Page:Rise and Fall of Society.djvu/17

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Introduction


What history will think of our times is something that only history will tell. But it is a good guess that it will select collectivism as the identifying characteristic of the twentieth century. For, even a quick survey of the developing pattern of thought during the past fifty years shows up the dominance of one central idea: that Society is a transcendent entity, something apart from and greater than the sum of its parts, possessing a suprahuman character and endowed with like capacities. It operates in a field of its own, ethically and philosophically, and is guided by stars unknown to mortals. Hence, the individual, the unit of Society, cannot judge it by his own limitations nor apply to it standards by which he measures his own thinking and behavior. He is necessary to it, of course, but only as a replaceable part of a machine. It follows, therefore, that Society, which may concern itself paternalistically with individuals, is in no way dependent on them.

In one way or another, this idea has insinuated itself into almost every branch of thought and, as ideas have a way of doing, has become institutionalized. Perhaps the most glaring example is the modern orientation of the philosophy of education. Many of the professionals in this field frankly assert that the primary purpose of education is not to develop

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