[Political] Parties and the Common Good

by Mortimer J. Adler, Ph.D.


1. This paper has a twofold intention.

a. The first is to discuss the problem of political parties, — their justification and status, — in a society which requires political democracy as the set of political institutions appropriate for the government of men living under modern social and economic conditions. (By these modern conditions I mean such things as the economic forms of production and distribution in the industrial era; the organization of labor in relation to economic enterprise; the intensity and extensity of communication among men living in geographical separation and, consequently, the physical enlargement of the civic association; the approximation to universal education; the spread of literacy, etc.) There are two points to be noted here:

(1) That modern society is or tends toward a democracy in its physical and economic conditions, whether in a given instance its political forms are outwardly democratic, as in France, England and the United States, or antidemocratic, as in Italy, Germany and Russia.[1]

(a) Not only does Russia publicize its claim to being democratic and make constitutional efforts in that direction which are, of course, at once vitiated by the persistence of its totalitarian regime; but even Germany and Italy give an appearance of democracy, — though they abominate the thought and word, — an appearance which is a reverse and distorted image.[2] Thus, by the pressure of propaganda and the exercise of brutal force, the rulers of Germany and Italy try to make it appear that they have a mandate from the people for their policies. The autocratic wolves of today must put on the sheep’s clothing of democratic forms, even though the bark of the wolf is so blatant and continuous that no one can be deceived by the disguise.

(b) This is perfect confirmation of an ancient and Aristotelian insight: that political institutions and arrangements do not exist in a social vacuum, nor are they prior to the society which they constitute. A constitution does not create the society which it organizes politically. The physical and economic conditions of community life determine the range of applicable constitutions. The question, What is the best government absolutely, always calls for utopian solutions, since the solutions are given quite apart from the actual conditions of any historic community. The practical question must always be, What is the best government for a community living under these determinate conditions, conditions which are physical or cultural, economic or social? (I mention all this to explain my use of the word ‘democracy’ in an essentially non-political sense to name the complex of conditions which characterize European communities today, and to announce that I shall try to approach the problem of parties in an Aristotelian rather than a Platonic manner, not seeking an ideal solution but a practicable one in view of determinations which are pre-political.)

And, if I may be permitted one further digression, this must not be taken to mean that, in the order of human associations, the political form is not supreme. The conditions which I have called pre-political are as matter, — not pure matter but relatively determinate and disposed matter, — in relation to political constitutions as the ultimate form of human association. Though form is prior to matter in being and in the universe as a whole, it is not prior in the temporal order of generation, in which the limited potentialities of matter specifically disposed limit the range of corporeal forms which can be evoked in natural change. So in the historical order of social change, material dispositions of the sort we have called pre-political are temporally prior and impose restrictions upon the range of applicable constitutions. A determinate historical community does not have unlimited political potentialities. Thus, for instance, viewed as matter, economic, cultural and social democracy will not receive the political form of ‘direct democracy’ which Greek theorists discussed and Greek states tried. Direct and representative democracies are analogical, not univocal. The same may be said for every other political form known to Greek theory and practice: totalitarian despotism through the rulership of a forcefully dominant party is only analogical with the forms of ancient tyranny. The principle of analogy in political forms can be seen in terms of the radical difference in the pre-political matter which receives these forms.

(2) This leads to our second point, namely, that the problem of political parties which we are about to consider is best viewed as a local and not a universal question in politics. To see it thus is, again, an insistence upon being practical rather than utopian, or theoretical, in our political thinking. The party today is an instrument of representative or even totalitarian government in any society which is democratic in a prepolitical sense. In that specific sense, there have not always been political parties. To confuse parties as they exist today with factions, classes or estates in ancient and medieval communities is to commit the error of generalization which always follows ignorance of analogy. If I may be permitted to use the words “social democracy” for that complex of pre-political conditions which determine the potentialities of existing European communities to receive political forms, then I can say that the problem of parties is a way of focusing the political problem of our day, which is the problem of inventing, or through analogy of adapting, a truly democratic constitution as the political form which is not the best absolutely, but the best for communities which are socially democratic. I do not think this problem is yet solved, either by contemporary political thinkers or as a matter of fact by currently prevailing democratic political institutions. John Dewey recently said: “The assumption… is that there are some nations, to which we belong, that have already realized the democratic ideal. In the sense that we still have forms of representative government, this is a true assumption. But the belief that we have actually attained a democratic society is a delusion which, if it is persisted in, may be fatal to whatever democracy we have managed to achieve.”[3] In other words, the conditions of democracy exist, but they have not yet achieved their political fruition.[4] This is indicated not only by the failures of political democracy in the so-called democratic countries, but also, and most impressively, by the atavistic totalitarian regimes which are partly the consequence of the imperfections of existing democratic institutions to cope with modern conditions. And at the very center of this failure is the party which is both the offspring of political democracy or representative government and, like many an offspring, the thorn in its side.

b. I said at the beginning that I had two intentions in this paper. The first, as indicated, is to discuss parties as involved in the practical, not utopian, problem of discovering, or inventing, political institutions which shall be democratic in the sense of being the best for the government of socially democratic communities. My second, and deeper, intention is to use this whole discussion as a pretext for raising some questions which seem to me crucial to the nature of politics as a practical science. I shall indicate the direction of these questions here only by saying that ethics and politics, as the two correlatively architectonic disciplines in the practical order, are not and cannot be equally adequate in the solution of their respective problems. It is, of course, politics, not ethics, which is deficient in this comparison. And it is the deficiency of politics which raises problems for the individual who morally has political as well as moral obligations.

(1) That my second intention concerns me more deeply can be explained in two ways, which I report as a kind of confession relevant to these efforts:

(a) Unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be, I am a man of books rather than of action. I have no political experience from which to speak, unless one can say that living in a university for twenty years is a more than sufficient substitute for immersion in the affairs of city or state. (And I might add that my present university is one in which the problems of democratic government are very much obscured by those of party politics.) However that may be, I remain more concerned with politics in discourse than in action, though I acknowledge this as a defect in character and apologize for it.

(b) And, in the second place, I do not know the solution of the problem I have proposed, the problem of parties and truly democratic government, nor can I learn it from any writer whose works I have read. As a consequence I have been led to reflect upon the nature of political philosophy itself. Speaking now as an individual, I have been disturbed by what seems to me a lack of sufficient political wisdom to direct my participation in current political affairs. In contrast, there appears to be adequate ethical wisdom to direct me in the conduct of my private moral life. And this ethical wisdom seems to include the point that, being a citizen as well as a person, I have a moral obligation to act politically, in whatever position I may find myself, whether as ruler or ruled, or as both in different relations. But if political action inevitably leads under modern conditions to participation in parties, — as perhaps it has always led in the past to affiliation with factions or estates, — and if parties as presently constituted in democratic or totalitarian regimes seem to be opposed to the common good, which, of course, remains to be shown, then like Balaam’s ass I am in suspended animation between alternatives, the difference being that in my case they are equally unattractive: no political action, on the one hand, or corrupt political action, on the other. Faced with this apparently insoluble dilemma, I tried to find in the nature of political problems and political science generally the reasons for such difficulties.

(1) I have now exposed the two intentions of this paper and they are seen to be obviously related. They are in fact so reciprocally ordered to one another that it may be difficult to move in the dimension of either problem without being at the same time involved in the other. I shall, however, try to separate the question for the sake of clarity, begging the reader to perform the necessary acts of cross-reference and supplementation, as the discussion proceeds.

2. The discussion will proceed in the following order:

a. The difference between ethics and politics as practical domains.

b. The inadequacy of traditional political theory with respect to the present crisis of democracy and the problem of parties.

c. Conclusions.

II. ETHICS AND POLITICS AS PRACTICAL DOMAINS1. Before discussing the differences between these two spheres, it is necessary to repeat briefly the main points of the traditional understanding of ethics and politics as sciences.

a. They are sciences: bodies of knowledge and not collections of opinion. They comprise truths, reached by rational processes and ultimately founded in experience as all human knowledge is. (If the word ‘science’ is claimed for a special kind of knowledge obtained by methods of investigation and experiment, then it might be well to add that the word ‘science’ can be replaced by the word ‘philosophy,’ so long as it is understood, of course, that philosophy is knowledge, not opinion.)

b. They are practical: this must be understood in contradistinction to theoretical, i.e. in terms of the difference between knowledge and action. A practical science is one which ends in action rather than knowledge as such. Briefly, knowledge is practical when the truths it declares are at once understood as prescriptions or directions for conduct. Practical knowledge is always concerned with what should be done if the good is to be achieved in any sphere of operations. Currently, this traditional distinction between theoretic and practical sciences is understood in terms of a distinction between descriptive and normative sciences, the former saying what is the case, the latter what ought to be. But unless it is carefully qualified, this contemporary distinction between the descriptive and the normative is likely to rest in a too shallow understanding of the relation between the theoretic and practical orders. What ought to be done in any case is never independent of the nature of the case, and action always occurs in particular cases.

(1) Practical knowledge, in so far as it consists of principles and generalities, is never adequate for the solution of practical problems, since any problem of action always requires a consideration of contingent, singular circumstances. Possession of moral or political wisdom does not free a man from the need to deliberate, i.e. to supplement principles by casuistry.

(2) The practical knowledge which is contained in books, in ethical and political treatises, does not solve practical problems, as the theoretic knowledge which is contained in physical and metaphysical treatises can sometimes adequately answer theoretical questions. Furthermore, no practical treatise can ever become adequate in this sense, for additional knowledge of a kind that can never be exhaustively expounded in treatises must be used by the prudent man in applying principles for the direction of conduct. In short, the structure of practical knowledge is much more complex than that of theoretic knowledge.[5]

(3) Practical truth is different from theoretic truth. A theoretic judgment is true if it conforms with being, with that which is the case. But a practical judgment is true if it conforms with right appetite, with a desire for what is good as the end of operation. As a consequence, differences between men in their practical judgments cannot be simply resolved by reference to the facts, to the order of existence. The element of subjectivity in practical controversies is not capable of elimination as in theoretic matters. In fact, if the minor premise in what is called the practical syllogism is a practical judgment too, and hence one which is true only by conforming to a right appetite, it may not be possible to arbitrate practical controversies by any simple reference to the facts as such.[6] This has a bearing, it will be seen, upon parties engaged in political controversy and conflict.

(4) Finally, there is the point which Aristotle so insistently made. Ethics and politics must not be treated as theoretic subjects. It is not enough to know what virtue is; the student of ethics must aim at being virtuous.[7] And if the study of ethics is not by itself sufficient to make a man virtuous, particularly a young man who lacks moral experience and is swayed by his passions, then ethical principles must be used by someone else to help him, through training and even coercion.[8] This, thought Aristotle; was preeminently the task of the statesman as a moral teacher. But what Aristotle said of ethics is also true of politics. One must not study politics merely to know what just government is; rather one must aim at being a just ruler or a just citizen. And here the problem becomes more complicated, as we shall soon see, if the study of politics is by itself inadequate to direct man in just civil actions.

c. In all that we have so far said, there is no striking difference between ethics and politics. So far they are essentially alike. And they are, further, alike in one point which distinguishes them from all the arts, which also belong to the large sphere of practical knowledge. The sphere of the practical includes what is traditionally called action and production, or doing and making. The former is the sphere of the practical sciences, properly so called, namely, ethics and politics; the latter, the sphere of the arts, which include the applied sciences, such as medicine and engineering. The artistic sphere is determined by some good other than the good of man, individually or communally, the good of something to be produced or altered in some way. In short, the sphere of ethics and politics is the government of men, individually or communally, whereas the sphere of the arts, particularly the useful arts, is the government of things. All economic activities thus fall within the sphere of art.[9] And since, all practicable goods are ordered ultimately to the good of the human person, the various arts are subordinate to the practical science, and, in the realm of the practical as a whole, ethics and politics are said to be architectonic.

1. There is a traditional distinction between ethics and politics in terms of their ends. The moral end is the good of the human person as such, happiness. The political end is the good of persons united in a community, and this community end is what is called the common good, the social good, the welfare of the state.

a. But which is prior, ethics or politics? Which of these two goods is paramount? Aristotle never succeeded in fully answering this question, as any reader of his Ethics and Politics must know. But in the light of the integral humanism which M. Maritain has explained to us, — a doctrine in which Christian practical philosophy clearly improves upon that of the Greeks, — the answer can be given.[10] The good of the human person as such is paramount. The good society is not an end in itself, though it is an intrinsic good. The common good is a means to the happiness of men. But in so far as men are individual members of a community, they must be ordered to the common good, which is superior to the private interests of each and every individual. In short, man must be viewed as both a moral and a political being, in the one case seeking happiness, in the other serving the common good. Since the common good is a means to happiness, the moral obligation to act well politically is, in a sense, more fundamental than the political obligation to lead a good civil life.

b. One modem misconception must be noted here, because it bears on the relation of parties to the common good. The common good is not determined by a utilitarian arithmetic which results in the greatest good for the greatest number. The common good cannot be achieved by a compromise among conflicting private interests, whether of individuals, sects or parties. It is rightly determined in two ways: first, as a means to happiness, and thus no social arrangement is good which interferes with the attainment of happiness, in its strict meaning as ultimate moral perfection; secondly, as the good intrinsic to the social order itself, the good of the organization, which is not the summation of the good of its several parts, any more than the organization is a mere sum of these parts.[11] As the virtues are the proximate and constitutive means of happiness, so peace, order and justice constitute the welfare of the community. Justice must here be taken as including both justice in general and economic or special justice, the latter being concerned with the ordering of all the arts and operations involved in the production and distribution of goods which serve the needs of man and society.

1. Now it is my contention that there are still further differences between ethics and politics, which the traditional discussion has failed to make explicit. I cannot say whether these further differences are essential or whether they are only marked differences in degree, but in either case, they make the problem of political action different from that of moral conduct. I shall enumerate them briefly.[12]

a. First, an objective difference: Ethics, or moral philosophy, is much more independent of history than politics. While it is true that the moralist does not only consider the good man absolutely, but also what is good for men differing individually in temperaments and abilities, nevertheless this relativity is, for the most part, independent of the contingencies of time and place, because the range of individual differences is for the most part the same at any historic moment and under widely diverse conditions of society and culture. The constancy of human nature, both the specific sameness and the limited range of individual differences, gives moral problems a universal character and moral principles a universal adequacy in application to their solution. But, as we have seen, the practicable political good is relative to historic conditions, since a good form of government must be one adapted to the social, economic, and cultural character of a given concrete community. And in this historic order there is genuine novelty, as there is not in the order of human nature, specifically or individually.

(1) Thus, Greek and Christian moral truths are as applicable today as they ever were. I do not mean that for their application, casuistry, and with it some local interpretation, is not needed. I mean only that an adequate moral philosophy is not essentially impaired by historic changes in human life. He who speaks moral truths speaks them for all times. To whatever extent moral philosophy guides me in the conduct of my life, I can avail myself of its ancient wisdom, though I must supplement it by counsel, sound judgment and prudence in applying it to action.[13] It can be both ancient and adequate in principle.

(2) But political philosophy cannot be both ancient and adequate in principle. More than casuistry and interpretation is needed to make the political wisdom of Aristotle and St. Thomas applicable today; and the more that is needed is more or different wisdom, wisdom about the justice of political arrangements which they could not have foreseen because political potentialities reside not in human nature simply, but in the historically changing matrix of social life. Genuine novelty in the material conditions requires new political forms to be devised, and although the common good is everywhere the same in essence, although peace, order and the principles of justice do not change, politics as practical thinking must implement these principles by workable institutions.[14]

(3) This is well illustrated by the problem we are considering. Representative government and the party system are new political forms evoked by modern economic and social conditions. They have raised a host of fundamental problems which must be solved if political democracy is to be soundly established.[15] The great political treatises of the past simply do not, nor could they be expected to, solve these problems. For the most part they are silent on the question of parties,[16] if one is not misled by the analogy between parties and factions, social classes or estates. Even such modern essays as those by Locke and Rousseau, though respectively moving rightly and wrongly in the direction of democratic principles, provide little or nothing that is relevant, because even they are too early in the modem development to be more than proclamations of a turn in human affairs. In short, I am saying that the work of political theory, of devising institutions, of extending and adding principles, is not done, now or ever, as it is possible for moral theory to be complete at any time that the human effort is well made under happy intellectual auspices.

b. The foregoing difference between ethics and politics is objective because it concerns the adequacy with which they can solve their respective problems. We must now consider a second difference which is subjective, a difference which each individual must realize in the solution of his own ethical and political problems. It can be stated as follows: The achievement of the moral end is within our own power for the most part; except for the possession of health and a minimum of external goods, which may be given or withheld by fortune, our happiness lies within our grasp, since the virtues which constitute its activity are entirely within the sphere of our interior and inviolable freedom. (For the purposes of making this comparison, I am restricting myself to the consideration of temporal happiness and the natural virtues.) It is possible, however difficult, for a man to know what the virtues and happiness are and so to exercise his freedom in good acts as to become virtuous and attain happiness. But the proper end of political action, the common good, is not within the scope of my individual power, whether I be ruler or ruled. It is only by the concerted just action of a sufficient number of men in the community that the political end toward which each is directed can be effectively realized in any degree. In short, the common good by its very nature requires the cooperation of men of good will, as well as the coercion or resistance of their opponents. From the point of view of each individual, there is here something which his will cannot command in the same way that it can command his own free acts. This difference is signified by the fact that in the political sphere the authority of a right will must be made effective either by force or persuasion.

(1) Since all men in a community are not of good will, nor do they all possess the same virtues, or virtues to the same degree, nor are they placed by fortune in the same class according to gifts of birth, ability or wealth, a society is necessarily divided into friends and enemies in varying degrees of affiliation or opposition. This is the inevitable source of political groups, of classes, estates, factions and, ultimately, political parties.

(2) Precisely because every society is thus constituted, power in the sense of force and persuasion, exercised by one man upon another, is the indispensable supplement of authority, which is nothing but the voice of reason speaking, and speaking ineffectively to those who will not hear or cannot understand. (It is an interesting paradox that because the political good lies beyond the reach of each man’s interior power to achieve, men must use their powers externally upon one another for this end.)

(3) It follows, furthermore, that no societies are good in their concrete embodiments in the same sense or to the same degree in which there are really good men, even apart from the saints. Happiness can be achieved essentially, but the common good is never more than remotely approximated, for the very reason that authority must suffer the alloy of force or be ineffective. Similarly, whereas the only means to happiness are good acts, we are frequently faced in political action with a choice between bad alternatives, acting well if we choose the lesser evil.[17]

(4) Rhetoric is a necessary adjunct of political science, as it is not of ethics.[18] In moral matters, counsel and persuasion occur only between those who are truly and closely friends, and consequently there is no impurity of rhetoric. But the need for rhetoric in politics is to conquer the distances which separate men in virtue or class or disposition, to overcome differences, to move passions, often violently. Not only is political rhetoric impure, merging with sophistry, but political thought is itself contaminated by its intimate association with rhetoric. There are few political treatises, even among the great and famous ones, which are purely scientific, free from any admixture of rhetoric. (Thus, Hobbes was a propagandist for the Tories, and Locke for the Whigs.) The political thinker cannot help addressing himself to contemporary problems, cannot restrain himself from taking sides, cannot resist trying to win adherents to his party, and in consequence he conceives a treatise but delivers a tract. His doctrine becomes doctrinaire!

(5) All the foregoing facts bear on the existence of parties in politics. Since good men, or bad, must cooperate to achieve their political ends, the community is always divided into political groups, affiliated or opposed in varying degrees. If the division were simply in terms of good and bad men, we would have a problem no different from the one arising from the fact that there are law-abiding and criminal elements in the population. But it is generally supposed that men of good will can divide into opposing parties. We shall subsequently face the question, whether there can be diverse parties to the common good. Here the point to be made is that under the conditions of representative government in a democratic society, the party system imposes certain inescapable conditions upon the effort of any man to make his political action effective by cooperating with his fellows. To whatever extent the party system is corrupt and contrary to the common good, individual action is vitiated by the necessity to work through the medium of parties. These are matters to be discussed more fully. Suffice it here to say that in the moral sphere there is nothing like the problem of factions or parties. Moral action is always directly in contact with its ends, whereas political action is like action at a distance and through a medium which is not ethereally pure.

a. Before turning now to the problem of parties, as focusing these difficulties which are peculiar to political thought and action, we must note the prevalent opposition between what is called realpolitik and any normative approach to the subject.

(1) Denying the validity of norms, realistic politics reduces itself to a descriptive account of the struggle for power between nations and between factions in any society. It identifies authority with force, which is equivalent to denying authority. It converts every political doctrine which speaks the language of good and evil, justice and injustice, to mere rhetoric used by leaders or parties as instruments of conquest or domination. There is nothing wrong, of course, with the notion of political description, as an extension of political history disguised as a science by the use of statistics and pseudogeneralizations. But realpolitik, while denying the traditional norms, is not satisfied with being merely descriptive. It, too, tries to be a practical science and to direct political action. And in doing so it substitutes the norm of power for the standards of justice and the common good.[19]

(2) Thus we have the opposition in political thought today between the practical politics of power and that of justice, an opposition that had an early exemplification in the contrast between the De Regimine Principum of St. Thomas and Machiavelli’s advice to the prince who would succeed. We need not hesitate to condemn the politics of power as normatively false, but we must be careful not to dismiss the true or probable descriptions of political action which realpolitik has amassed. Only utopian theorists can afford to ignore such facts. The practical politics of justice must be no less realistic than realpolitik about the nature of political parties as actually operative in the world today.

(3) But being realistic is not enough; it is not enough to know how parties operate, but whether they are essentially good or bad as political institutions, the standard being justice and the common good. That almost all existing party systems in democratic societies today are bad as a matter of fact, — the evidence being clear that they implement the struggle for power rather than serve the common good, — does not fully solve our question. The practical question is whether, under democratic conditions, and in full view of all the facts, political parties are indispensable instruments of representative government? If they are indispensable, then the next practical question is how to remedy the prevalent abuses, how to make parties serve justice rather than power.


1. In order to answer the questions raised about parties, let us proceed to review the arguments for and against the role of parties in political democracy.

a. The case for parties is so well-known that it can be briefly summarized.[20]

(1) According to Lord Bryce, political parties have three main functions: first, the promotion of party principles; secondly, the carrying of elections; and thirdly, the holding together of members in the assembly who profess homogeneous political opinions upon certain general issues. Parties, therefore, act as a sort of connecting link between the two sides of representative government: on the one hand, they afford an effective machinery to help the people in national elections, and, on the other hand, provide a means to organize the delegates in the assembly, so that public opinion may receive a further definite form.[21]

(2) Political parties are also justified as generally facilitating the free debate of public issues and as providing popular political education for the masses.

(3) Furthermore, it is said, that the party system, bad as it may be, permits a choice of policies, “though the alternatives offered may seem to be arbitrary when the issues are forced into the Procustean bed of party platforms.”[22]

(4) In short, parties are viewed as indispensable to any parliamentary form of government, and that form of government is considered essential to democracy.[23]

(5) This view is supported by considering the alternatives to the parry system.

(a) The abolition of parties, in the plural, leads either to the dominance of one party, which is the case in all antidemocratic totalitarian regimes, or to government without parties, which must then be some form of nonrepresentative government, and hence also inimical to democracy. We must remember that the question is not, absolutely speaking, whether government without any parties is better than some form of party government; rather we are considering parties relative to forms of government appropriate to democratic life.

(b) It has been suggested by certain political pluralists that parties can be abolished when society is explicitly organized along vocational lines. I need not expound the general view of political pluralism, to present the notion of vocational representation, that is, the substitution of a vocational parliament for the present political parliament constituted along party lines. According to this view of functional democracy, in which the state is constituted by a hierarchy of minor associations rather than by otherwise unassociated citizens, the various vocational groups or corporations can become the medium of representative government to replace parties.[24] But this alternative is also rejected by the proponents of the party system, on two grounds:

(i) In the first place, it is pointed out and must be generally admitted that no working scheme of representation by vocations has been devised, because of the difficulty of distributing the voting strength among the various vocations. Nor has any satisfactory method been found for combining vocational with popular representation.[25]

(ii) In the second place, there is the basic objection that questions of policy, whether they be economic policy or social policy or international policy, are ultimately political questions and must be solved by political means, i.e. a political power which is superior to all the subordinate vocations and corporations in the state. “Therefore,” Professor Feiler insists, “they must remain with the political parliament as the sovereign representative body of political democracy.”[26] And the indispensability of a political, as opposed to a vocational, parliament carries with it, inevitably, the instrumentality of political parties.

(iii) These objections are not objections to the pluralistic conception of democratic society. M. Maritain who sees in the pluralistic conception of the functional or corporative state the rectification of democracy in the line of its own ideals, nevertheless would retain political parties as media of political thought and education. The existence of political parties is necessary for the supremacy of the political principle over economic or professional principles in terms of which the various subordinate corporations are organized. But M. Maritain admits that he does not know how to retain parties and yet make government independent of their influence, since that requires the invention of a system of representation which is neither simply vocational nor purely political along present party lines.[27]

(1) It would be a fair summary to say that those who defend parties as the instruments of democratic government, in which a vast electorate is given parliamentary representation, are not blind to the abuses and corruptions of the party system. They argue either (1) that the party system with all its irremediable faults and vices is the lesser of two evils, the greater evil being the loss of democracy through the abolition of parties;[28] or (2) that the party system as such does not have irremediable faults, in which case they propose to retain parties but to reform them. I shall try to show in what follows that only the first position is really a defense of parties. The second position necessarily leads to the abolition of parties as they are now constituted and now function in representative government. The issue is sharpened thus if we do not permit ourselves to use the word ‘party’ ambiguously. What the word ‘party’ now designates is a political institution which is vicious essentially, or in other words has irremediable faults. If those faults were removed, the reformed institution could not be called a ‘party’ in a strictly univocal use of the word. Furthermore, I shall try to show that the pluralistic position is incompatible with the party system as it now exists. M. Maritain and other pluralists may retain the name ‘party,’ but they cannot retain the essential nature of the institution which now functions in representative democracy as we know it.

a. In the light of the foregoing, I shall state the case against parties, first, by arguing that the institution is essentially vicious, which means contrary to the common good, and second, by attempting to show that it is incompatible with the fundamental principles of political pluralism. In so doing, I shall, of course, use the word ‘party’ univocally to name the existing institution, the essential nature of which will be defined in the course of the discussion. And, let me add, I am so using the word as to exclude from consideration such revolutionary movements as communism, which are more properly regarded as factions, right or wrong, than as political parties.[29]

(1) The root notion in the concept of the party is that of partisanship, as opposed to impartiality. Thus, in the legal process litigants are parties to an issue, and it is the issue, a two-sided question, which makes partisanship possible. And the litigants can remain opposed parties only so long as the law will recognize an issue between them. In the order of legality, though not the temporal order, the issue makes parties, not the parties the issue. Only if the court sustains the issue as a legally debatable one, as against the demurrer of either litigant, can the litigants retain their status as parties. In short, the issue must be a two-sided question; within the law of the realm, not all questions which can possibly be raised have two sides; there is thus a limit to litigation, to the opposition of parties in judicial controversies. Now it will be admitted that, if the judicial process is itself not corrupt, litigation serves the end of justice as between the parties bringing or defending suits. The arbitration of the dispute by a tribunal of one sort or another is a better way of settling an issue than force or fraud. But it must be added that this is so only if the partisanship of the litigants is supplemented by the impartiality of the arbitrator.

(a) Let us use this fundamental type of partisanship for the solution of practical questions, as a standard to measure the justifiability of political partisanship in the processes of representative government. As litigants are not just men unless they both seek a just decision from the court, so political parties are not just unless they severally seek the common good. Not only must all just political parties have the same ultimate end in view, but since there can be no tenable or reasonable difference of opinion concerning the proximate and constitutive means to the common good, they must all agree in seeking peace, order and economic justice. What, then, remains as the source of their differentiation into opposed political groups? They must divide on questions of policy concerning remote and contingent means, and they can justifiably divide only if the question has sides, that is, if the several conflicting opinions are each tenable and reasonable.

(b) A number of things follow from this view of the matter. First, since in political affairs there are always debatable issues concerning remote and contingent means to the common good, there is justification for partisanship both before the electorate and in legislative assemblies. Parties taking sides on such issues serve the commonweal by causing effective debate and, hence, deliberation prior to action. But, in the second place, it would seem to follow that once action is taken, the parties which are specifically responsive to a given issue, should completely dissolve, their several members free to enter into other alignments on any other issue. This would mean that an issue or a group of issues would be the principle of temporary party formations in the electorate or legislature. And, in the third place, since some element of impartiality is needed to supplement partisanship if the ultimate decision is to be just, and since the really debatable issues deal with contingent matters that are qualified by many circumstances subject to change, it is necessary for the electorate or legislature to have a unity which transcends party divisions, for the sake of impartiality, and a flexibility of deliberation, which can shift from one side to another, for the sake of adaptation to changing circumstances. These requirements reinforce the point that political parties can serve the common good only if they are utterly transitory, formed to debate an issue and dissolved by its solution.[30]

(c) If these are the criteria by which party division are justifiable, in terms of serving the common good, then it must follow that permanent party organizations, which seek to endure regardless of the solution of specific issues, are contrary to the common good. For what end do they obviously serve by seeking to endure regardless of specific issues? The end of power, not justice; the end of dominating the electorate or legislature. Instead of real issues causing partisanship specifically responsive to them, permanent party organizations cause political issues, which, as a consequence, are often unreal and merely pretexts in the struggle for power. I do not mean to say that permanent parties are totally vicious. They serve the common good in so far as they are instruments of debate and deliberation, and in so far as they are necessary to the machinery of representation. I am saying only that in so far as they are permanent, parties are organized and operate for another end, namely, their exclusive power, power as such divorced from authority, and, therefore, that permanent party organizations are inimical to the common good which, in some part, they may serve. Since the existing party system, whether it involves two major parties or a larger plurality, is comprised by permanent parties which in every case seek to endure, I say that there is an essentially vicious element in that system. I am only saying what Lord Halifax said several hundred years ago: “The best kind of party is in some sort of conspiracy against the nation.”[31]

(d) The foregoing analysis of the nature of party organizations is fully supported by the history of the development of parties and the account given of their operation. They may be in origin genuine movements of partisanship, but once organized and striving for endurance they become involved in the conquest of power. Within the party itself, there is a tendency either to autocratic leadership or oligarchical domination,[32] for just as nations find true democracy incompatible with war and aggression, so parties struggling for power, even in a democracy, soon become undemocratic in their own constitution for the sake of efficiency in the struggle. All this is admitted by those who defend parties as the indispensable instrument of representative government. They call upon us to accept the evil with the good, holding them to be inextricably connected. It may be supposed by some that the evil can be minimized by such devices as proportional representation, but others maintain that the resulting plurification of parties creates a situation which, under present conditions of nationalism and imperialism, soon ends in the rise of one strong party and totalitarianism.[33]

(e) Unless we can find, then, some workable substitute for the party system, representative democracy is doomed to achieve, not the common good, but that counterfeit of it which is a compromise between many conflicting interests, each organized for the seizure of power.

(1) My second point is that party organizations, as permanent associations within a society, are incompatible with the sound principles of political pluralism. I shall try to show this briefly as follows:

(a) Within the practical order, men can be associated cooperatively for either a political or an artistic end. The political end is the common good. The artistic ends include all the good products and services which men can make or perform. Let us use the words ‘economic’ or ‘technical’ to name all associations of men directed to such goods. Each such association is a vocational group or economic corporation which has a place in the hierarchical order of society by virtue of the function it performs. A pluralistic society is thus a functionally organized society, and since every individual, except the worthless, performs one or more functions, he is not only a member of the all-inclusive political society, but also of one or more subordinate corporations. Furthermore, these functions cannot be antagonistic essentially, though they may need regulation from without if the total collection of corporations is to be well ordered and harmoniously disposed in operation.

(b) The economic or technical function is, thus, the government of things, making products or performing services, and such government is achieved within the several corporations and vocations. But the government of the vocations themselves for the sake of the common good is a government of men, though not of men in a nude relation to the state as individuals, but men clothed with functional responsibility as members of subordinate economic or technical associations.[34] Thus, political government or the government of men is seen to be supreme in the hierarchy of human associations, because it serves the paramount good. Political government consists of those offices of authority which are constituted in the organization of the political community as a whole.

(c) The question, therefore, is, what place has a permanent political party as a corporation within a functionally organized society? On the one hand, it is not an economic or technical group. On the other hand, it has no political authority and is no part of the government. Between the supreme political association, which wields political authority, and the various corporations which have economic or technical functions, there seems to be no place for the kind of association which is a permanent political party. This seems to indicate that permanent parties are interlopers or foreign bodies in a well planned society. Where everything else works for the good of the whole, either directly or by some partial contribution, the political party seeking to endure works for its own good primarily, the good of success in the struggle for power. Parties as they are now known in representative government can have no place in the embodiment of the corporative state.[35]

(d) It may be objected that political parties do serve a function which justifies them in the corporative order, namely, the function of political education through debate and deliberation. This objection is answered by our previous analysis of political partisanship which showed that debate and deliberation are facilitated only by flexible and shifting alignments, and are either impeded or corrupted by strong, permanent party organizations, which make issues rather than respond to them. Furthermore, those who assign only this function to political parties are, in fact, denying parties as they now exist and operate. Thus, M. Maritain, in a recent paper, said: “Parties, on condition that they are not reduced to vast coalitions of interests, from which all political thought is absent, furnish the scheme of a certain political education of men….It is important not to suppress parties, but that which corrupts them, and makes them instruments of corruption of the public good. And to achieve this aim, it is necessary to render the State and the government itself independent from these political parties.”[36] But this, it seems to me, is tantamount to calling for the abolition of political parties, for that which corrupts them is their permanence, and as they now operate the State and government are not independent of them. M. Maritain recognizes this when he adds that a radically different, and as yet unconceived, system of representative government must replace the existing type, if parties are to be thus reformed and take their place in the organic democracy of the corporative state. Political pluralism can say it is not opposed to parties only by using the word to name an institution which does not yet exist, and which will be as essentially different from the parties of today, as the representative government of a truly corporative state will be different from institutions of the sort which are used by individualistic democracy as it exists today. (Here, again, the point is analogy.)[37]

1. The problem can, in summary, be reduced to a few basic propositions which indicate the alternatives:

a. It is held by all that political democracy under modern conditions require the maximizing of suffrage and adequate representation, that the essential principles of democracy under such conditions call for an effective electorate and parliamentary legislation.

b. Some hold that the party system as presently constituted is an indispensable instrument of modern political democracy. To agree to this proposition is to concede irreducible weaknesses in the embodiment of democratic principles, contrary tendencies which impair and weaken the fabric of democratic life. To agree here is to admit that nations which call themselves democratic are in fact oligarchies, that the common good is remotely approximated by the compromise of powerful conflicting interests, and that the spectre of totalitarianism must continue to threaten democracy because of its own incurable weaknesses and inefficiencies.

c. Others hold that the essential principles of democracy are not only preserved but better realized in a corporative state. But there are difficulties in this position in view of what all agree to, namely that under modern, in contrast to mediaeval, conditions, the government of a corporative society, if it is to be democratic, must include the principles of universal suffrage and representative parliaments. These difficulties can be summarized by the following dilemma: either the party system as presently operative is the only way in which such government can be implemented, or there is some other way of securing genuinely representative government. In the first alternative, there is a genuine incompatibility between the corporative principle of social organization and the democratic principle of representative government. In which case, one may be faced with the choice between a corporative state without democratic, that is, representative government, and individualistic democracy retaining representative processes. In the second alternative, it will be possible for democracy to come to its full fruition in a harmonious union of social and political principles that are essentially democratic.

d. If we are to avoid alternatives which offer us choices between evils, we must try to invent a workable substitute for the present type of representative government with its dependence on the system of permanent party organizations. Those who claim that parties are indispensable are merely confessing that they cannot imagine the institutions which will transform representative government and make it appropriate for the organic democracy of the corporative order. Those who call for the abolition of parties or speak of their transformation under a different sort of parliamentary regime than now exists will be regarded as utopian rather than practical politicians until they can draft the constitutional provisions for bringing the change about.


1. It is a hundred years now since De Tocqueville made the point in his Democracy in America that the tendency toward an equality of conditions underlies the establishment of political democracy. More recently John Dewey has insisted upon the distinction between democracy as a social order and as a form of government. Vd. Democracy and Education, New York. 1926: pp. 100 ff. Cf. Political and Economic Democracy, ed. by Ascoli and Lehmann, New York, 1937.

2. This notion of “reversed democracy” is developed by Professor Simons in his essay on “Parliamentarism” in Political and Economic Democracy. Vd. pp. 200 ff.

3. In the first annual Felix Adler lecture, entitled “Democracy and Education in the World Today.” Cf. the passage in De Tocqueville’s preface where, speaking of France, he says that “the democratic revolution has been effected only in the material part of society, without that concomitant change in laws, ideas, customs and manners which was necessary to render such a revolution beneficial. We have gotten a democracy, but without the conditions which lessen its vices and render its natural advantages more prominent; and although we already perceive the evils it brings, we are ignorant of the benefit it may confer.”

4. Vd. Laski’s article on Democracy in the Social Science Encyclopedia: Vol. V, pp. 76-84.

  1. Vd. J. Maritain, Les Degrés du Savoir, Paris, 1932: Annexe VII; Science et Sagesse, Paris, 1935: pp. 228-374. Cf. Y. Simon, Critique de la Connaissance Morale, Paris, 1934; and Trois Leçons sur le Travail,Paris, 1938. Although these works have done much toward making an explicit formulation of the practical order in terms or traditional principles, many problems remain to be solved.

6. Vd. St. Thomas Aquinas, In Libros Ethicorum, Bk. VI, 2:1128-1132.

7. Nichomachean Ethics, II, 2, 1103b 26-30.

8. Nichomachean Ethics, I, 3, 1095a 1-10; X, 9, 1179b31-1180a13.

9. Vd. Maritain, Freedom in the Modern World, New York, 1936: Appendix I. Cf. my discussion of these matters in Art and Prudence, New York, 1937: Ch. XII, esp. pp. 428-441. The Marxist notion of the “withering away of the state” as an ideal is based upon the false supposition that an adequate administration of things will completely dispense with the need for a government of men. Vd. V. I. Lenin, The State and Revolution, 1918; Eng. trans., London, 1934. This summarizes the views of Marx and Engels and extends them somewhat in view of later conditions. For a critique of this doctrine, vd. Kung Chuan Hsiao, Political Pluralism, New York; 1927: Ch. V on pluralism as a solution of the problem of the relation between economics and politics.

10. Humanisme Intégral, Paris, 1936; pub. in English under the title of True Humanism, New York, 1938. Cf. Freedom in the Modern World, pp. 52 ff.

11. Vd. St. Thomas Aquinas, De Regimine Principum, I, 1, 2, 14, 15; II, 3.

12. I have not included in this comparison the difference between ethics and politics in their relation to theology, as differently requiring the supplementation of theology to be adequate practically. Moral theology is obviously a much more extensive body of doctrine than theological politics. The latter is concerned, for the most part, with two points: (1) the Divine government as the source of political authority; and (2) the movement of history, of both progress and decline in human affairs, as reflecting Providence. Vd. Note 35 infra.

13. It may be objected here that manners are local and subject to historical and ethnic variation; hence that there are changing, conventional determinations of moral principles. Thus, although courage and modesty are universal and invariant as moral virtues, the kinds of behavior which are recognized as courageous or modest are different at different times and in different cultures. But this objection fails to see what is involved in the distinction between shifting mores and enduring moral principles. Manners have to do with overt behavior, extrinsic, social operations. But the sphere of ethics is the interior domain of the will. Moral problems are all concerned in one way or another, with the rectitude of the will, and only accidentally with the exteriorization or socialization of its commands. The fact that the moral virtues must express themselves socially in the varying dress of conventional manners does not affect the constancy of the virtues themselves as the basic moral form, nor impair the adequacy of moral philosophy as directive of the moral life, an adequacy that transcends local conditions and historically determined mores. To suppose that moral philosophy must be essentially altered by an accommodation to the mores is to suppose that the principles of justice change with changes in positive law or national customs. The changing content of civil law as a set of determinations of natural law is relevant to the subjection of political principles to historic conditions for their fulfillment, but not to ethics. Cf. Art and Prudence, pp. 154-155, 165-166.

14. To say that political philosophy is not adequate in principle for all times and conditions is not to say that there are no political principles which have enduring practical truth. The difference between ethics and politics, here being discussed, is simply that casuistry, and casuistry alone, is needed to apply the principles and rules of moral wisdom for the guidance of life at any time or place; whereas changing conditions of human life and community call for new political principles and regulations. These are general, and not casuistical judgments about singular circumstances. Thus, the constitution as a political form is analogous to the virtues as moral forms. The virtues are constant because they are forms perfecting a constant human nature; but constitutions must vary with historic changes in social conditions. All the working institutions of the political order flow from the constitution as the arrangement of offices and as the principle of more determinate regulation of political processes. Thus, legal justice differs from natural justice in that it is measured by the constitution which confers legislative authority under specific restrictions, and not absolutely. If, then, it is true that a finite set of constitutions cannot be formulated for all times and conditions, political science is necessarily subject to history, and is always inadequate on the level of principles, as well as casuistically. To admit this is not to say that the ancient formulation of the principles of political justice and the ancient analysis of the generic kinds of government are not true today. These principles and forms are anterior in their generality to the specific constitutions and more determinate regulations. But the latter belong no less to politics as practical science and are the focal point of its temporal limitations. Vd. Note 37 infra. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 97, A.1.

15. “James Mill, in his famous article on ‘Government,’ written in 1814 for the Encyclopedia Britannica, called representation ‘the grand discovery of modern times,’ supplying the key to ‘the solution of all the difficulties, both spiritual and practical,’ in the way of organizing ‘good Government.’ Political scientists have yet to find the solution for the difficulties in the way of organizing good representation” (F. W. Coker and C. C. Rodee, article on Representation in the Social Science Encyclopedia, Vol. XIII, p. 315). Cf. Laski on the discovery of the idea of representation as early as the thirteenth century: op. cit., Vol. V, p. 79.

16. It is significant here that the Constitution of the United States did not anticipate the problem of parties as instruments of representation.

17. A text of Aristotle would appear to be inconsistent. He says: “As it is difficult to hit the mean exactly, we must take the second best course, as the saying goes, and choose the lesser of two evils” {Nichomachean Ethics, II, 9, 1109a33-35). But this apparent inconsistency is removed by the context, for Aristotle is here suggesting practical rules for approximating the mean by tending away from the worse of the two extremes. This does not mean that the act which follows such advice is a vicious act. A vicious act cannot be a cause of virtuous habit; the act is not vicious by reason of approximating the mean rather than hitting it exactly. But in the political, as opposed to the moral, order evils may have to be chosen or endured for the sake of avoiding greater evils. Vd. St. Thomas Aquinas, De Regimine Principum, I, 6. In other words, a means which is intrinsically bad may have to be employed, because all the available means may be defective in one way or another. Under such conditions, of course, the common good can be approximated only in proportion as the means are not entirely corrupt. If it be argued that a man can act well politically if he direct himself to the right end, despite the corruption of the means he consents to employ, it must be answered that a man is responsible for the probable consequences of the instruments he uses; and if he use a corrupt political device which is probably contrary in effect to his intention, he is a. culpable as a man who shoots another man intending only to cure him of a disease. If a revolver and poison are the only instruments at hand, would it not be better to abstain from action? Vd. Maritain’s discussion of the purification of means in Freedom in the Modern World: pp. 139-192.

18. Rhetoric, being a formal organon of persuasion, is not a branch of politics, which as science deals with a restricted subject-matter, but so closely is it related to politics in fact that “rhetoric masquerades as political science, and the professors of it as political experts” (Aristotle, Rhetoric, I, 2, 1356a 28). Cf. ibid., I, 4, 1359b10.

19. Vd., for example, C. E. Merriam, Political Power, New York, 1934; H. D. Lasswell, Politics, Who Gets What, When, How, New York. 1936.

  1. Vd. James Bryce, Modern Democracies, London, 1921; A. Lawrence Lowell, Government and Parties in Continental Europe, Boston, 1896; H. Finer, The Theory and Practice of Modern Governments, London, 1932; A. N. Holcombe, The New Party Politics, New York, 1933; M. Ostrogorskii, Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties,New York, 1922.

21. Burke defined a party as “a body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavors the national interest, upon some particular principle in which they all agreed;” and Bagehot declared that “party organization is the vital principle of representative government.”

22. H. Simons, “Parliamentarism,” in Political and Economic Democracy: p. 202.

23. Vd. A. Feiler, “Democracy by Class and Occupational Representations,” and M. Ascoli, “Political Parties,” in Political and Economic Democracy. Professor Ascoli’s article is the most original defense of the party system in terms of the double function of parties to link society and state and also to maintain a certain distance between them. Vd. op. cit., p. 210.

24. Vd. Hsiao, Political Pluralism, esp. pp. 58-90, 115-125; A. Feiler, “Democracy by Class and Occupational Representation” in Political and Economic Democracy; G. D. H. Cole, Social Theory, London, 1920; H. J. Laski and others, The Development of the Representative System in our Times, Lausanne, 1928.

25. Vd. F. W. Coker and C. C. Rodee, article on Representation in the Social Science Encyclopedia, Vol. V, pp. 314-315; A. Feiler, op. cit., p. 184; H. Simons, op. cit., p. 195; Hsiao, op. cit., pp. 82-90.

26. Op. cit., p. 188. Vd. also pp. 186-7. The arguments for the ultimate supremacy of the political regime operate alike against the notion of purely vocational representation advanced by the guild socialists, and against the Marxist hope for the withering away of the state. Cf. Note 9 supra.

27. The views here cited were expressed in a lecture an Democracy and Authority delivered at the University of Chicago in October, 1938, and not yet published. For M. Maritain’s espousal of political pluralism, vd. Humanisme Intégral, pp. 175 ff; Freedom in the Modern World, pp. 55 ff.

28. Vd. James Madison’s arguments for a large plurality of parties in No. 10 of the Federalist Papers. It is not democracy, however, which Mr. Madison wishes to save. He argues that the causes of party oppositions cannot be removed; that, at best, relief can be obtained by mitigating their effects. He fears, most of all, the mob-like action of the multitude. Hence he seeks a plurification of parties to protect the ruling oligarchy from being submerged by a popular majority. Washington’s counsel against parties, — as essentially factious, — in his Farewell Address appears, in contrast, to spring from a genuine concern for the common good.

29. If there is a just cause of action against the iniquities of the capitalistic economy, the communist “party” is justified as a permanent organization devoted to promoting this cause by revolutionary measures but not otherwise. This “party,” in so far as it employs revolutionary tactics, does not operate as a medium of representative government, and hence is not a party, in the primary sense of that word. In so far as the communists support candidates for elective offices, “the party” functions as an ordinary party. The arguments against parties apply to communism only in the latter case.

30. It may be objected that as lawyers perform the function of serving the ends of justifiable litigation, so parties can perform the function of serving the ends of political controversy. But lawyers are not permanently associated with one set of clients, prosecuting or defending a single line of action; or, if they are, they are open to suspicion of serving the litigant in preference to the law. Their professional status has been subordinated to the partisan interests of their clients, in which they may even share. Therefore, this analogy permits the conclusion that parties can be permanently organized to perform a recognized political function, namely, facilitating debate, but only on the condition that they perform that function and do not become involved in the activities of government itself through the partisan occupation of public offices. This argument does not, therefore, justify the permanence of parties as they now exist and function. And it is certainly a question whether a party, thus reduced to the office of a debating society, could receive that name univocally with parties as they now exist.

31. Another way of seeing that parties are essentially perverse, — that there cannot be parties to the common good, — is in terms of unity as an essential note of the common good. The community has only so much being as it has unity, and its goodness is proportionate thereto. But parties are essentially divisive in their operation. They fractionalize rather than integrate. It should be added that the unity which constitutes the common good is not a simply unity. That is the error of the totalitarianisms seeking, as they do, to wipe out all differences by an enforced homogeneity. That is the error of one-party-rule as a cure for the defects of the party system. No, the unity of the state is complex and must be achieved by the organization of differences and not by their annihilation. “Is it not obvious,” says Aristotle, “that a state may at length attain such a degree of unity as to be no longer a state, since the nature of a state is to be a plurality” (Politics, II, 2, 1261a 17-9). Cf. ibid., II, 5, 1263b 30-38. But it does not follow that the pluralistic unity of the state requires a plurality of political parties. Just as one-party-rule tends toward a false unity, so the system of parties in opposition tends to create, not an organic heterogeneity, but divisions which thrive for their own sake and hence a false plurality. For the dissenting opinion of Professor Ascoli, see his article on “Political Parties” in Political and Economic Democracy.

32. Vd. R. Michels, Political Parties, a Sociological Study of Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy, New York, 1915.

33. F. A. Hermens, “The Trojan Horse of Democracy” in Social Research, Nov., 1938: pp. 379-423.

34. Vd. Dom Virgil Michel, The Theory of State, St. Paul, 1936: pp.21-24.

35. The phrase “corporative state” is here used to refer to a pluralistic society with a corporative economy. It must not be understood as denying the supremacy or the unity of the political regime over the plurality of vocations operating on the economic level. Some writers, such as Feiler, prefer to speak of functional democracy; others, as Maritain, speak of organic democracy; and still others, such as Hsiao insist that corporative pluralism on the economic plane requires political monism. What is generally agreed on throughout, except by such extremists in pluralism as Laski and Cole, is that a truly pluralistic conception of the state as an order of corporations or vocations does not, in fact cannot, dispense with the supreme unity of political government, the government of men, not things. Fascism caricatures the corporative order, on the one hand, by assimilating the corporations into the governmental bureaucracy, instead of regulating them as quasi-autonomous functions; and socialism, on the other hand, goes to the opposite extreme of an unregulated plurality of economic functions, the corporations being vested with the autonomy of the state which has withered away. (Laski admits that his notion of a functional society is quasi-Marxian. Vd. Social Science Encyclopedia, Vol. V. pp. 83-84.)

36. Loc. cit., Note 25 supra.

37. The emphasis throughout this paper has been upon the role of analogy in political science. If the political philosophy of the ancients is inadequate in principle for solving modem problems, it is nevertheless rich in analogies which, if properly seen, may help us to invent new institutions or adapt old ones. To this end, we must avoid the stultifying error of using basic political terms as if they were univocal.

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