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2007 | 10 | 78-93

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On the liberal concept of the state


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The state is the means by which the most primeval human problems are solved. It is, an entirety, capable of confronting an opponent in a fierce fight for survival. It is an authoritative, total and sovereign entity, having at its disposal the power to set out measures, to encompass the whole of public life and to make final decisions; it is in such words that this institution was described by Carl Schmitt, who added: should any of these features be missing, the state will cease to exist. Its existence depends on this power, which is necessary to identify the enemy adequately, to defeat it and to make peace. The state is also an answer to those human passions too destructive to be freely unleashed; conceit, envy and aggression. Machiavelli, Hobbes, de Maistre or Hegel, regarded as political thinkers 'par excellence', had no doubts whatsoever in this respect. Because of their anthropological pessimism, they were all followers of Plato. They knew that the realm of politics is a cave where one should not expect to meet wise men and saints. A hero of politics is enthralled by the play of shadows and echoes and devotes to it his all time and passion. Moved by an exuberant ambition and tempted by the hope of immortal glory, he pursues mirages. The liberals seem not to understand these nooks and crannies of the human psyche and not even to notice them. They reduce the mystery of our multifarious needs to one: lust. The entire wealth of feelings is reduced to the fear of poverty, greed and the want of luxury. They claim that all our choices are accompanied by economic motivation. The central character of liberal philosophy is Adam Smith's 'homo oeconomicus'. 'The Wealth of Nations' is, to them, a priceless source of knowledge regarding everyone's conduct. The economic way of thinking and the methods of eliminating tensions derived from the capitalist economy should, to them, provide a template for the solving of conflicts in other areas as well, including politics. What becomes important is the scope of power, which raises the highest distrust. It is the largest threat to the value which has been recognised as the most precious; human freedom.


  • K. Haremska, Akademia Pedagogiczna w Krakowie, Instytut Filozofii i Socjologii, ul. Podchorazych 2, 30-084 Krak√≥w, Poland


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