We come today to the seventh and final “law” of social justice: “All vital interests should be organized.” This “law” is another application of the principle that seems first to have been articulated by Aristotle that man is by nature a “political animal,” that is, existing and subsisting within organized groups he called the pólis, hence, “political.”
|Orestes A. Brownson|
To explain, yes, every person is an individual, not an interchangeable cog in the collective. At the same time, every person is also social, not an autonomous being without any reliance on anyone or anything else. Living in society does not mean thinking only of yourself, nor thinking only of society in some form, but in thinking how you and others as individuals fit together socially, which means in an organized manner.
We are, of course, referring to true organization that respects individual interests and those of the group at the same time. The art of organization does not mean figuring out how society can eliminate individuality, or how a few can control the many, but how the social order can best be organized to benefit every child, woman, and man; as Orestes Brownson put it in the Introduction to The American Republic (1866),
The United States . . . has a mission, and is chosen of God for the realization of a great idea. . . . Its idea is liberty, indeed, but liberty with law, and law with liberty. Yet its mission is not so much the realization of liberty as the realization of the true idea of the state, which secures at once the authority of the public and the freedom of the individual — the sovereignty of the people without social despotism, and individual freedom without anarchy. In other words, its mission is to bring out in its life the dialectic union of authority and liberty, of the natural rights of man and those of society. The Greek and Roman republics asserted the state to the detriment of individual freedom; modern republics either do the same, or assert individual freedom to the detriment of the state. The American republic has been instituted by Providence to realize the freedom of each with advantage to the other.
|Fr. Heinrich Pesch, S.J.|
We may disagree with Brownson whether or not the United States actually does fit this picture, but we cannot deny that Brownson considered it ideal — as did the popes from Pius IX on, who looked favorably on the U.S. Constitution, as the solidarist jurist and student of Fr. Heinrich Pesch, S.J., Dr. Heinrich Rommen, pointed out in his book, The State in Catholic Thought (1947). That is why the “seventh law” of social justice is —
Seventh Law: All Vital Interests Should Be Organized
The last law of Social Justice which we will consider is that all real and vital interests of life should be organized, that is, should be deliberately made to conform to the requirements of the Common Good. Here is where the individualistic thinker rebels at the doctrine of Social Justice. Seeing the great complexity of life and the vast number of vital interests of which it is made up, he maintains that one who would try to organize every vital interest could do nothing else during his whole life since this alone would be a full-time job that would never end.
In one sense he is right — it is full-time job that never ends. But he is wrong in thinking that one would somehow have to take “time out” from his ordinary life in order to do this job. The vast and complex institutions of human life can be controlled and directed only by those who live in them, and only while they live in them.
Here we meet Pope Pius XI’s great principle “The first apostles to the workers ought to be workers.” This is the principle which in Catholic Action has become known as “Milieu Specialization,” specialization according to the “natural medium” of each one’s ordinary daily life.
The theory is that each one’s own life is so complex and so specialized, that he alone is a “specialist” in that life. In the same way, each group’s own interests are so complex and so particular to it, that only its members are specialists in the needs and aspirations and hopes and fears of that group.
Anyone who would try to run such a group “from outside” would evidently be a rank amateur who would not know the score. Therefore the group must be run by those who are in it, and in order to run the group they must get together and decide in common the means they will adopt, in other words they must organize their life.
|Pope Pius XI|
However when we say they must organize their life we do not mean that they can do anything else. The “organization” of life which we speak of here is specifically “organization for the Common Good.” If the people in a group are not conscious of this necessity of organizing for the Common Good, it is not true that they do not organize; what is true is that they organize against the Common Good. For it must be remembered that since man is a social being every one of his actions is social, that is it is bound up with the lives of others. When he neglects to see to it that his social actions contribute to the Common Good of those others with whose lives they are bound up, it is evident that he does not change his social nature. He still remains a social being, and his actions are still bound up with the lives of those around him. The difference is that those actions, being undirected towards the Common Good, may or may not now contribute to that Common Good — in fact, most usually will not so contribute. These actions become habitual within the group and gradually the whole group becomes disorganized; the Common Good is destroyed and the individual perfection of those who are in the group is lessened or destroyed.
It is not true to think that man has a choice between organization or no organization within his life which is essentially social. The only choice he has is between organization that takes care of the Common Good, and organization which does not take care of the Common Good. Either way his actions will be organized, will be social; but in the first case they will be socially good and in the second they will be socially bad.
In view of all this it is evident that the principle pronounced above — that every vital and real interest of life must be organized for the Common Good — does not impose a new way of life upon anyone, but does impose a new purpose in life upon all; namely, the purpose of promoting the Common Good of one’s neighbors, of those with whom one’s life is bound up.
Once more, this list of seven “laws of Social Justice” does not pretend to be complete. Others would have to be added in a more complete discussion.