Authority and The Individual - PDF book (1949) by Bertrand Russell

 Authority and The Individual 

Bertrand Russell

In all social animals, including man, co-operation and the unity of a group have some foundation in instinct. This is most complete in ants and bees, which apparently are never tempted to anti-social actions and never deviate from devotion to the nest or the hive. 

Up to a point, we may admire this unswerving devotion to public duty, but it has its drawbacks; ants and bees do not produce great works of art, or make scientific discoveries, or found religions teaching that all ants are sisters. 

Their social life, in fact, is mechanical, precise and static. We are willing that human life shall have an element of turbulence if thereby we can escape such evolutionary stagnation. The strongest and most instinctively compelling of social groups was, and still is, the family.

Russell argues that politics should be done at the smallest level possible. The chain of authority and bureaucracy should be minimized. This isn't only about efficiency or corruption, as a libertarian may argue, but rather to empower the individual with enough power to make a change within his immediate circle. The political landscape always has the character of being "outside" of everyday life, Russell often calls this "They".

 The ones at the bottom feel like no change is possible, and the people at the top are too distant from the problems they aim to solve. Something I liked in his argument is that Russell realized that this is inherent to large-scale organizations. 

While this culminates with the state, it's not required. It happens with private companies as well, which are completely separated from the government, and it also happens with communist states, which do not run on a capitalist system, but nevertheless, positions of power have to be created to ensure organization.

Author: Bertrand Russell
 Publication Date:1949

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