Individual Rights, Communitarianism and British Idealism[i]


                                              William Sweet, St Francis Xavier University

                                                     Antigonish, NS B2G 1C0 CANADA

            Does the discourse of rights presuppose a liberal individualist paradigm of political philosophy? Some - notably contemporary so-called "communitarians"[ii] - would say yes, and a survey of modern political thought seems to confirm this. In the 19th century, both natural rights theory (e.g., Herbert Spencer) and utilitarianism (e.g., J.S. Mill) made use of the discourse of rights and both could be fairly described as operating from individualist assumptions.[iii] Recent work by John Rawls and by Robert Nozick continues to employ the idea of natural rights and does so, their critics claim, precisely because each is committed to liberal individualism.[iv] More recently still, Tibor Machan[v] argues that a theory of natural rights must be based on an individualist view - specifically, that suggested by Ayn Rand.

            But if a concern for rights rests on liberal individualist presuppositions, and if communitarians are justified in claiming that these presuppositions are inadequate,[vi] it seems that there is little good, and much harm, to be done in continuing to use the discourse of rights.

            There are, however, a number of authors who would deny that the existence of rights requires a commitment to liberal individualism. Jacques Maritain, one of the participants in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted by the United Nations in 1948), saw natural rights as the product of a common good and a natural law.[vii] H.L.A. Hart has argued in favour of a natural right to freedom, independent of any general rights theory or any particular "metaphysical" view of the nature of the individual.[viii] And in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a number of philosophers in the English speaking world - specifically those associated with the "idealist" tradition - expressed many of the concerns that communitarians now have about liberal individualism, but without abandoning the discourse of rights. Not only did they reject the claim that rights necessarily presuppose individualism, they held that individualism can never provide the foundations for an adequate theory of rights.

            The political philosophy of the British idealists has been the object of much misunderstanding and prejudice. It is often regarded as being little more than a transplanted Hegelianism, but its major proponents came to it through the study of Plato and Aristotle[ix], and some studies maintain that it is continuous with the British tradition.[x] Again, the idealist school is often taken to be conservative, but many of its adherents were involved in Liberal politics and social reform and, in some cases, in the British Labour Party.[xi] In fact, with its focus on public service, British idealist political philosophy extended and attempted to ground the social ideals of the liberalisms of its time, such as that of J.S. Mill. Thus, many would claim that the political thought of the British idealists lies within the liberal tradition and that idealism can provide a liberal, albeit non-individualist, theory of rights.

            The most developed statement of this current of political thought is arguably that of the English philosopher and social reformer, Bernard Bosanquet (1848-1923). The theory of rights that Bosanquet provides is particularly interesting because it attempts to respond to views that have had a major influence on contemporary political philosophy - that is, the work of Jeremy Bentham, J.S. Mill and Herbert Spencer. Admittedly, Bosanquet's analysis has met with a number of criticisms, and the idealist position is now rarely discussed. Still, if some of these criticisms can be shown to fail, perhaps a case can begin to be made for Bosanquet's analysis, and one will have a basis from which to hold to the existence of rights without having to adopt a liberal individualist paradigm of political philosophy.

I: Bosanquet's account of rights

            1. The nature and source of rights

            Bosanquet's most systematic treatment of the nature of rights occurs in Chapter VIII of The Philosophical Theory of the State[xii], where he discusses the purpose of the state and the limit of state action. Here, Bosanquet focuses on what he calls a right "in the fullest sense" (181, n. 1). Such a right is a morally imperative claim which both is, and ought to be, recognized as enforced by law (188). By definition, then, a right is a claim which is both legally and morally binding.

            How is a right morally imperative? Bosanquet says that the collection of rights that exist in a society may be regarded as a set of conditions necessary to attaining an end - what he calls "the best life" (173). Rights, therefore, are teleological, and it is by reference to this end that they "derive their imperative authority" (195) and have their moral weight. Thus, rights, in principle, always have a moral character.

            How is the legal authority, represented by the state, relevant to the existence of rights? Bosanquet observes that, in fulfilling their responsibilities in society, individuals may encounter obstacles. The distinctive action and purpose of the state is the removal of these obstacles - the "hindrance of hindrances" (185). One's claim, recognized in law, to the removal of obstacles constitutes one's rights. In other words, the state is that agency which secures one's rights.

            Yet the role of the state goes far beyond this. In addition to securing rights, the state defines and distributes them. It defines them in that, through the medium of the law, it explicitly declares what each right involves and what the obligations of others are in relation to them. It distributes rights by acknowledging through statute or public practice that certain powers are necessary to activities that are part of the positions or functions of its members, and by being the authority that officially recognizes individuals as having these positions. Finally, the state protects rights by providing the legal and administrative machinery that permits their legitimate exercise and by employing sanctions against those who interfere with them. Consequently, rights "in the fullest sense" have a legal character because they simply cannot exist without the state.

            This description of the legal side of rights reflects the teleological character noted above in the account of the moral side. Specifically, the moral and legal sides of a right are brought into relation because rights are assigned to positions and positions can exist only in an order that is determined by an end. (Bosanquet describes this end variously as "the perfection of human personality" (189) or - as noted earlier - "the best life", but it is also identical, he believes, with individual self-realization.) Rights, then, are "claims, recognized by the state, i.e., by Society acting as ultimate authority, to the maintenance of conditions favourable to the best life" (188).[xiii] Given this essential connexion between the legal and moral in the definition of "right", Bosanquet can - unlike many liberal individualists - explain why a moral right must have legal force and how a legal right will be morally binding.

            Two questions come to mind at this point: First, how and in virtue of what characteristics, do individuals acquire rights? Second, why does Bosanquet insist that rights be recognized only by the state?

            2. The ascription of rights

            While Bosanquet favourably alludes to a Greco-Roman concept of a "law of life" in human beings that must be respected (10),[xiv] he denies that rights are natural to persons or that they exist in any way independent of society. Many communitarians would agree. It is, as MacIntyre points out, "a little odd that there should be such rights attaching to human beings simply qua human beings".[xv] Instead, Bosanquet holds that a person has a function or position in society dependent upon the nature of the common good or end and one's capacity to make a contribution to that end (191).[xvi] Rights are the powers required by that person to fulfill such a position or function (196). The state secures these positions and enforces these rights by recognizing them in law and by protecting them. Thus, it is on the basis of one's position, and not because of something inherent in the individual, that a person has certain powers or rights.

            It follows, then, that one's rights are not absolutely inalienable. Individuals acquire and lose rights depending on how their positions or responsibilities change (cf. 216). Nevertheless, Bosanquet believes that individuals will have all the rights they need and he speaks of rights as being fitted to a person as a suit is tailored to a person's physique (190).

            3. The recognition of rights

            Bosanquet's insistence that rights must be recognized by the state has been the object of much controversy. Still, he would hold that such a view should not be difficult to accept. To have a position and its corresponding rights supposes a relation to a system (194) and, therefore, a relation to other positions with their respective rights. Rights must be recognized, then, just as the positions to which they are ascribed themselves require recognition. But to understand why Bosanquet says this, some background must be given.

            For Bosanquet, society is fundamentally a "structure of intelligences", and social positions are "the attitudes of minds towards one another" (196). The "recognition" of rights that Bosanquet refers to is simply this attitude of other minds, reflected in law. It would be impossible for there to be a right which was not recognized, for it would mean that there was a position - that is, an 'attitude of minds' - of which the minds that constitute society were not conscious. Certainly, it is difficult to see how society could be called on to secure such an "unrecognized right". Moreover, recognition is implied in the definition of "right" itself. Rights exist only where there is a system of rights. Thus, a person's claim to a right entails a recognition by that person of the existence and the legitimacy of the rights of others, and vice versa. In fact, unless rights were recognized, it would make no sense at all to appeal to them.

II: Some objections

            Not surprisingly, several objections have been raised against this account of the nature and source of rights. For example, it has been claimed that Bosanquet ignores that rights can exist independently of any recognition by society or the state. L.T. Hobhouse, the British sociologist and author of the "classic" critique of Bosanquet's political thought, argues that "[i]f anyone can prove that some specific condition is in fact requisite to the realization of a good life, then that condition is scientifically demonstrated to be a right, though it may never have been recognized from the beginning of time to the present day, and though society may refuse to recognize it now".[xvii] Thus, rights do not need to be recognized in order to exist.

            A related criticism is that, even if rights must be recognized, they do not need to be recognized in law. Bosanquet's view suggests that, if one lives in a state or a society where certain basic rights are not explicitly present in law (e.g., in those states in which slavery or apartheid is practiced and legal), then that person can apparently make no legitimate claim to liberty or demand that society respect such rights. Moreover, if rights must be recognized by the state, there could never be a right to rebel or even engage in civil disobedience against a tyrant. And again, might there not be times when the state does not do that which society requires of it, and specifically refuses to recognize that which individuals and institutions claim to be rights? Thus, the critic will say, if the notion of "rights" is to have any value at all, it is precisely because we need to be able to appeal to it in just these situations. Is not Bosanquet's insistence on the legal recognition of rights refuted by the fact that the law is not always what it ought to be?[xviii]

            Yet another line of attack has been that Bosanquet's view fails to distinguish between legal and non-legal rights. Nalini Pant, for example, accuses Bosanquet of an "inconsistency in uniting social, legal and moral aspects of rights".[xix] Hobhouse would add that this occurs because Bosanquet misconstrues the relation between society and the state and, therefore, the origin and function of rights. Rights do not depend on the state; rather, "the moral authority of the state rests on the validity of the rights which it asserts".[xx] Indeed, unless there are rights which are not based in the law, the state cannot be subject to individual scrutiny.[xxi]

            Bosanquet's theory of rights has also been accused of disregarding the value of the individual. If rights are essentially features of positions, it would seem that one is an individual and has rights only so far as one has a function or position. This, some would argue, is not only too narrow a view of what the individual is, but would annihilate the value of the human person altogether. After all, if one had no specific position or function in society, could not society employ the 'principle of social surgery' suggested by Plato and simply remove the "useless" entity?[xxii]

            Finally, it has been charged that Bosanquet's account of the nature of rights has relativistic implications. Since Bosanquet says that rights are determined by the nation state and since he ostensibly holds that there is no moral community greater than it, there could in principle be as many systems of rights as there are states. Such a view, however, is inconsistent with the idea of international law and permits "total machiavellianism in foreign policy".[xxiii] Thus, Bosanquet's apparent inability to conceive of a moral community - such as "humanity" - greater than any nation state and which could guarantee the 'universal' character of basic rights, gives one sufficient grounds for suggesting that his analysis of rights is inadequate.

III: The 'social ontology' of rights

            In response, Bosanquet would no doubt argue that these criticisms do not take into account the metaphysical foundation or 'social ontology' that underlies his theory of rights. Many of the objections noted above rely for their force on certain assumptions concerning the nature of society, the state and the individual. Since Bosanquet believes he has good grounds to reject such assumptions, the criticisms which depend on them may well miss the mark.

            Consider, for example, Bosanquet's view of society, which underlies his insistence upon the recognition of rights. He claims that, when we think of a social institution (such as the family, the neighbourhood or the social class)[xxiv] or of society as a whole, we have in mind more than its physical location, the existence in space and time of a number of human beings and the activities they engage in. Similarly, when we speak of a community, it is not simply a matter of geography, but the common goals or sentiments of persons that constitute it and form its boundaries. Communities, social institutions and societies exist only so far as there are certain 'dominant ideas' present in and common to the lives of human beings.            To illustrate this, Bosanquet uses the example of a school. A school, he says, is more than bricks and mortar with a certain 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. Therefore, Bosanquet would describe the school as an institution that exists on the level of mind.

            Bosanquet believes that we can extend this analysis, by analogy, to society. He holds that "every social group or institution is the aspect in space and time of a set of corresponding mental systems in individual minds" (161). Positions within a social group are, as noted earlier, simply "the attitudes of minds towards one another" (196). Since, as we have seen, the existence of a position involves a mutual recognition, Bosanquet finds it difficult to understand how someone could be said to be a member of a society and have a certain position and yet not be recognized as such by the community. "'[P]ositions' and the recognition of them are one and the same thing" (196).

            Now, for one to claim a right, Bosanquet has argued, it must attach to a position. A right could not go unrecognized, because this would entail that society was unaware of a power that is part and parcel of a position which, by definition, society recognizes. The recognition of a position means the recognition of what that position involves. The point is, Bosanquet maintains, purely a logical one. As a result, a recognition of rights does not (necessarily) require some supplementary act, over and above what already is the case.

            Of course, societies are not always what they ought to be. Bosanquet admits that a society can be inconsistent with itself (198) and that there is always a movement within society or within social institutions towards greater consistency and coherence. But even when society is 'inconsistent', this does not mean that claims which it does not recognize are unrecognized rights. Moreover, Bosanquet notes that recognition need not be "reflective", that is, something of which members of society are explicitly conscious (197). Recognition may be implicit in the structure, rules, laws and institutions of society. Recall Bosanquet's comment that it is in our daily activities that "the social system of rights... has our habitual recognition" (201). All recognition requires is that we be "aware of and respect the imperative on which [the social order] rests" (201). Thus, paradoxically perhaps, Bosanquet seems to allow that a right could exist without it existing clearly in individual consciousness.

            Why is it, then, that Bosanquet insists that rights be recognized by the state? A first response would be that, without this, such a claim would be indistinct from - and would amount to nothing more than - a wish that there be such a right. Moreover, without a definitive recognition, it would be difficult to identify the nature, the role, and the limits of such claims in organized social life. Clearly, a recognition independent of the state could not guarantee sanctions that could enforce and ensure the respect of these non-legal "rights".[xxv] Besides, the idea of a purely legal or a purely moral right is itself problematic, if not altogether dangerous. A purely legal right, independent of a moral end, provides no bar to pernicious but properly legislated statutes, and a purely moral right, independent of legal recognition, could be so subjective that each person's conscience might come to take the place of law.

            There is, however, a more fundamental reason why Bosanquet insists on the state recognition of rights, which has to do with the 'ontological' character of the state itself. For, while society and the state are distinct, there is a close relation between the two. Bosanquet holds that the justification of the state and society is the same, that they have the same origin and, in the final analysis, have roughly the same end[xxvi] - "the best life". And both are best understood as existing on the level of mind.

            Although Bosanquet refers to the state as one among several types of institutions within society, its relation to the others is unique and fundamental. As an illustration of how he understands this, consider the relation between the skeleton and the rest of the body of a human being. Although the skeleton is part of the body and does not exist prior to it, the body as a whole is dependent upon it. Similarly, even though the state does not exist prior to society, and develops with it, social institutions and society are dependent upon the state. Hence, the 'institution' of the family depends, for example, on the existence of the legal recognition of property rights and on laws concerning marriage and inheritances. It is precisely because of this fundamental character that the state has, as one of its functions, the resolution of conflicts which may arise among social institutions.

            To appreciate better the nature of the connexion between society and the state, one should keep in mind that, for Bosanquet, the state is not simply the "political fabric" (140) of a society - it includes the plethora of governmental agencies, the legislature, the civil service, the police, etc.[xxvii] Consequently, if the state is closely related to society in its justification, origin and end, and if it is essential to society as its 'enforcement arm', then it is difficult to imagine that there could be a recognition of rights within a society which would not imply or include a recognition by the state. There can, therefore, be no social or moral right that is not a state-recognized right.

            It may be objected, however, that this account of the state glosses over a number of problems and ignores the actual realities of practical politics. Doesn't the state enjoy a dangerous monopoly in determining rights? Does this not allow the state to impose its own conception of the good, and to reinforce some "dominant ideas" but not others? Are not rights important just because they enable individuals to impose limits on the state? Surely one of the features of a liberal political philosophy is that it argues for rights and freedoms necessary to self-respect and personal development - rights that must be "politically effective".[xxviii] How, a critic may ask, can rights be effective if they depend on the state?

            In response, Bosanquet would note that, since the whole point of the existence of the state is to achieve a moral end, any "right" or power required by morality must also be one that the state - if it is to be true to what it is - must secure. Second, Bosanquet maintains that the aim of state action is "coincident with the maintenance of rights" (189) and, thus, the activity of the state must include the respect of rights. In fact, he says that one can weigh the value of a social order in terms of the extent to which rights exist and enable "life to be lived, and a determinate, if limited, common good to be realized" (189). This shows, therefore, how a state can be subject to moral scrutiny and to criticism. Still, while state action is, in a sense, subordinate to the system of rights, rights are not fundamental. Rather, both the state and rights acquire their moral weight from their relation to the moral end. And even if the state is not subject to individual scrutiny, a "guilty State" can, at least, be "judged before the tribunal of humanity and of history" (304, n.1).

            Much of this resistance to Bosanquet's account of rights seems to reflect a radically different understanding of the nature of, and the relation between, the individual, society and the state. In the individualist tradition of Locke and Spencer, for example, there is a concern, if not an underlying fear, about allowing the state to have a role in people's lives. To protect and preserve the value of the individual, then, this tradition asserts that human beings have certain natural rights and that society is based on, and must respect, these rights. Furthermore, social life can be distinguished from life in the state and, thus, 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. Bosanquet also denies the individualist presumption that there is an almost a priori antagonism between the individual and the state, for it ignores the fundamental social character of human beings. As communitarians note, it is in society that human beings grow and develop: "[a]ll individuals are continually reinforced and carried on... by the knowledge, resources, and energy which surrounds them" (142).[xxix] But not only is social life necessary for their development; apart from society, there can be no complete description of what an individual is. Bosanquet recognizes that each person has distinctive roles to play and responsibilities to fulfill that are part and parcel of what that person is within the broader life of a culture or a society.[xxx] Furthermore, the dominant ideas present in society are implied in one's very character. Thus, he maintains that "each individual mind... is an expression or reflection of society as a whole" (163).

            But does Bosanquet's claim that rights are, strictly speaking, properties of positions and not of persons distort or annihilate the value of the individual altogether? Admittedly, he states that one cannot separate individuals from their roles in society: "Man does not exist as man without some station and duties" (KG 340).[xxxi] Yet he also says that "[a] man's station is not merely his trade. His family and his neighbours and the commonwealth are part of it" (KG 344). What does this mean concretely?

            Consider the case of an adult citizen in a democratic state. This person has, for example, the right to vote in the election of representatives and this right is related to the particular "position" of being a citizen. But this position is obviously not the only one this person may have. She might be a parent, a spouse, a teacher, a neighbour, and so on, and would therefore have the rights and responsibilities that accrue to these "positions". Were she to run for public office and be elected, she would have a new "position". Thus, she would have not only the additional responsibility of representing her constituents, but the additional right of participating actively in the making of law. This understanding of the social character of the individual suggests to Bosanquet that "[t]he Position, then, is the real fact - the vocation, place, or function, which is simply one reading of the person's actual self and relations in the world in which he lives" (191). Consequently, not only do one's rights and responsibilities change according to the positions one fills within in the social order, but who or what a person is, is determined by the functions or positions that that person has.

            Bosanquet believes that this analysis of rights and of human individuality constitutes no threat to what a person is. It is when one sees an individual as part of a larger whole and not in her particularity, he says, that one sees that person at her best. And while the individual is a "reflection of society", it is "from a point of view that is distinctive and unique" (163). Furthermore, the common good that Bosanquet identifies as underlying society and the state reflects each person's own best interests and its dominant ideas reflect each person's real will.[xxxii]

            Nor does this focus on "position" entail any 'annihilation of the individual' or of one's value. Would a description of an individual in terms of her positions and functions make her any less a person? Bosanquet thinks not. Besides, "[f]unctions - even all a man's functions taken one by one - do not exhaust a man's nature without remainder" (lvii, see 292). Moreover, while rights are ascribed to positions, they "can only be real in an individual" (66) and it is only as a human being that one can fulfill the requirements of a position. Still, a person's value is not simply a product of her distinctiveness from others. Her individuality and, hence, her value draws on the fact that she has a position in an order that extends beyond her particular self and that she is capable of participating in a common good.

            Bosanquet's view, then, is not that individuals are 'only' a set of positions but, rather, that in fulfilling the responsibilities of our positions, we are more human than we could otherwise be. "Such places and functions... are the fuller self in the particular person" (191). In doing our duty, or on acting on our rights, we make ourselves more human - "we take hold of our humanity and bring it home to our particular selves" (KG 343). In fact, being a person seems to be, itself, a function: "our station is, above all things, to be men" (KG 342). Thus, persons and their value are not compromised, but only added to, Bosanquet believes, by the ascription of rights to positions and by the principle of the state recognition of rights.

            One may argue, however, that regardless of the plausibility of Bosanquet's account of the nature of rights, his analysis fails because it has relativistic implications. If rights and obligations are determined only within nation states, does this not make international relations, law and justice impossible?

            Several points should be noted here. First, Bosanquet could allow that there can be a 'relativism' - by which he would mean a legitimate variation from state to state - in rights. But this is simply to describe the way things are in the world. For even where there is some agreement among nations concerning the existence of a right (such as a freedom of association), its nature and limits may be understood in different ways. Nevertheless, Bosanquet claims that there is a tendency among states towards the recognition of certain basic rights, and he believes that in democracies certain rights necessary to self-government must exist. There is, however, no point in insisting on a specific right in those states or regimes where there is neither the social order in general, nor the social positions in particular, in which such a right would have a place. To insist, for example, upon a right to general liberty (and hence against slavery) in the ancient world would be to demand something that would be scarcely intelligible, let alone possible.

            Second, the reason why Bosanquet says that rights are determined by the state is not because of some intrinsic character of the nation state, but because there is no other existing authority outside of or beyond it (such as a world state) which could define or protect them. In his later work, Bosanquet does seem to hold out some hope for an international political organisation or a League of Nations (lix)[xxxiii], and he would allow that, once there is a recognized common authority, there is a ground for objective, international rights. Yet for such an organisation to exist, there would first have to be shared experience and common ideas among its members. Until then, "the widest organization which has the common experience necessary to found a common life" (298) is the "nation state".

            Third, even if there are no "universal" rights, this does not mean that states may do whatever they wish, internationally or domestically. According to Bosanquet, each state is founded on and reflects a common good. By reference to this, one can determine what the state ought to do, and the common good is the gauge by which the success or failure of the state is ultimately assessed. In short, the activity of the state, in national and in foreign affairs, is subject to 'internal criticism'. Moreover, to the extent that there is a common good existing between or among nations, there is a basis for international relations - even if there is no international organization to enforce rights. Bosanquet says that "where there are two or three gathered together... there is pro tanto a general will" (xxix) - and so far as this exists on a global level, there is a foundation for an international state. Perhaps it is just this that Bosanquet has in mind when he discusses the possibility of "mankind as a single community" (306).

IV: Conclusion

            So does the discourse of rights depend on a liberal individualist paradigm of political philosophy? In this paper, I have taken the work of Bernard Bosanquet as an instance of a theory that rejects a number of the presuppositions of the liberal individualist view, while explicitly employing the notion of 'rights'. No claim has been made about whether Bosanquet's analysis is ultimately satisfactory, but it is important to realize that it can reply to a number of objections that have been raised against it. This is of particular interest, since it also defends many concerns expressed in recent "communitarian" thought.

            Like communitarianism, Bosanquet acknowledges the social and historical character of the individual and the importance of a common good. But, rather than leading him to abandon rights-talk, he maintains that it is only on such a basis that one can have a coherent theory of rights. Specifically, he believes that this leads one to seeing rights as tied to the positions or functions of human beings, rather than to humans in abstracto and, consequently, to the necessity of the recognition of positions and of rights by the state.

            What is distinctive about the contribution of the political thought of the British idealists is the metaphysical background or "social ontology" that underlies it. Many criticisms lose sight of this and, thus, there has been a tendency to misunderstand or ignore their theory of rights. Bosanquet, however, would say that it is only once we come to understand the nature of society, the state and the individual that we can see what "liberty" means, what rights are, and how genuine self-government is possible.


[i]. I wish to thank Richard Hart and several other participants at the VIIth International Congress of the North American Society for Social Philosophy for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.

[ii]. By "communitarians" I have in mind the work of, inter alii, Michael J. Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982) and Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, 2nd. ed. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984).

[iii]. See J.S. Mill, Utilitarianism, ch. V and On Liberty; Herbert Spencer, "The Great Political Superstition" in The Man versus the State (1884) (Caldwell, ID: The Caxton Printers, 1960).

[iv]. John Rawls, A Theory of Justice. (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press, 1971), especially section 77; Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia. (New York: Basic Books, 1974). For some criticisms of the relation between individualism and rights, see Sandel (1982), p. 67.

[v]. See his Individuals and their Rights, La Salle: Open Court, 1989.

[vi]. See, for example, Sandel's discussion of Rawls's view of the person in Sandel (1982), pp. 78-79.

[vii]. See his La personne et le bien commun, (Paris, 1947); Les droits de l'homme et la loi naturelle, (New York, 1942); Man and the State (Chicago, 1951).

[viii]. H.L.A. Hart, "Are there any natural rights?," in Philosophical Review, LXIV (1955), pp. 175-191.

[ix]. See, for example, J.H. Muirhead, The Platonic Tradition in Anglo-Saxon Philosophy, (London: Allen & Unwin, 1931) and Frank M. Turner, The Greek Heritage in Victorian Britain, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981).

[x]. See, for example, Frederick Philip Harris, The Neo-Idealist Political Theory: Its Continuity with the British Tradition. [Ph.D. thesis, Columbia University] (New York: King's Crown Press, 1944).

[xi]. See, for example, Adam B. Ulam, Philosophical Foundations of English Socialism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951), chapter 2. See also Peter P. Nicholson, "Bradley as a Political Philosopher," in The Philosophy of F.H. Bradley, edited by Anthony Manser and Guy Stock (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), pp. 117-130, p. 118.

[xii]. 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.) This question is discussed, as well, though only briefly, in Bosanquet's essays "The Kingdom of God on Earth," (In Essays and Addresses, (London, 1889), reprinted in Science and Philosophy, (New York, 1927)) and "The Function of the State in Promoting the Unity of Mankind" (In Social and International Ideals, (London, 1917) (reprinted, New York, 1967)). I shall refer to these texts in the body of this study as KG and FS, respectively, followed by the page number of the edition cited.

[xiii]. If rights are claims, must a person claim his rights for them to have legal or moral effect? Even though Bosanquet says that a right is a claim, it is a claim "thoroughly transformed by social recognition and adjustment" (99) and one has a right even if he is "indifferent to the end" (192) or to the position in terms of which it is defined. (In such a case, Bosanquet says, they tend to become obligations (192).) Thus, rights need not be claimed in order to be effective.

[xiv]. Compare T.H. Green, Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation (published posthumously in Volume II of his Works, 1888; reprinted separately in London, 1917), sections 9 and 39.

[xv]. MacIntyre (1984), p. 69.

[xvi]. There is a certain similarity to MacIntyre's view here that my "roles" in society "constitute the given of my life, my moral starting point." MacIntyre (1984), p. 220.

[xvii]. Leonard T. Hobhouse, The Metaphysical Theory of the State. (London, 1918), p. 120. See also A.J.M. Milne, The Social Philosophy of English Idealism. (London, 1962) pp. 271-275.

[xviii]. See Bertil Pfannenstill, Bernard Bosanquet's Philosophy of the State. (Lund, 1936), p. 270.

[xix]. Nalini Pant, Theory of Rights: Green, Bosanquet, Spencer, and Laski. (Varanasi, Vishwavidyalaya Prakashan, 1977), p. 92. See also Hobhouse (1917), pp. 75-80; Stefan Collini, "Hobhouse, Bosanquet and State," Past and Present, 72 (1976), pp. 86-111, pp. 105-6.

[xx]. Hobhouse (1917), p. 104

[xxi]. Harold Laski cited in George Sabine, "Review of [Laski's] Authority and the Modern State, (London, 1919), in Philosophical Review, XXIX (1920), pp. 276-282, at pp. 277-278; also G.D.H. Cole, "Loyalties," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, XXVI (1925-6), pp. 151-170, at p. 160.

[xxii]. See Republic 407e. This view also seems to be suggested by the idealist F.H. Bradley in "Some Remarks on Punishment," in his Collected Essays (Oxford, 1935), p. 164.

[xxiii]. See Collini (1976), pp. 103 and 101; Milne (1962), p. 258.

[xxiv]. See Bosanquet's discussion in chapters X and XI of PTS. Interestingly, this resembles some aspects of MacIntyre's and Sandel's account of communities. See MacIntyre (1984), pp. 220-221 and Sandel (1982), p. 172.

[xxv]. MacIntyre makes a similar criticism of Gewirth's natural rights view (See MacIntyre (1984), p. 67).

[xxvi]. Though Bosanquet maintains that there is still a difference between them. See Bosanquet's letters to R.M. MacIver, cited in Harris (1944), pp. 68 - 70.

[xxvii]. It is important to realise that Bosanquet is speaking about what he takes to be a general typology of the state as it exists, and not any "ideal State". Still, there have been a number of criticisms of the account he provides. These cannot be explored here, but I discuss some of them in "'Society' and 'State' in Bernard Bosanquet" (forthcoming).

[xxviii]. See Steven M. DeLue, Political Obligation in a Liberal State, Albany: SUNY Press, 1989, p. xiii

[xxix]. In a similar vein, MacIntyre writes that "the self has to find its moral identity in and through its membership in communities such as those of the family, the neighbourhood, the city and the tribe" (MacIntyre (1984), p. 221). Sandel points out that Rawls does not "show that the ["plurality or differentiation... essential to an account of the human subject]... must correspond to the number of individual human beings in the world". (Sandel (1982), p. 80).

[xxx]. Compare here, and below, MacIntyre (1984), pp. 220-221.

[xxxi]. A similar view is found in Bradley and in Green. In fact, Green traces this notion back to Plato and Aristotle (see his Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation, section 39).

[xxxii]. As this context shows, a central role in Bosanquet's justification of the state and, hence, of the nature of rights is played by what he calls the "general" or "real will". I discuss this controversial notion in "Bernard Bosanquet and the Development of Rousseau's Idea of the General Will," in The Individual and Institutions / Individu et collectivités, ed. M. Cartwright and W. Kinsley [Man and Nature / L'homme et la nature, X (1991)] Edmonton, AB: Academic Printing and Publishing, 1991. See also Peter P. Nicholson, The Political Philosophy of The British Idealists: Selected Studies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. 198 - 230.

[xxxiii]. Despite Bosanquet's scepticism in FS concerning international political organizations, in Some Suggestions in Ethics (London, 1918), p. 77, and in the third and fourth editions of PTS, he suggests that some organization might be possible at the level of "humanity". This question is also 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.