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Twenty Years Crisis

  • Date Submitted: 10/06/2010 04:28 AM
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E.H. Carr, The Twenty Years Crisis
The Utopian Synthesis
No political society, national or international, can exist unless people submit to certain rules of conduct. The problem why people should submit to such rules is the fundamental problem of political philosophy. The problem presents itself just as insistently in a democracy as under other forms of government and in international as in national politics; for such a formula as "the greatest good of the greatest number" provides no answer to the question why the minority, whose greatest good is ex hypothesi not pursued, should submit to rules made in the interest of the greatest number. Broadly speaking, the answers given to the question fill into two categories, corresponding to the antithesis, discussed in a previous chapter, between those who regard politics as a function of ethics and those who regard ethics as a function of politics.
Those who assert the primacy of ethics over politics will hold that it is the duty of the individual to submit for the sake of the community as a whole, sacrificing his own interest to the interest of others who are more numerous, or in some other way more deserving. The "good" which consists in self-interest should be subordinated to the "good" which consists in loyalty and self-sacrifice for an end higher than self-interest. The obligation rests on some kind of intuition of what is right and cannot be demonstrated by rational argument. Those, on the other hand, who assert the primacy of politics over ethics, will argue that the ruler rules because he is the stronger, and the ruled submit because they are the weaker. This principle is just as easily applicable to democracy as to any other form of government. The majority rules because it is stronger, the minority submits because it is weaker. Democracy, it has often been said, substitutes the counting of heads for the breaking of heads. But the substitution is merely a...


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