The organic theory of the State with special reference to Herbert Spencer

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The basic idea of the organic theory is to show that the state is, in its nature, like a biological organism or a living being and that the relation between the state and the individual is the same as between an organism and its cell. The organismic theory is essentially a biological concept which describes the phenomena of the state in biological terms.

According to this theory, the state is not a mere aggregation of individuals, but an organism having parts and organs which arc related to one another in the same way as the different organs of an animal or a plant are related to one another.

The theory is as old as political thought itself. Plato compared state to ‘A’ and man to ‘a’: it is an individual magnified. He compared the rulers, warriors and working classes to wisdom, courage, and appetite of the individual respectively.

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Aristotle drew a comparison between the symmetry of the state and symmetry of the body and believed that the individual is an intrinsic part of the society.

Cicero, a Roman philosopher, also makes a passing reference to this theory. He likened the head of the state to the spirit that rules the body. Hobbes compared the state to a huge, imaginary monster called the Laviathan, which is but an artificial man, of great strength and stature. According to him the state could suffer from human ailments like pleurisy, scabies and boils etc.

Rousseau, a French philosopher, too, compared the “body politic” to the “Human body”, both of which he said possessed the “motive power” of “force” and “will” (the legislative power and the executive power). The former was the “heart” of the state; the latter its “brain”.

Blunschli, a German philosopher, found a striking resemblance between the state and an organism. According to him the state is not a lifeless mechanism. It has life and spirit. It is not merely a collection of individuals just as an oil painting is not merely a collection of drops of oil-paint.

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The state has its own personality independency as that of the individual comprising the state. Idealists described the state as a moral organism but according to Spencer the state is a living organism. He draws an elaborate analogy between the state and a living organism in the following manner:

1. Both state and an organism show a similar process of growth and evolution from simplicity to complexity. State in the beginning was just a tribal organization but it has developed from that primitive stage to the modern complex structure with a multiplicity of functions.

An organism also exhibits similar process of growth. An embryo in the body of the mother is just a lump of flesh but slowly grows to a complete whole with various organs having variety of functions.

Both grow from inside outwards. Each evolves by adjustment and response to environments. In process of growth each undergoes individualization, specialization and differentiation of both organs and functions.

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2. Both state and organism have three main systems ; a sustaining system; a distributory system; a regulating system. Sustaining system of an organism consists of digestive system by which food is digested and life of an organism, is sustained.

In the case of the state there is a corresponding sustaining system which consists of agriculture and indusĀ­tries by virtue of which the State is sustained.

The distributing system in an organism consist of circulatory system by which blood is distributed to various parts of the body. In the case of the state, the distributing system consists of transport and communication.

The regulating system of an organism consists of brain and nerves. Governmental and Military system constitute the regulating system in the State. There is thus a parallelism between the ways in which animal and social life are preserved.

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3. As an organism is composed of cells, so the state is composed of individuals. In both cases, the component units contribute to the life of the whole.

4. An organism is constantly subjected to the process of constant wear and tear. Old and worn out cells die out and their place is taken by the fresh cells formed by the blood.

In the case of social organism as well old and decrepit individuals die out and their place is taken by the newborns.

5. Health of an organism depends upon the health of the cells organs. In case they get diseased, the whole organism suffers. In the similar way, health of the state depends upon the moral and physical health of the individuals, and associations of individuals.

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In case they do not work properly the efficiency and performance of the state is bound to suffer. There is thus a complete interdependence of the parts and the whole in both cases.

6. Both organism and state exhibit a “similar cycle of birth, growth, decay and death. From these points of agreement, the conclusion is drawn that state is an organism and there is a lot of identity between the two.

The state lives, grows and develops much as an individual does.

Conclusions:

The theory inevitably leads to the assumption that the individuals comprising the state are completely subordinated to the state just as the cells of the body depend for their life and existence on the organism. Chop off a part of the skin, it ceases to exist.

This theory leads us, therefore, to the conclusion that an individual cannot exist outside the state. The theory thus hits at individual freedom and inevitably leads to the idea of the establishment of totalitarian state or fascism.

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