Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 9.djvu/872
838 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
This is the origin of that metaphysics which, in all branches of social activity, has led to that imaginary conception of an absolute man, as the sole element of a humanity, equally abstract a conception where absolute individualism is limited only by an equally absolute cosmopolitanism. Already economic science has got rid of that vague idealism. This was accomplished first by the intervention of the historical and natural schools ; sec- ondly and especially, by that of the socialist schools. All, in showing that outside of man and humanity there has been a considerable series of collective and distinctive groups, from the largest societies even to the smallest, from nations even to the most simple professional and other groups; all, I say, have recalled us to the reality of the economic structure and life. The same progress realized in economic science ought justly to be extended to politics and general sociology.
The first degree of every structure is differentiation by the formation of a limit. This is, then, the most general law of every organic and super -organic equilibrium. However, before extending it to society, it is well to study, with regard to that law, social phenomena themselves and social forms in an induct- ive manner, in order that the demonstration of the law may be perfect when applied to the special character of the structure of society.
The point of departure of the law is certainty that the materials of every society, land, and population, and likewise their properties, are naturally limited. The social material being thus limited, the same as its forces, and, in reality, force and material being identical, societies must likewise be limited. They are, in spite of the size, number, and complexity of combina- tions, or arrangements and rearrangement, social possibilities. The error has formerly been to consider the form-limit as abso- lute, fixed, and immutable; or, on the other hand, and in the inverse sense, to deny every form-limit. The truth and the reality are between these two extremes. There is always form ; hence always limit. Variability is limited, but, at least, in the state of our sociological knowledge, these limits, though being real, are not always mathematically determinable and definable,