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Concept Of State

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Some contemporary Scholars like Quentin Skinner define the state today as "a locus of power distinct from either the ruler or the body of the body of the people." (Skinner, Foundations of Modern Political Thought, II, p.355). Yet, others would argue that the potency of the word "state" derives from the fact that it means both ruler and people. In other words, the state is at the same time loved for its promise of order and stability for the whole community and feared for its threat of coercion by the power which does the ordering. Both schools of thought may be right for there is no universal definition of the concept. But no intellectual discussion about the concept of the state is complete without a review of the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther. First, and most important, St. Thomas Aquinas arguably was the first to formulate the concept of the state as the "set order of the rulers" at the heart of every stable commonwealth. The general concept which was necessary before the name could be attached to a particular form of government in Aristotle's framework. Second, Martin Luther continued to evolve the concept of the state in terms of how he saw a division of labor between Church (or spiritual power) and the those things temporal--the state--and how the ruler, without direct intervention from the Church, should govern it with respect to his nobles and, above, all the common good of the people of his realm.

Aquinas establishes early on that the state is a natural institution (very different from Augustine whose ideas prevailed up to this point in history) because "la naturaleza del hombre [es] ser un animal sociable y politico que vivien sociedad." (Aquinas, La Monarquia, I, p. 7) And he goes on to affirm that man must live in societies to achieve fulfillment "porque un sol hombre por si mismo no puede bastarse en existencia." (Aquinas, La Monarquia, I, p. 7). As a result, there has to be a group within state whose job it is to take thought for the common good, that is, to see that things are organized to everybody's benefit.

To Aquinas, the state is a legitimate institution ordained by God with its own proper goals and jurisdiction. The ultimate goal is to secure common good for citizens, which include peace, harmony in the actions of citizens, and adequate provision for needs of life. Notwithstanding, the goal of church is a superior goal and in the final analysis the Church is a superior institution to the state, but still the Church should not interfere in the business of the state. By the same token the state must recognize that man's final goal is supernatural and not interfere with the Church.

In terms of the ruler, Aquinas advances the idea that the virtuous ruler should avoid honor, glory, and other benefits and seek justice for his people. This point is clear when he affirms that "un alma virtuosa y valiente [que] despreciar la gloria y la vida por la justicia...y hace actos de convierta en un hombre digno.. ." (Aquinas, La Monarquia, VII, p. 34) Moreover, what legitimates the authority of a ruler is that he is in fact ruling for the good of the people. If someone is a Tyrant--ruling for his own benefit and not the good of the people, then it's legitimate to overthrow him if the situation is so bad that to retain the status quo is worse than all the terrible harm that revolution will cause. In short, you are assured of replacing your tyrant with something better.

To Aquinas, there are three types of government: law-abiding democracy. aristocracy, which is rule by the few best--in the sense of those who have the talent and the will to rule wisely; and the monarchy, which is rule by the one best, and it doesn't have to be hereditary. He also seems to toy with the idea that you can elect a monarchy as long as you get the best. There are three bad types of government: demagogic democracy (lawless mob-rule), oligarchy (rule by the few richest and most powerful), and tyranny (rule by the one guy who's ruthless enough to grab power (Aquinas, La Monarquia, II, p.9-11).

Most importantly, Aquinas claims that the best form, in theory, is a monarchy because you would get the unity of action with one person running things. In a practice, hard to get a really great monarch, and even if you do it's hard to find another to succeed him, so there are practical problems with monarchy. In an ideal situation, he advances the notion that a mixed constitution is best for it is a monarch, but also aristocracy (spread power around) and some democracy in that some officials should be elected by the people (Aquinas, La Monarquia, V, p.28-34)

While Martin Luther reinforces Aquinas' concept of how the state with a virtuous ruler is required to preserve peace, punish the unjust, and restrained



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