The Idealist theory which assumed prominence in the writings of German philosopher Hegel and was popularized in England by the forceful pen of T.H. Green and Dr. Bosanquet had been dominating the English political thought until recent years.
The idealistic theory of the state is known by various names like the Absolute Theory, the Philosophical Theory, the Metaphysical Theory, and even the Mystical Theory. It is popularly known as the Idealist Theory because it idealist and glorifies the State.
Some call it the Absolute Theory because it favors the establishment of an omnipotent or totalitarian state to which the individual should be completely subordinated.
It is called the Philosophical Theory because it is mostly philosophical in nature. It is name as the Metaphysical and Mystical Theory since it has very little to do wit the hard realities of life and is mostly abstract.
Origin of the theory and its main Exponents:
The Idealist theory of state had its advocates all through the ages right from ancient Greece to the modern period. In the remote past, it was advocated by Plato am Aristotle who tried to identify state and society and endeavored to find out an ideal state in which individual could achieve the highest ends of his existence.
The State, they declared to be a self-sufficing organization capable of providing all that an individual needs. Like Plato, Aristotle clarified and glorified the State. In his opinion state came into being for the sake of life and continues for the sake of good life.
It is not merely as economic and political association but a moral community wherein mat seeks his full moral life. A man wants not only the satisfaction of his physical need regarding food, clothing and shelter, he also wants to’ develop a life of reason and goodness when he wants to develop in and through the state. The theory was further supported by the following philosophers.
Kant was a German philosopher. He got inspiration from Montesquieue and Rousseau. In his opinion, the state was omnicompe tent and infallible.
No individual had the right to oppose the will of the State. He equated liberty of the individual to the obedience of Laws of the state. Rights are inherent in the performance of duties.
Hegal was also a German philosopher. He too idealized and deified the state and declared the state to be the march of God on earth He preached the worship of the state. State represents the collective will of all. Obedience of state laws was the most sacred duty of man an there in lay the liberty of the individual.
State has a personality of its own with a will independent of the individuals composing the state. It is 3 moral sin to oppose the state what to talk of disobedience of its laws.
Hegal advocated the establishment of totalitarian state capable of exercising undisputed control over the people. It was his philosophy which laid down the foundations of Nazi dictatorship in Germany.
Green was an English philosopher and moderate idealist unlike the extremists like Hegal and Kant. The main difference between the two lies in their attitude toward the state and its relation to the individual.
Whereas extreme idealism tends to idealize the state and having a personality of its own transcending and including the personalities of the individuals, moderate idealists do not lose sight of the rights of the individual and place certain limitation on the authority of the state They do not regard the state to be omnipotent and powerful.
They regard state as a natural and necessary institution. It is natural because it is rooted in human instinct. It is necessitated by the fact that we are not independent and self-sufficient It is the state alone which provides conditions for the full moral and intellectual capacities of man.
Bradley and Bosanquet also advocated the cause of idealism almost in the same way as T.H. Green did. Other German philosophers like Neitsche, Bernhardt and Treitschke supported the extreme idealism of Hegel and glorified the state to an illogical extreme.
They said “State is power, fall down and worship it.” In their opinion entire human civilization is indebted to state. Without State, humanity might have been living substandard savage life.
Statement of the Theory:
According to this theory state is a moral organism or an ethical substance, having a will and personality of its own. It is God on earth and march of God in history.
The laws of the state are moral since they issue from the state which is a moral perfection in itself. It represents the ‘true moral consciousness’. It represents the ‘social consciousness’ or social mind. To obey the state is obeying the best self of man.
In external actions individuals must give unflinching obedience to the state; only then hi& moral personally can grow. Human beings want liberty, liberty involves rights and rights need state. The state is indispensable for the fullest growth of personality of man. Man must ask the state “my station and my duties”.
Idealists give no rights to the individual but only assign duties. Individual has no meaning and significance outside the state. He is an intrinsic part of society which is represented by the state. So he can have no right against the state, nor can he disobey it.
It is in obedience to the laws of the state that man can achieve moral perfection. Thus the state is made an end and individual only a means. The personality of the individual is merged into that of the state. The state contains within itself and represents the “social morality” of all its citizens.
The slate is made not only moral but a supra-moral organism. State alone can decide what is moral and which is not moral. No other agency can bind it to a particular mode of conduct. Sovereignty of the state is absolute and final. State is infallible and embodies the rational! will.
It is omnipotent and Omni competent. Its authority is divine in character. Individual liberty lies in obedience to the state. State laws are moral and perfect since state is so. State is a “God-State”, incapable off doing wrong. The Idealist theory identifies the state with society; thus the state represents social will or social mind or social consciousness.