Chapter 2 — The Greater Leviathan
Man, as we have any knowledge of him, either in the present or in the past, is always man; differing from other animals in the same way, feeling the same essential needs, moved by the same essential desires, and possessed of the same essential powers.
Yet in tools and weapons; in ease of movement in the transportation; in medicine and surgery; in music in the representative arts; in the extent and precision of the knowledge at his service — the man who is free to the advantages of the civilization of today is as a being of higher order compared to the man whose horizon was bounded, as to the past by a tribal tradition, and as to the present by the mountains or seashore of his immediate home.
But if we analyze the way in which these extensions of man's power of getting and making and knowing and doing are gained, we shall see that they come not from changes in the individual man but from the union of individual powers. There is nothing whatever to show that the men who today build and navigate the steamships that cross the Atlantic at a rate of over five hundred miles a day are one whit superior in any physical or mental quality to their ancestors, whose best vessel was a coracle of wicker and hide. The enormous improvement which these ships show is not an improvement of human nature — it is due to a wider, fuller union of individual efforts in the accomplishment of common ends.
To consider in like manner any one of the many and great advances which civilized man in our time has made is to see that it could only have been gained by the widening cooperation of individual effort. At best, man's individual powers are small and his life is short. What advances would be possible if men were isolated from each other and one generation separated from the next as are the generations of the seventeen-year locusts? The little such individuals might gain during their own lives would be lost with them. Each generation would have to begin from the starting-place of its predecessor.
But man is more than an individual. He is also a social animal, formed and adapted to live and to cooperate with his fellows. It is in this line of social development that the great increase of man's knowledge and powers takes place. The slowness with which we attain the ability to care for ourselves and the qualities incident to our higher gifts involve an overlapping of individuals that continues and extends the family relation beyond the limits which obtain among other mammals. And, beyond this relation, common needs, similar perceptions and like desires, acting among creatures endowed with reason and developing speech, lead to a cooperation of effort that even in its crudest forms gives to man powers that place him far above the beasts and tends to weld individual man into a social body, a larger entity, which has a life and character of its own.
It is in this social body, this larger entity, of which individuals are the atoms, that the extensions of human power which marked the advance of civilization are secured. The rise of civilization is the growth of this cooperation and the increase of the body of knowledge thus obtained and garnered. Perhaps I can better point out what I mean by an illustration:
The famous treatise in which the English philosopher Hobbes, during the revolt against the tyranny of the Stuarts in the seventeenth century, sought to give the sanction of reason to the doctrine of the absolute authority of kings, is titled Leviathan. It thus begins:Nature, the art whereby God has made and governs the world, is by the art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an artificial animal... for by art is created the great Leviathan called the Commonwealth or state, and Latin civitas, which is but an artificial man; though of greater stature and strength and the natural, for whose protection and defense it was intended; and in which the sovereignty is an artificial soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body; the magistrates and other officers of judicature and execution, artificial joints; reward and punishment, by which fastened to the seat of the sovereignty every joint and member is moved to perform his duty, by the nerves, that do the same in the body natural; the wealth and riches of all the popular members are in the strength; salus populi, the people's safety, its business; and counselors by whom all things needful for it to know are suggested onto it, are the memory; equity and laws, an artificial reason and will; concord, health; sedition, sickness; and civil war, death. Lastly, the pacts and covenants, by which the parts of this body politic were at first made, set together, and united, resemble that fiat, or the "let us make man," pronounced by God in the creation.
Without stopping now to comment further on Hobbes's suggested analogy, there is, it seems to me, in the system or arrangement into which men are brought in social life, by the effort to satisfy their material desires — an integration which goes on as civilization advances — something which even more strongly and more clearly suggests the idea of a gigantic man, formed by the union of individual men, than any merely political integration.
This Greater Leviathan is to the political structure or conscious commonwealth what the unconscious functions of the body are to the conscious activities. It is not made by pacts and covenants, it grows; as the tree grows, as the man himself grows, by virtue of natural laws inherent in human nature and in the constitution of things; and the laws which it in turn obeys, though their manifestations may be retarded or prevented by political action are themselves utterly independent of it, and take no note whatever of political divisions.
This natural system or arrangement, this adjustment of means to ends, of the parts to the whole and the whole to the parts, in the satisfaction of the material desires of man living in society, we call political economy. It is as human units, individuals or families, take their place as integers of this higher man, this Greater Leviathan, that what we call civilization begins and advances.