Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

the next one; which will not happen unless it be done on purpose by teaching, and generally in the form of tradition. This evidently presupposes human reason and human will, marking off sharply this third genus from any kind of animal subhuman society.

We are now to give closer attention to this conception. For the most part, though not always, it is the conception of a unity different from the aggregate of members; the idea of a psychical or moral body, capable of willing and of acting like a single human being; the idea of a self or person. This person, of course, is an artificial or fictitious one. It represents indeed, as

, the former two conceptions did, a unity persisting through the change of its parts, but this unity and identity persisting in the multitude are neither biological nor directly and properly psychological, but must, in distinction from these, be considered as specifically sociological; that is to say, while the second is the social consciousness or social mind itself, this is the product of it, and can be understood only by looking into the human soul, and by perceiving thoughts and wills which not only have a common drift and tendency, but are creators of a common work.

The idea, however, of a body capable of willing and acting is, as said above, not always, and not necessarily, implied in the idea of a sociological unit. There is a conception preceding it, as protoplasm precedes individual bodies; namely, the general idea of a society (or a community, if this important distinction is adverted to), which is not essentially different from our second idea of a psychological unit, except in this one respect, accessory to it, that the idea of this unit be present somehow in the minds of the people who feel or know themselves as belonging to it. This conception is of far-reaching significance, being the basis of all conceptions of a social, as contrasted with a political, corporation. It therefore comprises especially those spheres of social life which are more or less independent of political organization, among which the economical activity of men is the most important, including, as it does, domestic life as well as the most remote international relations between those who are connected exclusively by the ties of commercial interest. But practically it is of little consequence whether this general idea be considered as psychological or as sociological, unless we precisely contemplate men who consciously maintain their own conception of their own social existence, in distinction from other ideas relating to it, chiefly when it is put in contrast to the idea of a political corporation, and the political corporation of highest import is concerned - the state. And it was exactly in these its shifting relations to the state that the idea of society proper -- though without recognition of its subjective character — was evolved about fifty years ago by some German theorists — notably Lorenz Stein, Rudolph Gneist,

and Robert Mohl — who were more or less strongly under the sway of Hegelian philosophy, seeing that Hegel in his Rechtsphilosophie develops his idea of human corporate existence under the threefold heading of (1) the family, as “thesis,” (2) civil society as “antithesis," and (3) the state, as "synthesis” of the two former.

But, though I myself lay considerable stress upon this general notion of society, in juxtaposition and opposition to the state or political society, I still regard it as more indispensable to a theory of social structure to inquire into the nature and causes of what may be called, from the present point of view, genuine corporations; that is, those conceived of as being capable of willing and acting like a single individual endowed with reason and selfconsciousness. The question arises how a “moral person " may be considered as possessing this power.

Evidently this is an impossibility, unless one single individual, or several together, are willing and acting in the name of that fictitious being. And in order justly to be taken for the volitions and acts of an individual distinct from their own individualities, those volitions and acts must be distinguishable by certain definite marks from the rest of their willing and acting, which they do in their own name; they must be differentiated formally. There must be a tacit or an open understanding, a sort of covenant or convention, that only volitions and acts so differentiated shall be considered as volitions and acts of the said moral person whom that one or those several individuals are supposed to represent. By the way, this question of marks and signs, consensual or con

[merged small][ocr errors]

ventional, by which a thing, physical or moral, not only is recognized as such, but by which its value (or what it is good for) is differentiated from its existence (or what it is), pervades all social life and mind, and may be called the secret of it. It is clear that certain signs may easily be fixed or invented whereby the volitions and acts of a single individual may be differentiated from the rest as being representative. But how if there are more than one, who only occasionally have one will and act together, and who cannot be supposed to agree in their feelings as soon as they are required to represent their moral person? It is well known that these must be “constituted " as an assembly or as a whole capable by its constitution to deliberate and, what is more, to resolve and act. It must be settled by their own or by the will of another person (1) under what conditions, and with respect to what subject-matters, their resolutions shall be considered as representing declarations of will of their own body; and (2) under what conditions, and with respect to what subject-matters, declarations of will of this body shall be valid as declarations of will of the moral person they represent.

It is therefore the constitution of a multitude into a unity which we propose as a fourth mode, and as a necessary consequence of the third one, unless the moral person be represented exclusively by a single man or woman as a natural person. The Many constitute themselves or are constituted as a body, which is, as far as it may be, similar to a natural person in such relations as are essential precisely for the notion of a person. Consequently, this body also is a unity, but a unity conceived a priori as being destined for a definite purpose, viz., the representation of a moral person — the third or sociological kind of unity. And it

is different from that third notion by this very relation only, which evidently cannot be inherent in that person himself. That, in consequence of this relation, it has a visible existence apart from its own idea, while the moral person represented is nothing beyond his own idea. We may distinguish, therefore, between five modes of existence in a moral person represented by a body: (1) the ideal existence in the minds of its members; (2) the ideal existence of the body constituted, which represents the moral

a

a

person, being as well in the minds of the natural persons who compose that body, as in the minds of members of the corporation generally; (3) the visible existence of this body, being the assembly of natural persons, willing and acting under certain forms; (4) the intelligible existence of this assembly, being conditioned by a knowledge, on the part of those who externally or theoretically perceive it, of its constitution and its meaning; (5) the intelligible existence of the moral person or the body represented, being conditioned of a knowledge of the relation between this corporation and the body representing it, implying the structure of the former in the first, and of the latter in the second instance.

The visible existence of an assembly means that members are visible as being assembled, but the assembly as a body can be recognized only by a reflecting spectator who knows what those forms mean, who “realizes” their significance, who thinks the assembly. Of course, a corporation also, apart from its representation, can be perceived only mentally, by outsiders as well as by its own members, and these are different perceptions (distinguished here as ideal and intelligible existence): members perceiving it directly as a product of their own will, and therefore in a way as their property (a thing which they own); and outsiders perceiving it only indirectly, by knowing the person or body that represents it; this being an external perception only, unless it be supplemented by a knowledge of its peculiar mode of being, that is, of its constitution and of the relations which members bear to the whole, and the whole to its members.

But it is, above all, in this respect that great differences exist between different kinds of corporations. The first question is whether individuals feel and think themselves as founders or authors or at least as representative ideal authors of their own corporation. Let us take an obvious example. Suppose a man and a woman contract a marriage (we waive here all questions of church or state regulations for making the marriage tie public). They are said to found a family. Now, the children springing from this union and growing up in this family cannot justly feel and think themselves as the creators or authors of it, as long as they are dependent upon their parents. However, they partake of it more and more consciously, and some day they may take upon themselves the representation of this whole internally and externally, in place of their father and mother. They may learn to feel and to think of themselves as bearers of the personality of this ideal being, playing, so to speak, the parts of the authors and founders, whom they also may survive, and will survive in the normal course of human events; and they may continue the identity of the family beyond the death of their parents. They may maintain the continuity of this identical family, even when new families have sprung from it which may or may not regard themselves as members of the original one. The proposition that it exists still is true at least for those who will its truth, and who act upon this principle; nay, it is by their thought and will that they are creating it anew, as it was made originally by the wills of the first two persons. A different question is whether the existence of this corporation will be recognized and acknowledged by others, who may stand in relations to its members, or may simply be impartial theoretical spectators.

But, further, there is this fundamental difference in the relation of individuals to that ideal entity which they think and will, whether they be its real or merely its representative authors, viz. : (1) they may look upon the corporation, which they have created really or ideally, as upon a thing existing for its own sake, as an end in itself, although it be at the same time a means for other ends; or (2) they may conceive it clearly as a mere tool, as nothing but an instrument for their private ends, which they either naturally have in common, or which accidentally meet in a certain point.

The first case appears in a stronger light, if they consider the social entity as really existing, and especially if they consider their corporation as a living being; for a real thing, and especially a living thing, has always some properties of its own. The latter has even something like a will of its own; it cannot be conceived as being disposable, divisible, applicable, and adaptable at pleasure to any purpose, as a means to any end — this being the notion of pure matter, as it exists only in our imagination; and therefore

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsett »