Thomas Hill Green

Thomas Hill Green theory of rights

Views of Green on State:

Green’s opinions are primarily grounded on human nature and stated that the state, as the merchandise of human perception.  Barker described it as “the human consciousness postulates liberty’, Liberty involves rights; rights demand the state”. He never considered as state as an end but mean of individuals moral development.  He says that, the aim of man is self-realization and freedom is the primary means to this end.  The social life is nothing but one’s self, it not only provides to the system of rights.  Green thought that rights of the individual are not a product of any contract.  These rights are present in them through society they are related to law only.  Hence, people will follow the laws of state because, it appear to them that it promotes their common good.  Green said that state or sovereign as distinguishing institute of state, does not make rights but rights are already exists in it.  It gives exercise of powers to man which influenced in delay with each other for common good.  It cannot be called state if it does not do so. The main ideas of state by Green as follows;

  1. Green said that state is a natural institution and essential for moral realization of each individual. It must try to protect the individual of his rights and on circumstances related to good life. He said that state must not take any positive steps for the promotion or morality instead it must help for the development of morality.
  2. Green declared that it is worthless if the rights are not implemented. So, state must implement or enforce rights even by compulsion, if needed. He justified the use of force by state, because it implements the general will of the people, state absolute and omnipotent.
  3. Green said that, the power of state was restricted both within and without. The power of state within is accountable for limited actions and understanding of external actions of man and has nothing to do with his motives. So, the state is answerable to the moral improvement of individual only in an indirect modus, like by elimination of interferences in the growth of individual’s personality.  He said that under convinced circumstances individual can resist the authority of state.  The existence of number of groups within the society also act as a check on the external authority of state.

Views of Green on Sovereignty:

             Sovereignty views of Green can be seen as compromise views of Rousseau and Austin.  According to Green “sovereign signifies a determinate person or persons charged with the supreme coercive function of the state, and the general will does not admit of being vested in a person or persons; yet it is true that the institutions of political society-those by which equal rights are guaranteed to members of such a society-or an expression of, and are maintained by a general will. The sovereign should be regarded, not in abstraction, as the wielder of coercive power, but in connection with the whole complex of institutions or of political society”. He uses the term ‘sovereign’ for the permissible sovereign which enforces laws, but at the same time he is an agent of the general will.

Views of Green on Political Obligations:

             Green deliberates on the problem of why the people submit the state in state or political obligations.  He says that man is very much obedient to the state because it is not only natural of man but also because his best self or moral development can be possible by being submissive to the state.  The individual has a duty to comply with the laws of state and other civil institutions because the deduction of hindrances and make the way for self-protection.  This self-protection should be consonance with social welfare because every one is the internal part of the society and the social system. He must promise that his hunt of good is in his traditional values with the identical good of others and grant others the same opportunities which he permits for himself. He says that an individual has the duty to submit to the law of the state and other civil organizations because through these organizations alone he gets problem detached which stands in the way of self-perfection. He asserts that, the individual’s self-protection should be in consonance with the social welfare because each one is the fundamental part of the social system. To estimate Green, “the value of the institutions of civil life lies in their operation as giving reality to the capacities of will and reason and enabling them to be freely exercised. In their general effect, apart from particular aberrations, they render it possible for a man to be freely determined by the idea of the possible satisfaction of himself of being driven this way and that by external forces, and thus give reality to the capacity called will; and they enable him to realize his reason, i.e., his idea of self-perfection, by acting as a member of a social organization in which each contributes to the better being of all the rest”.

Views of Green on General Will:

             He defers with Rousseau’s concept of general will and his concept is different.  He says that general will is the mutual mindfulness for a common good and asserts that all rights, duties and institutions of society, relatively the society itself in the creation of general will, general will is not by the state but for the state to maintain it.  According to Barker, “Green’s general will is an assertion that the ultimate moving force which inspires and controls political action is a spiritual force… a common conviction that makes for righteousness a common conscience that alone can arm the ministers and agents of the community with power.  That conviction or conscience at once creates rights creates the law, or system of rules by which those rights one maintained and creates the Sovereign whose mission it is to enunciate and enforce that law and to sustain the fall vigor and incomplete harmony with one other, all the living institutions which are the concrete embodiment of rights and law”.

Views of Green on Freedom:

             Green’s views on freedom has an inspiration and reflect of Greek political thinkers like Plato, Aristotle and the idealistic thinkers like Kant and Hegel. He favoured liberty and said that, it was the greatest blessing and important condition for the moral development of individual. He says that goal of human’s life is not by external ends like pleasure and happiness of the moral development of life.  He preferred to eradicate any difficulties which obstruct with the moral development of individual.

Green avoided two extreme opinions of Kant and Hegel navigated through the middle path and observed that, man is free when he is in that “state in which he shall have realized the ideal of himself, shall be at one with the law, which he recognizes as that which he ought to obey, shall have become all that he has it in him to be, and so fulfil the law of his being”. We can say that Green’s freedom is positive, if the power of doing or enjoying to some degree worth performing or enjoying in common with others.  It determines and does not include freedom to do anything and everything.

Views of Green on Rights:

 Green stressed the social side of the rights, to quote him “The capacity, then, on the part of the individual of conceiving a good is the same for himself and others, and of being determined to action by the conception, is the foundation of rights; and rights are the conditions of that capacity being realized. No right is justifiable or should be right except on the ground that directly or indirectly it serves this purpose. Conversely every power should be a right, i.e., society should secure to individual every power that is necessary for realizing this capacity”. Hence no one has right only the person who is the member of the society can have the right. Green rejected the concept of natural rights, in so far as it contained the presence of assured rights in pre-social state. He declared that, there may possibly be no right without recognition. Therefore he measured the rights as natural for the understanding of the moral abilities of man. In this background of his natural rights are, both extensive and abysmal than the actual rights decided to the citizen of the state, if the conflict arises between the natural or ideal rights and actual rights, he preferred natural or ideal rights over actual rights. He permitted individual the right to resists the authority only under certain situations of the state.

Green permitted individual the right to fight back against the state, Prof. Barker said that, “his treatment of this question is sober and cautious”. Green declares that there cannot be any right to break the rules of the state because, only state is the designer of those rights. To estimate Green, “There can be any right to disobey or evade any particular law on the ground that it interferes with any freedom of action, any right of managing his children or doing what he will with his own”. He advises people if any law breaches their concept of common good, asked them to cancel it by the legal or constitutional way. As long as the law stays in the statue book it is the duty of individual to follow it. If the people disobey the state the belief is that possibly they are wrong and state in all probably is right, because the state will be talking with the wisdom of age, and it is undoubtedly superior to the wisdom of individual men. The smooth working of democracy may be hampered because of resistance and it may unleash the anarchy.

He permitted individuals to resist the state under certain exceptional situations only, as a result he says that the individual has the right to disobey the command of the sovereign if the legality of the command is doubtful and when the government system is dictatorial and it conflicting the public interest. Agitating for prevent or amendment of any bad law, resistance becomes not only a right but also a duty of individual. Green holds two condition to fulfillment before an individual can legitimately resort to resistance like, 1 through the successful opposition he should ensure that definite social good is obtainable and 2 it should be backed and have the support of sizeable quantity of fellow members of the society. Green emphasized this point consequently “That if one must resist, one must, and the choice can be no one else. One may not have the right to resists but one may right to resisting. Resistance is justified only on the social grounds”.

Green believed that, freedom of self-realization could be possible only by impartial rights which enforced through the state.  Thus, he says rights “the claim on the individual to will his own ideal objects and developing his capacities of reason and will”. He further says that, rights were not legal recognition but common moral consciousness. He also highlighted that rights were more relative to morality than law and were the essential condition for the fulfillment of man’s moral end.  He also stressed the need of the social side of the rights society should secure the individual every power, that was necessary for realizing this capacity.  He gives the right to individual to resist the state under certain circumstances.

Views of Green on Property:

             Green’s views on property were a mixture of idealism, individualism and liberalism.  He never supported the rights of private property and at the same time he did not criticized it out.  The growth of man’s property was requisite.  Hence, he defined property as the sum of the instruments required for the free play of the self-realizing principles in man and contribution to the common good.  He further said that, as every individual has capacity to take part in common social good, everyone must have the opportunity to acquire property.  He did not believe in right to ‘equal property’.  He said that, more capital can be acquired without depriving others, but more land could not acquire without reducing the share of others.

Views of Green on Natural Law:

             Green’s views on natural laws are quite different with the views of social contractualists, who considered natural law as, prevailing self-sufficiently by the social consciousness.  According to him natural law is natural because it is obligatory for the realization of the end.  A moral being is an individual who, must obey this natural law however it belong to state or not, because it is based on reason.  He said that any law which is unreliable with natural law or law of God should be disallowed.  He considers natural law is mounting and emerging thing which keeps on growing with the growth of moral consciousness of the society.

Views of Green on State and Societies:

             Green believes that a state is nothing but “a society of societies”. The number of societies which were not fashioned by state and retain their own inner system of rights, which came out of them nature as societies. These societies are very much important to individual to accomplish himself. He said that, state is answerable to preserve and withstand the societies which occurred in it.  If it fails to do this duty it shall not have the right to exist.  Hence, authority of state is advanced upon the nature of state and nature of associations.

Views of Green on War:

             His views on war are greatly linked to his views on universal brotherhood and the characteristic right to life conferred on every individual. He said that, war cannot be the absolute right, but a relative right.  It is not the characteristic of the state as well, but it is attribute of state in imperfect form.  The slighter chances of war will have only to those states who have less imperfect.  Green never encouraged war he opposed it because it disturbs rights of the individual and his life.  He says that, war could be justified as wrong to correct another wrong, and it always remains a wrong because it really derives the basic right to life of a man.

Green constantly considered war as a moral wrong.  He argues that “there is of course no violation of right when a man is killed by a wild beast or stroke of lighting, because there is no right as between a man and a beast, or between man and natural force.  But the deaths in a battle are caused distinctly by human agency and international agency”.  Green argues that no man has the right to surrender his right to free life.

Green agrees that war would grow virtue like patriotism self-sacrifice and heroism and an important means for upholding the social conditions for the development of man, at the same time he declares that the destruction of life caused by war is wrong act.  To quote him ‘no state of war can make the destruction of man’s life by man other than a wrong, though the wrong is not always chargeable upon all the parties to a war’.

Views of Green on Punishment:

             Though Green gives the right to free life to every individual, he also gives state authority to restrict this right through punishments.  According to Green the most significant object of punishment is to maintain of rights and duties in the state and to secure freedom of action for the moral development of all the members of the community.  Punishment can be said as a force directed against the force of criminals.  The main object of punishment is to create a type of terror in the mind of criminals of the state.

Views of Green on Individualism:

             Green’s political though has a great importance to the individualism and is pre-dominant.  To quote Green “The life of the nation has no real existence except as the life of the individuals composing it… To speak of any progress or improvement or development of a nature or society or mankind except as relative to some greater worth of persons is to use words without meaning”.

Green’s individualism is also obvious from his concept of freedom.  To make the best of life of an individual one must have freedom.  Every individual would voluntarily identify himself with laws of the state only if the state was good and not otherwise.  In a bad state the individual may not force to challenge the authority of the state.

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