Franklin Henry Giddings.

Democracy and empire; with studies of their psychological, economic, and moral foundations online

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organization. There is a limit beyond which we cannot
admit alien elements and preserve our identity as a nation ;
a limit beyond which no party, church, or sect can tolerate
the mugwump and dissenter, without incurring the penalty
of its own disintegration.

What, then, becomes of progress? Is that a scientific
description of society which fails to give any account of
variation? Absolute like-mindedness would be the social


Nirvana. To exclude all alien elements from the nation, to
drive all heretics from the Church, to expel all independents
from the party — this would be a policy that would pres-
ently bring our fifty years of Europe to a cycle of Csfthay.
Sociology can predict for us no such uninteresting future.
The scientific description of society is not yet complete.

As certainly as like-mindedness is the cause of social sta-
bility, so is unlike-mindedness the cause of social variation.
Only as new types of character, new ways of thinking, new
habits, new ambitions are brought into the population, can
the community undergo any essential change for better or
for worse. Only as men differ and dare to differ from their
fellows, can the church or the party adapt itself to new con-
ditions. Mere variation, however, is not necessarily progress :
there is no progress to be discovered in disunion or in dis-
organization. We here begin to perceive the next step in
the scientific description of society. A progressive society
must change, without losing its cohesion or identity. Re-
ducing this statement to terms of our fundamental concept,
we find it to mean that, in a progressive society, a certain
degree of unlike-mindedness coexists with a large balance
of like-mindedness. Looking a little further, we discover
also that the unlike-mindedness must be of that kind or
quality which can be reconciled with the like-mindedness.
Progress, in short, is the continuous harmonizing of a contin-
ually appearing unlikeness of feeling, thought, and purpose
in the community with a vast central mass of already estab-
lished agreements.

Thus we arrive at the second practical value of sociology.
It enables us to see that, while a fundamental harmony of
beliefs and interests must, if possible, be maintained in any
social population or artificial social organization ; and while,
at times, it may be necessary to check a too rapid infiow of
alien elements, or a too radical development of dissenting
opinions, still, in themselves immigration and dissent are
necessary and good, and are to be welcomed just to the
extent that they can be assimilated. Their function is to
leaven the lump, not to explode it.


From these conditions of social stability and social change,
let us now pass to a consideration of the manner or method
of change. A great deal of social progress is accomplished
as quietly and unconsciously as the growth of a forest.
Slight differences of nationality are assimilated ; minor pecu-
liarities of manner are imitated ; modifications of opinion are
effected; until, in the course of time, a really important meta-
morphosis of society has taken place, and no one can tell
exactly how.

Not all social change, however, is of this description.
Every now and then, great masses of men become dissatis-
fied with existing conditions, and, as a result of their volun-
tary and combined action, bring about momentous changes
in a comparatively short interval of time. Such are revolu-
tions and the social transformations inaugurated by some far-
reaching governmental policy. Such, for example, were the
Puritan rebellion in England, the American Revolution of
1776, the ratification of the Federal Constitution of the
United States, the abolition of negro slavery, and the estab-
lishment of the French Republic.

These comparatively rapid transformations of the social
system are brought about in two ways : an impulsive, unrea-
soning social action, like that of the mob, is one ; delibera-
tion and discussion are the other. Of impulsive social action,
sane men in their sane moments have a well-grounded dread.
Not all the cruelties that have been deliberately inflicted by
political tyrants and ecclesiastical councils can for a moment
be compared with the horrors that have been perpetrated by
irresponsible masses of men who have ceased to reason about '
their social situation, and have surrendered themselves to the
frenzy of emotion.

Sociology, by its more accurate description of the condi-
tions and processes of mob action, can add nothing to the
repugnance which all calm-minded men feel toward such
outbreaks of the brute nature that still survives in man.
Nevertheless, the sociological description of the mob con-
tributes two elements of great practical value to our knowl-
edge of this subject. The first is a demonstration that in all


cases of impulsive outbreak, the transition from violent talk
to violent action is first made by the irresponsible, quasi-
criminal elements of the population. Riots, insurrections,
revolutions, rarely begin with the striking of a well-directed
blow by a disciplined force, under the command of a far-see-
ing and cool-headed leader. They begin with assaults, thefts,
and homicides, with volleys of stones, with random shootings
and stabbings, with the looting of shops, and the lynching
of opponents. History teems with examples. To mention a
single one: the Crusades — perhaps the most remarkable phe-
nomenon o£ epidemic craze that has ever been witnessed — did
not begin, as thousands of careless readers of history sup-
pose, as an organized and disciplined march of military forces
towards the Holy Land, under the leadership of Godfrey of
Bouillon, Hugh the Great, Robert Curthose, Count Robert
of Flanders, Prince Boehmond of Tarentum, and Count Ray-
mond of Toulouse, in the year 1097. They began with the
three unorganized crusades of the preceding year, under
"Walter the Penniless, whose twenty thousand followers, de-
scribed by historians as the dregs of Christendom, filled Bul-
garia with robbery and murder, until they were themselves
slaughtered in the storming of Belgrade; under Peter the
Hermit, whose rabble of forty thousand men, women, and
children was hardly better in character ; and under the Ger-
man priest, Gottschalk, whose fifteen thousand followers from
Strasburg, Worms, and Mayence, began their pilgrimage by
massacring Jews in the valley of the Rhine. Facts of this
kind, I think, are not generally known ; and I am sure that
their full significance is rarely perceived. They mean that,
at the very outset, impulsive social action is quasi-criminal,
if not, indeed, altogether criminal ; and this for the reason
that it begins with the violent acts of those men who are
themselves least subject to self-control. It means, therefore,
that the unchaining of the wild beast in man, which is so
often spoken of as a result of mob action, is really not its
result at all, but its very beginning ; and that a terrible re-
sponsibility rests upon those men and women who, while
believing in rational deliberation, and justly dreading epi-


demic emotion, look tolerantly upon the initial stages of
social excitement, or carelessly permit themselves to con-
tribute to it, in the unwarranted belief that they can turn
to and check it when it begins to go too far.

The impossibility of checking, until it has run its course,
any mob action that has once fairly begun, has now been
fairly established as a demonstrated sociological principle ;
and this is the second element which an accurate scien-
tific description of society adds to our knowledge of the
non-reasoning or impulsive modes of social transformation.
From the moment that reason finally loses its control over
masses of communicating men, they fall under the power
of imitation and hypnotic suggestion; and emotional fury
sweeps through them with increasing volume and accelerat-
ing velocity, as a conflagration sweeps through accumula-
tions of combustible material. Impulsive social action, in
short, proceeds not slowly through the mass, as water filters
through sand, but with the frightful acceleration of a geo-
metrical progression. This law has been fully established
by psychological and sociological research ; and it is no more
open to doubt than is the law of gravitation. Moreover, no
fact of social knowledge is of greater practical importance.
The only way to prevent the devastating consequences of epi-
demic madness is to multiply in the community the number
of those men who habitually subordinate feeling to reason,
and who, therefore, cannot become a part of the combustible
material of the mob spirit.

If these things are true, it is obvious that so far as prog-
ress depends upon human intention and the putting forth of
human will to supplement the slow accumulation of those
minute changes that are imperceptibly effected by uncon-
scious evolution, we must look chiefly to the agency of rea-
son and deliberation. What, then, are the "conditions under
which reason maintains its supremacy in social affairs ?
What are the conditions under which the number of cool-
headed, deliberating men, is multiplied, and the proportion
of emotional, fanatical, hypnotizable, impulsive beings is
diminished? In answer to these questions, sociology adds


to its scientific description of society a well-demonstrated
fact, the practical value of which is certainly not inferior to
anything that has yet been mentioned.

I fear that the propositions which I am about to offer will
be unwelcome to many excellent men and women. Yet I
believe them to be so absolutely true and of such vital im-
portance to the welfare of mankind, that I should think
myself dishonest and cowardly if I failed to put them before
you. I believe that the further development of scientific
thought will fully substantiate them, and that they will pres-
ently be accepted by all clear-thinking and far-seeing men.

The questions that I have just raised may best be answered
by converting them into a negative form. Under what con-
ditions are irrationality, hypnotic susceptibility, willingness
to follow without question or resistance any suggested course
of action, most likely to prevail in the community ? Are we
maintaining educational influences or agencies, whose certain
tendency is to multiply the number of unreasoning, impulsive
members of society ? When our question is put in this way,
I cannot doubt that you will immediately foresee the answer
that must be made. In the name of religion, society for gen-
erations has cherished a daiigerous influence and has encour-
aged the practice of arts that menace the happiness and the
further progress of mankind. Of all dangerous teachers in
the community, a certain type of the professional revivalist
is most to be feared. A certain type of the revival meeting
is, and always has been, the chief school of impulsive action.
Throughout human history that kind of revival in which
reason is denounced, anathematized, and submerged under
billows of crazing emotion, has been the foster-mother of the

To my mind it is little short of amazing that any sane
person can witness the occurrences of a negro revival in
the South, or read of the similar occurrences that took
place during the great revival epidemics that swept west-
ward from the Atlantic seaboard in 1837 and in 1857, or
listen to the preaching of some of the more popular of
modern revivalists, without being overwhelmingly convinced


of the truth of these propositions. Too often the methods of
the professional revivalist are those of the professional hyp-
notizer, even when they are more refined, and keep their
machinery out of sight. Too often the revivalist tells his
hearers that their reason is the most deadly enemy of their
souls ; that the deliberating, critical habit of mind endangers
their eternal salvation ; that their only safety lies in immedi-
ately acting upon the impulse which he is striving to awaken
in their bosoms. Not long ago, such a teacher, addressing an
audience of thousands in New York City, repeated as a model
for universal imitation the prayer of a man who besought
God to crush his individual will, and make him a helpless
drift-log on the current of divine purpose. Now, ladies and
gentlemen, look at this thing seriously and reasonably. Do
you expect that men and women who surrender themselves
to the influence of such teaching in the revival meeting will
act coolly, reasonably, and courageously in the affairs of sec-
ular life ? Do you suppose that those who yield unresist-
ingly to the impassioned appeal of the exhorter, will be
unmoved by the harangue of the partisan orator, or resist
the impulse to follow blindly the lead of the " boss " who,
like his religious preceptor, exacts unquestioning obedience,
and visits condign punishment upon the sceptic ? Certainly
you do not ; and the longer you think this matter over, the
more fully satisfied will you become of the truth of this con-
clusion which, I venture to assert, is one of the fundamental
truths of a scientific description of society : So long as the
grosser, irrational forms of revivalism are possible, the per-
fect protection of society against epidemic madness, and the
overthrow of any bossism of the brutal sort will be im-
possible. Let us not deceive ourselves with the belief that
we can make men irrational, impulsive, hypnotic creatures
for the purposes of religion, and then find them cool-headed,
critical, rational men for the purposes of politics.

When reason is in control of the social situation, and pro-
ceeds through calm deliberation to formulate an account of
social evils, and to frame a policy of reform, what is that es-
sential peculiarity of the process which a scientific description


of society brings to attention ? The answer is : The rational
improvement of society proceeds through a criticism of social
values ; and one of the objects of sociology should be to lay
a sound basis of descriptive knowledge for this, the highest
kind of criticism in which the rational intelligence can en-

By the term " social value " is meant that regard or estefem
for any social habit, relation, or institution which makes men
cherish and defend it. In the long run, social values are
measured, as economic values are, by the sacrifices that men
will make for them. The measure of the value that we
attach to civil liberty is to be found in the sacrifices that we
are prepared to make to maintain it. The measure of the
value that we attach to any ancient usage or institution
which, in some degree, obstructs the later developments of our
social system — as the Established Church and the House
of Lords are thought by English Radicals to obstruct prog-
ress in England — is the sacrifice of new possibilities that
we submit to, rather than witness the destruction of things
which we have long admired or revered.

Thus it is obvious that our social values, like our economic
values, are determined by a process of comparison extended
throughout the entire range of possible utilities and costs.
It is important to the individual, in constructing his subjec-
tive scale of economic values, to estimate accurately every
utility and every cost which enters into his calculations. In
like manner, it is of the utmost importance to the general
welfare that society should accurately estimate the utility of
every social institution, of every cherished usage or custom,
and, with equal accuracy, the sacrifices, not only of the time
and money of individuals, but also of possible developments
along new lines of progress, which must be made in order to
maintain the old ; or, taking the other point of view, that it
should estimate accurately how much of the old must be sacri-
ficed to secure the new. Accordingly, the rational process in
social development consists chiefly in that criticism of all our
social values which enables us wisely to choose among them.

What practical help can sociology, from its study of the


mind of the many, bring to us for the purposes of this criti-

It reveals to us, first, the fact that our social values are of
two great orders. All objects of social esteem are ends to be
attained or they are simply means to the attainment of such
ends. Here, again, we have a perfect analogy with economic
categories. All economic goods are either goods for final
consumption, or those means of production which we describe
as capital. Now the ends that we strive to attain in society
are not essentially different from those which we strive to at-
tain as individuals. The objects of all endeavour, whether
of individuals or of communities, are life, happiness, and the
development of our rational personality. Society itself is
simply a means to these ends. Philosophy cannot set aside or
improve upon Aristotle's dictum that the state exists for the
good life. Yet no truth is more frequently lost sight of in
personal conduct or in public policy. Nothing is so hard for
the partisan as to see and admit that his party is only a
means to an end, and that it becomes worse than a cumberer
of the ground when it no longer promotes the end for which it
was instituted. It should be one of the chief functions of the
teacher of sociology to repeat — and to insist until mankind
does see and admit — that customs, usages, institutions, par-
ties, churches, creeds, have no sacredness in themselves, and
that there is no other warrant for their existence than may
be found in their power to contribute, either to the safe and
comfortable maintenance of human life, or to the further
progress of the human mind in knowledge, power, reason-
ableness, and moral perfection.

The scientific description of society, however, not only
reveals the relativity of all our social arrangements — and
thereby enables us roughly to estimate the comparative impor-
tance of means and ends — but also reveals to us the condi-
tions under which the different means in use are effectively
combined for the promotion of the ends in view. In saying
this, I mean to afiBrm more than is ordinarily implied in
the remark that human institutions have become what they
now are through a process of historical evolution, and there-


fore cannot be instantly made over or recombined. I mean
to affirm that all social institutions are related in a definite
way to the fundamental social fact of like-mindedness, and
that all criticism of social values must proceed with due ref-
erence to this condition.

To make this point clear, I will attempt to indicate to you
how three social values that greatly occupy the modern mind
are related to the phenomenon of like-mindedness. The watch-
words of democracy are, "liberty," "equality," and "frater-
nity." It was the assumption of the revolutionists of France
that the ideals for which these three words stand could all be
simultaneously realized, and the same assumption is made by
social democrats to-day. But critical thinkers, like Sir James
Fitzjames Stephen have attempted to prove that these ideals
are fundamentally irreconcilable. If liberty exists, they say,
men will develop unequally, and will overthrow any artificial
equality of social conditions. If equality is maintained, lib-
erty must be sacrificed. What, now, are the observed facts ?
Do we actually sometimes see the coexistence of liberty,
equality, and fraternity? Do we actually sometimes see the
sacrifice of one of these conditions, in the attempt to maintain
another? And if sometimes the three conditions do coexist,
while at other times they do not, what are the circumstances
that may be observed in each case ? Actually, there have
been innumerable small democracies here and there, and
innumerable religious societies and fraternal organizations,
in which all three of these democratic ideals have, at the
same time, been fairly well realized. We are speaking now,
of course, of relative, and not absolute, conditions ; for no sane
man has ever dreamed of absolute equality or of absolute lib-
erty. He has dreamed only of a social state in which the
approximation to equality and to liberty should be sufficiently
great to outweigh the inequalities and restraints. That this
condition was actually realized in most of the towns and
villages of our American commonwealths, from the adoption
of the Federal Constitution down to the beginning of the
Civil War, I suppose no well-informed American will deny.
That it is on the whole true of Republican France to-day, is


the judgment of the most careful observers. That it has
always been true of certain ecclesiastical organizations, — for
example, the Congregationalists, the Unitarians, the Uni-
versalists, and the Society of Friends, — is equally beyond
dispute. On the other hand, it is obviously not true at the
present time of our larger American cities ; and it has never
been true of such ecclesiastical organizations as the Roman
Catholic, the Episcopal, and the Presbyterian churches.

Wherein lies the difference? If we look carefully, we shall
discover that those communities or other social organizations
which have fairly well maintained both equality and liberty,
and have reconciled them with a good degree of fraternity,
have been, on the whole, noteworthy for their homogeneity.
For the most part, their members have been men and women
of the same race and nationality, often of the same family
stocks, often of the same pursuits and circumstances in life.
The communities and social organizations which, on the other
hand, have been obliged to sacrifice either equality or liberty,
have been heterogeneous in a high degree. The Roman Catho-
lic organization, for example, has undertaken to include within
its membership men of every race and tongue, in every clime,
and in every state of life, and to insist upon their absolute
spiritual equality and upon an almost unconditional fraternity
in their relations to one another. This it has accomplished
only by the unconditional sacrifice of intellectual and moral
liberty. Its government is an unqualified absolutism. In like
manner, our modern cities, like New York and Philadelphia,
as they have become heterogeneous in population, have com-
pletely lost that approximate balance of liberty and equality
which they originally maintained, and present to our view an
astonishing medley of specific liberties and specific equalities,
offset by inequalities and restrictions that our forefathers
would have deemed inconceivable. Equality in the political
suffrage is offset by the widest inequality of economic condi-
tion. The theoretical liberty of self-government has been lost
in the practical surrender of municipal affairs to the state
legislature and the party boss.

The conclusion of the whole matter, therefore, seems to be


that the words " liberty, equality, and fraternity " express a
perfectly possible order of coexistence, but an impossible se-
quence. That is to say, we cannot begin with liberty, irre-
spective of fraternity and equality, and expect that liberty
will then develop into fraternity and equality; It is more
likely to develop into the widest inequality and burning
hatreds. If, however, we first have fraternity, we can also
have liberty. Men who are alike, — who have common inter-
ests, who are like-minded, — can live together on a basis of
mutual agreements, without any coercive power above them
to keep them in order. Men of differing nationalities and
faiths, if also of discordant minds, can live and work together
for a common purpose only when a coercive power maintains
order among them. Fraternity, then, must be antecedent to
liberty, and not liberty to fraternity, if liberty and fraternity
are to coexist. And in order that there may be fraternity,
there must first be homogeneity or like-mindedness. Neces-
sary to continuing fraternity also is equality ; for only as a
certain degree of equality is maintained can like-mindedness
prevail. Nothing will so surely bring about an irreconcilable
conflict of feeling and opinion as a great inequality of eco-
nomic condition, of political status, or of educational oppor-
tunity. All of the great social conflicts of history have
sprung from inequality.

Sociology, then, has a clear and definite word to say on the
great practical modem question of the relation of equality

Online LibraryFranklin Henry GiddingsDemocracy and empire; with studies of their psychological, economic, and moral foundations → online text (page 5 of 29)