Comprehensive Essay on the “Theory of Force”

He collected in this way a band of followers, fought with others, and subjugated the weak. Having increased the number of his followers, over whom he exercised undisputed authority, he became a tribal chief.

A clan fought against a clan and a tribe against a tribe. The powerful conquered the weak and this process of conquest and domination continued till the victorious tribe secured control over a definite territory of a considerable size under the sway of its tribal chief, who proclaimed himself the King.

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Leacock gives a matter- of-fact explanation of the Force Theory when he says that “historically it means that government is the outcome of human aggression, that the beginnings of the State are to be sought in the capture and enslavement of man by man, in the conquest and subjugation of feebler tribes, and generally speaking in the self-seeking domination acquired by superior physical force.

The progressive growth from tribe to kingdom and from kingdom to empire is but a continuation of the same process.” The theory, in fine, tells us that the State is primarily the result of forcible subjugation through long continued warfare among primitive groups and “historically speaking,” as Jenks says, “there is not the slightest difficulty in proving that all political communities of the modem type owe their existence to successful warfare.”

Once the State had been established, force, which had hitherto been utilised for subjugating others, was used as an instrument for maintaining internal order and making it secure from any kind of external aggression. But this alone was not sufficient.

Force was used as the sinews of war and power and in a bid for superiority, one State fought against another, eliminating the weaker and only those survived which either could not be conquered, or no venture was made to conquer them as they were comparatively powerful. The theory of Force, therefore, traces the origin and development of the State to conquest and “justifies its authority by the proposition that might is right.”

The theory has, thus, four implications. First, force is not only a historical factor, but is the present essential feature of the State; secondly, that the States were born of force only; thirdly, that power is their justification and raison d’etre; and, finally, that the maintenance and extension of power within and without is the sole aim of the State

Theory used in support of diverse purposes:

The theory of Force has been advanced by different thinkers and writers for advocating their own point of view. It was first used by the Church Fathers in the medieval period to discredit the State, and to establish the supremacy of the Church. They claimed that the Church was divinely created whereas the State was the outcome of brute force.

Gregory VII wrote in 1080: “Which of us is ignorant that kings and lords have had their origin in those who, ignorant of God, by arrogance, rapine, perfidy, slaughter, by every crime which the devil agitating as the prince of the world, have continued to rule over their fellowmen with blind cupidity and intolerable presumption.”

In modem times the Individualists owned the theory to protect individual liberty against government encroachment. They characterised the State as a necessary evil and argued that the State should leave the individual alone, laissez faire, and should not interfere in what he does, except for the maintenance of internal peace and external security.

The Individualists base their arguments on the principle of survival of the fittest and try to prove that it is only the strong who survive and the weak go to the wall. The Socialists, on the other hand, hold that the State is the outcome of the process of aggressive exploitation on the weaker by the stronger; the latter constituting the propertied class who had ever manned administration and directed the machinery of the government to their own benefit.

The existing system of industrial organisation, it is maintained, hinges upon force because “a part of the community has succeeded in defrauding their fellows of the just reward of their labour.” They further argue that force is the origin of civil society and government represents merely the coercive organisation which tends to curb and exploit the working class in order to maintain the privileged position of the propertied class.

The theory of Socialism is a revolt against the State, as it is the product of force and power is its justification and raison d’etre. Karl Marx, accordingly, concluded that the State must ultimately ‘wither away’.

During recent times the theory of Force was a favourite theme of political philosophy with German writers. Imbued with the desire to make their country a Greater Germany, and at the peak of its glory, they lavished praise on force and considered its indiscriminate use as the most important factor for the solidarity of the nation.

Treitschke said that “the State is the public power of offence and defence, the first task of which is the making of war and the administration of justice.” War, he said, consolidates a people, reveals to each individual his relative unimportance, causes factional hostilities to disappear, and intensifies patriotism and national idealism.

“The grandeur of history,” he further maintained, “lies in the perpetual conflict of nations” and “the appeal to arms will be valid until the end of history.” General Von Bernhardt held might as “the supreme right, and the dispute as to what is right is decided by the arbitrament of war.

War gives a biologically just decision, since the decision rests on the very nature of things.” Nietzsche preached the doctrine of the will to power and the superman. The individual who can command the highest admiration, according to this doctrine, is the strong man who compels other men to act in fulfilment of his will.

Nietzsche, while glorifying the “masterly” virtues of man, says that a truly moral person “has no place for the vulgar and slavish virtue of humility, self-sacrifice, pity, gentleness.” Hitler and Mussolini put into real practice the doctrines of these writers.

They regarded force as the normal means for maintaining a nation’s prestige, cultural influence, commercial supremacy in the world, and for holding the allegiance of citizens at home. This general doctrine of political authoritarianism, both with Hitler and Mussolini, became “a creed of dominance by intimidation—militancy in international relations and forcible suppression of political dissent in domestic government.”

Hitler and Mussolini pushed mankind into another World War, causing unprecedented misery, havoc and destruction. The United Nations Organization was established after the War to save the succeeding generations from the scourge of war. Yet there is no end to war. There is a show of might everywhere and a never-ending race between all powers, big and small, to invent and manufacture deadly weapons of warfare, some to defend, others to offend.

Criticism of the Theory:

Force, indeed, has played an important part in the origin and development of the State. Some of the greatest empires of today have been established through ‘blood and iron.’

We may see even more of this ‘blood and iron’ in the days to come. Force is an essential element of the State. Internally, the State requires force to ensure obedience to its commands.

Externally, it is necessary to repel aggression and to preserve the integrity of the State. Without force no State can exist and sovereignty of the State always rests ultimately on force. Kant said, “Even a population of devils would find it to their advantage to establish a coercive State by general consent.”

But, all this does not sufficiently explain the origin of the State. Force is, no doubt, one of the factors which contributed to the evolution of the State. It is, however, not the only one, nor the most important factor, and the theory of force “errs in magnifying what has been only one factor in the evolution of society into the sole controlling force.”

Force is, also, not the only basis of the State. Something other than force is necessary in binding the people together. It is will, not force, which is the real basis of the State. Sheer force can hold nothing together because “force always disrupts—unless it is made subservient to common will.”

Force we do need in maintaining the State, but its indiscriminate use cannot be permitted. It must be used as a medicine and not a daily diet as force is the criterion of the State and not its essence. If it becomes the essence of the State, the State will last so long as force can last. Indiscriminate use of force has always been the forerunner of revolutions, overthrowing governments which rest on force.

Since the State is a permanent institution, only moral force can be its permanent foundation. T.H. Green has aptly said that “it is not coercive power as such but coercive power exercised according to law, written or unwritten, for maintenance of the existing rights from external or internal invasions that makes a State.” Might with rights is as lasting as human minds on which it depends.

Moreover, the Theory of Force unduly emphasises the principle of the survival of the fittest. It means that might is right and those who are physically weak should go to the wall. It is dangerous to employ such a principle in the internal existence of the State. Might without right is antagonistic to individual liberty.

The State is duly bound to protect equally the weak and the strong and create equal opportunities for all. Externally, if might is the supreme right, and the dispute as to what is right is decided by the arbitrament of war, there can be no international peace. Every State will be at perpetual war with the rest.

This is a condition of chaos, pure and simple, endangering the peace and security of the world. The attention and efforts of every State will be directed towards war-preparedness and to win the war, if it comes. War, which is an alias for murder, glorifies brute force, suppressing the moral forces. This is the mean self of man and not his real sell.

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