Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/340

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its latest phase it has progressed to the expression which it has reached in the theories of Marxian Socialism, in which the corresponding conception of the ascendancy of the economic factor in history may now be said to be the characteristic feature. All of these developments, the meaning of which has now been absorbed into the larger evolutionary conception to be described later, must be considered to have contributed towards the foundation of modern sociology. The definition of the relations to each other of the positions they have severally brought into view is the first important work of the new science.

At the period between 1830 and 1842, when Comte published the Philosophie positive, the conditions were not ready for Comte. a science of society. The Darwinian doctrine of evolution by natural selection had not yet been enunciated, and knowledge of social phenomena was limited and very imperfect. As an instance of the character of the change that has since been in progress, it may be mentioned that one of Comte's main positions—that, indeed, to which most of the characteristic conceptions of his system of philosophy were related—was that “the anatomical and physiological study of individual man” should precede the theory of the human mind and of human society. Here the position is the one already referred to which has prevailed in the study of the social sciences down into recent times. It was supposed that the governing principles of society were to be discovered by the introspective study of the individual mind, rather than that the clue to the governing principles of the individual mind was only to be discovered by the study of the social process. It must now be considered that no really fundamental or far-reaching principle of human development can be formulated as the result of Comte's position. For with the application of the doctrine of evolution to society a position is becoming defined which is almost the reverse of it, namely, that the development of the individual, and to a large extent of the human mind itself, must be regarded as the correlative of the social process in evolution. The study of the principles of the process of social evolution would therefore in this sense have to come before the complete study of the individual, and even to precede the construction of a system of psychology scientific in the highest sense. Comte, apart from his want of mastery of the historical method in dealing with sociological development, possessed, on the whole, little insight into the meaning of the characteristic problem in which the human mind is involved in its social evolution, and to the definition of which not only the processes of Western history, but the positions successively developed in Western thought, must all be considered as contributing. His great merit was the perception of the importance of the biological method in the science of society, the comprehension of the fact that there can be no science of society if its divisions are studied apart from each other; and finally, and although it led at the time to the formulation of no important principle of human development, the intuition that sociology was not simply a theory of the State, but the science of what he called the associated life of humanity.

It has to be observed that, preceding the application of the doctrine of evolution to society, most of the contributions to The Ruling Principle of Early Sociological Conceptions: Influence of Greek Conception of the State. social science have a certain aspect in which they resemble each other. While in current theories society tends to be presented as evolving, consciously or unconsciously, under stress of natural selection, towards social efficiency, the earlier contributions were merely theories of the meaning and object of society as a medium for the better realization of of human desires. In this presentation of the subject the influence of the Greek conception of the State upon modern sociology may be traced down to the present day. At the beginning of the modern period it reappears in Machiavelli (Titus Livius, i., iii., and The Prince). It is represented in modified form in Hobbes (Leviathan), and in Locke (Two Treatises of Government), each of whom conceived man as desiring to leave the state of nature and as consciously founding civilized society, “in order that he might obtain the benefits of government” in the associated State. It is continued in Rousseau and the writers of the French Revolution, who similarly imagined the individual voluntarily leaving an earlier state of freedom to put “his person and his power under the direction of the general will” (Social Contract). It is characteristic of Jeremy Bentham (e.g. Principles of Morals and Legislation, i.) and of J. S. Mill (e.g. Utilitarianism and Political Economy, iv., vi.). Finally, it survives in Herbert Spencer, who in like manner sees man originating society and submitting to political subordination in the associated State “through experience of the increased satisfaction derived under it” (Data of Ethics). It continues at the present day to be characteristic of many European and some American writers on sociology, who have been influenced both by Spencer and the Latin theory of the State, and who therefore, conceiving sociology not so much as a science of social evolution as a theory of association, proceed to consider the progress of human association as the development of a process “of catering to human desire for satisfactions of varying degrees of complexity.” All these ideas of society bear the same stamp. They conceive the science of society as reached through the science of the individual, the associated State being regarded only as a medium through which he obtains increased satisfactions. In none of them is there a clear conception of an organic science of society with laws and principles of its own controlling all the meaning of the individual.

With the application of the doctrine of evolution the older idea in which society is always conceived as the State and as The Doctrine of Evolution. existing to give increased “satisfaction” is replaced by a new and much more extended conception. In the evolutionary view, the development of human society is regarded as the product of a process of stress, in which progress results from natural selection along the line not of least effort in realizing human desire, but of the highest social efficiency in the struggle for existence of the materials of which society is composed. In the intensity of this process society, evolving towards higher efficiency, tends to become increasingly organic, the distinctive feature being the growing subordination of the individual to the organic social process. All the tendencies of development—political, economic, ethical and psychological—and the contents of the human mind itself, have therefore to be regarded as having ultimate relations to the governing principles of the process as a whole. The science of social evolution has, in short, to be considered, according to this view, as the science of the causes and principles subordinating the individual to a process developing by inherent necessity towards social efficiency, and therefore as ultimately over-ruling all desires and interests in the individual towards the highest social potentiality of the materials of which society is composed. The conflict between the old and the new conceptions may be distinguished to an increasing degree as the scope of modern sociology has gradually become defined; and the opposing ideas of each may be observed to be sometimes represented and blended, in varying degrees of complexity, in one and the same writer.

It was natural that one of the first ideas to be held by theorists, as soon as sociology began to make progress to the position First Conceptions of Society as an Organism. of a real science, was that society must be considered to be organic, and that the term “social organism” should be brought into use. An increasing number of writers have been concerned with this aspect of the subject, but it has to be noted as a fact of much interest that all the first ideas of society as an organism move within the narrow circle of the old conception of the State just described. The “social organism” in this first stage of theory is almost universally confused with the State. The interests of the social organism are therefore confused with the interest of the individuals which men saw around them in the State. The science of society was accordingly regarded as no more than the science of realizing most effectively here and now the desires of those comprising the existing State. Sidgwick, for instance, considered the science of politics and the science of sociology as practically coincident,