Translated from the Polish


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Four factors before all, according to Koneczny, determine the cultural differentiation of humanity:

1. The relation of man towards time: the measuring of time, the reckoning of time and the mastery of time;

2. the relation between public and private law;

3. the sources of law;

4. the existence or non-existence of national consciousness.

1. Everything which is connected with the relation of man towards time has for his whole spiritual development an importance which we only begin to guess. — Whole peoples are without any relationship to time; others have achieved only the knowledge of measuring time. The achievement of a calendar is not necessarily a sufficient criterion of a higher cultural grade; because it does not necessarily lead to the reckoning of time from one era; Egyptians and Chinese did not have an era; the Jews began only in Roman times their dating in years from the creation of the world. The highest grade in the relation of man towards time is the power over time. Contrary to the power over space which develops only the intellect, the progress in having power over time goes hand in hand with a simultaneous moral advance; by establishing and accomplishing aims in time man voluntarily limits his freedom: but this self-limitation is a great step towards an important element of true freedom, which is man’s independence from exterior circumstances; an important condition for the unfolding of social virtues. Of all the civilised peoples of antiquity only the Romans, according to Koneczny, achieved this degree; only they, and the filial cultures of Roman civilisation, possessed what Koneczny calls “historism”, the living tie and awareness of the presence of this tie between present time and the past with all its inheritance, as well as the feeling of responsibility for the future and for those who will follow.

2. The greater part of humanity knows even today no public law fundamentally separated from the private law. The State’s law of large political formations is often nothing but an extended private law; so in the Turanian civilisation, the ruler is owner of the State, of the whole territory of the State with all the inhabitants and their property, and he can exercise his power over them according to his will, or whim; in the Russian world, too, one finds again and again this Turanian notion of law. For the development of a “society” (i.e. a differentiated society: Koneczny employs here the Polish term “społeczeństwo” in opposition to “społeczność”, the ordinary, non-differentiated human aggregate), there are here no conditions, no possibilities of development.

Rome was the first to create a public law sharply and fundamentally separated from private law; only here the conditions for the development of a “society” became present. From Rome, this achievement passed to Western civilisation, in which the inalienable rights of the human person with its inherent dignity thus found a lasting abode.

In Byzantium this sharp division became effaced again; a “society” could unfold itself here only so far as a benevolent slate allowed it. (The society is here underdeveloped: in its place flourish the State-maintained Church; uniformity and standardisation; spiritual stagnation and degeneration; bureaucracy and servility; herd humanity and herd psychology; Asiatic structural elements received in the epoch of the decadence of the Roman Empire, and which had destroyed old Rome.)

3. The difference in the sources of law is in fact the deepest root of differentiation of civilisations. Here again, it was old Rome who for the first time and quite unequivocally3 considered law as a consequence of morality and as its application to concrete cases. With this recognition of natural law also the first complete release of law from sacrality took place in Rome. Organs of “society”, not of State, issued laws in Rome; during centuries the State as such did not issue in Rome even a single law, but accepted laws born in the citizen’s assemblies of the curiae at comitiae.

Unfortunately, the picture of ancient Rome does not stand sufficiently clearly and unequivocally before our eyes, the eyes of posterity; in late antique times the East already influenced the West. Even antiquity knew already the temptation of the East. There was a time when even in Rome one started to declare that quod principi placuit, legis habet vigorem, what pleases the ruler has the force of law. The sources of Roman law which we, posterity, have inherited — the Pandecta and the Codex — reflect the struggle of two different ethics, the Western and the Eastern, a struggle which we can observe very clearly although the Eastern ethic sometimes wears a borrowed Western and Roman cloak.

Thus, a cultural split ran in later times right through the innermost structure of the Roman Empire. Two fundamentally different, two diametrically opposed views struggled with each other, two principles between which there could be no synthesis.

The fundamental achievement of Rome could survive the period of the ruin of the Roman Empire and of the accompanying chaos, thanks to the Catholic Church which introduced this achievement into Western civilisation. The middle ages, in spite of occasional relapses, show the history of a constant penetration into European secular laws of the principles of Catholic morality. At the same time, in the conflicts between sacerdotium and imperium which took such a dramatic aspect from the penetration of certain Byzantine legal views into the West, an increasingly sharp distinction between secular and religious authority took place, with an increasingly clear separation of their spheres of influence. It was quite the other way in the East, where the State attributed to itself the position of the only interpreter of law. The consequence of it was the amorality — which meant in practice the immorality — of public life.

4. The nations are the ethical superstructure of society, of which they form the highest grade of development.4 For the idea of a nation, the presence of aims exceeding the simple struggle for existence is essential. The nations are not at all something a priori necessary; they are all a posteriori, products of history; they grow together from tribes and peoples. The conditions for the birth of a national consciousness are: the emancipation of the family from the clan, the existence of a public law, as well as a certain level of intellectual development. One can under compulsion belong to a State; but a compulsory belonging to a nation would be a contradiction in itself.

The conditions for the emergence of a national consciousness appeared for the first time not even in Old Hellas, but in Old Italy at the time of the Roman Republic; it was proved there already quite clearly that the nations are not something physiological-racial, but belong to the cultural, i.e. to this moral order.

Nations in this meaning exist only, until now, within the sphere of the Latin civilisation, because only here the conditions for their development have been present. Even peoples of alien cultural spheres, which became embraced by the West and in consequence fell under the influence of the formative forces of Latin civilisation e.g. the Finns and the Hungarians — became nations.

A nation must as a cultural entity belong only to one civilisation; it cannot belong to two different civilisations.

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