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fate in the field of politics and industry.

In the revolutionary period of the career of our ruling
classes "Individual Liberty" in those fields stood princi-

• French Declaration of the Rights of Man.

* American Declaration of Independence.


pally for freedom from arbitrary political, industrial and
social restraint, but with the fall of feudalism and the
removal of feudal restraints, the phrase lost its original
significance. The manufacturing and trading classes, as
the struggling and subjected bourgeois of the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries, appealed to the sacred right of
individual freedom as a means to deliver them from the
oppression of the ruling classes of their time ; but the pos-
sessing classes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,
themselves in power and confronting a new dependent
class, the class of wage workers, invoke the old god of their
fathers only in order to strengthen their own rule. The
"Individual Liberty" of the modern capitalist has come
very largely to stand for the right to deal with his employees
as he pleases, the unrestricted right to exploit men, women
and children of the working class, and to be free from the
interference of the state in his process of exploitation. An
economic order based entirely on the principles of "laissez-
faire," and a political organization of the type characterized
by Huxley as "Administrative Nihilism" are the ideals of
the modern priests of the god "Individual Liberty."
In the hands of the capitalist individual liberty has de-
generated into individual license, its philosophy is that of
shortsighted egoism. The most consistent and logical
representative of that philosophy is probably Max Stirner,
whose work, "The Ego and His Own," has only recently,
more than sixty years after its first appearance, been placed
before the English-reading bourgeois to be acclaimed by
them with unbounded delight. The views of that philoso-
pher of individualism may be summed up in the follow-
ing two brief quotations from the work mentioned : —
"Away then with every concern that is not altogether


my concern ! You think at least ' the good cause ' must
be my concern. What's good and what's bad ! Why, I
myself am my concern, and I am neither good nor bad.
Neither has meaning for me.

"The divine is God's concern; the human man's.
My concern is neither the divine nor the human, not the
true, good, just, free, etc., but solely what is mine, and it
is not a general one, but is unique, as I am unique.

"Nothing is more to me than myself." *

And again : —

"Every state is a despotism, be the despot one or (as
one is likely to imagine about a republic), if all be the lords,
i.e., despotize one over the other." ^

And in this extreme view of individual freedom the liberal
capitalists find themselves entirely in accord with the
radical anarchists. Both would rob society of all its
social functions. Both base their philosophy on individual
competition and the brutal struggle for existence rather
than on the principle of human cooperation, both make an
idol of individual liberty, both suffer from a morbid exag-
geration of the Ego, and both sanction all means to attain
the end of individual happiness.

The only difference between the conservative and patri-
otic capitalist and the violent anarchist is that the former
represents the "individualism" of the rich, and the latter
that of the poor.

The philosophy of individualism supplies a moral and
pseudo-scientific sanction for the economic struggle be-
tween man and man, and appeals to the different classes of
the population favorably or unfavorably according to their

* Max Stirner, "The Ego and His Own," New York, 1907, p. 6.
' Ihid., p. 256.


chances and position in that struggle. The ruling classes
with their overwhelming economic powers are best
equipped for the uneven struggle of existence; they are
bound to prevail in it and to reap all the advantages of
the victory if not interfered with — they are, therefore,
naturally inclined to individualism.

The dependent and non-possessing classes, on the other
hand, are powerless in the individual struggle for existence
under prevailing conditions. They stand in need of social
protection against the abuses of the dominant class, and
thus their strength lies in concerted action and cooperation.
To the intelligent workingmen, individualism is as repel-
lent as it is hostile to their interests — they naturally lean
towards the opposite philosophy. Socialism is the mani-
festation of the working class revolt against the excessive
individualism of the capitalists, just as individualism
appeared originally as the expression of the revolt of
the bourgeoisie against the excessive centralization of the
ancient regime.

The frequent and heated modern discussions on the
merits and demerits of the "systems" of individualism
and socialism are, therefore, at bottom only the theoretical
and somewhat veiled expression of the practical struggles
between the ruling and dependent classes of our times.

In the words of Sidney Ball, "Socialism and Individual-
ism, when contrasted, have an economic connotation," *
but in ordinary discussion they assume, as a rule, the guise
of purely abstract political or philosophical issues.

These issues between the "individualists" and the
socialists are many in number and multiform in character,

' "Socialism and Individualism," in Economic Review, Vol. VII,
p. 490.



but for the convenience of treatment they may all be
grouped under the following three main heads: —

1. The Relations of the Individual to Society.

2. The Mutual Relations of Individuals in Production.

3. The Fate of Individual Liberty under a System
of Socialism.

We shall consider the points presented by each of these
three subjects separately.

The Individual and Society

At the bottom of the individualist philosophy in politics
lies the conception that organized society is a mere aggre-
gation of individuals freely and deliberately associating
for certain common purposes — a sort of business part-
nership which may be formed, shaped and dissolved by
the contracting parties at will. In this view of our social
organization every member of modern society is an inde-
pendent party to the "social contract" who has entered
into contractual relations with society in order to gain
some individual advantages and who may cancel these
relations if the sacrifices imposed on him should exceed
such advantages. The logical result of these views is an
attitude of jealousy and suspicion towards organized
society or the "state,"* an apprehension that the latter
may strive to exact from the individual more than he has
bargained to give, that it may "exceed the sphere of its
legitimate functions.


• For the purposes of the present discussion the terms are here em-
ployed interchangeably.

^ M. Yves Guyot, the leading apostle of individualism in France,
would limit the activities of the state to the following functions: —

"i. To guarantee exterior and interior security.


This somewhat crude social philosophy found its clearest
expression in the French pre-Revolutionary "literature of
enlightenment"; it was the key to the social theories of
the English Utilitarian school of Locke, Bentham and
Mill, and it held practically undisputed sway of the human
mind until about the middle of the last century. The
doctrine is most naively asserted in the Massachusetts
Bill of Rights, in the following language: "The body
politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals;
it is a social compact by which the whole people covenants
with each citizen and each citizen with the whole people,
that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common

But the discoveries in the domain of organic evolution
and the growing recognition of the laws which are oper-
ating to shape individual life everywhere, finally caused
the students of social life and phenomena to subject their
views to a critical examination. Conditions of social
existence, past and present, were carefully investigated
and collated, and laws of social development were gradu-
ally established.

In the light of the newly acquired knowledge the a priori
social theories of the early thinkers had to be abandoned
one by one, and to-day it is quite generally accepted that
organized society is not an arbitrary invention, but the
result of a definite and logical process of historical de-

It is probable that men never were purely individual

"2. To secure to each individual the freedom to dispose of his per-
son and the freedom of the environment in which he must act.

"3. Not to intervene in contracts except to enforce their performance."
"Le Socialisme et L'Individualisme," Journal des Economistes, June,


beings, but that they evolved from gregarious or social
ancestors in the kingdom of animal life. "As far as we
can go back in the pala^o-ethnology of mankind," observes
Kropotkin, "we find men living in societies — in tribes
similar to those of the higher mammals." And further:
"The earliest traces of man, dating from the glacial or the
early post-glacial period, afford unmistakable proofs of
man having lived even then in societies. Isolated finds of
stone implements, even from the old stone age, are very
rare; on the contrary, wherever one flint implement is
discovered, others are sure to be found, in most cases in
very large quantities. At a time when men were dwelling
in caves, or under occasionally protruding rocks, in com-
pany with mammals now extinct, and hardly succeeded in
making the roughest sorts of flint hatchets, they already
knew the advantages of life in societies." ^

The entire history of man's progress has been one of
increasing growth and importance of his social organiza-
tion. According to Lewis H. Morgan,^ whose studies of
social development are among the most complete and
reliable contributions to modern sociology, the first definite
form of social organization is the primitive family or Gens,
which still prevails among certain savages. This is a
rather loose form of organization, consisting of a body of
human beings descended from a common ancestor. The
next step in social development is the Association of
Several Gentes or Phratry, which is followed by the
closer and more complex organization of the Tribe,
a union of many gentes speaking a common dialect and
occupying a common territory. From the Tribe to the

* P. Kropotkin, "Mutual Aid a Factor of Evolution," London, 1902,
pp. 79, 80. ^ "Ancient Society."


Confederacy of Tribes, which is formed for mutual
defense, and gradually and naturally develops into the
Nation, there is but one step.

This in brief is the history of social growth in ancient
society. With the development of property in goods and
land, the social organization gradually transformed itself
into a political society based on territorial relations. The
Township, the County and the National Domain or State,
are the successive steps of that development.

Thus mankind has imperceptibly evolved from an aggre-
gation of loosely connected social units to the present state
of society, in which the entire globe is divided politically
into a very small number of governments compactly and
closely organized.

The process took countless ages for its accomplishment
and was in all its phases determined by the instinctive needs
of mankind. The successive types of social organization,
ever stronger and more compact, were evolved in the in-
cessant struggle for existence as efficient weapons in that
struggle. "The state," says Professor Ward, " is a natural
product, as much as an animal or plant, or as man him-
self." ^ Whatever progress has been made by mankind in
its long career has been made through its social organiza-
tions. There is no civilization and there is no liberty out-
side of organized society, and in this sense the individual
man is the child and creature of the state and tied to it
with every fiber of his existence.^

* Lester F. Ward, "Pure Sociology," New York, 1903, p. 549.

' "There never was and there never can be any Hberty upon this
earth among human beings outside of state organization. . . . Liberty
is as truly a creation of the state as is government." — • Professor
J. W. BurgesSj "Political Science and Constitutional Law," Boston,
1890, p. 88.


The historical and uniform course of the evolution of
the state and its overwhelming importance as a factor in
human civilization have led the school of thinkers of which
Auguste Comte, Saint-Simon and Hegel are the typical
representatives, to the opposite extreme — the conception of
the state as an organism. The "historical" or "organic"
school sees in the abstract phenomenon of the state a
concrete and independent being with a life, interests and
natural history of its own. To these thinkers human so-
ciety is a social organism very much like the biological
organism. The social institutions are so many of its
organs performing certain vital functions required for the
life and w^ell-being of the organism itself, while the indi-
vidual members of society are but its cells. Mr. M. J.
Novicov,* probably the most ingenious exponent of the
"organic" school of sociology, carries the parallelism be-
tween the social organism and the biological organism
to the point of practical identity, and Mr. Benjamin Kidd,
criticising the utilitarian motto, "The greatest happiness
of the greatest number," says: "The greatest good which
the evolutionary forces operating in society are working
out, is the good of the social organism as a whole. The
greatest number in this sense is comprised of the members
of generations yet unborn or unthought of, to whose in-
terests the existing individuals are absolutely indifferent.
And, in the process of social evolution which the race is
undergoing, it is these latter interests which are always
in the ascendant." ^

In short, the state is the end, the citizen is only the

* "Conscience et Volonte Sociales," Paris, 1897; "La Thferie Or-
ganique des Societes," in Annales de L'Institut International de Sociolo'
gie, Vol. V. ' "Social Evolution," p. 312.


means. It is the old parable of the shrewd Miicius Sce-
vola presenting itself before us in the fashionable garb
of modern science.

And here again the two extremes meet. The extreme
individualist deprecates all attempts on the part of the
state to regulate the affairs of the citizens, on the plea that
the state should not interfere with the liberty of the in-
dividual; the extreme sociocrat discountenances all at-
tempts on the part of the citizens to model the state in their
interests, on the ground that the individual cannot shape
the life of the social organism. One bases his objections
on the ground of expediency, the other on scientific neces-
sity ; but the practical results are the same in both cases —
the separation of the state and the individual.

Although the ultra "organic" theory of the state has
found some adherents among socialist writers,^ contem-
porary socialism has, on the whole, as little sympathy with
the extreme sociocratic view as it has with that of the
extreme individualist.

It is always dangerous to engraft a ready-made principle
of any branch of scientific research on an entirely dif-
ferent branch, notwithstanding apparent analogies between
the two, and the fallacy of that method is probably best
illustrated by the introduction of purely biological laws
into the domain of sociology. The social organization of
men is a phenomenon vastly different from the biological
organism. In the case of the latter it is the organism as
such which is endowed with sensation, reflection and life
— the individual cell has no conscious life of its own, and
serves only to support the existence of the organism. In

' For example, the well-known Marxian scholar, F. v. d. Goes, in
"Organische Ontwikkeling der Maatschappij," Amsterdam, 1894.


the case of the "social organism," on the other hand, it
is the individual members of it who are endowed with
conscious life, and it is the so-called organism that serves
to support their individual existences.

The state is not the voluntary and arbitrary creation of
man, but it is just as little a factor imposed on man by
some power outside of him. The state is a product of
logical historical development, but that only as an accom-
paniment of the logical historical development of man.
The individual cannot dissociate himself from society,
nor can society have any existence outside of the individuals
composing it. The state represents the collective mind
and attainments of all past generations, but also the col-
lective intellect, will and powers of its present living,
feeling and thinking members. The state has the
power to regulate the conduct of its individual citizens, but
its citizens have the power to determine the scope and
nature of such regulations, and the higher mankind
ascends in the scale of intellectual development, the more
effective is its direction of the functions of the state. ISIan
to-day is in a position to employ the state not merely for
the good of the abstract "social organism as a whole,"
nor yet merely for the good of remote generations to come,
but for his own present concrete good.

This is the view from which all socialist political ac-
tivity proceeds, and this view is steadily gaining practical
recognition in all spheres of society, as is eloquently attested
by the ever greater extensions of the social functions of the
modern state.

Individualism in Industry

If the tendency of political development of mankind
has, on the whole, been in the direction of socialization.


the same tendency asserts itself even more strongly in the
process of industrial development.

Individualism in production is a mark of economic

The primitive man, without experience, tools, weapons
or arts, living in trees or in caves, and subsisting on the
wild fruit of the tropical forest, may to a large extent be
economically independent of his fellow-man in the neigh-
boring tree. But the succeeding fishing, hunting, agri-
cultural and pastoral occupations already presuppose the
existence of certain uniform tools, a certain common ex-
perience, common methods of work, and even the possi-
bility of occasional exchanges of products.

But these early institutions are, on the whole, too un-
certain and unexplored to enable us to build any sober
conclusions upon them. To ascertain the real tendency of
industrial development, we must take a more recent and
better-known period, — a period, besides, which has uncov-
ered the laws of industrial evolution more clearly than the
entire history before it, — the period of the last century. And
if there is any doubt in our minds as to the tendency of
our industrial life, the examination of this period will
rapidly dispel it.

In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the produc-
tion and distribution of goods was in the main operated
on an individualist basis. The artisan worked as an indi-
vidual either at his home or in his shop, generally alone and
sometimes with the aid of a helper or apprentice. His
simple tool was owned and operated by him individually.
His product was in most cases due entirely to his indi-
vidual labor and skill, and was rightly and properly his
individual possession.


But with the development of the simple tool into a
variety of huge, steam-propelled machines, specializer" fc
the mass production of minute parts of commodities, Ine
little workshop grew into the enormous modern factory
in which hundreds and thousands of men are brought
together from all parts of the country, organized into a
complex hierarchy of labor, each one doing one small
tiling, each working into the hands of the other, all of them
collectively producing one article which may have to go
through numerous similar operations in other immense
and complex factories before it turns into a commodity
for direct consumption. The modern machine is a social
tool, the modern factory is a social workshop, the modern
workingman is a social servant, and the modern goods are
social products.

Let us take the most simple articles of use : the coat we
wear, the chair we sit on, the bed we sleep in, and ask our-
selves. Who produced these articles? To answer that
question we shall have to consider the unknown thousands
who contributed to the work of their immediate design
and manufacture, to the production and transportation of
the material contained in them, to the work of constructing
the wonderful machinery employed at the countless steps
of the process, and to the work of operating the machinery
of transportation, etc. In modern production the indi-
vidual laborer is practically obliterated ; what is before us
is a world-wide community of socially organized labor of
all gradations, from the highest and most skillful to the
lowest and most common, working together collectively
for the needs of our race.

And it is this collective labor of our times that sustains
modern comforts and modern civilization. Were it pos-


sible for us to return to the regime of absolute individ-
ualism in production, to prepare our own food, make our
own clothing, build our own dwellings, without taking
advantage of the material prepared by others, without
accepting the cooperation of our fellow-men, we should
relapse into a state of savagery in less than a generation.

While the feature of individualism has been almost
eliminated from the field of production by the last century,
it has, during that period, shown much greater vitality in
the sphere of management of our industries.

The management of our industries by individual capi-
talists for their own private benefit and in rivalry with
each other — industrial competition — has for decades
been the favorite topic of controversy between the ad-
herents of the individualist philosophy and the partisans
of the socialist school of political economy. To the
sturdy individualist the competitive system of industry is
the source of all blessings of civilization : he never tires of
extolling the merits of that system as an incentive to in-
dustrial enterprise, inventiveness and efficiency, as a char-
acter builder and lever of all social and individual progress.
The socialist, on the other hand, points a warning finger
to the evils of competition : the anarchy in management
and waste in production which the system entails, and the
tremendous social, economic and ethical losses which it
imposes on the producers, the consumers and the com-
munity at large.^

But while the discussion on the merits and demerits of
competition is assuming ever more intense forms, the mute

* A most notable contribution to that phase of the discussion is the
recent work of Mr. Sidney A. Reeve, "The Cost of Competition,"
McClure, Phillips & Co., 1906.


forces of economic evolution, unconcerned by theories and
abstractions, are rapidly working towards a practical
solution of the problem. The individual capitalist stead-
ily yields his place in the industrial world to the corpora-
tion and the trust, and the latter combine and consolidate
the independent managements of numerous individual
concerns under one corporate direction, and reorganize
the management of industries, frequently on a national and
even international scale. The irresistible growth of trusts
and monopolies is the central fact of all recent economic
development, and it sounds the death knell of individual

The only sphere of our industrial life in which the prin-
ciple of individualism has survived in all its pristine vigor,
is that of the appropriation or distribution of the products.

Although the instruments of production have become
social in their character and use, and indispensable to the
entire working community, they are still owned and con-
trolled by the individual capitalists. Although the pro-
duction of goods is a collective process, and its management
and direction are fast becoming so, it is still conducted

Online LibraryMorris HillquitSocialism in theory and practice → online text (page 2 of 26)