Medieval Europe did not know the contemporary notions of state and sovereignty, the way we understand them today. The modern views appeared only in the 13th century.1However, what should be emphasized, these notions were not invented at that time – they were expressed with the help of the political and legal language.2 The notion of sovereignty is based on isolating a group of people living in the area ruled by local authority from political dependence to some of centre claiming the right to the universal power: pope, Roman (German) and Byzantine emperors. In this way the territorial community, ruled by authority delegated by one of the centers of universal power, becomes an independent political community. What follows, the whole political situation is transformed. The pope/emperor, claiming the right to monopoly on political decisions, stops being the sovereign of the Western ekumene. In comparison to his political decisions, decisions of local sovereigns subordinate to him can be considered administrating the autonomous power they were entrusted with. The Sovereign of the newly created state is its ruler (rex imperator in regno suo). What follows, the illusory collapsing empire or a pope deprived of military power stop being a political subject and are replaced by an independent national state.
In the 15th-18th centuries the state became established. It became not only a basic political subject in Latin civilization, but also a main criterion of political thought of people brought up in our civilization. The question of state was within interest of all political thinkers of that epoch, from Bodin to Rousseau. In this way, for people of Latin civilization, state becomes a political notion essential for thinking about politics. Our contemporary way of thinking about politics is always based on the notion of state and sovereignty. According to Carl G. Jung, state became an archetype in our thinking without which we are no longer able to think of the social world. Anarchism of the 19th century, full of hatred for state shows that even enemies of any compulsion are concerned with state, which they try to annihilate.
If we define politics as a constant struggle of people for primacy, rule, and predominance, we have to come to the conclusion that politics is an inherent part of human nature and that in hypothetically existing state of nature, “pre-country” condition, people also deal with politics e.g. in proverbial fight for fire. Chimpanzees fighting for leadership in a group also deal with politics. In this sense, even an argument of a teenager and his mother, concerning his homecoming at a concrete time, is politics as it denotes fight for who decides about his return – the parent or the parent after negotiations with the child. For the nature of politics is taking decisions concerning oneself and people dependent.
Politics can be divided into national, conducted by a sovereign (concerning community) and social, conducted by citizens (concerning relations among individuals and groups inside the state and according to its legal system).
The nature of politics is gaining an advantage over other people. In medieval societies there was no uniform decision-making center and the sovereignty of authority is rather illusory concerning the fact that the political and military power of a sovereign is rather small and he is often weaker than his liegemen (for example liegemen of Plantagenets and nominal sovereigns of France - Valoises). Numerous economic and judicial immunities, feudal system and the rule that “a liegeman of my liegeman is not my liegeman” caused that, in the medieval state, the state was not the only political subject but one of many, next to feudal lords, Church etc. It was, in theory, the most important subject, but in reality - one sanctified by anointing, which in fact does not denote actual power and monopoly on making political decisions.3
State achieves such a monopoly only in the 15th-16th century becoming the only political subject. Social classes retain their privileges but no feudal lord, knight or townsman takes political decisions – these are reserved for a sovereign. The classes are called in, but as an advisory not a decision-making body. It is sovereign state authority that defines and realizes decisions as to the legal system, internal policy and how to wage wars etc. This is a state as a political subject. Any form of politicizing the social sphere by subordinates’ amounts to rebellion as it means negating decisions of a sovereign which is an attempt to create a competitive decision-making body. Subordinates have the right to express their opinions (with the help of regional gatherings and gatherings of classes and the right to petitions), but they cannot impose it on a sovereign
In the modern royal doctrine about sovereignty, the nature of state authority is being above individual interests - depoliticizing of society. According to the popular formula of political philosophy, the aim of power is common good (bonum commune) of a political community.4 The sovereign achieves it through total depolarization of the community. Feudal lords lose their right to wage private wars (squabble, fracas) that is to policy towards other feudal lords. Industrials cannot conduct policies directly influencing economic decisions of the government; farmers are not able to force the government to high duties. In this way, social classes cannot force authorities to act according to particularist aims of a class, being contrary to the interest of a society as a whole.
Classes in a depoliticized society cannot act in a political way as they lack the mechanism of their political subject being: legal organization representing their interests in the political background – a party. Their interests cannot be represented in politics, as the government is not subordinate to a non-existing parliament, but only in a separate social forum outside the state (strikes, demonstrations, petitions), which is not meaningful for the government or politics. The state respects the right of its subordinates to expressing their individual interests unless it violates the rules of peace and order, ruthlessly pacifying actions which disturb the state order and are harmful for the society as a whole (e.g. blocking railways and roads, occupation of ministries).
Actions which, apart from economic slogans, expressing interests of classes, use also political slogans of state dimension – like calling for the resignation of a government or demand for democracy etc. are pacified even more ruthlessly. Protests of this type do not have a social character anymore, but they are political. Then it is an attempt of eliminating the monopoly of a sovereign on political decisions. It is the sovereign and not people who decides about ministers and e.g. duties on different products.
A sovereign is above parties, classes and groups. Representatives of social interests always represent groups to which they belong. Sovereign is embodiment of interests of state as a whole understood as a political community. Professional association of doctors will demand additional privileges for their field and miners for mines. The notion of the common good is as a rule hardly understood by the nation and interests of their own groups are usually identified with objective interests of the nation. Miners of a mine which is begging for state subsidy usually sign a national anthem and show Nigeria and Polish flags as it is obvious for them that existing of an unprofitable mine, for which tax payers have to pay, is according to the national interest. In reality, it can be differently. Other words saying, it means that social groups are not able to look at the common interest in an objective way because they look at it from the angle of their egoistic interests, subconsciously identifying particularistic things with objective ones. Here appears a question about a rational character of political decisions.
Social classes acting according to particularistic interests act according to rationally understood egoism of their own class or association. In this sense their demands and regaining are objectively rational. However from the point of view of the state as a political community whose aim is to realize the rule of common good, their demands are irrational, particularistic. Only a sovereign state authority independent of the will of the majority can perform Haussler’s “putting in brackets”-being above interests of groups to be able to see what serves the objective benefit of the political community.5 Not only short-term benefits are important, but also long-term ones. The latter are not realized in systems controlled by the society.
To conclude, if demands of classes are usually irrational from the point of view of the community as a whole and sovereign authority realizes objective interests of this community, it means that decisions of the authority, being above all groups and independent of whims of the majority, are or at least they should be rational; their chance of being rational is bigger than in case of a decision of the majority. What follows we come to the conclusion that authority has the privilege of higher rationality than in case of an individual as it is unparticular.
This feature of authority is achieved thanks to its being a political subject as a result of providing it with the privilege of total monopoly on taking state and political decisions and simultaneously thanks to the fact that particularistic social groups are not subjects and have no right to express their aspirations in a political language and on the political stage. This construction is based on total isolation of political sphere, reserved for the authority, from the society. Sovereign power can be compared with a sphere, surrounding with its politics the society closed inside and binding it firmly, making sudden movements of social classes impossible, which means it prevents them from causing social conflicts which easily change into political conflicts inside the community that is from an attempt to eliminate the political monopoly of a sovereign.
At the same time, the power next to the society is transcendent. It does not try to get into the society like a pantheistic panama in a totalitary or etatist way. In this way the social world – independent of the sovereign authority, living without its every day intervention - is naturally isolated from the political world, reserved for a sovereign, where no other human being can enter without being invited by the authority. Classes and associations live their own life, not harassed by bureaucracy, etatism and interventionism.6They live in a country, but rather at its side than inside it. The state does not conduct any ideological or political campaigns, but protects its order from defiance, rebelliousness. The monopolization of politics by the sovereign is then not against the rule of a deep internal decentralization and lack of intervention in autonomous social reality. Simultaneously, however, the society does not try to interfere in the state matter and does not negate the political absolutism of a sovereign. The state is the only absolute political subject defining allowed extent of fight for interests of classes and individuals.
Revolution, from the point of view concerning political science, is like a flood for the structure of society. The dam between the world of politics being sacred for the country and the social world outside politics is being broken. Then the two spheres are mixed. The nation stops being subordinate, for whom St Augustine has a famous commandment ora et labora. People invade the sanctuary of the state and bent it to their will. The sovereign authority being above social classes and associations collapses.
In a democratic system there is no division (on the basis of ancien regime) into politics and society. Now it is people who become a sovereign. According to Rousseau, democracy is a system, in which the nation is a sovereign and subordinate in one. It denotes the negation of the division between the subject of politics (the state) and its subordinates (nation). Revolution, in its nature, causes the society to become a subject and blurs the borderlines between politics and the society. If the nation is a subject and subordinates of politics, sovereign and lieges, a question appears: who rules parties, classes and short-term interests, who take care of the long-term interest of the political community? Following the theory of democracy, the sovereign nation does it, acting according to the Rousseau’s common will. This will, however, exists only on a paper, because there is a mistake resulting from the abstract thinking: baker would have to stop thinking of his interests and protect objective interests of consumers; clerk would have to support reduction of employees in the ministry in the name of general social interests.7
Rousseau predicted that if individuals can even be egotistic, their individualism will be overcome by the will of a majority. And so it happens indeed, however what is significant for a majority is not the welfare of all people but their particular interests. The majority of employees would outvote the minority of employers. The majority of the poor would outvote the minority of tax payers. The mechanism of favouring individual needs over the general ones is universal in principle and it does not depend on the number, education or affluence of voters.
Hence no electoral qualifications are able to change it and as Charles Maurras puts it evil "does not originate in the number of voters but in the issue being voted on. If they are allowed to decide on government policies, if they are allowed to elect the president of their country, one can bet at ten thousand to one that they will elect the man whose nose they like and who will not be very smart. I can bet at two thousand to one they will require the policies of their government to follow their individual needs. They will sacrifice the needs of the public for the policy of reduced effort and work not worrying about the nearer or further future. The princes-electors in Germany acted in exactly the same way as the sovereign citizens of the French Republic.
The interest of the public was the last thing both of them thought about."8 At this point there arises a fundamental political question: where is the political subject in a democratic country? Theoretically the nation is the subject. Nevertheless even according to Rousseau's theories, sovereign demos can exercise its power realistically in such a small country as a Greek polis, where it was possible to gather all citizens in agora. It is not possible in any modern country. Revolutionaries dealt with this problem by deforming the Anglo-Saxon idea of representation. The elections regularly organized quickly demonstrated that arguments and truth do not always decide on the winning. An average voter is not able to differentiate political truth from fiction, what is real from demagogy. What decides on the winning of an election is how professional the campaign is and what the media show. A lonely candidate who does not have sufficient financial support for the expenses of a campaign, for instance to have posters advertising him stuck for the public to see, is almost sure to lose.
Therefore the winners are groups of candidates having a common name and being financed by groups of businesspeople and often presented by the media.
In the society of XIX century that is in “the second wave” society what decided on the results of elections was good organization, structure and machinery. In order to combine all these factors and maximize the result of an election political parties are formed. These parties organize electoral campaigns, raise funds necessary to run them, lobby the media so that their candidates are promoted. It has quickly turned out that in social awareness - thanks to the media - there exist parties and their political signs rather than individuals. Those who organized elections realized that the success or failure of a candidate could not be credited to the latter but the effect of work done by the former. That was the reason why they gave the elected MPs that had been placed on electoral lists drawn up by them, an alternative: either would they be submissive to the party leaders or they would be not placed on such lists in a next election.
By means of such blackmail party authorities subjugated ordinary MPs. The MPs, elected by people, no longer decided on the existence or non-existence of pro-government majority. Political leaders took over this power. The voting taking place in parliament became sanctioning of party leaders' decisions and the tool was party discipline and the threat of not being placed on a list in a next election. Democracy showed its oligarchic face.9
Simultaneously the state became extremely politicized. State administration was parceled out among the ruling parties. Coalition agreements and parity became in fact settlements concerning sharing booty. Posts in whole administration departments were filled not according to competence but particular party membership criteria. Ministry X became party Y's lease; ministry A became that of party B. The cabinet was no longer a political whole. It crumbled according to party criterion. The same happened in parliament. Divisions concerning the merits were eclipsed by party divisions. Every party tried to get under control, to fill the posts of and exploit some smaller or bigger part of the country.10
Every party had its own conception regarding foreign affairs, economy, taxes, social issues, different ideology and strategy. At the same time experience shows that frequently the opposition parties which have seized power criticizing the ones formerly in power carry out the very same politics. If so, then where did the former criticism of predecessors come from Criticism for its own sake? All these facts show us a certain phenomenon of a democratic world of politics: the most important goal of a party X is not really the good of the state as a whole but the failure of a competitive party Y. For this purpose the party X will always vote in the parliament against any government ideas even if they think they are favourable for the country.
Furthermore it votes against because it is good, i.e. it will make voters satisfied, which will bear fruit in supporting the government in a next election. Hence there arises a dramatic question: what is the objective of the party X? Seizing power or the good of the country? Causing crisis that will lead to the decrease of support for the parties in power or the good of the country? Discrediting a politician from an opposing party or the good of the country?
Demagogy full of claims and increasing the number of supporters or commonwealth development! Unfortunately in all these cases the first answer is the right one. Democracy drives opposing parties into believing in the statement: "the worse the better" and the parties in power which are aware of the shortness of their term to behave as though there was no tomorrow. This is the logic of a system functioning. It does in fact mean the state orientation attitude disappears, a party orientation triumphs. In this very way political parties in democracy became a political subject replacing the state, which was degraded to a battlefield between various parties. Elites began assessing all political events from the point of view of the electorate's trust or how many posts they could win or lose.
State viewpoint seems to exist only in public declarations but it is invisible in practice. In a few cases, as for example in the Weimar Republic, parties might try to form their own countries in a country; the former being equipped with groups of militants, youth organizations with their own ideology, women, cultural groups, their own para-educational system. In this case a weak, liberal country does not only lose its subjective character but becomes a defenseless battlefield for parties waging a total war for power.11
Such extreme cases are however rare. What usually happens is that the parties in power cooperate with each other as they would like the convenient, democratic status quo to persist, which allows them in turn to exploit the state for their particular purposes? Groups providing capital, banks, groups supporting parties or politicians financially and providing them with well paid positions when they have lost elections are not interested in a sheer political conflict threatening destabilization.
Corruptive influence of capital groups, the owners of newspapers or TV channels on political, administrative and economic decisions in a democratic country is so significant that one can pose a question concerning the subjective character of parties in a liberal country. It is particularly explicit in the era of globalization and progressing oligarchisation of huge capital which seems to have a much greater practical influence on politics today than thousands of voters that is a nominal sovereign.12 In practice it means that parties are not wholly a political subject of such a country. The real subject deciding on the fate of a community, however different from informal parties, are capital groups controlling huge amounts of money. They decide on state politics not according to the interests of a political community but their own.
In the societies of XIX century such groups had rather nationalistic character, however in "the third wave" society having global character they have cosmopolitan preference, as their character is not nation-oriented. This capital being speculative has nomadic character, more or less similar to that of the USA, the official representative of which are in a way the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The significance of it is such that after the failure of the state as a subject and officially proclaiming the subject of parties we are dealing with a completely informal, political subject of huge capital (plutocracy).
In practice such a subject is unusually anonymous, difficult to describe, point to or be named. It is not connected to any territory and has cosmopolitan character. This anonymous Caesar is a political subject which exists outside the territory of a national country. Its cosmopolitan fondness facilitating trade (being the only criterion of good) is expressed by the world unification process which can be observed in a national country disappearance in aid of bigger, artificial forms, such as the European Union. Informal political ęłęósovereignty of huge capital is the crowning of a liberal concept of a country which originated in a contract between owners, excluding the non-possessing ones.
This theory was first formed by John Locke.13 Combining a political country with a non-political society produces one more effect: universal politicizing of the social world. Until now lonely mothers` life standard or bankruptcy of a factory in a town have been social problems. The state has not been interested in such problems but local governments, church or social organizations. Nevertheless lonely mothers and the unemployed vote. As a result of democratization process there appears social demagogy. This leads to the growth of a country to an extreme size as lonely mothers have become a political game issue. In democracy there is no problem which could not become political. It becomes political when one politician supports one case and another one is against it. A political conflict is ready then.14
The state was not traditionally interested in social issues because the authorities did not care about the amount of votes cast and could concentrate on political issues constitute the domain of a country. Moreover they respected the autonomy of states, corporations and regions which solved their social problems on their own. The mechanism of electoral demagogy is based on the idea that a country exercises the will of its society, that is, it is subordinate to it. It makes a politician constantly expand the role of the country beyond the political area he is responsible for, that is be involved in social matters. A sovereign nation is like pantheistic pneuma, which permeates the country with its will and representatives. Whereas the state begins to permeate the society through the mean of interventionism, socialism and bureaucracy. In this way political parties settle short-term claims of electoral groups ensuring votes growth in a next election. In this place we arrive at final absurdity: The revolution of 1789 broke out under the banner of fight with royal absolutism, centralization and bureaucracy.
However as a result of its victory the state expanded to a formerly unknown size. Bertrand de Jouvenel asks rhetorically: "Where is freedom? European societies have been looking for it for two centuries and they have found the most overpowering, smothering and hardest power our Civilization has got to know. Then if we ask where our freedom is, they will show us our voting cards. Being the subjects of a huge machine we have power over it. One tenth, twentieth or thirty millionth part of a countless crowd that is a part of a sovereign, and here they tell us this is our freedom. We lose it when an individual has control over the machine that is Authoritarism. We find it when our right of periodic impulse through a mass is given back to us that is Democracy.
It is naivety or deceit. Freedom is something completely different. It relies on our will not being dependent on the will of other people but it manages our activities independently and is only restrained when it violates the essential foundations of social life. Freedom is not about our more or less delusive participation in absolute Sovereignęłęóty of the Public rather than particularisms, but direct, immediate and concrete sovereignęłęóty of man over himself allowing him to and making him manages his own self and be responsible for his own fate."15 The omnipotence of state and crowds in a country is a result of blurring the division between the subject and object of politics; the state and society. Politization in democracy is total.
In order to sum up, we can conclude that in countries governed in an authoritarian manner the state is the political subject, which has a monopoly on politics, separated from non-political society. The state is transcendental in relation to the society. In a democratic country both the state and society, after the example of pantheism, are bound and intermingle with each other. The constitutionally political subject here is an abstract nation, the nominal subject is political parties, and the real one is the quite anonymous financially-political oligarchy. Because of this lack of a subject, that is a sovereign, we can define democracy as disintegration of the state into political parties and the state capitulation to corruptive influence of plutocracy.16
1. Ullmann, W. 1965 A History of Political Thought: the middle Ages.
Harmondsworth Q. Skinner: The State T. Ball, J. Farr, and R.L. Hanson: Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, Cambridge, 1989
2 A. Black: 1996. El pensamiento politico en Europa 1250-1450. Cambridge, 1996,
3. Freund, J. 1986. L’essence du politique. Paris 1986, J. Bartelson: A Genealogy of Sovereignty, Cambridge
4. Schmitt, C.1958. Verfassungsrechtliche Aufsätze aus den Jahren,1924-54. Berlin
5. Baszkiewicz, 1974. Historia Francji, Ossolineum,
6. B. de Jouvenel: Du Pouvoir. Paris, 1988
7. Locke , T. 1992. Dwa traktaty o rządzie. Warszawa
8. Ch. Maurras Mes idées politiques, Paris, 1968
9. Zientara, B. 1995. Świt narodów europejskich, Warszawa, 1985,
10. Państwo demokratyczne i jego możliwości tworzenia i realizacji strategii
długofalowej. [w:] A. Zawiślak (red.): Propozycje dla Polski. Rządzenie
strategiczne. Warszawa 2001
11. J.J. Rousseau 1920. Umowa Społeczna. Poznań
1 W. Ullmann: A History of Political Thought: the middle Ages. Harmondsworth 1965, s. 156; Q. Skinner: The State. [w:] T. Ball, J. Farr, R.L. Hanson: Political Innovation and Conceptual Change. Cambridge 1989, p. 93. A. Black: El pensamiento politico en Europa 1250-1450. Cambridge 1996, pp. 166-80
2 J. Freund: L’essence du politique. Paris 1986, p. 117; J. Bartelson: A Genealogy of Sovereignty. Cambridge 1996, p. 88
3 C. Schmitt: Verfassungsrechtliche Aufsätze aus den Jahren 1924-54. Berlin 1958, p. 79; J. Freund: L’essence du..., p.. 126
4 V. Possenti: La buona società. Sulla ricostruzione della filozofia politica. Milano 1983,p. 46n.; L. Strauss: Czym jest filozofia polityki. [w:] idem: Sokratejskie pytania. Warszawa 1998, pp. 61-62
5 Państwo demokratyczne i jego możliwości tworzenia i realizacji strategii długofalowej. [w:] A. Zawiślak (red.): Propozycje dla Polski. Rządzenie strategiczne. Warszawa 2001, pp. 31-46