Politics is the art of associating (consociandi) men for the purpose of establishing, cultivating, and conserving social life among them. Whence it is called 'symbiotics'. The subject matter of politics is therefore association (consociatio), in which the symbiotes[1] pledge themselves each to the other, by explicit or tacit agreement, to mutual communication of whatever is useful and necessary for the harmonious exercise of social life.

The end of political 'symbiotic' man is holy, just, comfortable, and happy symbiosis,[2] a life lacking nothing either necessary or useful. Truly, in living this life no man is self-sufficient (autarkhV), or adequately endowed by nature. For when he is born, destitute of all help, naked and defenceless, as if having lost all his goods in a shipwreck, he is cast forth into the hardships of this life, not able by his own efforts to reach a maternal breast, nor to endure the harshness of his condition, nor to move himself from the place where he was cast forth. By his weeping and tears, he can initiate nothing except the most miserable life, a very certain sign of pressing and immediate misfortune.[3] Bereft of all counsel and aid, for which nevertheless he is then in greatest need, he is unable to help himself without the intervention and assistance of another. Even if he is well-nourished in body, he cannot show forth the light of reason. Nor in his adulthood is he able to obtain in and by himself those outward goods he needs for a comfortable and holy life, or to provide by his own energies all the requirements of life. The energies and industry of many men are expended to procure and supply these things. Therefore, as long as he remains isolated and does not mingle in the society of men, he cannot live at all comfortably and well while lacking so many necessary and useful things. As an aid and remedy for this state of affairs is offered him in symbiotic life, he is led, and almost impelled, to embrace it if he wants to live comfortably and well, even if he merely wants to live. Therein he is called upon to exercise and perform those virtues that are necessarily inactive except in this symbiosis. And so he begins to think by what means such symbiosis, from which he expects so many useful and enjoyable things, can be instituted, cultivated, and conserved. Concerning these matters we shall, by God's grace, speak in the following pages.

The word 'polity' has three principal connotations, as noted by Plutarch.[4] First it indicates the communication of right (jus)[5] in the commonwealth, which the Apostle calls citizenship.[6] Then, it signifies the manner of administering and regulating the commonwealth. Finally, it notes the form and constitution of the commonwealth by which all actions of the citizens are guided. Aristotle understands by polity this last meaning.[7]

The symbiotes are co-workers who, by the bond of an associating and uniting agreement, communicate among themselves whatever is appropriate for a comfortable life of soul and body. In other words, they are participants or partners in a common life.

This mutual communication,[8] or common enterprise, involves (1) things, (2) services, and (3) common rights (jura) by which the numerous and various needs of each and every symbiote are supplied, the self-sufficiency and mutuality of life and human society are achieved, and social life is established and conserved. Whence Cicero said, 'a political community is a gathering of men associated by a consensus as to the right and a sharing of what is useful.'[9] By this communication, advantages and responsibilities are assumed and maintained according to the nature of each particular association. (1) The communication of things (rei) is the bringing of useful and necessary goods to the social life by the symbiotes for the common advantage of the symbiotes individually and collectively. (2) The community of services (operae) is the contributing by the symbiotes of their labours and occupations for the sake of social life. (3) The communion of right (jus) is the process by which the symbiotes live and are ruled by just laws in a common life among themselves.

This communion of right is called the law of association and symbiosis (lex consociationis et symbiosis), or the symbiotic right (jus symbioticum)[10], and consists especially of self-sufficiency (autarkeia), good order (eunomia), and proper discipline (eutaxia). It includes two aspects, one functioning to direct and govern social life, the other prescribing a plan and manner for communicating things and services among the symbiotes.

The law of association in its first aspect is, in turn, either common or proper. Common law (lex communis), which is unchanging, indicates that in every association and type of symbiosis some persons are rulers (heads, overseers, prefects) or superiors, others are subjects or inferiors.

For all government is held together by imperium and subjection; in fact, the human race started straightway from the beginning with imperium and subjection. God made Adam master and monarch of his wife, and of all creatures born or descendant from her.[11] Therefore all power and government is said to be from God.[12] And nothing, as Cicero affirms, 'is as suited to the natural law (jus naturae)[13] and its requirements as imperium, without which neither household nor city nor nation nor the entire race of men can endure, nor the whole nature of things nor the world itself.'[14] If the consensus and will of rulers and subjects is the same, how happy and blessed is their life! 'Be subject to one another in fear of the Lord.'[15]

The ruler, prefect, or chief directs and governs the functions of the social life for the utility of the subjects individually and collectively. He exercises his authority by administering, planning, appointing, teaching, forbidding, requiring, and diverting. Whence the ruler is called rector, director, governor, curator, and administrator. Peter Gregory says that just as the soul presides over the other members in the human body, directs and governs them according to the proper functions assigned to each member, and foresees and procures whatever useful and necessary things are due each member — some useful privately and at the same time to all or to the entire body, others useful publicly for the conservation of social life — so also it is necessary in civil society that one person rule the rest for the welfare and utility of both individuals and the whole group.[16] Therefore, as Augustine says, to rule, to govern, to preside is nothing other than to serve and care for the utility of others, as parents rule their children, and a man his wife.[17] Or, as Thomas Aquinas says, 'to govern is to lead what is governed to its appropriate end'.[18] And so it pertains to the office of a governor not only to preserve something unharmed, but also to lead it to its end.[19] The rector and moderator so endeavours and proceeds that he leads the people by method, order, and discipline to that end in which all things are properly considered.

Government by superiors considers both the soul and the body of inferiors: the soul that it may be formed and imbued with doctrine and knowledge of things useful and necessary in human life, the body that it may be provided with nourishment and whatever else it needs. The first responsibility pertains to education, the second to sustentation and protection. Education centres on the instruction of inferiors in the true knowledge and worship of God, and in prescribed duties that ought to be performed towards one's neighbour; education also pertains to the correction of evil customs and errors. By the former, inferiors are imbued with a healthy knowledge of holy, just, and useful things; by the latter, they are held firm in duty. The responsibility for sustentation of the body is the process by which inferiors are carefully and diligently guided by superiors in matters pertaining to this life, and by which advantages for them are sought and disadvantages to them are avoided.[20] Protection is the legitimate defence against injuries and violence, the process by which the security of inferiors is maintained by superiors against any misfortune, violence, or injury directed against persons, reputations, or properties, and if already sustained, then avenged and compensated by lawful means.

The inferior, or subject, is one who carries on the business of the social life according to the will of his chief, or prefect, and arranges his life and actions submissively, provided his chief does not rule impiously or unjustly.

Proper laws (leges propriae)[21] are those enactments by which particular associations are ruled. They differ in each specie of association according as the nature of each requires.

The laws by which the communication of things, occupations, services, and actions is accomplished[22] are those that distribute and assign advantages and responsibilities among the symbiotes according to the nature and necessities of each association. At times the communication regulated by these laws is more extensive, at other times more restricted, according as the nature of each association is seen to require, or as may be agreed upon and established among the members.

On the basis of the foregoing considerations, I agree with Plutarch that a commonwealth is best and happiest when magistrates and citizens bring everything together for its welfare and advantage, and neither neglect nor despise anyone who can be helpful to the commonwealth.[23] The Apostle indeed advises us to seek and promote advantages for our neighbour, even to the point that we willingly give up our own right, by which we guard against misfortune, to obtain a great advantage for the other person.[24] For 'we have not been born to ourselves, inasmuch as our country claims a share in our birth, and our friends a share'.[25] The entire second table of the Decalogue pertains to this: 'you shall love your neighbour as yourself; 'whatever you wish to be done to you do also to others', and conversely, 'whatever you do not wish to be done to you do not do to others'; 'live honourably, injure no one, and render to each his due'.[26] Of what use to anyone is a hidden treasure, or a wise man who denies his services to the commonwealth?

In light of these several truths, the question of which life is to be preferred can be answered. Is it the contemplative or the active? Is it the theoretical and philosophical life or the practical and political life? Clearly, man by nature is a gregarious animal born for cultivating society with other men, not by nature living alone as wild beasts do, nor wandering about as birds. And so misanthropic and stateless hermits, living without fixed hearth or home, are useful neither to themselves nor to others, and separated from others are surely miserable. For how can they promote the advantage of their neighbour unless they find their way into human society?[27] How can they perform works of love when they live outside human fellowship? How can the church be built and the remaining duties of the first table of the Decalogue be performed? Whence Keckerman rightly says that politics leads the final end of all other disciplines to the highest point, and thus builds public from private happiness.[28]

For this reason God willed to train and teach men not by angels, but by men.[29] For the same reason God distributed his gifts unevenly among men. He did not give all things to one person, but some to one and some to others, so that you have need for my gifts, and I for yours. And so was born, as it were, the need for communicating necessary and useful things, which communication was not possible except in social and political life. God therefore willed that each need the service and aid of others in order that friendship would bind all together, and no one would consider another to be valueless. For if each did not need the aid of others, what would society be? What would reverence and order be? What would reason and humanity be? Everyone therefore needs the experience and contributions of others, and no one lives to himself alone.

Thus the needs of body and soul, and the seeds of virtue implanted in our souls, drew dispersed men together into one place. These causes have built villages, established cities, founded academic institutions, and united by civil unity and society a diversity of farmers, craftsmen, labourers, builders, soldiers, merchants, learned and unlearned men as so many members of the same body. Consequently, while some persons provided for others, and some received from others what they themselves lacked, all came together into a certain public body that we call the commonwealth, and by mutual aid devoted themselves to the general good and welfare of this body. And that this was the true origin first of villages, and then of larger commonwealths embracing wide areas, is taught by the most ancient records of history and confirmed by daily experience.[30]

From what has been said, we further conclude that the efficient cause of political association is consent and agreement among the communicating citizens. The formal cause is indeed the association brought about by contributing and communicating one with the other, in which political men institute, cultivate, maintain, and conserve the fellowship of human life through decisions about those things useful and necessary to this social life. The final cause of politics is the enjoyment of a comfortable, useful, and happy life, and of the common welfare — that we may live with piety and honour a peaceful and quiet life, that while true piety toward God and justice among the citizens may prevail at home, defence against the enemy from abroad may be maintained, and that concord and peace may always and everywhere thrive. The final cause is also the conservation of a human society that aims at a life in which you can worship God quietly and without error. The material of politics is the aggregate of precepts for communicating those things, services, and right that we bring together, each fairly and properly according to his ability, for symbiosis and the common advantage of the social life.

Moreover, Aristotle teaches that man by his nature is brought to this social life and mutual sharing.[30] For man is a more political animal than the bee or any other gregarious creature, and therefore by nature far more of a social animal than bees, ants, cranes, and such kind as feed and defend themselves in flocks. Since God himself endowed each being with a natural capacity to maintain itself and to resist whatever is contrary to it, so far as necessary to its welfare, and since dispersed men are not able to exercise this capacity, the instinct for living together and establishing civil society was given to them. Thus brought together and united, some men could aid others, many together could provide the necessities of life more easily than each alone, and all could live more safely from attack by wild beasts and enemies. It follows that no man is able to live well and happily to himself. Necessity therefore induces association; and the want of things necessary for life, which are acquired and communicated by the help and aid of one's associates, conserves it. For this reason it is evident that the commonwealth, or civil society, exists by nature, and that man is by nature a civil animal who strives eagerly for association. If, however, anyone wishes not to live in society, or needs nothing because of his own abundance, he is not considered a part of the commonwealth. He is therefore either a beast or a god, as Aristotle asserts.[31]

Furthermore the continuous governing and obedience in social life mentioned earlier are also agreeable to nature. For, as Peter Gregory adds, 'to rule, to direct, to be subjected, to be ruled, to be governed' are natural actions proceeding from the law of nations (jus gentium). 'Anything else would be considered no less monstrous than a body without a head, or a head without members of the body lawfully and suitably arranged, or even lacking them altogether. For it is especially useful to the individual member who cannot meet his own needs to be aided and upheld by another. The better member is said to be the one who meets his own needs, and is also able to help others. The greater the good he communicates with others, the better and more outstanding the member is. Then, this world has so great and so admirable a diversity [...][32] that unless it be held together by some order of subordination, and regulated by fixed laws of subjection and order, it would be destroyed in a short time by its own confusion. Nor can the diverse parts of it endure if each part seeks to perform its own function indifferently and heedlessly by itself. Power set over against equal power would bring all things to an end by continuous and irreconcilable discord, and would involve in its ruin things that do not belong to it, and that it does not know how to govern.'[33] As long as each part decides to live according to its own will, it may disregard the rule of discipline.[34] Finally, the conservation and duration of all things consist in this concord of order and subjection. 'Just as from lyres of diverse tones, if properly tuned, a sweet sound and pleasant harmony arise when low, medium, and high notes are united, so also the social unity of rulers and subjects in the state produces a sweet and pleasant harmony out of the rich, the poor, the workers, the farmers, and other kinds of persons. If agreement is thus achieved in society, a praiseworthy, happy, most durable, and almost divine concord is produced. [...] But if all were truly equal, and each wished to rule Others according to his own will, discord would easily arise, and by discord the dissolution of society. There would be no standard of virtue or merit, and it follows that equality itself would be the greatest inequality', as Peter Gregory rightly asserts.[35] Hence, when this harmony of rulers and subjects ceases, and there are no longer servants and leaders, such a situation is considered to be among the signs of divine wrath.

I add to this that it is inborn to the more powerful and prudent to dominate and rule weaker men, just as it is also considered inborn for inferiors to submit. So in man the soul dominates the body, and the mind the appetites. So the male, because the more outstanding, rules the female, who as the weaker obeys. Thus, the pride and high spirits of man should be restrained by sure reins of reason, law, and imperium less he throw himself precipitously into ruin.

1. [symbiotici: those who live together.]

2. [symbiosis: living together.]

3. [This sentence and the previous one are taken without acknowledgment from Juan Mariana, The King and His Education, I, 1.]

4. 'On Monarchy, Democracy, and Oligarchy,' pars. 2 and 3. [Plutarch refers therein to polity as citizenship, as statecraft, and as forms of government.]

5. [There is no precise English counterpart for the Latin word jus (pl. jura) as employed by Althusius. Often it means 'right' (e.g., jus coercendi — right to coerce), sometimes 'law' (e.g., jus naturale — natural law), and upon occasion even 'authority', 'responsibility', 'power', 'legal order', 'structure', or 'justice'. It also functions in many instances as a Janus-headed word eluding the capacity of any single English term to express (e.g., jura regni — rights and laws of the realm). Notations in text and footnotes have therefore been made from time to time to assist the reader in observing its complex usage. The general rule employed throughout is to translate jus as 'right' wherever possible, to indicate by notation all places where jus has been translated by some other term, and to insert occasional footnotes that provide variant translations in critical places where the full meaning of jus cannot be expressed by a single English word. In keeping with this rule, 'right' will henceforth be the most frequent translation (usually without notation) of jus. (Unless noted, 'law' will always be a translation of lex.) The reader should be on guard, however, not to attribute too readily to Althusius' understanding of 'right' the connotation of a self-evident system of 'public right' or the notion of 'inalienable rights' of men or associations.]

6. Philippians 3: 20.

7. Politics, 1276b 17-1277b 4; 1293a 35-1294b 41.

8. [communicatio: a sharing, a making common. Althusius sometimes uses communion (communio) and community (koinwnia) interchangeably with communication.]

9. The Republic, I, 25.

10. [the fundamental law of living together; the demand that social life make upon men both by its nature and by their agreement. This demand has some elements common to all associations, and others proper to various species of association (family, collegium, city, province, and commonwealth). In this chapter it is usually called the law of association (lex consociationis), but in later chapters symbiotic right (jus symbioticum) is the more common expression.]

11. Genesis 1: 26 f.; 3: 16; Ecclesiasticus 17.

12. Romans 13.

13. [Althusius employs jus naturae (or naturale) interchangeably with lex naturae (or naturalis). Both expressions are henceforth translated as 'natural law'.]

14. Laws, III, 1.

15. Ephesians 5: 21.

16. De republica, I, 1, 18 f. [I, 1, 8 and 10 in the 1609 edition].

17. The City of God, XIX, 15 [XIX, 14 in the Modern Library edition]. See also Seneca, Letters, num. 91 [num. 90 in the Loeb edition]; Marius Salomonius, De principatu, II; Giovanni Botero, The Greatness of Cities, I, 1.

18. On Princely Government, I, 13 and 14.

19. Or, as Jerome Osorius says, to rule is to direct toward the right end. De regis institutione, I.

20. 'Whoever presides, let him preside with care.' Romans 12: 8. 'If anyone does not take responsibility for his own, and especially those of his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.' I Timothy 5: 8.

21. [as contrasted with common law (lex communis), discussed in the last four paragraphs.]

22. [the second aspect of the law of association.]

22. 'Sayings of Kings and Magistrates,' [1st par.]

24. Philippians 2: 4-6; I Corinthians 10: 24; 12: 25 f.; Galatians 1: 3, 5; 5: 14; Romans 12: 18, 20; 13: 8, 10.

25. Cicero, Duties, I, 7.

26. Matthew 22: 39; 7: 12. [Shabbath 31a; Digest I, 1, 10, 1.]

27. See Ecclesiastes 4: 5-8 and the Commentarius thereon of Francis Junius, in which are indicated the benefits of social life.

28. Bartholomew Keckerman, Systema disciplinae politicae.

29. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV, 3, 1.

30. Opposed to this judgment is the life and teaching of recluses, monks, and hermits, who defend their error and heresy by an erroneous appeal to Luke 1: 80; 10: 41; Hebrews 11: 38; I Kings 19: 8. But scripture places this kind of life among its maledictions. Deuteronomy 28: 64, 65; Psalms 107 and 144; Code X, 32, 26. Note also that a wandering and vagabond life was imposed upon Cain in punishment for his fratricide. Genesis 4: 14.

30. Politics, 1252a 24-1253a 38.

31. Politics, 1253a 31.

32. [Bracketed elision marks, wherever found in this translation, indicate an unacknowledged omission by Althusius in a quotation from another author.]

33. Peter Gregory, De republica, XIX; I, 1, 7 and 16 f.; I, 3, 12 f. [In the 1609 edition the precise quotation is found in VI, 1, 1 f., although the other passages indicated by Althusius are also generally relevant to the discussion. Note, however, that Gregory says that 'to rule, to direct, to be subjected, to be ruled, to be governed are agreeable to the natural law (jus naturae), and are consistent with the divine law (jus divinum), the human law of nations (jus gentium), and civil law (jus civile). Anything else etc.'.

Also to be noted is that Althusius will have nothing to do, here or elsewhere, with Gregory's often repeated division of the corporeal world into four elements (earth, water, air, and fire), and therefore omits them from the quotation rather than attributing the diversity of the world to them, as Gregory does. Although these four elements recur throughout his De republica, Gregory's best discussion of them is found in his legal work, Syntagma juris universi, I, 1-9.

Finally, the sentence immediately after this quotation is in large part borrowed, following Gregory, from Cassiodorus, Variarum, 16.]

34. The absence of a ruler is held to be the root of evils in Judges 17: 6 and 21: 25. The same is considered to be a punishment in Isaiah 3. [These Biblical passages are also cited in Gregory, De Republica, VI, 1, 3.]

35. Ibid., VI, 1, 5. [Gregory acknowledges no source for his comparison of social with musical harmony, but the same comparison in almost identical words is found in Cicero, The Republic, II, 42, and Augustine, The City of God, II, 21. Earlier Plato had compared the harmony of the inward man with musical harmony in The Republic, IV, 443. In the sixteenth century Francis Hotman also employed this comparison, attributing it to Plato by way of Cicero. See his Franco-gallia (1573), 10 or (1586), 12.]