political philosophy which is not an embodiment of Plato's" (6). Nevertheless, his work is also greatly indebted to Kant and Hegel, and Bosanquet adopts Hegel's list of the principal institutions which constitute society: sc., the family, the district, the position (or the social class) of the individual and the nation state.(34) Each contributes, in its distinctive way, to the intellectual, moral, social, and spiritual development of the human person and Bosanquet, therefore, refers to them as "ethical ideas".(35)

Still, no one institution is reducible to any other and Bosanquet speaks of society as a whole as an "individual organism" (23, quoting Huxley).(36) Much like Rousseau, he sees society as "a moral and collective body" (86). It exists and functions as such because, he says, it is permeated by a set of dominant ideas--something to which he gives the name (again, borrowing from Rousseau) "the general will".(37)1

This "general will" reflects a common social good, and it is in virtue of this common good (and, consequently, this will), that unity and the coordination of activities in society are possible. In fact, Bosanquet says that this "will" is the essence of society (87)(38).

As an illustration of the unity that Bosanquet believes exists in society because of the presence of the "general will", consider for a moment how an army differs from a crowd. Even though an army is composed of a number of distinct individuals, it is capable of functioning in a co-ordinated way in order to perform complex tasks. (Here, one might think of military manoeuvres in time of war.) This is possible, however, only because there are certain "dominant ideas" and a shared experience present both in the military hierarchy and in each soldier. Even when the army is not engaged in any particular activity, Bosanquet would say that these `ideas' relate the persons concerned to one another in a "quasi-permanent" order.

Now compare this to the activity of a crowd attending some public event, like a county fair. Even if one grants that most, if not all, are there because of the event, the particular motives for attending are likely quite varied, and the coming together of the individuals as that particular group is purely accidental. In this case, there is certainly "no oneness of life or principle" (106) exhibited in the actions of the people present.

According to Bosanquet, the "dominant ideas" in a society are present not only in its laws (174), but even in its traditions and customs (139).(39) Indeed, these ideas enter into the personality or nature of individuals just as the sense of the structure and the hierarchy of an army can be said to enter into the life of each soldier. Just as an army has a formal structure, so Bosanquet sees society as divided into groups with different functions--and within each of these groups each member has a distinctive position which represents his or her service to the whole. The continuing presence of these "dominant ideas" serves both as a basis for organized activity and as a sign and guarantee of unity. In fact, Bosanquet says that these "dominant ideas" are present in the habitual action and in the day-to-day experience of every member of a social group--even if they are not fully conscious of them.

Still, a critic might argue that Bosanquet's illustration breaks down. Isn't the unity of an army, in the end, rather artificial? After all, one generally explicitly chooses to join an army and, sooner or later, leaves it. Might not the same be true of an individual's relation to society? How can Bosanquet show that society is not merely a voluntary association or "a cooperative venture for mutual advantage"(40)--the "joint stock company" of Herbert Spencer(41)--where each person participates so far as it accords with his or her private interests and where the association itself lasts only so long as it achieves a limited, agreed-upon aim? Here, Bosanquet would certainly reply that Spencer's view is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the individual and society, and the relationships between them. But he goes further than this. Bosanquet's response to this objection is that human beings are social beings, and that society exhibits an organic unity, because all social institutions ultimately exist on the level of "mind".

Of course, Bosanquet does not deny that society consists of a number of institutions that exist in space and time. Still, he argues that it is above all a community of minds.(42) For example, he claims that when we think of a neighbourhood, we have in mind more than a number of people and the places where they live or work. Every institution, he says, "implies a purpose or sentiment of more minds than one, and a more or less permanent embodiment of it" (277). Thus, it is not simply a matter of geography, but the goals or sentiments of persons who live in a particular district, that form the boundaries of that community.

Now, the district or neighbourhood is simply "a specimen of social life as a whole" (285), and the "partial facts and experiences within [social life] demand ultimate co-ordination in the category of mind" (45).(43) Bosanquet concludes, then, that "every social group or institution is the aspect in space and time of a set of corresponding mental systems in individual minds" (161). Thus, by extension, "society [as a whole] is... a body which at every point and in every movement expresses the characteristics of a mind" (6-7). This "mind" is the "general will."

Of course, society and institutions require `external apparatus' (159) but, in the end, Bosanquet says that "social phenomena which are among the most solid and unyielding of our experiences, are nevertheless ideal in their nature, and consist of conscious recognitions, by intelligent beings" (33). Thus, just as the existence of a school implies--and could not do without--certain dominant ideas also being present in the individual consciousnesses of its members, so society cannot exist without corresponding ideas being present in the minds of individuals. In fact, Bosanquet says that "minds and society are the same fabric regarded from different points of view" (158; cf. pp. 6-7; 276).(44)

One can understand, then, how Bosanquet is led to conclude that society cannot be a voluntary association.(45) If society consists of a series of reciprocal recognitions by individual minds, and if it is permeated by a single set of dominant ideas that have a common good in view, then the relation of the parts to the whole in a social order cannot be based entirely on choice.

Bosanquet's view of the nature and role of the state

Consider, now, Bosanquet's analysis of the state. As noted earlier, it has been argued that Bosanquet does not provide a clear statement of its nature and function. There is certainly some basis for this criticism. Sometimes Bosanquet employs the term "state" to describe that social institution which is concerned with law and force (173)(46)1, yet at other times, he appears to use it to refer to an ideal of what the state should be like. Thus, some accuse Bosanquet of a fundamental ambiguity--of confusing descriptive and normative accounts--in his remarks on it. Others, as we have seen, criticize his analysis as being ahistorical--of ignoring, for example, the role of accident in its development. Obviously, then, Bosanquet's notion of `the state' demands some elaboration.

But is his account really that problematic? To begin with, when one looks closely at his discussion in The Philosophical Theory of the State, it is clear that he does not intend to describe the actual structure of existing European states--but neither does he mean to talk about something ideal. Throughout his work, Bosanquet repeatedly insists that "philosophy has to understand and not to dictate".(47) Since the purpose of political philosophy "is to understand what a State is," it is, he says, "not necessary for this purpose that the State which is analysed should be `ideal,' but only that it should be a State" (232). When he refers to "the state", then, Bosanquet has in mind neither an "ideal" State nor some particular state but the nation state in general. He describes it as something that is "territorially determined" little by little (xlviii) and that has a distinctive history and development, although he would also maintain that this development is not purely accidental or arbitrary.(48) In short, Bosanquet's object is simply to provide a description of the state in much the same way a physiologist might provide a description of the nature of a human being (232), that is, by giving a generic account--an account of the average being--but not an idealized one.

While clearly aware of its historical basis, Bosanquet would nevertheless say that the state is "natural," in the sense that it is implied by the nature of the individual. According to Bosanquet, "[i]f you start with a human being as he is in fact, and try to devise what will furnish him with... a stable purpose capable of doing justice to his capacities... you will be driven on by the necessity of the facts at least as far as the State" (140).(49) It is the nation state, he believes, that is "the widest organization which has the common experience necessary to found a common life" (298). There is, then, no place for a social contract theory in his analysis.

The function or purpose of the state is (as it is for all social institutions) to contribute to the realization of what Bosanquet calls "the moral end"--"the best life" (188) or "the perfection of human personality" (189)--which he elsewhere also describes as "self-completeness" and "self-realisation".(50) The distinctive contribution of the state to this end is that it establishes and enforces laws or rules. Bosanquet says that, "you cannot carry out a universal end in a plurality of units... without enforcing general rules" (173). Moreover, given that humans are beings with an "animal nature", society needs an institution to support and maintain "human consciousness, owing to its animal limitations" (171). In fact, it is precisely so far as it is "habitually recognised as a unit lawfully exercising force" (173) that the state is distinguished from society.(51)

But while the presence of the state is particularly evident when it is carrying out certain public functions like law enforcement, Bosanquet says that it is more than a legislative power, an executive or a civil service. The state is not simply the government or the "political fabric" (140) of society. In fact, it is not a single isolable entity at all. It is, rather, that set of "institutions" that serves as "ultimate arbiter and regulator, maintainer of mechanical routine, and source of authoritative suggestion" (173).(52) Its primary functions are to eliminate the obstacles that individuals encounter in working towards the common good, to settle conflicts, and to organise and coordinate social living (lviii).

In order to carry out these functions, Bosanquet does say that the state must have absolute physical power over the individual (192). There is no obvious good to be achieved, he thinks, in the a priori limitation of its authority (172). Moreover, if there were no single institution with supreme power, "conflicting adjustments might be imposed upon [a person]... by diverse authorities having equal power and right to enforce his obedience" (173). Thus, for individuals to know what they must do, for social unity to be ensured and for there to be an authoritative arbitration of disputes, there must be an institution with supreme authority. "[Y]ou cannot have just as much or as little of them [i.e., "sovereignty and the truly absolute state"] as you may choose" (xiii), Bosanquet insists. Clearly, Bosanquet rejects Spencer's view of the state as a free association of individuals for a limited goal, determined explicitly by, and always subject to, their private wills.(53)

Still, one should be aware that absolute power is not ascribed to the state a priori. The nation state has an absolute power over individuals simply because there is no other existing authority outside of or beyond it (such as a world state) to which it could be subject.(54) In fact, Bosanquet says that, so far as self-government is possible, the arbitrary exercise of absolute power is irrational(55), and throughout his work he champions both representative government and universal suffrage.(56)

Understood as an institution that "hinders" activity and exercises force, the state has a `negative' character. But its contribution to the "best life" also includes several positive features. It is, for example, "the operative criticism of institutions" (140)--where "criticism" means the task of harmonising and readjusting "a mass of data to bring them into a rational shape" (111). Through the legal system, the state recognizes and protects institutions, individuals and their positions in society, and it is because the state is the authoritative source of the recognition of positions that it is, ultimately, required for the existence of rights. Again, it is through the official recognition of marriages, of the laws governing contracts, and so forth, that it provides the basis for social activity and for an organized social life (257).(57) Not only is the state able, therefore, to hold "together a complex hierarchy of groups" (xxviii)--to function as a principle of unity (172)--but it sustains in its own way all other social institutions.(58)

Bosanquet would also claim that the state is essential to a person's awareness of his or her individuality. On the one hand, it shows people those characteristics which are common to, and which underlie, human personality in general. On the other, it enables them to become conscious of their particularity--it gives one the background so that he may "abstract himself from the whole" (201).(59) It is, indeed, through the state that the places individuals have in society are definitively recognized and that they come to see what they have in themselves to be.

Furthermore, Bosanquet insists that one of the central functions of the state is to guarantee and to foster liberty. He says that the state is "the main organ and the condition of the fuller liberty" (127), and identifies its aim as "the maintenance of the system of rights" (215). Liberty, however, does not mean being able to do whatever one chooses--this would confuse liberty with licence. It is, rather, to be "the best that we have it in us to be", that is, to be ourselves (119). In other words, Bosanquet identifies one's liberty with "self-realisation". Thus, in aiming at liberty, the state must have as its goal the development of individuals and the promotion of their interests. For this reason, Bosanquet would not see himself as replacing, but as extending, many of the insights of the classical liberal tradition.(60)

Unlike individualist theories, however, Bosanquet insists that liberty is to be found only in the state (see 230-236). Spencer's idea of a sphere of natural liberty, preexisting the state, "of which a part was given up in exchange for more, is," Bosanquet would say, "a mere illusion" (181; see 54). Following Hegel and Kant,(61) then, Bosanquet notes that the "free mind" cannot exist "[e]xcept by expressing itself in relation to an ordered life" (236). And since the freedom or self-realisation of an individual is something objective and distinct from what he or she may want, and since it can exist only within the state, Bosanquet concludes, with Rousseau, that we can be "forced to be free" (119).(62)

Still, Bosanquet insists that this does not diminish either the value of liberty or of one's dignity. He maintains that, if the state uses force to hinder the liberty (i.e., the full realization) of an individual, it acts in contradiction to its end and is incompatible with itself. In fact, he says that a "complex of institutions" or a state is properly criticized if it does not provide for or encourage liberty (xxx; 186).

Finally, although the state cannot enforce morality (since it cannot make a person act from a moral motive) (xxxv; 179), it is "the guardian of moral interests" (l) and a moral guide and, hence, is essential for the development of moral personality. The state and social institutions express and reflect the content of the general will (i.e., the "dominant ideas" in a society) and tend to the realization of the common good. Specifically, these institutions provide a concrete indication of the requirements of morality(63) and protect and direct the activity of individuals (and of society as a whole) towards that good.(64) In short, the state "represents the ground won and settled by our civilization" (200) and is a manifestation of developed moral principle.

Bosanquet also sees the state as participating in moral development in a more direct way. The state "is constantly reminding us of our duties" (142). It blocks the bad will (lxi) and, through its use of punishment, for example, "brings us to our senses... [and] makes us conscious of our errors and the moral decision to improve our behaviour" (208). In the state and through its help, he believes, "we find at once discipline and expansion, the transfiguration of partial impulses, and something to do and to care for, such as the nature of a human self demands" (140). In this way, as well, the state contributes to the development of the individual and, hence, to the realization of the common good (xxxix).

In light of the various functions it performs, it is clear why Bosanquet regards the state as an "ethical idea" and why he believes that it is best understood as existing on the level of mind and as exhibiting the character of an organic whole. Despite the criticism that his account is "too intellectualist" or metaphysical, he would argue that, to see the state in this way is not to make it less real and efficacious, but to see it as it really functions. The state enters into the minds and personalities of individuals and contributes to their development. And it is important to realize that this is not a one-way street--it also reflects the minds which compose it. And so Bosanquet writes that each state is a "diverse embodiment[] of the human spirit... [which is] characterized by individual missions or functions in which [it] proffers its characteristic contribution to human life" (xlviii).

In reply to the first criticism noted at the beginning of this paper, then, when Bosanquet refers to the state as "an organic unity", he is thinking of a cooperative and mutually dependent relationship that exists on the level of mind. It is not to be identified with Hegel's "State" and, while there is a normative dimension to this notion, Bosanquet is not simply shifting between two different definitions of it. Moreover, Bosanquet's account does not ignore the role of history, of accident or of choice but affirms, rather, that the most important developments in the state occur at the level of human consciousness.

The moral authority of the state

Given the preceding analysis of the nature of society and the state, Bosanquet believes that he can account for the state's apparent moral and legal authority and the existence of political obligation.

To begin with, on Bosanquet's view, the state forms our world. It is "the fly-wheel of our life" (142). "Its system is constantly reminding us of duties... All individuals are continually reinforced and carried on beyond their average immediate consciousness by the knowledge, resources, and energy which surrounds them in the social order" (142). In short, as we have seen Bosanquet argue above, it is by means of the state that human beings are progressively realized (138) and civilized (172). But its authority is based on more than its utility. Fundamentally, the state possesses its moral weight because it is a reflection of the individual's "real will".

Bosanquet's reasons for this are clear, though they have been subject to much criticism. As alluded to earlier, so far as there is a shared history or cooperation among persons in view of a common good, one finds the presence of certain "dominant ideas"--the general will. Now, Bosanquet argues that this general will is each individual's "real will".(65) Therefore, given Bosanquet's acceptance of the general principle that an individual is ultimately subject only to himself, since the general will is one's "real will", that person is required to obey it.(66)

But how can individuals know what their "real wills" require of them? Bosanquet's answer is that "[t]he social system under which we live... represents the general will" (186). And this, too, explains the basis of political obligation, for "any system of institutions which represents to us, on the whole, the conditions essential to affirming such a will... such as to constitute a tolerably complete life, has an imperative claim upon our loyalty and obedience..." (139). Consequently, not only is the exercise of power by the state considered by Bosanquet to be morally legitimate, but the state can legitimately demand a person's obedience, even if that person has not explicitly given assent (119, n. 2).(67) But, having said this, does Bosanquet not give us reason to believe that he is putting the state above moral criticism?

The nature and limit of state action

Since the state described by Bosanquet is not, strictly speaking, based on consent and since its power is absolute, is it not true, as some critics have argued, that therefore the state has no limits? By holding such a view of the state, hasn't Bosanquet abandoned liberalism--specifically, the liberalism of T.H. Green? Bosanquet admits that he is much more favourable to the state than Green (ix), and he seems much less concerned than Green about imposing limits on its activity (269-271). Indeed, he says that there is little with which the state should not concern itself (xii), and that one may not choose as much or as little of the state as one would like (xiii). It is no surprise, then, that John Morrow has charged that Bosanquet's view is essentially illiberal.(68)

Yet, while Bosanquet criticizes the analysis of the state given by both utilitarianism and natural rights theory, he still considers himself to be within the "liberal" tradition.(69) It is clear that he wishes to avoid any semblance of a mechanistic collectivism or statism which would force people to perform their duties (63) or which would replace individual initiative and activity. In fact, Bosanquet insists on limiting coercive authority as far as possible (see 51; 63)--his support for democratic, representative government was noted earlier--and he frequently underscores the value of the individual. In social work, for example, he says that one must "always individualize the case".(70) Indeed, unlike Morrow, Hobhouse finds Bosanquet to be too much of an "individualist",(71) and accuses him of not being sufficiently aware of the service that the state can provide.

Where, then, does Bosanquet stand on the limits of state action? Although the state holds ultimate authority in society, it is important to realise that it exists simply in order to carry out certain tasks, and it is the very nature of these tasks that imposes limits on the state. As noted above, generally this means that, through its power and through the establishment of law, the state aims at hindering or punishing those who impede others in the exercise of their liberty(72)--but this function is itself justified by its more fundamental role of "clearing the way" for moral activity and individual development.

Clearly, the state is limited in how it does this and in how far it can go. For example, since Bosanquet holds that it is the motive that gives moral value to an action, once an action is constrained, it is removed from the moral sphere (178-179)(73), and its capacity to promote the moral development of the agent is greatly reduced. Thus, Bosanquet concludes that the state should do only what is required to enable individuals to act--not attempt to bring about some end on their behalf.

When the state acts, and particularly when it coerces, it must be certain that three conditions are satisfied: first, that there is an important potentiality in the individual that is being frustrated; second, that the "liberation" of the resources of character and intelligence that will follow is greater than the restrictions imposed on the person; and, finally, that it is better that the action be done from any motive whatsoever than that it not take place (179-180). When Bosanquet says that one may not choose to have as much or as little of the state as one wishes (xiii), it seems clear, then, that he does not think that the state can do as it pleases.

Yet despite these `limits' on its activity, the state is by no means restricted to guaranteeing "negative liberty". The state may act `positively' in providing individuals with the "means" for moral action (183), even if it cannot itself act morally or directly promote a moral (or spiritual) end (xxxvi). As examples here, Bosanquet mentions building schools in order to combat illiteracy, and controlling the sale of liquor to limit alcohol abuse (178).

Nevertheless, the state cannot (and should not) do everything--Bosanquet argues against guaranteeing full employment or providing housing for all (178). But these limits are not imposed because of the risk of `violating' individual liberty, as in individualist theories. Rather, by doing this, Bosanquet believes that the state works against its own purpose--sc., favouring the conditions for the development of individual character and, hence, the full realisation of human personality.(74)

Given this view of the nature, authority and limits of the state, it seems inappropriate and unjust to describe Bosanquet's thought as "illiberal", even if it is not as "individualist" as that of Locke, Spencer or (arguably) Mill.(75) Bosanquet is fundamentally concerned with the liberty--that is, the full realisation--of the human person. Since there is no necessary connexion between liberalism and individualism,(76) and since he clearly champions a number of liberal political institutions, there seems no sufficient reason to hold that he has abandoned liberalism. Thus, even though Bosanquet and Green do not have identical views on the role and limits of the state, it does not follow that Bosanquet's theory of the state lies outside the liberal tradition.

The relationship between society and the state

Still, it is not obvious that the preceding account has put to rest some important criticisms noted earlier. For example, the third criticism noted at the beginning of this paper was that Bosanquet has misdescribed the relation between society and the state--specifically, of either knowingly or unknowingly conflating the two.(77) Such a charge is understandable. At times, he insists that the state is inherently and permanently distinct from society (lxi),(78) yet he also says that "the characteristics of Society pass gradually into those of the State" (173). He acknowledges that the state "includes the entire hierarchy of institutions by which life is determined" (140), and yet he also speaks of it as one of the ethical ideas or institutions which make up society. (298)(79)

Admittedly, Bosanquet would maintain that the justification of the state and society is the same, and that they have the same origin and, in the final analysis, the same end(80)--the "best life" (173). Nevertheless, it does not follow from this that he conflates the two. What does follow, rather, is that there is an integral relation between them. As noted earlier, even though Bosanquet refers to the state as an "institution" in society, not only is the state involved and implied in the various institutions which compose society, but it is essential to their very existence.

But there is yet another reason why Bosanquet would insist that society cannot be independent of the state. If society and the state were two institutions imposing potentially incompatible demands on individuals, there could be no unambiguous determination of rights and obligations. Bosanquet does not overlook the existence of competing loyalties, but would argue that social stability--the sine qua non of a person's rights and social life--requires that an individual be subject ultimately to only one authority.

What exactly, then, is the relation of society and the state? For Bosanquet, the state is present throughout society as that which recognizes, regulates, arbitrates between, coerces and contributes to social institutions and individuals. As an illustration of what he has in mind here, consider the relation between the skeleton and the body of an organism.(81) Although the skeleton is part of the body as a whole and although it does not exist prior to the body--both are formed at the same time--the body is dependent on it. Similarly, even though the state does not exist prior to society, and develops with society, society is dependent upon it.(82) The state is not just one social institution among others, then, and it is because of this peculiar status that the state has, as its function, the resolution of the various conflicts which may arise.

Still, society and the state are distinct (lxi).(83) One can, for example, speak of social action, which is entirely different from both political and private activity (xxxvii-xxxix) and, where political action is inappropriate or fails, Bosanquet emphasizes that an important role is still to be played by volunteer work.(84) Clearly, then, although influenced by Hegel, Bosanquet's concept of society is distinct from that which one finds in Hegel's work. Yet this should be no surprise since, as noted earlier, their respective analyses of the state also differ.

The state and moral criticism

Finally, recall the fourth set of criticisms noted at the beginning of this paper. What exactly is the relationship between society and the state? If the state is seen as the guardian of the moral order and is the supreme moral community (302), isn't one left with a glorification of the status quo, and doesn't it suggest that the state cannot be subject to moral criticism? Or a critic may ask, "If the state is the `operative criticism of institutions', by what standard is it criticized?". Or again, if the state, as the concrete manifestation of the general will, is the standard of morality in a society, how can it be subject to moral evaluation? Bosanquet himself acknowledges that "[t]he State, as such, certainly cannot be guilty of personal immorality, and it is hard to see how it can commit theft or murder in the sense in which these are moral offenses" (300).

But, first, to say that the state "cannot be guilty of personal immorality" does not mean that it is beyond moral criticism altogether. In fact, Bosanquet allows that it can be said to act "immorally" (304).(85) His point is, however, that because the state is not, strictly speaking, a moral agent, it cannot be subject to the same kind of ethical assessment as a human person. It is "the guardian of a whole moral world, but not a factor within an organised moral world" (302) and thus is not, properly speaking, guilty of the kind of immorality that occurs within the moral world that is represented by the state. Nevertheless, Bosanquet remarks that "[t]he means adopted by such a supreme power to discharge its responsibilities as a whole, are of course subject to criticism as respects the conception of good which they imply and their appropriateness to the task of realising it" (304). By reference to this good, one can determine what the state ought to do, and it is the gauge by which the success or failure of the state is ultimately assessed.(86) In short, the state cannot escape criticism if it acts against our real interests.

Nor is it appropriate to say that Bosanquet's view of the moral authority of the state is, in the end, a mere defense of the status quo.(87) This criticism fails to recognize that the close relation between society and the state is also a dynamic one. There is, Bosanquet insists, a "mutual adjustment" (140) that occurs between the state and the various institutions that compose society.

The state is a "living and growing creature" (123). As it tries to harmonize and organize social facts into "a rational shape" (111), it is itself adjusted and harmonized. In fact, Bosanquet would say that there is a tendency to consistency--a "nisus" to coherence(88)--at work in all social institutions, including the state. Thus, the "ultimate and effective adjustment of the claims of individuals, and of the various social groups in which individuals are involved" (172-173) includes the `rational criticism' of the state as well.(89) The integral relation between society and the state, then, rather than entrenching the status quo, ensures a continuous development of the state. Clearly, Bosanquet would think that it almost impossible that there could be social ferment and yet that the state not respond.(90)

But suppose such an "impossible" situation occurs. What would Bosanquet say if, for example, "a despotic state refuses to sanction what a majority of its members regard as a necessary condition of the common good?"(91) Or what if that power tries to impose ideas (such as that of a particular good) on others, or what if what the state claims to be a common good is not seen by citizens to be a good at all? Bosanquet would first, no doubt, advise caution. The fact that there might be general agreement in society does not entail that the state ought to act on it. The state is supposed to reflect the general will and pursue the common good. But sometimes social consensus is nothing more than "the will of all"--the sum of the private interests of an ad hoc association of persons--and reveals nothing of real moral value. It is only when this agreement reflects the general will that a refusal by the state to act would leave it open to the above criticisms. Thus, it makes sense to say--and here Bosanquet quotes favourably F.H. Bradley--that the state may do "with the moral approval of all what the explicit theory of scarcely one will morally justify".(92)

Moreover, Bosanquet believes that, even where the government does not explicitly recognize a common good that other elements in society already admit, this tension or contradiction can usually be resolved--for example, by constitutional means (191). Recall Bosanquet's view that social institutions are essentially a series of corresponding relations in individual minds. What it means to be a member of an "institution," then, is that one is "recognized" by the other members of the group as having a role or function within it. But having such a role or function implies the existence of a corresponding good. Bosanquet would argue, no doubt, that once the position or function of an individual is recognized, there must be a recognition of the end that that position is designed to serve.

Consequently, Bosanquet would find it difficult to imagine that there could be a good, acknowledged by the community as a whole, that was not eventually recognized by the `organism' which coordinates and protects social life. Thus, in a democratic regime, the state would ultimately reflect this good; a despotic regime--where there was a refusal to recognize this good--would, Bosanquet believes, ultimately fail.

One might also note that, given Bosanquet's `enlarged' view of the state, it is difficult to believe that all social institutions could become "despotic" and incompatible with the general will in the way suggested in the above objection. Still, one can imagine the existence of a government which clearly no longer manifests the general will. Is one prevented from acting against it? Bosanquet does say that a despotic government is a "defect",(93) and that it is at least questionable whether there is political obligation in such a system (50). Here, where the will of a society is not the real will of the individual(94) and where "the importance of the matter in which we think Society defective" exceeds "the whole value of the existence of social order" (199), Bosanquet allows that one has a public duty to rebel(95)--in the sense of it being imperative on us.(96) But this duty "does not rest on a non-social right, but on a recognition that the state is divided against itself".(97) It cannot be founded on a right, obviously, because the existence of rights is based on the very order being challenged.(98)

Still, rebellion ultimately affects far more than the government. In the end, it is directed against the social order as a whole. A rebellion may reduce a nation to a Hobbesian state of nature, and not simply to a level of society where it may choose, as in Locke, a new "executive". In light of Bosanquet's view of the close relation between society and the state, this consequence should be of no surprise. In order to justify a rebellion, then, Bosanquet seems to suggest that one must show that it is more harmful to stay in the state than to do without it. And if one were ever to be in such a situation, one might well doubt that there had previously existed any state at all.

The state (in the sense of "government"), then, can be criticized, but the criticism is not based on an appeal to some external standard but, rather, on whether it is consistent with social institutions as a whole--or, what is ultimately the same thing, the concrete manifestation of the individual's "real will". Indeed, Bosanquet acknowledges that the state, in this limited sense, can do wrong and that it can be criticized, though differently from the way in which we criticize individuals. Still, it is not purely up to an individual to make this judgement, and its content cannot be based on someone's private will or private interests. Moreover, the extent to which one may go in making such a criticism is determined in part by an assessment of the effect it will have on organized social life in general.


A few concluding remarks: In this paper, I have attempted to address some major criticisms of Bosanquet's political thought. In order to understand how Bosanquet might reply to them, I have sketched out his account of society and of the fundamental role of the state. It is particularly important to note that Bosanquet sees both society and the state as existing on the level of "mind," for this serves in part to explain how the state can be said to change and to be subject to moral criticism. But, despite this "metaphysical" character, the "state of which Bosanquet speaks is not just some "ideal" entity. Moreover, although the state is an organ of coercion, it can never be ultimately opposed to the liberty, the interests or the development of the individual. On the contrary, it constitutes a necessary condition for their existence.

Thus, if one is attentive to the background of Bosanquet's account of the nature of, and the relationships between, society and the state, at least some of the major traditional arguments raised against his view are found to be not particularly forceful. In light of these features, then, even though Bosanquet's theory of the state does not reflect the individualism so frequently associated with liberalism, there appears to be good reason for holding that it should be seen as having a place within the 19th and early 20th century liberal tradition.


1. I am grateful to Avigail Eisenberg and John Shingler for comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

2. For example, P. MacEwan (ed.) Ethics, Metaphysics and Religion in the Thought of F.H. Bradley, Queenston, ON: Edwin Mellen Press, 1994 (forthcoming), Peter P. Nicholson, "Bradley as a Political Philosopher", The Philosophy of F.H. Bradley, (ed. Anthony Manser and Guy Stock), Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1984, pp. 117-130, Peter P. Nicholson, The Political Philosophy of the British Idealists, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990 and William Sweet, "F.H. Bradley and Bernard Bosanquet," in Philosophy after F.H. Bradley, (ed. James Bradley), Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1994 (forthcoming).

3. London: Macmillan, 1899; 4th ed. 1923. Unless otherwise noted, all further references in the body of this essay will be to this volume and are included in parentheses in the text.

4. Leonard T. Hobhouse, The Metaphysical Theory of the State. London, 1917. (This book is the "classical" criticism of Bosanquet's political thought.) According to Hobhouse (1917), p. 77, "[t]o confuse the state with society and political with moral obligation is the central fallacy of the metaphysical theory of the state."

5. R.M. MacIver, "Society and State," Philosophical Review, XX (1911), pp. 30-45; The Modern State (Oxford, 1926), especially pp. 3-45; 423-486; and Community: A Sociological Study (New York: Macmillan, 1917), especially Appendix B, "A Criticism of the Neo-Hegelian Identification of 'Society' and 'State'," pp. 425-433 and Appendix A, "The Individual, the Association, and the Community", pp. 421-425.

6. G.D.H. Cole, "Loyalties," in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, XXVI (1925-6), pp. 151 - 170, especially p. 152.

7. C.E.M. Joad, Guide to the Philosophy of Morals and Politics, (London: Victor Gollancz, 1938) and Introduction to Modern Political Theory (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924).

8. For example, Studies in the Problem of Sovereignty (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1917), Authority in the Modern State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1919), Liberty in the Modern State (London: Faber and Faber, 1930) and "The Pluralistic State," in Philosophical Review, XXVIII (1919), pp. 562-575.

9. For example, Hobhouse. See also Joad (1938), who sees idealist political thought as "hostile to democracy" (Joad [1938], p. 725) and John Morrow, "Liberalism and British Idealist Political Philosophy: A Reassessment," History of Political Thought, 5 (1984), pp. 91-108.

10. Stefan Collini, "Hobhouse, Bosanquet and State: Philosophical Idealism and Political Argument in England 1880-1918," Past and Present, 72 (1976), pp. 86-111, p. 105. See also Cole (1925-26), pp. 153 and 164.

11. Collini (1976), p. 104. See also Hobhouse (1917), pp. 22-23 and "Lecture V," pp. 96-133, and MacIver (1917), pp. 427 and 430-431. F.P. Harris, in The Neo-Idealist Political Theory: Its continuity with the British tradition, New York: King's Crown Press, 1944 [Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1944]) claims to find four distinct but major conceptions of the state in Bosanquet's work (see pp 65ff.).

12. Cole (1925-6), pp. 156 and 159; Collini (1976), pp. 105-106; Hobhouse (1917), p. 12.

13. Hobhouse (1917), p. 20.

14. Laski says that the idealist theory of the state "seems... to take too little thought for the categories of space and time" (Laski, "The Pluralistic State," p. 562). See also Cole (1925-6), p. 153.

15. See Hobhouse (1917), pp. 83-84; MacIver (1917), pp. 76-88; C.D. Broad, "The Notion of a General Will" in Mind XXVIII (1919), pp. 501-504.

16. Joad (1938), especially pp. 737-739 and 757-758, and MacIver (1917), p. 423.

17. See Chapter 1, "Authority in the Modern State," in Laski (1919), pp. 19-122, especially p. 42. See also MacIver (1926), pp. 17-22.

18. Hobhouse (1917), p. 103.

19. Laski says that the idealist theory of the state does not fit "the facts of history" (Laski [1930], p. 30.) See also Collini (1976), p. 106.

20. Peter Robbins, in The British Hegelians 1875-1925, (London: 1982) argues that Bosanquet ignores the moral and rational significance of economic life (p. 176). Andrew Vincent and Raymond Plant, in Philosophy, Politics and Citizenship: The Life and Thought of the British Idealists, (Oxford: Blackwell's, 1984) say that Bosanquet's view is too narrow because it ignores how the power of large-scale economic enterprise virtually excludes the possibility of individuals pursuing a policy of self-help (p. 121). They also argue that Bosanquet's account of the role of the state is inconsistent--that while its role is to be simply a 'hindrance to hindrances', Bosanquet "stepped over the line of intervention" by allowing for housing, wage and educational reform (p. 107).

21. See Joad (1938), pp. 759-765, Laski (1917), chapter 1, and Laski (1919), p. 35, where he refers to the criticisms made by Bosanquet's fellow idealist, J.M.E. McTaggart (in "The Conception of Society as an Organism," in Studies in Hegelian Cosmology, 2nd ed. Cambridge, 1918). See also MacIver (1917), pp. 72-76 and Hobhouse (1917), pp. 68-69. For a critique of what is, perhaps, a more modern version of society as a "superindividual social organism"--that found in Michael Sandel's "communitarianism"--see Jeffrey Paul and Fred D. Miller, jr., "Communitarian and Liberal Theories of the Good," in Review of Metaphysics 43 (1990): 803-830. This critique concerns the attribution of agency to such an organism.

22. See H.B. Acton, "Bernard Bosanquet," The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Ed. Paul Edwards) New York: Macmillan, 1967. Vol. 1, pp. 347-350, p. 349; Joad (1938), chapter 18, especially pp. 739, 765-766; A.D. Lindsay, "The State in Recent Political Theory," The Political Quarterly, 1 (Feb. 1914), pp. 128-145, especially p. 131.

23. See Acton (1967), p. 349 and Nalini Pant, Theory of Rights: Green, Bosanquet, Spencer, and Laski. Varanasi: Vishwavidyalaya Prakashan, 1977. Pant accuses Bosanquet of "an inconsistency in uniting the social, legal, and moral aspects of rights" (p. 92). She attributes this "inconsistency" to Bosanquet's "following the idealist tradition in not making an absolute demarcation between the notions of state and society" so that "the two terms are likely to be interchanged at times" (p. 94).

I have argued, however, that Bosanquet is not, in fact, being "inconsistent" here, and that such a charge fails to understand Bosanquet's account of the nature and recognition of rights. See my "Individual Rights, Communitarianism and British Idealism," in The Bill of Rights: Bicentennial Essays (ed. Y. Hudson and C. Peden) Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1993, pp. 261-277.

24. Cole (1925-6), p. 159.

25. See Hobhouse (1917), pp. 76-77 and p. 111; Cole (1925-6), pp. 154 and 156-157; Lindsay (1914), p. 133; Joad (1924), p. 22; Joad (1938), pp. 741-743; Laski (1919), p. 122; Laski (1930), p. 32 and MacIver (1917), Book III, chapter 4, pp. 247-299, especially pp. 249 and 257-258.

26. Ernest Barker, Political Thought in England: 1848 - 1914. London, 1915. (Original title: Political Thought in England from Spencer to Today), pp. 77, 79. See also Joad (1938), chapter 18 (especially p. 729) and Hobhouse (1917), p. 25.

27. Collini (1976), p. 109; Hobhouse (1917), pp. 24 and 113; Acton (1967), p. 349. Collini also suggests that such a view leads, in the international sphere, to a relativism concerning rights (see Collini (1976), p. 101).

28. Nicholson (1990), p. 212.

29. Cole says it is "an exaltation of the actual 'State'." See Cole (1925-6), p. 164 and Laski (1917), p. 23.

30. Joad says "it assumes the normal relations of States to one another is a relation of hostility" (Joad [1938], p. 729). See Hobhouse (1917), p. 25.

31. Collini (1976) p. 90. See E.F. Carritt, Morals and Politics (Oxford, 1935), p. 150.

32. Laski (1919) cited by George Sabine, "Review of Authority and the Modern State" in Philosophical Review XXIX (1920), pp. 276-282, at p. 277. For the view that the state must be subject to individual scrutiny, see Laski, "The Pluralistic State," p. 572, Laski (1919), pp. 45-46 and Laski (1930), pp. 74-76. Cf. Herbert A. Deane, The Political Ideas of Harold Laski, New York: Columbia University Press, 1955, especially pp. 36-40. For a similar criticism of Bosanquet, see Cole (1925-6), p. 160 and Hobhouse (1917), p. 92.

33. J.H. Muirhead (ed.), Bernard Bosanquet and his Friends (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1935), p. 21.

34. For a similar division of the 'social organism', see Bradley, Ethical Studies, 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927; pp. 173-174, n. 1. There is an interesting parallel here to Alasdair MacIntyre's enumeration of the human communities in which "the self has to find its moral identity." He refers to them as including "the family, the neighborhood, the city and the tribe." See After Virtue (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), p. 183.

35. See PTS, chapter IX.

36. See also Bradley (1927), pp. 162, 173-174, n. 1

37. It would be impossible to defend Bosanquet's view of the nature and function of the general will in this paper. Since the focus of this text is on the liberal character of Bosanquet's theory of the state (and not the overall adequacy of his position), however, such a defense might also be beside the point. For a discussion of some of these issues, see William Sweet, "Bernard Bosanquet and the Development of Rousseau's Idea of the General Will, " in Man and Nature - L'homme et la nature, Vol. X (1991), pp. 179-197.

38. "The General Will is as much implied in the life of a society as some sort of will for good in the life of an individual" (PTS 102).

39. See here Bradley (1927), p. 174.

40. John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press, 1971, p. 14.

41. See "The Great Political Superstition," in Herbert Spencer, The Man versus the State. (1884) Caldwell, ID: The Caxton Printers, 1960. p. 181; PTS, p. 71; Barker (1915), p. 102.

42. As an illustration of this, Bosanquet provides the example of a school. A school, he says, is more than bricks and mortar and a number of teachers and pupils. Its functioning and its reality lie "in the fact that certain living minds are connected in a certain way" (159). Each person has a particular position or function - an activity that serves to contribute to and, hence, modify the institution as a whole. And these activities, which define who or what that individual is within the school, imply a relation to, and a recognition of, the positions or functions held by others. Thus, to be a pupil requires a recognition of someone as having the function of being a teacher, and vice versa.

Moreover, these positions and activities are determined by certain ideas which reflect the nature and aims of the institution. These ideas are present throughout the institution as a whole, and each pupil and teacher is under their guidance in at least this one aspect of his or her life. Of course, the physical environment is also part of what is involved in talking about a school, but this is important only to the extent that it has an effect on the recognitions or the ideas present in the minds of the persons concerned. Thus, the best description of what a school is, is one that would focus on it as an institution that exists on the level of mind.

43. But it is only a specimen. According to Bosanquet, without the presence of the state, one cannot find that "universal law" which avoids the familiarity that exists in neighbourhoods.

44. Collini sees parallels between Bosanquet and Durkheim in viewing society as a spirit or mind. See Stefan Collini, "Sociology and Idealism in Britain: 1880-1920," Archives européenes de sociologie, 19 (1978), pp. 3-50, pp. 13-14.

45. Bradley would seem to push this unity even further. Recall his comment that "[u]nless there is a real identity in men, the 'Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these' becomes an absurdity." (Bradley (1927) pp. 334-335, n. 2.)

46. See also The Principle of Individuality and Value, (London: 1912), p. 311, note 1.

47. See, e.g., Some Suggestions in Ethics, (London: Macmillan, 1918), p. 161.

48. See PTS 172: "...there is logic underneath the apparent accident..."

49. According to Bosanquet, Fichte proposes an analogous idea, that a self implies a society of selves which implies laws (227). One finds this view as well in the work of other idealists--even those professedly opposed to Bosanquet (see Rudolf Metz, A Hundred Years of British Philosophy, [Die philosophischen Stromungen der Gegenwart in Grossbritannien, Leipzig: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1935] (Translated by J.W. Harvey, T.E. Jessop and Henry Sturt, Edited by J.H. Muirhead). London: Allen and Unwin, 1938, pp. 301-305). According to (Sir) Henry Jones, in The Working Faith of a Social Reformer and Other Essays (1917), the state is "the product, in every part, of the rational nature of man, and by far the most glorious exhibition of his powers" (p. 17).

50. See Bosanquet (1918) Some Suggestions in Ethics, pp. 58, 148 and 159.

51. See above, note 46. For a contemporary, though distinct, account of this aspect of the state, see George Sabine, "The Concept of State as Power", in Philosophical Review, XXIX (1920), pp. 301-318, esp. pp. 302 and 303.

52. This is its "distinctive attribute" or work. (174-5)

53. See Spencer (1940), pp. 179-181.

54. For Bosanquet's scepticism about international political organizations see "The Wisdom of Naaman's Servants," in Social and International Ideals: Being Studies in Patriotism. London: Macmillan, 1917, pp. 302-320 and "Function of the State in Promoting the Unity of Mankind," in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, n.s. XVII (1916-1917), pp. 28-57; reprinted in Social and International Ideals, pp. 270-301, cited in Robbins (1982), p. 77. But Bosanquet does seem to hold out some hope for a 'world-State' or "League of Nations" (lix). This question is discussed by Peter P. Nicholson in "Philosophical Idealism and International Politics: A Reply to Dr. Savigear," British Journal of International Studies, 2 (1976), pp. 76-83, pp. 78-9. Also note Bosanquet's favourable comments about "humanity" as having a moral value, in Bosanquet (1918), p. 77.

55. Vincent and Plant (1984), p. 104 and footnote 50.

56. See PTS chapter 3 and Nicholson (1990), p. 214.

57. Again: "It is no more conceivable that social life should go on without force and authoritative custom... than that individual life should go on without sub-consciousness and automatism" (143-144).

58. Although social institutions are distinct from one another (156), and while some seem to precede others in time each, Bosanquet says, is "a growth dependent on the spirit and protection of the State" (279). The existence of the family requires, for example, the existence of laws concerning marriage, property and inheritances. Again, since it is the state which recognizes the positions individuals have in society, recognizes the rights necessary to performing their corresponding functions, and prohibits outside interference in the exercise of these rights, it is clear that, in the final analysis, one's position in the social framework is rooted in, and sustained by the state. Nevertheless, no one 'institution' is reducible to any other; each has a distinctive role within the social order, and each is necessary for the development of the human person.

59. "[I]t gathers up into itself the various sides of me, is the symbol of my multiple self, is my multiple self brought to significance, to self-realization" (lviii).

60. See PTS chapter 5, and William Sweet, "Autonomy and the Role of Law in 19th Century Political Thought," CPSA Annual Meeting 1993 / ACSP Congrès annuel 1993 (Ottawa, ON: Canadian Political Science Association, 1993) (on fiche).

61. Bosanquet cites Kant that man "has totally abandoned his wild lawless freedom in order to find his entire freedom again undiminished in a lawful dependence, that is, in a condition of right or law; (undiminished), because this dependence springs from his own legislative will" (226). See Kant, Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Rechtslehre (1797) (ed. Benzion Kellermann) (Die Metaphysik der Sitten, 2. Teil, 1. Abschnitt) in Kant's Werke, Bd. 7, (ed. Ernst Cassirer) Berlin, 1916. S 47, p. 122.

62. One may, nevertheless, object that, if the state can determine our real interests (i.e., perfectionism), this by itself is sufficient for describing it as "illiberal." It is not possible to enter into this question here. Still, it does not seem that pluralism or the absolute freedom to determine one's own good is essential to liberalism, though it may be a characteristic of some democratic traditions. See Steven M. DeLue, Political Obligation in a Liberal State (Albany, SUNY Press, 1989).

63. See Bradley (1927), pp. 199-200: "What is the 'world' in this sense? It is the morality already existing ready to hand in laws, institutions, social usages, moral opinions and feelings."

64. Here one sees a rejection of the modern separation between law and morality. As one finds in contemporary communitarian thought, the aim of the state is to aid in the moral development of its citizens. (See MacIntyre (1981), pp. 160, 182; 2nd ed. (1984) p. 172.)

65. Bosanquet's argument for the identification of the general will and the individual's real will cannot be given here. This controversial notion is discussed by William Sweet in Sweet (1991) and by Peter P. Nicholson in Nicholson (1990), pp. 198 - 230.

66. One may note here that there is a certain similarity to the traditional liberal view of the state being, in some sense, based on the will of the individual.

67. Cf. Bradley (1927), p. 184.

68. Morrow (1984), p. 108.

69. According to Bosanquet's wife, Helen, Bosanquet "was always an advanced Liberal with a strong sympathy for Labour aspirations" (Bernard Bosanquet: A Short Account of his Life, London: 1924). See also Harris (1944), footnote 136. Peter Nicholson claims Bosanquet was himself a member of the Labour Party (Nicholson (1984), p. 118). I have been unable to find any direct proof of this, although one might note Bosanquet's comment to R.F.A. Hoernlé in 1919 that "I should like a labour government with one or two good liberals in it" (cited in Muirhead [1935], pp. 218-219).

70. Bosanquet (1917), p. 164.

71. Collini (1976), p. 87; see also p. 95 and p. 109, where Collini outlines the argument of Hobhouse.

72. Bosanquet sees this as identical to the protection of rights taken as a whole (215).

73. Collini (1976), p. 99, sees here a tendency towards Kantianism.

74. As an example, see Bosanquet's position on the report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws (1905-1909).

75. Bosanquet considers himself to be a moral socialist but an economic individualist. See "The Antithesis between Individualism and Socialism Philosophically Considered," in Bosanquet, The Civilization of Christendom and Other Studies (London, 1893), pp. 304-357, and the discussion in Collini (1978), p. 46. See also Adam Ulam, The Philosophical Foundations of English Socialism Princeton, 1951 (especially chapter 2, "Idealism") and the remarks in Muirhead (1935), pp. 74-75. Harris [(1944), pp. 27-39] and Vincent and Plant [(1984), pp. 100-101] discuss the influence of Bosanquet's work with the Charity Organisation Society here.

76. For a contemporary recognition of this, see DeLue (1989). Here DeLue speaks of two competing views of liberalism--those of liberal individualism and of liberal "communalists" (e.g., pp. x-xi).

77. See Collini (1976), pp. 105-106; Hobhouse (1917), pp. 75-80; and Pant (1977), p. 94.

78. On the relation of society to the state, see Bosanquet's two letters to MacIver, quoted in Harris (1944), pp. 68-70. (Harris sees Bosanquet's view as ultimately reflected in Barker's 'functionalist' approach.)

79. See "The Wisdom of Naaman's Servants," in Bosanquet (1917), where the state is described as the "executive organ" of "the spirit of the community, brought to consciousness and practice" (p. 307).

80. But see the first letter to MacIver, quoted in Harris (1944), p. 68.

81. Compare Hobhouse's use of a similar analogy in Hobhouse (1917), p. 76.

82. It is clear that this account is antithetical to that found in the individualist tradition. In Locke and Spencer, for example, there is a concern, if not an underlying fear, about allowing the state to have too great a role in people's lives. Thus, one finds a central concern in defending the existence of certain natural rights and the claim that society is based on, and must respect, these rights. Given the fundamental character of these rights, and since social life can be distinguished from life in the state, it is also argued that individuals can consent to and can enjoy the benefits of society without giving up their power to challenge or alter the state in which they live.

As we have seen, however, Bosanquet would hold that this reflects too narrow a view of the state and that the distinction between it and society cannot be maintained. In fact, he appears to believe, like Hobbes, that where there is no state, there can be no social order.

83. See also Bosanquet, The Principle of Individuality and Value, London, 1912, p. 311 and the letters to MacIver cited in Harris (1944), pp. 68-70, cited in note 78 above.

84. See Collini (1976), p. 95.

85. See also "The Wisdom of Naaman's Servants," in Bosanquet (1917), p. 307: "the state can commit moral errors" (cited in Robbins [1982], p. 78).

86. In a note to this discussion, Bosanquet points out that "[i]n such a case, the guilty State is judged before the tribunal of humanity and of history" (304, n. 1). (Cf. note 54 above on "humanity" and the "League of Nations" as constituting possible mechanisms for the evaluation of the moral character of the state.)

87. In fact, Bosanquet explicitly rejects any attitude of 'complacency' in moral philosophy. "It is uncritical and false so far as it accepts any status quo, and especially the ease and comfort of any limited section of living beings." See Bosanquet (1918), especially pp. 174-175.

88. See, for example, Bosanquet (1912), pp. 54ff.

89. For this notion of "criticism", see p. 14 above, (111) and (140). Bosanquet writes that "the higher and the lower both nourish and colour one another" (Bosanquet [1918], p. 74). "[T]he principles of the family, the district, the class, not only enter into the nation in these definite shapes, but affect the general fabric of the national State through the sense of race, of country, and of a pervading standard of life and culture" (298). These institutions give "life and meaning to the political whole" (140).

90. As Nicholson notes, "Bosanquet's position, far from being one of 'bedrock conservatism' [this is Hobhouse's objection. See Hobhouse (1917), p. 24], is one of permanent reform" (Nicholson [1990], p. 221). For an opposing view, see Collini, (1976), p. 110.

91. Bertil Pfannenstill, Bernard Bosanquet's Philosophy of the State. Lund, 1936, p. 270.

92. Bosanquet, "Function of the State in Promoting the Unity

of Mankind," in Bosanquet (1917), pp. 270-301, p. 274, citing F.H. Bradley, Ethical Studies, 1st edition, (1876) p. 166; [2nd edition, (1927) p. 184]. Nevertheless, Bosanquet does not go as far as Bradley when it comes to the value of private opinion. According to Bradley, "[w]e should consider whether the encouraging oneself in having opinions of one's own, in the sense of differing from the world on moral subjects, be not, in any person other than a heaven-sent prophet, sheer self conceit" Bradley (1927), p. 200.

93. It would seem that Bosanquet has in mind those cases where the government no longer reflects the general will, but where other institutions do.

94. Bosanquet (1917), p. 272.

95. Bosanquet (1917), p. 281.

96. May one justify revolution by an appeal to the laws of humanity or an international organization? Bosanquet rejects this possibility, since "the State is not subject to the law of any other State" (303, n. 2). See note 54 above on the possible role of a "League of Nations" and Bosanquet (1918), p. 77 on the moral value of "humanity".

97. See Bosanquet (1917) p. 284, n. 1. Here Bosanquet seems to differ from Green. For Green, even though now rights are "derived from the State", some "existed when there was as yet no state." Hence, while the individual has no right to disobey the laws so far as they "fulfil the idea of a state," it seems one in fact has such a right "for the purpose of making the state in respect of its actual laws more completely correspond to what it is in tendency or idea" (Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation, London, 1917, p. 146).

98. On the role of the state in the recognition of rights, see Sweet (1993), pp. 264-265; 268-270.