本人在自己写作的政治哲学作品Language and State: A Theory of the Progress of Civilization Revised and Updated Edition里面专门论述人类怎样组织国家。本人的创造性的写作中有一个部分讲解人类通过互通信息，进行解释，互相表态，做出承诺和发布命令（允许一个权威订立法律）来组织国家。其中有一章论述“承诺”。在这一章内，分三个部分，第一部分论述契约；第二部分论述誓约；第三部分论述掌权者与人民之间的相互承诺。最后的承诺奠定国家组织的基础之一。这样的承诺是形成国家的共同利益的基础。也就是说，只有这样，才能形成国家的共同利益。下面是第三部分的原文。供感兴趣的读者阅读。
3. Promises Made to and by the Masses
People make a promise so as to make a contract in cooperation or to make a rule in competition or to establish an organization. Sometimes a person also takes an oath to stress his promise in order to build a trust relationship; or a person takes an oath as required by the authorities in the building of a trust relationship in the formation of the society or the organization of the state. If people make such a kind of promise, certain action is expected. As Charles Fried wrote, “When I speak I commit myself to the truth of my utterance, but when I promise I commit myself to act.”47 Certainty is ensured because someone promises to act as expected. All cooperate and unite with all and trust all. People organize the state. On the other hand, in organizing the state, the power holder also interacts with all throughout the state. He and all others as a collective being also interact on a scale as large as the whole state. He has to act as expected by the largest number of people to make a promise in the state and perhaps the power holder is also interested in requesting the largest number of people, as a collective being, to make a promise to him. The reason is that people form their state because of language. As people communicate using language, they form a large community. This large community needs a person to organize it on behalf of all who are dispersed. This person is the agent of those people and is in charge of organizing the state. As an agent, this person needs to get entrusted by those people as a whole. Those people constitute the people. Then, if we assume that this person needs to make a promise in order to get entrusted, he has to make a promise to the people. He promises to organize the state as expected by the people. In the meantime, the people may also promise to submit to his rule. Thus, he gets entrusted. He and the people make special promises. There are mutual promises between the organizer of the state and the masses. Discussing promise, Charles Fried commented that “The principle of expanding human liberty by recognizing the self-imposed obligation of promises also entails that a man be able to condition his promise on receiving a return from the promisee.”48 So a promise from the power holder may get another promise from the people. In ancient Greek history Socrates refused to escape from the prison because he had promised to obey the laws in his heart.49 I argue that the reason that Socrates made a promise to obey the laws is that the authorities had made a promise to the people to carry out the laws. There must be mutual promises between the power holder and the masses. No unilateral promise exists in the human society. Therefore, Socrates promised to obey the laws. The state may be organized this way. So we need to discuss the promises made to and by the masses in depth. The reason is that the structure of the state differs from that of the tribe. In the tribe, the tribal chief, in charge of organizing the tribe, was naturally supported by all because all had the common interest ensured by kinship. The tribal chief was appointed in a traditional way and people would not debate the issue as to who should be the organizer. The organizer emerged naturally. But since the formation of the state, the organizer of the state can no longer emerge this way. If a man, from a family among thousands of families, intends to be the organizer of the state, he may be required to gain consent from all others. Needless to say, a strong man may be able to force all others to be subject to his governance. A usurper who seizes the power of the state unlawfully or by force may also appear. In human history there are many cases showing that sometimes a man who ruled the state in an ironhanded way became the sovereign of the state. However, his rule might not last long. As humans form their state because of language and language presupposes that all, using it, should have common interest, the sustainable government, or the sustainable state, should be the one that runs with clemency and justice. This means that using pure coercion to keep the state usually fails to create a condition for the formation of the common interest while clemency and justice means the formation of the common interest. Describing the life of Dion (408?-353 B.C.), a historical figure in ancient Greece, Plutarch wrote that:
For fear and force, a great navy and standing army of ten thousand hired
barbarians are not, as his father had said, the adamantine chains which secure
the regal power, but the love, zeal, and affection inspired by clemency and
justice; which, though they seem more pliant than the stiff and hard bonds of
severity, are nevertheless the strongest and most durable ties to sustain a
That means that a ruler, using coercion to keep his rule only, may not intend to seek support from the people. A ruler, needing voluntary submission from the people, has to make his effort to show clemency and justice. In this case he is aware of the necessity of ruling legitimacy. Thus any ruler who finds it necessary to gain or retain support from the masses may try to persuade the masses to be subject to his governance. A legitimate ruler may find it necessary to gain support from the masses. For example, he may find that it is desirable to gain ruling legitimacy when he needs support from ordinary people, and he may act in an attempt to meet the demand from ordinary people. He may make a promise. He may promise to bring happiness to ordinary people. He may promise to realize the prosperity of the state. Because of this he may think of the necessity of not oppressing or disturbing the masses. He may issue a decree promising not to disturb or harm the masses. One case in point here is perhaps that when Pompey (106-48 B.C.), a political figure in ancient Rome, competed against Caesar for the power of the Roman empire, he especially considered what the masses were concerned about. He made promises to the masses. At a conference, he caused the attendants to pass a resolution of not disturbing the masses. When narrating the life of Pompey, Plutarch penned the following that:
Afterwards in a meeting of their senate they passed a decree, on the motion of
Cato, that no Roman citizen should be put to death but in battle, and that they
should not sack or plunder any city that was subject to the Roman empire, a
resolution which gained Pompey’s party still greater reputation.51
That is, Pompey sought the power of the Roman Empire, and he thought it fit to take care of what ordinary people were concerned about in order to rally support from the masses. Ordinary people, thus, may change their behavior because of the promise made in a statement or in a decree. They may also make a promise tacitly to the power holder to be subject to the directives of the power holder under the condition that the power holder makes a promise to them. In particular, in modern times a power holder often finds that he needs to engage in the political mobilization of the masses. He makes promises to the masses. The masses may also make a promise to him. Unlike the promise made under a contract or an oath, however, the promise, made by the power holder or the masses, may not be required by a code or a regulation. Mutual interactions between the power holder and the masses may define a de facto code in the acts of making and accepting a promise. For example, the power holder may announce a policy of protecting the interest of the masses when he takes power. The masses may be silent because it is difficult for them to gather to give a collective response to the power holder. Nevertheless, the silence of the masses on this occasion may be regarded as an act of accepting the promise made by that power holder. Otherwise, the masses may stand up against the rule of this power holder if they strongly feel that they cannot accept the rule of this power holder. The power holder can find out what the masses need. Then he makes a promise. If the masses do not stand up against his rule, it can be largely indicative of the fact that the masses have also made a promise in their heart to be subject to his rule. Thus, language invariably plays a special role. That is, without language, people are never able to make promises to each other. If they happen to act in unison or act in concert, they do so coincidentally. Since they started to use language, they can act in unison not because of their coincidental act but because of mutual consultation. Then language enables them to make promises to each other in order to help them to build the society or the state jointly. For example, a person may make a promise to another person and the promise is accepted. The working mechanism of a promise is that it presupposes the behavior of communication between the two parties in cooperation and the behavior of the present promise for future action. Then, in case of a promise made by the power holder, this promise is just an exchange for the building of ruling legitimacy. That is, it is arguable that both making and accepting a promise are intended to obliterate the uncertainty of the future which dictates the status of the power holder. Language and action are combined. In case of the promises made for the building of ruling legitimacy, I argue that the power holder successfully makes a promise first. Then the masses accept the promise. After the masses accept the promise, they change their behavior. They agree and promise to submit to the rule of the power holder. The result is that, people, accepting a promise, think of the action that should be taken in future as promised while hearing one side making the promise and accepting that promise. The condition under which they accept this promise is the fact that they firmly believe that there is a positive causality between the present words and future action. That deeds accord with words is expected. This is a behavior control process consisting of words and deeds. This is usually the promise made by one party unilaterally or unilaterally first. For example, during a famine an elder man in a village tells other villagers of the village that if they follow his leadership and yield to his persuasion, everyone will be rewarded by finding some food. Hungry people follow his leadership to find food. In this case, people change their behavior. People change their behavior before they find food. For this reason, that elder man can change other people’s current behavior only by ensuring the coming of the related desirable prospect. In this process of behavior, the relation between words and deeds is similar to the relation between the signifier and the signified of a sign. What differs is that it is up to the people of the community to decide if they accept this promise. The promise is an open offer alluring others rather than forcing them to take action. In the face of a promise, the people of the community may refuse to accept it. A promise will not influence the behavior of the people in the community unless the people accept it. Of course, the people of the community, accepting the promise, must consider the promise in view of their own interest, but the nature of a promise also requires each party to satisfy the requirement of the other party. The final result of making and accepting a promise may be beneficial to both parties and the entire community as well. Certainly, a person in the community will be at risk if he relies on a promise made by another person because that person who makes a promise may not honor his promise in the end. However, later, people learn to punish the person who fails to honor his promise and hence reduce the related risks. Thus people gain more opportunities of a positive mutual interaction in the organization of the state by making, accepting and honoring a promise. This is the typical behavior of a human being who has left his tribe. Henry Maine, a British jurist, wrote when describing the ancient contract law that “the positive duty resulting from one man’s reliance on the word of another is among the slowest conquests of advancing civilization.”52
The result is that people organize their state according to their own will. Though the state may not always be organized according to the will of the people, sometimes the power holder of the state seeks the opinions of the people particularly at the time when the power holder seeks ruling legitimacy and the masses expect the power holder to take care of their interest or expectation despite that the power holder, as the ruler, keeps his rule by relying on coercion in some sense. Then people may insist that the ruler should rule the state as expected. The ruler may be expected to obey the law or respect the rights of the people. The subjects of King of Aragon in medieval times used to take an oath that “We, who are as good as you, swear to you, who are not better than we, to accept you as our King and sovereign lord, provided that you observe all our liberties and laws, but if not, then not.”53 Bertrand de Jouvenel wrote that:
The much-cited anecdote of Frederick the Great and the miller of Sans-Souci
faithfully represents the ancient state of affairs. The King’s rights have
incomparably greater scope than those of the miller; but as far as the miller’s
right goes it is as good as the king’s; on his own ground, the miller is entitled to
hold off the king. Indeed, there was a deep-seated feeling that all positive rights
stood or fell together; if the king disregarded the miller’s title to his land, so
might the king’s title to his throne be disregarded.54
In about 1567, George Buchanan, a Scottish scholar, contended that on the one hand the people have taken an oath of loyalty to their kings, while on the other “our kings likewise have taken an oath in the presence of our leading men that they will administer the law with fairness and with justice.”55 The reason is that Roman law and Christian teaching even insisted that the king was no arbitrary or absolute ruler, but the allegiance owed to him by his subjects was dependent on his recognizing their rights, and that in his legislative capacity he could only make laws after getting the advice and consent of his wise men, and in some sense of his whole people.56 If kings ruled too harshly, they were even assassinated because they had broken their promises to obey the laws or give them liberty.57 As Michael Lessnoff used to comment that “A free people is entitled to choose its ruler; a ruler who abuses his authority becomes a tyrant, and should be deposed.”58 This means that promises must be honored. Otherwise the ruler will be punished. Under the rule of James II of England the people “promise him obedience and he promises them protection and good government.”59 But he was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 because he had broken his promises. There was an exchange of liberties or rights and obligations between the ruler and the ruled. If the ruler respected the liberties of the ruled and the laws or the rights of the ruled, the ruled would be subject to the rule of the ruler. Otherwise the ruled would not accept the rule of the ruler.
Thus, to honor the promise means to retain a right. To make a promise means to undertake an obligation. From ancient to modern times, promises are sometimes or often made by the power holder to the masses and made by the masses to the power holder. Thus, as the power holder makes a promise to the people and the people can accept this promise and can make a promise to the power holder, there appears a positive interaction between the power holder and the people. Making, accepting and honoring promises constitutes a special interaction between the power holder and the people particularly in modern times.
First, while a power holder makes a promise to the people, he tends to make this promise as expected by the people. What he promises is usually what is expected by the people. In ancient times, the ruler might make a promise to obey the law or to respect the rights of the subjects. From ancient to medieval times in Europe, the ruler promised to obey the law or to respect the rights of the subjects from time to time as mentioned earlier. The reason is that the law of the state was important in the organization of the state and the rights of the subjects were essential in the formation of a just society. In the same period of time, the ruler of a state in the East might also make a promise to the masses from time to time. In China, the ruler sometimes promised to bridge the widening gap of income between the rich and the poor as the disparity of income between the rich and the poor was always a striking social issue. Sometimes insurgents promised that they would bridge the gap of income between the rich and the poor if they took state power. If their bid for power failed, the existing ruler might also be forced to promise bridging the gap of income between the rich and the poor so as to alleviate social tensions. The system of land was very crucial in the development of the agricultural society. Sometimes the land was state-owned and sometimes the land was privatized. Sometimes insurgents advocated the system of land to the tillers, a program meaning that the cultivator had his field. The ruler might also be forced to promise to realize this goal through the reform of the land system. Sometimes insurgents promised that if they took power, they would implement the so-called equal-field system. If they seized state power, they would carry out their promise. Along with the formation of the mass society in modern times, the power holder of the state is more than ever prone to make a promise to the citizens in an attempt to win support from the citizens. He may promise to improve the working conditions of the workers or to raise their wages. He may promise to increase benefits given to those in need in the society. He may promise to provide more medical care services. He may promise to develop the undertaking of education. Those promises are often what the citizens expect. Then citizens will promise to support the power holder. In election, politicians whose promise is entertained by the majority of the voters are usually elected. Voters promise to be subject to his governance. Mutual promises constitute a mechanism of organizing the state.
Second, a promise, made by the power holder, has a term. This term is determined by both the power holder and the masses. In ancient Greece, magistrates had the limited term of office. Re-election was prohibited. Officials held office for a short term. In Sparta, five ephors, who were the most important state officials, held office for only one year. In Rome, two consuls who led the Roman Republic were elected only for one year and thereafter could not be re-elected for ten years. The term of office was set by the citizens or the representatives of the citizens. Therefore, after a power holder made a promise to the citizens, such a promise would be valid for one year only. In modern times, power holders may often hold office for four or five or seven years in a state in Europe. In China, power holders or officials held office without a term of office clearly defined in advance in ancient times. If a power holder made a promise to the subjects, such a promise did not have a term. But the subjects might expect the ruler to honor this promise within a period of time. In modern times, a promise, made by the power holder, may have a term if democracy is put into practice. In some countries in the East in modern times, democracy may not be put into practice. If the power holder of the state makes a promise to the citizens, the citizens may set the term of this promise in their heart. The principle of the operation of this mechanism is that a person who makes a promise may claim that he will realize an objective in economic development in ten years, for example. If he realizes this objective in five years or in ten years, he will gain creditability and a new promise, made by him, can be easily accepted by the people next time. Otherwise, if he realizes the objective in fifteen years or fails to realize the objective, he will be regarded as failing to honor the promise. If he makes a new promise in future, his promise may not be easily entertained by the people. If a citizen who entertains a promise thinks that it actually requires fifteen years to realize this objective in the abovementioned case though the power holder, who makes the promise, fails to honor that promise in ten years, the power holder of making a promise may be forgiven by the citizen who entertains the promise because the term of validity of the promise is defined by the citizen who entertains the promise. In general, what validates the promise is the congruence between the timeline of honoring the promise made by one and the term of validity defined by the other accepting it. If the promisor promises to realize the objective in ten years and the promisee believes that realizing this objective only needs five years, the ten-year term promise may be turned down and this promise may fail to influence the behavior of the other. However, if the promisee thinks that it needs to take fifteen years to realize the objective, he may accept the promise of realizing the objective in ten years or may refuse to accept this promise because he thinks of this promise to be unrealistic. In the interaction between the power holder and the citizens, there is such a mechanism. Therefore, the term of honoring a promise may be short or long. In a Western nation-state, the promises, made by the political parties in the election, are, in general, effective for a small number of years because the term for them to hold power is a small number of years. The promises, made by them, may be regarded as short-term promises. In China where no democratic election is held at the moment, the Communist Party of China, the ruling party, argues that it is a long historical process to build an ideal society and it will lead the nation in building such a society in the long run. In this case, its promise to build an ideal society may be regarded by someone as a long-term promise. If the related promise is accepted by the Chinese people, this should mean that the power holder and the masses have agreed that the term of the promise should be long. Otherwise, the term of the promise should be short.
Third, if the power holder fails to honor his promise, the masses may retract or cancel their promise. Specifically, the promise, made by the power holder to the masses earlier, leads the masses to make a promise to him. That is, his promise gets the promise made by the masses. He promises to serve the people and the people promise to support him. If he fails to carry out his promise, the masses will retract or cancel their promise. Then we see many cases in point. In ancient China, the ruler sometimes made a promise to the people. They might promise not to disturb the people. They might promise to cut state tax. They might promise to carry out a policy allowing every cultivator to have his field. They usually made such a promise in the beginning of their reign. The masses revolted at the end of their reign because the masses decided to cancel their promise made earlier to be subject to their rule. The term of the reign of a dynasty was often about two or three hundred years. In Europe, some revolutions that broke out in early modern times denote, objectively, the term of office of the rulers, too. In modern times, the power holder of a state, democratic or despotic, is often held accountable by the citizens in the governance of the state albeit to a varying extent. If a state is democratic, the power holder should be, legally, responsible to the citizens. If a state is still despotic, the power holder may be, morally or ethically, responsible to the people. As such, we often see the following cases: some public employees announce their resignation for their failure to honor their promise made when they were sworn into office; the man in power announces his resignation due to a big scandal disclosed to the public during his term of office; some leaders announce their decision to step down before the end of their term of office because they make a wrong policy and hence make the nation incur huge losses; a leader of a political party announces his resignation from the leading post of the party after the defeat of the party in an election. In a European state or the United States, the major duty of the leader of a political party is to lead the whole party to win the election and obtain the ruling power. If that party is defeated in the election, it is often difficult for the existing leader to act as the leader of the party in the next election. If a power holder commits a fault or violates law, he may also resign. For example, in the history of the United States, Richard Nixon, the thirty-seventh president, resigned during his term of office on August 9, 1974 because of Watergate Scandal. Bill Clinton, the forty-second president, used to face the pressure of resignation during his term of office when a scandal in relation to him was revealed and the House voted to impeach him for the obstruction of justice and perjury in December 1998 though he did not resign. In China, a state in which people do not hold free election and do not put into practice Western-style democracy, a leader who has committed an error in the revolution or in the construction of the nation-state may also be forced to resign or give up his real power. In the early times of the military struggle of the Communist Party of China, what forced a supreme leader to step down each time was that a major mistake had been made in making and carrying out a policy or a strategy. After the founding of the new China, namely, the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong used to be forced to give up his job position as the state chairman because of Mao’s commitment of a fault in a political movement called the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Certainly, China in the past was totally different from the Western states. In then China, the power holders did not go through the procedure of being sworn into office. However, no matter whether a politician lives in a Western state or an Eastern state such as China, he has the obligation to honor his promise after making the promise if any. Failure to honor the promise will usually result in punishment sooner or later.
All of those cases indicate that the internal organization of the state requires the power holder to function as a leader or a manager because he is a medium. The power holder and the masses need to interact with each other effectively. The effective interaction usually requires the power holder to make a promise acceptable by the masses and requires the masses to promise to submit to the governance of the power holder. The effective interaction also requires the power holder to keep his promise and requires the masses to keep their promise as well. Once a person of the community becomes a power holder, he has the power to issue commands to all others in the community and to make a decision in the distribution of the interest of the community. As such, the power holder and the people interact constantly with each other. Needless to say, the power holder holds higher social status. He is the governor of the state. All others are governed by him. So what is important is that the power holder must serve the people in order to take power, and this is a condition for the positive interaction between him and the masses. In the meantime, the common interest of the community cannot take shape until the power holder serves the people. But the power holder has to take power first and then takes action because the act of taking power is the precondition of honoring the promise made before the act of taking power. In this case, the power holder makes a promise to the people and this promise may be accepted by the people before the power holder takes action.
Besides, if a promise is made by the power holder and accepted by the masses, and the masses promise to be subject to the governance of the power holder under the condition that the power holder makes a promise, the act of making and accepting a promise needs to be committed time and again because if a promise is made and accepted, it is made and accepted under specific circumstances. Along with the passage of time, the specific circumstances change. The promise needs to be updated. Thus, the power holder makes a promise regularly and the masses accept it regularly. Thus, the power holder and the masses keep on engaging in such an interaction. In other words, any promise has a time limit. If such a promise reaches the time limit, a new promise needs to be made. The masses do not accept the promise that has already expired. Unlike a promise made under a business contract, the promise, made by the power holder to the masses to provide public services to them, may be made verbally, whereas the promise, made by the masses to be subject to the rule of the power holder, may be made by them in their heart only. However, both sides may make promises.
In early times in the West, politicians held power in turn under democracy in Greek city-states, and the politicians of the Roman Republic took power and acted as magistrates after being elected. Politicians must have made at least a promise before they were elected. The term of office was also defined as they were not permitted to hold lifelong power as noted earlier. This must be based on a promise made because if people argue about who is to take power, one way out is that politicians hold power in turn. There must be a promise if a politician allows another politician to hold power first. The politician who holds power first must have made a promise to all other politicians who accept that promise and wait for their turns. The term of office of the power holder is certainly defined. The linguistic behavior of a promise is the key for the state to put democracy into practice. It helps power holders to get out of the impasse of scrambling for power and eases the pressure on various power holders seeking the interest of their political organizations and the public interest at the same time. It makes it possible for various factions or groups of people to co-exist in one state. Some historical data also indicate that in ancient Greece and Rome, the eloquence of politicians was an important skill for them to take power. Politicians must cater to the needs of the public so as to get their support when they made a public speech or debated public affairs. They must appear to stress reason, or morality, or the public interest, and prove that their way of service will be in the interest of the public. This means that the common interest of all takes shape in the process in which promises are made and accepted. If we postulate that a despotic ruler may also make a promise to the masses and seek ruling legitimacy occasionally, he is often forced to do so. He may not make a promise to the masses voluntarily. If we admit that all the rulers in history may make a promise to the masses although some rulers often make a promise while others do not, the transition, from a despotic society to a democratic society in human history, can be regarded as a process of institutionalizing the promises made by the power holder to the masses and the promises made by the masses to the power holder.
To put it differently, such promises are institutionalized under democracy, whereas they are not institutionalized under a despotic system. Human political history is, in some sense, the history of institutionalizing the promises made by the power holder verbally and the promises made by the masses verbally or in their heart. This history is tortuous. As such, in the later periods of Roman Times and in the Middle Ages in the absence of democracy, rulers established and maintained their rule through the use of violence. That is, they controlled the behavior of the ruled by using the tool of enforcement. The ruler never got support from the people by making a public speech or taking part in an open debate and hence seldom made a promise. Likewise, in ancient China, the ruler established the administrative system in early times, but the ruler seldom met with the rank and file and never performed balanced and two-way communication with the populace. Certainly, some leaders of peasant uprisings advocated entering into an agreement with the populace and proposed the reallocation of land in favor of poor peasants in order to win their support. But in general after they took power, they continued the way of despotic rule and had no knowledge of election and democracy. They seldom made a promise to the people so as to win support from the people. The rulers of ancient China never regularly made a face-to-face promise to the populace. Knowing that the people were like the water and the ruler the boat and the water could either carry the boat or capsize it, the enlightened rulers took some measures to ease the oppression on the populace, but they never or seldom used the skill of promise to seek support from the populace. A promise was not a basic tool for them to seek and maintain power in the state. China’s feudal rulers ruled the populace in the despotic way for long and thus, the people often stood up against them. The masses launched rebellions and uprisings. The organization of the state was devoid of a dialogue conducted between the ruler and the ruled. The rise of democracy in modern times marks a new epoch. Though there is a difference between the representative democracy of modern Europe and North America on one hand and the democracy of ancient Greek city-states and the Roman Republic on the other hand, the representative system inherits the practice of using linguistic skill of making a promise used by ancient Greek and Roman politicians to take and maintain their power. Now representation and electoral system are more and more popular across the world. This modern democracy is still conditioned by the linguistic communication of making and accepting a promise. Any political party, hoping to rule the state, has to make a promise to the constituency and has to take power under the condition that its promise is acceptable by the majority of the constituency. They may be required to make an agreement through mutual consultation. When an election campaign is waged, people need mutual consultation between the potential power holder and the voters. As Locke wrote, “all peaceful beginnings of government have been laid in the consent of the people.”60
In the meantime, citizens should promise to be subject to the organization of a political party. And accordingly, the ruling party is always under the pressure of honoring the promise made during the election campaign. Otherwise it will be defeated in the next election. As a political party and its candidates make a promise to the voters, the voters may consider giving power to them and allowing them to hold the power in a certain period of time. The leader of the nation-state emerges. In the meantime, each voter is also required to promise to yield to the opinion of the majority if he or she belongs to the minority in election. This means that prior to the election all voters promise to obey the principle that the opinion of the majority prevails over the opinion of the minority as noted earlier. As democracy is the governance of the state on the basis of the consent from the people, the people emerge in the process of linguistic communication through which the common will of the people takes shape. The people are formed by the majority formed in election each time. Those citizens who belong to the minority in election this time may not be part of the people until the next election. In other words, the people are a cluster of people who have formed a common will. This cannot be done but in election. The common will generated by people is the common will generated by the majority though those who belong to the minority in election are still the citizens. Thus, as all agree to support the opinion of the majority, the promise, made by the power holder, and the promise, made by the citizens, constitute an exchange for the purpose of organizing the state. Thus, these promises alleviate tensions between a person in power and all others out of power, and help people to establish the internal order, to enhance the solidarity of the nation-state and to generate the authority acceptable by all within the state. Thus, I argue that the linguistic phenomenon of making a promise makes a great contribution to the building of a civilized political order within the state because at this time the power holder making promises and the masses accepting promises jointly contribute to the formation and cultivation of the common interest of all forming the state. Then, the masses submit to the governance of the power holder. In the past the power holder of any state might not make any promise to the masses as the state was despotic. The power holder merely governed the state in a limited domain. But the government was despotic. The masses might not have any personal freedom. They might be massively oppressed by the ruling class or the ruler. By contrast, in modern times the power holder governs the state in a nearly limitless domain. Yet, the masses may not feel that they are oppressed by the state apparatus. They may have more personal freedoms. This is because the power holder makes a promise to the masses and the masses promise to be subject to the governance of the power holder voluntarily. When each side makes a promise to the other side and the other side accepts this promise, this can mean that they have reached a consensus. When they reach a consensus, the consensus highlights the formation of the common interest between the power holder and the masses. Then the interest of the power holder becomes consonant with that of the masses. Thus the state becomes harmonious.
The nature of a promise is also a decisive factor. People who make promises in an interaction put pressure on themselves. To make a promise is to undertake an obligation. People are always potentially forced to act after they undertake certain obligations defined by them when they make a promise. If one party makes a promise, this party gives related rights to the other party voluntarily. This party is required by morality or law to honor the promise. If this party changes its mind and decides not to honor the promise, it may be forced to honor the promise or to make any compensation. Otherwise the promise will not function. Hobbes wrote that “Covenant, without the Sword, are but Words, and of no strength to secure a man at all.”61 He implied that people were forced by the sword to honor the promise. In modern times, a person, failing to honor a promise, may also be forced to honor the promise by law. In terms of the promises made between the power holder and the citizens, such promises are not codified. Such promises may be made by the power holder informally. If promises are made by the citizens, they may only make them in their heart. That is, they may even give no expression to what they conceive of and hence they make no formal promises to the power holder. Such promises may not constitute a contract. As legal scholars sometimes argue, not every promise amounts to a contract. 62 In particular, in ancient times, the ruler might not make any promise to the people and the people made no promise to the ruler if there was no democracy, not to mention the social contract. As David Hume once argued, in early times people might not subscribe to a compact or agreement because they were much too uncultivated to conceive of such a thing.63 However, along with the passage of time, promises are more often made by the power holder and the people as democracy spreads across the borders of the states. Making promises and accepting promises are institutionalized. Language plays an important role in the organization of the state. Then we see that when the power holder makes a promise or the citizens make a promise, all are obligated to honor the promises because both sides are obligated by the organization of the state. The power holder is required to provide public services to the citizens and the citizens are required to submit to the governance of the power holder who is in charge of organizing the state. People witness the formation of the related common interest between the power holder and the citizens. The formation of such common interest finally lays a bedrock foundation for the building of the state. Then the power holder can govern the state legitimately.
1. Paul Vinogradoff, The Growth of the Manor (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1951), 24.
2. See: Ibid., 25.
3. George H. Sabine, A History of Political Theory (London: George G Harrap & Co., Ltd, 1937), 332.
4. Jun Li, Chinese Civilization in the Making, 1766-221BC (London: MachMillan Press Ltd, 1996), 25.
5. George H. Sabine, A History of Political Theory, 214.
6. Karl Marx, Capital: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production, translated by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling and edited by Frederick Engels (New York: Appleton & Co., 1889), 48.
7. George H. Sabine, A History of Political Theory, 332.
8. Charles Fried, Contract as Promise: A Theory of Contractual Obligation (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), 18.
9. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, edited with an introduction by C.B. Macpherson (New York: Penguin Books, 1985), 193.
10. W. H. Buckler, The Origin and History of Contract in Roman Law Down to the End of the Republican Period(Littleton, Colorado: Fred. B. Rothman & Co., 1983),1.
11. P.S. Atiyah, Promises, Morals, and Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), 208.
12. W. H. Buckler, The Origin and History of Contract in Roman Law Down to the End of the Republican Period, 5–6.
13. Ibid., 6.
14. Neil Duxbury, Random Justice: On Lotteries and Legal Decision-Making (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999),3.
15. Ibid., 28.
16. The Politics of Aristotle, translated by Peter L. Phillips Simpson (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 49.
17. George H. Sabine, A History of Political Theory, 585-586.
18. Ibid., 643.
19. One English scholar gave the same opinion. Please see: J.W. Gough, The Social Contract: A Critical Study of Its Development (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1957), 33.
20. J.W. Gough, The Social Contract: A Critical Study of Its Development, 2.
21. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, edited by C.B. Macpherson (Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1980), 53.
22. Jean Jacques Rousseau, Social Contract (Chicago: William Benton, 1952), 389.
23. As Michael Lessnoff stated that “the social contract is a fiction, and can at best be considered as a hypothetical concept from which to deduce political authority and its limits.” See: Michael Lessnoff, Social Contract (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, Inc., 1986), 120.
24. James Endell Tyler, Oaths: Their Origin, Nature and History (London: John W. Parker, West Strand, 1834), 6.
25. Herbert J. Schlesinger, Promises, Oaths, and Vows: on the Psychology of Promising, 189; please also see: J. Hastings’ article on covenants, oaths & vows. Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (New York: Scribner & Sons), 1924.
26. Schlesinger, Promises, Oaths, and Vows: on the Psychology of Promising, 180.
27. David Xavier Junkin, The Oath: an Divine Ordinance and an Element of the Social Constitution (New York: Wiley And Putman, 1845), 153.
28. Steven H. Miles, Hippocratic Oath and the Ethics of Medicine (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 50.
29. Please see: Ibid., 4.
30. Tyler, Oaths: Their Origin, Nature and History, 151.
31. Schlesinger, Promises, Oaths, and Vows: on the Psychology of Promising, 187.
32. Tyler, Oaths: Their Origin, Nature and History, 69.
33. David I. Kertzer, Ritual, Politics, and Power (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 17; Please also see: Ted Margadant, French Peasants in Revolt: The Insurrection of 1851 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979); Edward Berenson, Populist Religion and Left-Wing Politics in France, 1830–1852 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984).
34. Tyler, Oaths: Their Origin, Nature and History , 303.
36. Schlesinger, Promises, Oaths, and Vows: on the Psychology of Promising, 183; please also see: G. Mendenhall: Mariin D.N. Freedman & E.F. Campbell ed.: Biblical Archeologist Reader; II. (Garden City, New York: Doubleday/Anchor (1964), 3–20.
37. Polux, lib. viii.e. 9 and 10; cited from Tyler, Oaths: Their Origin, Nature and History, 298.
38. Tyler, Oaths: Their Origin, Nature and History , 137.
39. Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws, translated by Thomas Nugent (Chicago: William Benton, 1952), 55.
40. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, 102.
41. See: Junkin, The Oath: a Divine Ordinance and an Element of the Social Constitution, 127.
42. Tyler, Oaths: Their Origin, Nature and History, 236–237.
43. See: James Connor, The Sociology of Loyalty (New York: Springer Science & Business Media, LLC, 2007), 97.
44. Schlesinger, Promises, Oaths, and Vows: on the Psychology of Promising, 188.
45. Tyler, Oaths: Their Origin, Nature and History, 227.
46. Ibid., 229.
47. Charles Fried, Contract as Promise: A Theory of Contractual Obligation (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), 9.
48. Ibid., 46.
49.See: Patrick Riley, Will and Political Legitimacy: A Critical Exposition of Social Contract Theory in Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Hegel (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982),107.
50. Plutarch, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, 784–785.
51. Ibid., 530.
52. Henry Maine, Ancient Law ( London: John Murray, 1866), 312.
53. Morton Grodzins, The Loyal and the Disloyal: Social Boundaries of Patriotism and Treason (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1956), ii.
54. Bertrand de Jouvenel, Sovereignty: an Inquiry into the Political Good, translated by J. F. Huntington (Chicago: The University Press of Chicago, 1957), 189.
55. D. H. MacNeill, The Art and Science of Government among the Scots (Glasgow: William MacLellan, 1964), 95-6; cited from Michael Lessnoff, Social Contract (Atlantic Hills, NJ: Humanities Press International, Inc., 1986), 31.
56. Gough, The Social Contract: A Critical Study of Its Development, 24-25.
57. Ibid., 58.
58. Lessnoff, Social Contract, 18.
59. Gough, The Social Contract: A Critical Study of Its Development, 3.
60. Locke, Second Treatise of Government, 61.
61. Hobbes, Leviathan, 223.
62. See: Lessnoff, Social Contract, 3.
63. David Hume, Theory of Politics, edited by F. Watkins (Edinburgh: Nelson, 1951), 195-6; cited from Lessnoff, Social Contract, 85.