The pluralists, on the other hand, declare that if a political theory is to be “philosophically true, scientifically sound, morally righteous, legally implicit in codes and decisions,, and practically convenient,” it must recognise the personality of a corporation as a real and spontaneous entity, with an inherent life and activity of its own.
Social life is organised and finds expression through numerous associations which do not derive their existence or rights from the State. The State is, therefore, a federation, “an interlocking union of groups, assisting the discovery of self by each man with his diversified nature.”
The pluralists regard the monistic theory of sovereignty as a pernicious and futile doctrine. The pluralistic State is simply a State in which there exists no single source of authority that is all-competent and comprehensive.
There is no unified system of law, no centralised organ of administration and no generalisation of political will. “On the contrary, it is a multiplicity in its essence and manifestation it is divisible into parts and should be divided.” Pluralism, in brief, undertakes to transform the State. It criticises and “discredits” the State as it is, and seeks to reduce it from its place of “honour to servitude.”
Lindsay, for example, says, “If we look at the facts it is clear enough that the theory of sovereign State has broken down.” Laski, who was the most vehement critic of the monistic theory, said, “It is impossible to make legal theory of sovereignty valid for political philosophy.”
He was of the definite opinion that “it would be a lasting benefit to political science if the whole concept of sovereignty were surrendered,” or, as Krabbe puts it, “the notion of sovereignty must be expunged from political theory.”
Pluralistic Theory Explained. Laski says that sovereignty is neither absolute nor a unity. It is pluralistic, constitutional and responsible. He asserts that man’s social nature finds expression in numerous associations or groups pursuing various ends—religious, social, economic, professional, political and recreational.
The State is one of these groups and no one of these groups is superior, normally or practically, to others. All associations, which enter into the life of man, arise naturally and spontaneously and all act, within the sphere of their respective activities, independently of State control.
Though the State is a primary and most important association, yet it can only claim to be primus inter pares, or first among equals. Being only one among many associations, the State has no rightful claim to eminence and it cannot be the sole repository of power or focus of loyalty. If it is sovereign, so are other associations within their spheres of activity and man’s loyalty to them is as abiding as it is to the State.
It is also possible that his loyalty to some group or organization of which he is a member, may receive priority over his loyalty to the State. There are Communists whose loyalty to their Party is stronger than their loyalty to their country. Members of the Society of Friends have a conscientious objection to being conscripted into the army, because they consider it morally wrong to fight for one’s country.
The State, accordingly, cannot in any important sense be said to be sovereign in its relations to other associations which come into existence independently of the State and function exclusively by them. Each association has its own laws and government and it exacts obedience to those laws independently of the State.
The pluralists reject the distinction, which is so neatly made, between the State and government. They insist on a realistic Political Science and consider the distinction between the two as an artificial product of legal reasoning and logical refinement. Duguit is the foremost in this respect. He asserts that juristic entities, being legal fictions, have no place in realistic as distinguished from metaphysical discussion.
We only know the government as a matter of reality and as it functions actually. The immediate power belongs to the government and the State and government are in fact the same. Laski also speaks of the State as the government and he rejects, likewise, the legalistic theory of the personality of the State.
American political scientists substitute the State by a political system which in itself is a unit of the social system. Robert Dahl says that almost every human association has a political system and he even includes families in his definition of a political system.
The pluralistic theory, thus, finds its practical explanation in the bewildering variety of associations and groups which exist to promote the social, industrial, political and other varied interests of man. All these groups, as Laski says, determine, “quite largely, his choice of friends, of opportunities, of a career.”
They plan his activities and provide him with opportunities for the expression of his desires. “They seek to give him mastery of the event, to enable him, in concert with like-minded men, to control the environment to a destiny he wants.”
Society, in fine, far from consisting of a mass of isolated individuals, is actually a web of associations and groups that link men and women with one another. The old concept that society is an association of individuals in a common life does not hold good any longer. It is a “nation of joiners.”
Pluralism is, thus, a natural accompaniment of the “atomistic” view of society and human freedom. To put it in the words of Ernest Barker, the State is more an association of individuals, already united in various groups “for a further and more embracing common purpose.”
It means that the State is only one among many other forms of human associations, and, as compared with other associations, it has no more superior claims to the individual’s allegiance. The State and the associations and groups, as Maitland says, are the species of the same genus.
The fact that society contains many associations has a number of consequences. First, it takes individuals out of a state of isolation and gives them a change to participate in the common endeavour, that is, the good of man and society.
Secondly, it permits citizens to have a variety of loyalties and allegiances, thereby preventing the possibility that they might live under a single source of authority. Finally, “a network of voluntary associations stands as a ‘buffer’ between the relatively powerless individual and the potentially powerful state.”
The pluralists, thus, consider the State as essential in the life of the individual as other associations composing society are. They are not against the State, but would discard the sovereign State with its absolute and indivisible power. They denounce coercive government and dispute its right, and even its power to compel obedience.
They believe that the various associations and groups fulfill the many and diverse wants of the individual and help to make his life whole and rich, and, accordingly, assert that any interference on the part of the State, and for that matter of the government, in the independent existence and functioning of these associations is not only undesirable but defeats the purpose for which the State came into existence and continues to exist.
Greaves says that the State is a system of order and, as such, it requires a body of rules “to provide in their certainty and predictability a foundation for order.” It needs organs to make these rules and to interpret them. Clearly it is also necessary that the State should have at its command the use of physical force to ensure obedience to its rules. But “Order is merely a prerequisite for the achievement of ends which the members of the association have in common and in realization of which the state may be an instrument for realizing.” The State is not merely a system of order. It is a cooperative organization for the promotion of the well-being and development of the personalities of its members.
The central idea of Pluralism has been summed up by Gettell. He says, “The Pluralists deny that the State is a unique organisation; they hold that other associations are equally important and natural; they argue that such associations for their purpose are as sovereign as the State is for its purpose.
They emphasize the inability of the State to enforce its will in practice against the opposition of certain groups within it. They deny that the possession of force by the State gives it any superior right. They insist on the equal rights of all groups that command the allegiance of their members and that perform valuable functions in society.
Hence sovereignty is possessed by many associations. It is not an indivisible unit; the State is not supreme or unlimited.” All this may be reduced to the following bare analysis:—
1. The parts of the State are as real as the whole. The State is, therefore, distributive, not collective.
2. The distinction between the State and government is not real. Both are the same. The State does not command, it serves and is a public or social service organization.
3. The State is one among other groups which man needs to fulfil the purposes of his life. His allegiance is, accordingly, not unified. It is divided and diffused. His allegiance to the State may conflict with his allegiance to other associations, and may even take priority over his loyalty to the State.
4. The State is not in any way a mysterious formation with supernatural or metaphysical characteristics. Omnipotent sovereignty is not true to facts. It is not unitary, but federal.
5. The State can serve its purpose by and through goodwill alone. It cannot destroy associations and groups, as it cannot create them. Nor can it enforce its will against the opposition of associations and groups within it.
Since the State expresses the will or purpose of the human beings within it, it “does not enjoy any necessary preeminence for its demands,” as Laski puts it. As the State is only one of the many associations to which the individual happens to belong, “politically there is no such thing as sovereignty at all”, he concludes.