THE STRUCTURAL PRINCIPLE OF
THE STATE (16)
The logical structure of political communion of thought, and the integrating function of "public opinion".
All the integrating functions of the State we have examined pre-suppose a political function of communal thought whose internal structure expresses the structural principle of this institution. In all the types of communities investigated hitherto we have discovered a specific logical structure of communal thought. This structure appeared to be incompatible with an individualistic autonomy of thought, and to be typically guided by the qualifying function of the societal relationship concerned. The internal family community, the internal marital community, etc., cannot be actualized without their typical communal structure in the thought of their members. This especially holds good for the primitive undifferentiated sibs and tribes with their rigid tradition.
Of course, the typical logical structure in the body politic does not actualize itself from moment to moment. But whenever government and nation manifest their internal societal unity, the peculiar logical structure of their typical political thought becomes at once evident. This does not mean that in this case all and each of the citizens reveal this structure in their political thought. In a modern State whose population has been rent with economic class-warfare, a degenerated party-system, strife between different national groups, these disintegrating factors can never be completely neutralized, not even at moments when the national political community of thought is most strongly concentrated.
But the central importance of "public opinion" reveals itself in the structure of the national political community of thought. We should be mistaken if we identified the structural figure of "public opinion" with the variable historical forms of its expression. Public opinion is not only of fundamental importance for the logical aspect of political thought, but for the whole organization of the political will of a nation. We cannot characterize "public opinion" as a mere historical-political phenomenon revealing itself only in modern political life, and absolutely unknown in former times.
No doubt the influence of the press as an "organ of public opinion" and, more generally, all kinds of technical means to guide public opinion, such as radio, motion picture and television are modern (compare on this subject W. ALBIG, Modern Public Opinion, 2nd rev. ed. New York, 1956). But the typical structure of a political communion of thought is constant and positivizes itself in variable forms wherever there is really a question of the political life of a State. Nor is it correct to say that "public opinion" asserts itself only in a democracy and not in an autocracy. Never perhaps has "public opinion" been considered so important as in the modern dictatorships with their autocratic leader-principle and their ceaseless propaganda to regulate and control public opinion. Public opinion does not one-sidedly arise from a politically amorphous mass with the government standing by as an interested spectator. On the contrary, it interweaves government and nation into an internal political coherence of thought. It cannot be understood individualistically, as if its bearer were an unorganized "public", i.e. the total number of those who back this opinion and are willing and able to judge of it (cf. TÖNNIES, Kritik der öffentlichen Meinung 1922 pp. 84 ff. TÖNNIES cannot appreciate "public opinion" because he considers it exclusively in the light of his individualistic and rationalistic view of the "Gesellschaft"). It is formed under the guidance of prominent politicians who know the art of rousing the national conscience. Basing themselves on the national tradition they succeed in winning the leading national circles acceptance of simply formulated political slogans.
In a parliamentary democracy the political parties are indeed also concerned with the organization of "public opinion". But to my mind it is an error to conceive of public opinion as composed of a number of opposing "public opinions" formed and politically crystallized in the separate classes and parties (cf. HELLER, Staatslehre, 1934 p. 181, who, however, also makes very good remarks on this subject).
A particular party-cry as such can never lay claim to the title of "public opinion". The leading groups of the nation are the bearers of the national conviction, and only if they accept a certain political view can we speak of a genuine "public opinion". In other words "public opinion" has a necessary integrating function in political thought in so far as it transcends differences of party and of interests, and to a certain extent embodies the national political unity of thought (a public opinion may of course be expressed as the popular conviction of some particular districts of the State, e.g., a borough, or a province. I am only discussing the structure of the national opinion of the State as a whole). It is essential that such an integrating political thought has attained to a certain national political position of power. Then groups or individuals with views that deviate from those of the leading circles will feel their separateness as an isolation from the prevailing national mood. In the logical individuality-structure of public opinion this indissoluble coherence with its historical-political hegemonyis expressed in the authority with which it imposes itself on political thought as a true national opinion. But the political function of power can only play a foundational role in this logical structure. The communal structure of an integrating mode of political thought assigns the leading role to the idea of public societal justice (this is really a question of the idea as a subjective guiding principle in political thought).
From a metaphysical idealistic standpoint especially HEGEL has stressed this fact, but we do not accept his speculative-dialectical conception. He holds that "public opinion" contains the eternal essential principles of justice, the true contents and the result of the entire constitution, legislation and public condition in general, in the form of common sense (as the moral basis pervading everybody in the shape of prejudices), as well as the real needs and right tendences of reality (1).
(1) HEGEL, Rechtsphilosophie, p. 317: "die ewigen substantiellen Prinzipien der Gerechtigkeit, den wahrhaften Inhalt und das Resultat der ganzen Verfassung, Gesetzgebung und des allgemeinen Zustandes überhaupt, in Form des gesunden Menschenverstandes als der durch Alle in Gestalt von Vorurteile hindurchgehenden sittlichen Grundlage, sowie die wahrhaften Bedürfnisse und richtigen Tendenzen der Wirklichkeit".
But "public opinion" in its logical individuality, as a subjective integrating political mode of thought within the structure of the State, is by no means the infallible interpreter of the supra-subjective normative principles of justice. Public opinion is a plastic figure requiring formation and may be led astray by the responsible political leaders. Nevertheless, the latter cannot act arbitrarily by merely bringing suggestive emotionality to bear on the 'masses" (2).
(2) Therefore every naturalistic-psychological "explanation" of public opinion as a case of psychical mass-suggestion or slavish imitation, as RATZENHOFER has tried to give, is fundamentally erroneous; cf. his Wesen und Zweck der Politik (1893), I, pp. 188 ff.
The "thought of the day" should not at all be identified with "public opinion", which remains bound to the historical tradition of a nation and has a normative character insofar as it is subject to the structural principle of the body politic.
The government has it own formative task with respect to "public opinion", because it cannot govern in opposition to a truly national conviction. Every government needs the support of the latter to justify its policy in the national mind. Public opinion does not really govern, as the demo-liberal ideology tried to suggest (3); but in its logical societal structure the national opinion has an integrating function in every State-relationship. Without public opinion the unity of the body politic cannot be realized. The logical structure of public opinion is that of a strongly emotionally bound communal thought. Its internal logic remains immediately founded in the political structure of feeling and can never be understood in a merely functional sense.
(3) This ideology was first formulated by the physiocratic school (cf.HELLER, op. cit., p. 173). MERCIER DE LA RIVIÈRE was the first to give expression to the doctrine of popular government in the "opinion publique", in opposition to the doctrine of absolutist monarchy. In this respect his ideology was a direct outcome of the natural law theory of the people's sovereignty.
(Herman Dooyeweerd, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company 1969. Vol 3, pp 489-492)
              
              
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