Franklin Henry Giddings.

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

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to republican self-government. Further progress in true
republicanism will be possible just to the extent, and only to
the extent, that we can gradually achieve a greater equality,
without resorting to methods that destroy liberty or fraternity.
Just to the extent that there develops in the community an
ethical spirit which leads us to resist the monopolization by
the few of resources and opportunities that should be the
common heritage of all mankind, to demand that our public
school system of education shall be perfected, and that our
laws shall be equally enforced, our nation may become repub-
lican in fact as in name and in tradition. It was not a socialist,
but that calmest of critics, Matthew Arnold, who, many years


ago, endeavoured to convince the English people that the
remedy for their social evils was not to be sought in dises-
tablishment or any other constitutional change, but rather in
social equality. The more you think of it, he assured them,
"the more you will be persuaded that Menander showed
his wisdom quite as much when he said choose equality, as
when he assured us that evil communications corrupt good

This conclusion is, I think, an excellent example of the help
that sociology can render us in the rational and constructive
criticism of social values. It tells us that all our social values
must be referred for final correction to the fundamental facts
that society and social institutions are but means to an ethical
end, and that society itself is grounded in like-mindedness.
The Anglo-Saxon tendency is to value liberty supremely.
This is a disproportionate estimation of a condition which is
not, in itself, sufficient for the attainment of " the good life."
The social function of liberty is to insure variation and prog-
ress, to permit the new to modify and improve the old. But
liberty without fraternity and equality would disintegrate
society. If, on the other hand, we supremely value equality
and fraternity, to the neglect of liberty, we may easily make
the mistake of trying to level conditions by radical methods,
and thus put an end to progressive change. Whatever other
men may think, the sociologist is unable to doubt that only
the community which chiefly values equality, homogeneity,
and fraternity, can permanently maintain its cohesion and
stability; and that onlj"- the community which, valuing equal-
ity chiefly, values liberty in only a slightly less degree, can
be both stable and progressive.

I have now indicated many of the practical values of soci-
ology, regarded as a descriptive study of the mind of the
many. The list is by no means complete. I have selected
only those chiefly important ones which are more immedi-
ately connected with the most important propositions of
sociological theory. Sociology enables us, in a measure, to
govern the conditions on which social stability and social
progress depend. It enables us to appreciate the profound


distinction between impulsive and rational social change,
and to discover the dangers that lurk in the practice of at-
taching the sanctions of religion to irrationality. In addition
to all these services, sociology enables us to attempt a ra-
tional and constructive criticism of our social values, and to
combine them in a realizable social ideal. It extends its
scientific description of society into the past, and projects it
into the future. Its forecast is no impossible Utopia. It
assumes that if the work of description is accurately done in
the present, the sociologist of the future will have no occasion
to substitute for it a wholly new system of facts; but will
merely complete the system already begun. In a word, the
supreme practical value of sociology is that, like every other
science, it completes in thought, for the daily guidance of
mankind, a system of facts which, as yet, are only partly



He teaches " a blinding superstition," said Theophrastus
Such, who teaches " that a theory of human well-being can be
constructed in disregard of the influences that have made us
human." If modern thought has any new truth to contribute
to the inherited stock of ethical wisdom, it is because we are
in a position to study more minutely than was possible in
earlier days, and to interpret more exactly, the forces and
conditions by which our human nature has been wrought.
We shall find them to be not altogether different in kind from
those that were recognized by Plato, Aristotle, and Kant.
Indeed, the Greek conceptions were truer than some later
ones. Most of the ethical systems that have been constructed
since the Protestant Reformation have dealt directly with the
individual, and have attempted to work from the individual
to society. In this they have been not wholly wrong. Cen-
turies of suppression of individuality by Church and State
had obscured one-half of moral truth. Men needed to be
reminded that the individual, once he comes into existence,
has a value in and for himself, and must be counted as a force
reacting on society. But so far as ethical systems have
assumed the individual as an independent starting-point of
social and moral phenomena, they have been radically untrue.

The Greeks never failed to see that all rational life is a
product of social conditions. To the Greek, says Butcher,
*' ' The man versus the state ' was a phrase unknown ; the
man was complete in the state; apart from it he was not
only incomplete, he had no rational existence. Only through
the social organism could each part, by adaptation to the
others, develop its inherent powers." Nevertheless, this


doctrine of the creation of man by society was by no means
completely tbought out in the minds of those writers who
first formulated it, and those who last concerned themselves
about it left much to be added by the students of a later time.
Aristotle's comparative study of one hundred and fifty-eight
different communities, which enabled him first among scien-
tific investigators to show in detail how and why the good
life can have existence only in the organized state, was a
theoretical no less than a practical advance beyond the spec-
ulative insight of Plato. In like manner, our modern study
of social progress is an advance, both theoretical and practical,
beyond the work of Plato and Aristotle, and beyond the
philosophy of man as it stood when post-Kantian idealism
had achieved in Germany its task of reviving Hellenic moods
of thought. This assertion demands, perhaps, a single word
of explanation. They misapprehend the work of science who
oppose it to speculative philosophy, as if one must choose
between them which god he will serve. It may be that our
modern science can discover few great truths of which at
least some glimmerings were not seen in ancient Greece. The
very doctrine of evolution is in that sense not new. But the
mission of science is a patient conversion of insight into sight;
of dialectic into knowledge. Our advantage is not in a
conviction more sure than Aristotle's, that he who can live
without society must be either a beast or a god : it is in a
minute and relatively precise knowledge of those slow but
certain processes of biological and social change by which the
transformation of brutality into humanity is effected. And we
cannot afford to despise this more nearly perfect knowledge,
as but a tedious elaboration of ideas long since familiar and
accepted. It is itself a new factor in the social process. In
the fateful game of chess with the unseen antagonist of Mr.
Huxley's picture, it enables man to play with the cool and
calculating joy of one who knows the meaning and the end
of every move ; knows, too, that on the other side, the play,
though real and relentless, is always just, patient, and fair.

Therefore, chief among the relations of cause and effect in
the wonderful process that has made us human, is one that


brings together, in a complete truth, the partial explanations
that we owe to Athens, with other explanations, no less par-
tial, that have been worked out in our own day. The action
of a social medium upon intelligence and character, oH the
one hand, natural selection and survival on the other, — these
influences together have created human faculty. There came
a time in the long struggle for existence, as Mr. Wallace has
shown, when mental resource counted for more than physical
strength. But anthropoid apes and simian men, we have every
reason to suppose, acquired mental resources through their
social habits, which multiplied experiences and made tradition
possible. The intelligence that association created has never
ceased to depend on association for perpetuation and growth.
Deprived of comradeship by circumstance or law, men go
back to the brutality from which they came. Wilfully reject-
ing companionship, they learn, with Manfred, that man is
not yet qualified to act the part of god :

..." There is an order
Of mortals on the earth, who do become
Old in their youth, and die ere middle age,
Without the violence of warlike death.''

Therefore it has been the creatures best equipped with social
habit and its products that have won and maintained suprem-
acy in the ceaseless contention with physical nature and liv-
ing enemies. Society is a means to a perfectly definite end,
— namely, the survival of living creatures through a progres-
sive evolution of their intelligence and sympathy. There can
be no sociology worthy of the name which is not essentially
an elaboration of this central principle. The notion that
society is an end in itself amounts to an unthinkable proposi-
tion. At the same time, the intelligence and the fraternity
that association creates react in their turn on society, making
it better as a working organization, nobler and purer as
a medium of individual life. Thus the interpretation of
man as a progressive ethical being, and the interpretation of
society as an ever-changing plexus of relationships, must pro-
ceed together. It is not enough to know, with the philosophers
of Greece, that without society and social duty there can be


no individual moral life. They understood well the problems
of social order and the nature of personal worthiness. They
knew that excellence is essentially a fact of organization:
Plato's demonstration that justice in the state and goodness
in the individual life are neither more nor less than the co-
ordinated play of mutually dependent and mutually limiting
activities, in proportions harmonious with one another, and
in perfect subordination to the unity of the whole, has never
been equalled, certainly never surpassed, in ethical analysis.
They were familiar, too, with a thousand aspects of social and
of individual change. But they did not combine these ele-
ments into a synthetic conception. They were unable to
unite the static with the kinetic factors of their problem, and
so to arrive at the peculiarly modern notion of a moving equi-
librium. And therefore they failed to achieve an entirely
true and sufficient philosophy of either man or the state. For
life is not the whirl of a constant number of jugglers' plates,
balanced on the sword-points of the players : it is a whirl in
which new plates and new motions appear at every instant,
compelling ever most delicate readjustments throughout the
entire system, and yet without once disturbing seriously the
approximately perfect balance of the whole. The large and
difficult conception, then, to which we must attain, is that of a
world in which there can be no true ethical phenomena except
through a process, at once progressive and orderly, of mutual
modifications and adaptations of man and society by each
other; in which each acquires, stage by stage, a more deli-
cate complexity of organization. Of the many implications
of this conception we must now examine some of the more

In philosophy of every school the term personality stands
for the highest synthetic product of mental evolution. True
personality is a well-unified, self-conscious mental life, har-
monious within itself, capable of indefinite expansion, and
sympathetic with surrounding life because realizing and com-
prehending in itself the manifold possibilities of life. It is
the type at once of the concrete and of the universal. One
who thoroughly understands this will never make the mistake


of believing, on the one hand, that utility is the fundamental
word of ethics, or, on the other hand, that ethics can be
complete without including utilitarianism. The fundamental
word of ethics is integrity — wholeness. There can be no
utility apart from a consciousness capable of wants and satis-
factions. The integrity, the unity, the internal harmony of
that consciousness is, therefore, the first necessity. The
strongest ethical terms — as right, truth, obligation — stand in
direct relation to integrity rather than to utility. The joy
of activity also, including the supreme satisfaction that one
may find in self-sacrifice, is related to integrity first of all, for
it implies the consistent action of the whole personality;
while utility is a quality, not immediately of conduct as spon-
taneous activity, but rather of its reactions. Therefore, if
integrity and utility come into direct conflict, utility must
for the moment give way; since self-conservation is prelim-
inary to self -expansion ; and because the vitality and the
qualities of conduct, by which all its own consequences are
conditioned, are governed by its internal unity of purpose.
But there can be no enduring integrity without development,
no permanent conservation without progress. Therefore,
ethics cannot stop at integrity. It must expand into utili-
tarianism, and work out the laws of that cumulative happi-
ness which is the reward and the confirmation of well-doing.

Put this conception of personality side by side with our
view of intelligence as a product of social conditions. Is it
not evident that personality, in this philosophical sense, comes
into being only in the relatively perfect society, which has
passed beyond the limitations of tribal existence, and even
of a narrow nationalism, into a sympathetic relation to man-
kind in all its varied phases of development ? If so, it is a
product of progressive, as distinguished from both stationary
and anarchistic, or disintegrating, society ; and the theory of
personality can be worked out only in terms of a theory of
social progress.

In detail this means that a society in which the highest
type of mind can appear is one that has had, first, such a
vigorous ethnical or national existence, and, second, such


varied contact with surrounding peoples, that it has become
plastic without losing its distinctive character. In the no-
menclature of evolution, it has acquired internal mobility
without losing cohesion. By admixture of bloods, a variable
but not unstable physical nature has been produced. By
numberless comparisons of one mode of civilization with
another, a mental temper at once critical and catholic has
been created. Prosperity and a rapidly increasing popula-
tion have brought the young and enterprising to the front
in the conduct of affairs. Selection has weeded out those
who could neither learn nor forget. Force and authority in
the social organization have so far given way to spontaneous
initiative that the individual can find scope for the develop-
ment of his latent powers, but not so far as to permit disin-
tegration. Contact and converse being the conditions of
progress, its phases are an increase of material well-being,
an inclusive sympathy, a catholic rationality, and a flexible
social constitution, adapting itself readily to changing con-
ditions, yet of enduring strength. And since the conserva-
tion of energy is a fact of social as of physical phenomena,
the essential nature of progress, beneath all conditions and
phases, is a conversion of lower — that is, more simple, im-
perfectly organized — modes of energy into higher. Eco-
nomic activities transform the energies of physical nature
into social force, of which there is no other source whatever,
since artistic, religious, educational, and political activities
are but a further transformation of the results of economic
effort. In the medium of all these activities is moulded
their final product, the human personality, which could
come into being in no other way and under no other cir-

Such are a few of the sociological facts that underlie ethi-
cal problems. It is interesting to reflect that in a vague way
the great truth which they contain, that without social prog-
ress there can be no human personality, and, therefore, no
ethics, has always been present in popular consciousness.
The experiences of individual life, of course, afford a basis
for it, since the years from childhood to maturity are nor-


mally a period of increasing personal power, in which every
ambitious man believes that he was born to accomplish some
desirable transformation of the community. But social ex-
periences in the mass have doubtless built the superstruc-
ture. Studies in ethnology and comparative religions are
pointing to the probable conclusion that faith in progress
has been an essential element in every religious belief.
Under some circumstances it may be the only element.
Charity-workers in the slums of Paris and London report
that an undefined, shadowy belief in a better state of things
is the last trace of religious consciousness discoverable in
whole classes of the very poor. What has been the genesis
of the conviction? Everywhere social advance has been
brought about through successive waves of conquest. Natu-
rally enough, in the minds of the conquerors, the good order,
the right order, has been identified with the new order of
things which they have sought to establish. • The evil order
has been the old way of life that was followed by the subju-
gated enemies who are now reduced to serfdom. Good spirits
are those who favour the plans of the enterprising and success-
ful, in whose control are the shaping of public policy and the
dictation of orthodox belief. It is true that orthodoxy is no
sooner born than it turns conservative and seeks to maintain
itself against further change. But the effort is vain. An-
other conquest, or a new generation, brings new men and
new issues to the fore, and a new orthodoxy stands ever
ready to crowd the old relentlessly to the wall. The con-
quered and oppressed, on their part, have a doctrine of
progress also. It is a faith in a future in which justice shall
be done, when they shall be delivered from their captivity
and in their turn put their ruthless enemies under foot. In
time a closer intercourse and a finer feeling soften and blend
these conflicting faiths into a belief in the ultimate happiness
and perfection of all classes.

Crude and even visionary as it may be, this perennial faith
in progress is the motive power of moral life. Science must
rectify it at a thousand points, but the very first word of
an ethical science that is not charlatanism itself must be an


unequivocal declaration that such faith in se is the beginning
of righteousness. The first law of life is a law of motion.
In society, as on the street, the preliminary duty is to
" move on." The nation that has no further reconstructions
to effect, no new ideals to realize in practice, has completed
its work, and will disappear before the warfare or the migra-
tions of more earnest men. But the moving on must be
developmental : mere change is not evolution, but confusion ;
and the nature and limitations of an evolutionary process,
imperfectly recognized as yet in ethical discussion, are prac-
tically unknown to popular thought. It is here, then, that
the rectifying work of science must begin. Human society
is not a something-for-nothing endowment order. The vision
of a completed society, lacking neither material comfort nor
any moral excellence, in which foolishness, want, and suffer-
ing could linger only as dim memories of an imperfect past,
has had a strangely persistent fascination for speculative
minds in every age. Common sense has never accepted the
dream for reality; for common sense is a sceptic from the
beginning. Philosophy has doubted if evil be not inherent
in the nature of the world, and therefore ineradicable. But
doubt and scepticism have fallen far short of reasoned demon-
stration from experience that the vision is inherently absurd.
Yet the elements of the demonstration that science has been
patiently working out in recent years are simple enough.
The available energy of society at any given moment is
strictly limited in amount. The total can be increased only
by parting with some, in the thought and labour by which
larger stores of physical energy, contained in the natural
resources of the environment, are set free and converted to
human use. All progress, therefore, is conditioned by cost ;
and if the law of conservation holds good in these matters,
as we have assumed that it must, the cost will increase with
the progress — not, however, necessarily in the same ratio as
the gain, since riper knowledge should enable us to get more
from physical nature with a given expenditure of human
effort. In this simple form the limitations of progress pre-
sent an economic rather than a moral problem, and need not


detain us at the present time. But since society is an organic
aggregate, the cost of progress takes on various complica-
tions, out of which grow ethical problems that are both, grave
and difficult. As was shown in the illustration of the mov-
ing equilibrium, society, as an aggregate that is simulta-
neously losing and absorbing motion, must experience an
incessant rearrangement of its parts. This means two very
important things : First, there can be no social gain that does
not entail somewhere, on the whole community or on a class,
the break-up of long-established relations, interests, and occu-
pations, and the necessity of a more or less difficult read-
justment. Second, the increase of social activity, which is
the only phase of progress that most people ever see at all,
may so exceed the rate of constructive readjustment that the
end is disorganization and ruin.

For the further examination of these propositions, let us
translate them from physical terms into the language of feel-
ing. This is legitimate ; because the destruction of familiar
relations and the necessity of establishing new ones are
known immediately in consciousness in terms of hardship or
suffering, while any disorganization of social or of individual
life involves the pain of moral retrogression. The limitations
of progress, then, are these : First, there can be no social
progress, and therefore no evolution of ethical personality,
except at the price of an absolute, but not necessarily a rela-
tive, increase of suffering. Second, if the increase of social
activity, which is one phase of progress, becomes dispro-
portionate to the constructive reorganization of social rela-
tionships, which is the complementary phase, the increase
of suffering will become degeneration and moral evil.

Such limitations are not a cheering aspect of social prog-
ress ; but their reality is fully established in historical and
in statistical fact, and they sharply define our ethical obliga-
tions. The fii'st of these sobering propositions has to be
made a shade darker still. The suffering that progress costs
is borne for the most part vicariously. The classes who are
displaced, whose interests and occupations are broken up by
the relentless course of change, are not the ones who secure


the joys of richer and ampler life. That which enormously
benefits mankind is too often the irretrievable ruin of the
few. For illustration, one need not be confined to the familiar
facts of the wasting of barbarian peoples before the advance
of civilization, or of the sacrifice of life in national self-defence.
The history of industrial progress affords examples quite as
striking, and essentially more significant, since they show
that after society has settled down to the quiet occupations
of peace, the fundamental conditions of its development re-
main unchanged. In reviewing them, the sociologist expects
to find that the minority which thus suffers the pains of

Online LibraryFranklin Henry GiddingsDemocracy and empire; with studies of their psychological, economic, and moral foundations → online text (page 6 of 29)