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THE NEXT STEP IN DEMOCRACY



THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

NEW YORK BOSTON CHICAGO DALLAS
ATLANTA SAN FRANCISCO

MACMILLAN & CO., LOOTED

LONDON BOMBAY CALCUTTA
MELBOURNE

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.

TORONTO



The

Next Step in Democracy



BY
R. W. SELLARS, PH.D.

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OP PHILOSOPHY,
UNIVERSITY OP MICHIGAN

AUTHOR OP "CRITICAL REALISM'*



Nrut fork

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
1916

All rights reserved



COPYRIGHT, 1916,

BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY,
Set up and electrotyped. Published April, 1916.



CONTENTS



CHAPTER PAGE

I. THE SPIRIT OF MODERN SOCIALISM 1

II. SOCIALISM IN THE MAKING 22

III. WHAT SOCIALISM HOPES TO ACCOMPLISH 48

IV. MISCONCEPTIONS OF SOCIALISM 72

V. OBJECTIONS TO SOCIALISM 93

VI. OBJECTIONS AND TENDENCIES 114

VII. THE ETHICS OF LABOR 135

VIII. THE GROWTH OF JUSTICE 157

IX. SOME. PRINCIPLES OF PECUNIARY REWARD 178

X. THE CONDITIONS OF A SOCIAL FREEDOM 200

XI. REFLECTIONS ON THE WAR 222

XII. CAN WE UNIVERSALIZE DEMOCRACY? . . . 246



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THE NEXT STEP IN DEMOCRACY

CHAPTER I
THE SPIRIT OF MODERN SOCIALISM

LARGE movements bearing on many aspects of life are
hard to define. There are at least two reasons for this.
In the first place, they imply a criticism of the old stand-
ards of justice and the good and therefore cannot be de-
fined by means of them. In the second place, they consist
in large measure of tendencies which are only partly con-
scious of their end and which are impressive because of the
prophecy they contain rather than for what they ex-
plicitly champion. So long as a definition is thought of
as an expression of definite relations between fixed and
essentially changeless terms, no significant definition
can be given of a new movement. The true definition
is a product of a slow and creative growth; it is the ex-
pression in conceptual elements of an intuition which is
made possible only by the final settling down of social
forces into something approaching an equilibrium. The
intellectual formulation comes after the relative maturity
of a social movement rather than before.

At certain periods everyone feels that something new is
abroad. There is no longer that quiet satisfaction with
the customary methods of doing things that characterizes
the epoch of accepted order. Those who are sensitive to
signs of change know that society is preparing to take a
step forward; they feel that the old watchwords no longer

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NEXT STEP IN DEMOCRACY

have the same authority and that men are consciously and
unconsciously reaching out to new ideas and purposes and
adjusting themselves to new methods. It is as though
society had accomplished certain things with fairly appro-
priate institutions and habits, had enjoyed the benefit for
a time and was then reaching out for something finer and
more adequate. Without clear knowledge of the reason
why, discontent and restlessness grow apace and men look
with critical eyes upon arrangements which but now were
regarded with complacence.

It is not difficult to find something analogous to this
in the life of the individual. /How often a person strives
for some goal which seems tohim, for the time, the thing
which will satisfy all his desires. He thinks of himself as
attaining this haven and settling down with a sigh of
satisfaction to its enjoyment. But soon after his success,
new desires spring up, urging him on to new emprises a
new horizon opens up before him and what he has accom-
plished appears little by the side of what is possible.
His new situation has brought with it added knowl-
edge and new opportunities so the old wanderlust returns
and drives him onward. Now the history of society is
very similar to this; forces making for change appear and
break up the status which seemed so enduring.

We may say, then, that periods of transition follow
periods of relative balance and stability. During these
eras of change, while the direction to be taken is not yet
clearly marked, the air is full of suggestions. Discussions
are rife and all kinds of ideas gain currency. The con-
servatives, who are averse to change either because they
have little imagination and naturally respect customs and
habits or because they are the beneficiaries of the still
dominant order, and both motives may be unconsciously



THE SPIRIT OF MODERN SOCIALISM 3

combined decry innovations and praise the harmony and
beauty and practicality of the actual social structure. In
doing so, they are always partially right. They are in a
position to see those aspects of society which are valuable
and significant for the old is never without its justifica-
tions. But we must balance against this the fact that the
conservative has an influence far beyond what is right-
fully his because of the values he defends, for his social
position gives him a leverage upon public opinion in excess
of his numbers and he has, moreover, back of him the
essential conservatism of organized society, its fear of the
unknown and untried. Over against the conservatives are
the liberals who welcome certain limited changes and are
less antagonistic to far-reaching schemes of reform; while
in the vanguard are the more radical members of society
who are fertile in ideas of a revolutionary type. It is by
means of the interplay of these groups, reenforced by the
changing pressure of political and industrial conditions,
that the direction of progress and its speed are determined.
Gradually society gains consciousness of new desires and
new possibilities. The result is the growth of social move-
ments which champion these desires and try to put them
into action.

Now socialism is just such an initiatory movement and
it is far easier to come under its influence and to feel that
it stands for something vital than to analyze it and give
it an adequate definition. The correct reason for this
difficulty of definition is, I believe, that which I offered
above; it challenges the current, limited notions of justice
and of the social good and consists of tendencies which
have not yet secured complete formulation. Like all
things which are big and vital, it is full of possibilities and
has not come to complete self-expression. It is a move-



4 THE NEXT STEP IN DEMOCRACY

ment rather than a position, as much a means of discovery
and of social growth as a program. To demand too com-
plete a program is to require socialism to anticipate what
cannot be anticipated those changes in industry, politics,
social temper and social relations to which institutions
must adapt themselves. The mistake made by many of the
fathers of modern socialism has lain here, in the attempt
to forecast the future in too definite a way. The result
has been the production of orthodoxies quite comparable
to those of the Churches and nearly as harmful in their
consequences. I mean that there was the tendency to
construct a social philosophy good for all time founded on
the rendering explicit what was already supposedly im-
plicit. Reflective thought was the microscope to be used
by the great thinker in his effort to discern the forces al-
ready at work. Once these could be discerned, the future
course of society could be predicted. We are more modest
to-day because we realize that newness is a character of
all phases of life and that we cannot look with assurance
very far ahead. [The unforeseen intervenes to disturb the
most careful calculations. This situation does not mean
that there are not certain perennial ideals like justice and
liberty which are effective in human life, but that their
concrete expression is conditioned by factors which are not
entirely predictable.

I presume that every young man of to-day who has the
capacity to be attracted by the thought of a juster and
humaner world than that visible around us has been drawn
in some measure towards socialism. And such youths are
surely many, for generous enthusiasms find hospitable
soil in fresh minds not swayed by too anxious thought of
self-interest, minds which for the time being are willing
to undertake the quest of the Holy Grail. Let that man



THE SPIRIT OF MODERN SOCIALISM 5

take shame to himself who has never been fired by the
dream of better things into alliances and actions which
seemed to his older and soberer self foolish and unwise!
What would the world be were it entirely controlled by the
tired pessimism of middle-age? But enthusiasm, valuable
as it is in furnishing energy and in giving instinctive
backing to the things which are worth while, must be
supplemented by reflection if it is to use this energy
economically and to the proper issues. Society is very
complex and its re-organization cannot be left a matter
of good intention and of enthusiasm not completely purged
of sentimentality. Noble ideals must be given a realistic
foundation and justified before the bar of sober reason or
they will be viewed askance by the matter-of-fact people
who have society's fortune in charge. But if reason and
enthusiasm combine they will in the long run carry every-
thing before them and the run will not be so very long
either in this day and generation. Socialism, if it is to
conquer, must be a philosophy as well as a religion; it must
be capable not only of attracting but also of convincing.
It must appeal to sober second thought.

When we ask what socialism is, we are met by many and
varied answers. Sometimes the term, socialistic, is used
as an adjective to qualify measures which break with past
principles and methods, especially those of the so-called
laissez faire. Business men, accustomed to have their own
way in the use of what they call their own and to conduct
affairs as it seems right to them, are inclined to call all
social control of a novel sort socialistic. Thus legislation
which has for its aim the betterment of the conditions of
labor in regard to hours, surroundings or instruments is
usually called socialistic by employers of the old school.
So far as this deepened control does bear witness to the



6 THE NEXT STEP IN DEMOCRACY

growth of a new outlook whose consequences we cannot
yet foresee, the term stands for a contrast of a significant
sort. The social good is opposed to what seems to the
individual to be his good. Because socialism accepts this
same ultimate standard, the adjective, socialistic, has a
certain appropriateness. There is present the hint of the
realization that, with present institutions, the employer
has powers which may be used in an anti-social way. But
any sum of measures which are socialistic in this sense
would not necessarily be identical with socialism.

Condemnatory definitions of socialism are very common.
For instance, Roscher, a German economist, defines it as
consisting of "those tendencies which demand a greater
regard for the common weal than agrees with human
nature." The question is, Who is to be judge of this
agreement with human nature? This definition passes by
objective characteristics and stresses subjective elements.
A similar flaw is apparent in the definition offered by
Adolf Held "We may define as socialistic every tendency
which demands the subordination of the individual will
to the community." The term, subordination, has here a
deprecatory flavor; it is evident that such subordination
as is implied is considered unwarranted and harmful.

Next in order are mechanical definitions, definitions
which miss both the spirit and method of socialism. Pro-
fessor Janet in his book, "The Origins of Contemporary
Socialism," wrote as follows: "We call socialism every
doctrine which teaches that the State has a right to correct
the inequality of wealth which exists among men and to
establish legally the balance by taking from those who have
too much in order to give to those who have not enough
and that in a permanent manner. . . ." Socialism does
teach that society has the right to modify economic rela-



THE SPIRIT OF MODERN SOCIALISM 7

tions, but so do all contemporary political theorists. The
important questions are How? To what degree? To
what end?

Many definitions which remain vague stress the spirit
of socialism and thus bring out a feature which is neglected
by those already offered. There is an ethical atmosphere
surrounding the socialist movement which is peculiarly
modern. It is the spiritual matrix of all that is best in the
social and political innovations of the last two centuries.
Just because socialism is filled with this spirit, it must
have an essential validity even though various doctrines
attached to it by past thinkers must be given up. The
heart of any large movement is its purpose. If this be
good, it can never go far wrong especially if its success
is gradual and permits growth. We need a voluntaristic
interpretation of society corresponding to the emphasis
laid upon the will in recent psychology. Definitions of
movements have been too intellectualistic; they have not
recognized that their objects are creative movements and
not mere cut-and-dried programs. With this point ii.
mind, let us glance at a couple of definitions which in-
troduce the ethical spirit of socialism.

Proudhon, one of the founders of socialism, was ex-
amined by a magistrate after the French revolution of
1848 and, in the course of the examination, was asked,
What is socialism? He replied, "Every aspiration to-
wards the amelioration of society." "In that case," said
the magistrate, "we are all socialists." This answer
reminds us of the remark of the English statesman, Sir
William Harcourt, "We are all socialists now." There
can be little doubt that there is to-day'a certain community
of intention. Divergence arises only with the attempt to
make this intention explicit; too often it is only sentimental



8 THE NEXT STEP IN DEMOCRACY

well-wishing which takes fright at serious plans to make
the intention pass over into action. Another definition
which introduces purpose is that given by Littre, the
French positivist: "Socialism is a tendency to modify the
present state, under the impulse of an idea of economic
amelioration and by the discussion and intervention of the
laboring classes." Here we have the new element of the
social location of the movement. The laboring classes
are supposed to play the chief role in the development
and introduction of socialism.

It is very interesting, as Flint in his book on socialism
points out, that Karl Marx, one of the founders of modern
socialism, gives no formal definition of it.

Let us see whether we can discover the purpose which
controls the socialist movement and let us then pass from
the general purpose to the question of what means are
proposed. Only in this way is it possible to work out a
definition of socialism which, though tentative, is true to
the movement. We can then hope to see the purpose
struggling to incarnate itself in the actual movement.
After this is done, we can offer suggestions of our own just
because socialism is a growing thing, affected by new
knowledge of society and by actual changes in society
however brought about. The process of discovering a
definition is often of more value than the product taken by
itself, demanding as it does the analysis of various ideas
and a study of their relations. Thus Plato's Republic is
built up around the attempt to define justice and his
definition can be understood only in the light of the entire
discussion. It is not too much to say that in all the
sciences the definitions given are merely compendious
statements of the whole content. The elements of the
proposition secure their meaning from the conclusions of



THE SPIRIT OF MODERN SOCIALISM 9

the entire treatment. For the beginner, a definition is a
suggestion; for the scholar, it is a summary.

Socialism is a democratic movement whose purpose is
the securing of an economic organization of society which
will give the maximum possible at any one time of justice
and liberty. Let us start with this definition and see what
it involves.

Socialism would come under the genus, democratic (
movement. It is democratic in two ways : first, it aims at 1
the good of all instead of the good of the few; second, it is I
democratic in its location since it finds its leaders among '
those who have thrown themselves body and soul into the
fight for the amelioration of the condition of the masses.
Let us consider these two features of the movement.

It is maintained by socialists that the governing class
in society has never yet sought the good of all. There has
always been a bias in favor of those who were already in
control. What was desired at the best was the good of the
many so far as this was compatible with the prerogatives of
the social group which was dominant. In other words, the
socialist maintains that there has never yet been a true
democracy. Oligarchies have never succeeded in being
anything more than intermittently charitable. Aristo-
cratic societies have inevitably laid stress upon subordina-
tion and have regarded the few as the portion which gave
meaning to the lives of all. So far as a justification was
sought, it was found either in terms of innate differences
due to blood or to a necessary divergence in function.
Our own plutocracy was founded ostensibly upon a dem-
ocratic theory, but one which has proven itself to be false
because too atomic and with too much stress upon fixed
rights. The result has been the shame-faced growth of a
vulgar type of aristocracy. It is the inadequacy of the



10 THE NEXT STEP IN DEMOCRACY

basis adopted by our so-called democracy that socialism
attacks. It demands that the good of all become the
avowed end of society and that conscious and persistent
efforts be made to attain this good in spite of the inertia
of institutions. The means to attain this goal should be
made the object of reflection and of thorough investiga-
tion. Socialism is confident that it is, itself, on the right
track in its emphasis on cooperation and its denial of the
social value of special privileges.

The location of the movement is democratic as well as
its purpose. Modern socialism does not await the benev-
olent action of those in power nor does it look upon justice
and liberty as benefits conferred in an external way upon
passive recipients. Liberty and justice have always been
achievements bought and paid for by character and effort.
Those who would be free must themselves strike the blow.
Revolutionary movements must be firmly based on the
aspirations and desires of those most interested. Socialism
is now and, if it is to win, must always be a popular move-
ment. Its leaders are sometimes manual laborers who have
continued to identify themselves with their social group
and have fought its fights from a clear and intimate knowl-
edge of its needs and yet with a larger vision of a more
happily organized society; sometimes they are men of
other social groups who have felt the injustice of pres-
ent arrangements and have thrown in their lot with those
who suffer the most from things as they are. There can
be no question that socialism is democratic in both of
these ways. It is a continuation of the struggle for polit-
ical freedom and works for the extension of the conditions
of a free life to the people at large.

Let us pass next to the differentia, that is, to the specific
attribute which differentiates socialism from other dem-



THE SPIRIT OF MODERN SOCIALISM 11

ocratic movements. We have given this in terms of pur-
pose. Socialism is the democratic movement whose pur-
pose it is to secure an economic organization which will give
the maximum possible at any one time of justice and lib-
erty. If this differentia holds good, all men who are work-
ing for such an economic organization will be socialists.
So long as we lay stress upon kindredship in ethical spirit,
this conclusion follows and is a test of the truth of the def-
inition advanced. And I for one am inclined to lay far
more stress upon this ethical unity than upon agreement
in articles of creed. The aim and the desire are the im-
portant psychological facts and therefore cannot help but
be of tremendous social and political significance. If the
majority of men sincerely desired this goal, it would be
brought about. The differences between them would be
secondary for they would concern the means; and men
are far more willing to discuss and compromise upon means
than ends.

One of the ablest of contemporary English writers has
stressed the need of what he calls conversion. The men
who direct and control the business world are men of little
education and of no imagination outside the region of busi-
ness. "They do not really see the facts to which socialists
call attention, because they do not really feel them. . . .
They have never experienced that upheaval of the soul
which has made the socialist a socialist by showing him
everything in a new light, both the facts of the present
and the possibilities of the future. . . . After conversion,
it is true, they might still be against almost everything that
socialists have ever proposed, though I do not think it
likely that they would be. But even so, their opposition
would be of a quite different kind from what it is now.
It would be that of men who want to help reform, not to



12 THE NEXT STEP IN DEMOCRACY

hinder it. 'If such and such a thing is not practicable,'
they would say, 'then we must try so and so.' Whereas
now their attitude most commonly is, ' we must make out
that everything is impracticable, in order that nothing may
be done/" 1 I am inclined to agree with this writer that
the psychical factor is of tremendous importance; socialism
is really founded on values and these must be apprehended
in a vital way.

It is an old ethical dilemma whether the intention of
doing justice is more important than the knowledge how
to do justice. Both are necessary to the actual doing of
the just act, but we can hope for the knowledge if only the
intention be present in a driving and unappeasable form.
Knowledge, however, is not apt to come to us unless the
will be present. There is much truth in the religious em-
phasis on the thirst for righteousness and upon the- need
for what may be called conversion. If we really value a
change and consider it of high importance, we do not rest
until we have done our best to make it a reality; but, if we
do not judge it to be of supreme importance, if we are un-
able to exclaim, "Let justice be though the heavens
fall, "our minds will not work in search of the requisite
means. And what is true of the individual is true of the
nation. If a nation does not honor justice, it will not
accomplish great things. It would seem, then, that the
purpose which dominates a movement is the most im-
portant feature of that movement. Other features may
change with new knowledge and new social conditions
but, so long as that remains hot at its center, the move-
ment will be the same.

Socialism is predominantly a movement which concerns
itself with the economic re-organization of society. We
1 G. Lowes Dickinson, "Justice and Liberty," pp. 7 and 8.



THE SPIRIT OF MODERN SOCIALISM 13

must not forget, however, that such a re-organization
cannot take place apart from a re-adjustment of political
and general social relations. It will have its reverbera-
tion all along the line. Society is not a machine part
of which can be improved without affecting the rela-
tions among the remaining parts. Now many socialists
have been particularly interested in some feature of society
such as the aesthetic and have measured their hopes
in terms of their expectation of a healthier and more
widely-based art. Such a man was William Morris, and
it would not be erroneous to think of John Ruskin in this
connection. To this end certain conditions were necessary
and modern civilization with its stress upon competition
and admiration for mere wholesale production could not
furnish these conditions. Other socialists approach
society from the side of personality. Warped, stunted and
purblind souls cause them pain as sharp as a wound and
they cry out in anger against those conditions which pro-
duce them, refusing to believe that such conditions are
irremediable. Still other socialists fix their gaze less upon
these values than upon the actual massing of the battle;
they are in the midst of an actual fight in which the masses
are somewhat blindly pressing against the forces of their
masters. For centuries this struggle has continued, the
many working forward from the marshland with its fevers
and penury to the more pleasant lands beyond but retarded
by their ignorance and lack of weapons. It has, moreover,


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Online LibraryRoy Wood SellarsThe next step in democracy → online text (page 1 of 21)