Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/341

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325
SOCIOLOGY

and his Elements of Politics, extraordinary to relate, contains only a few words in which it is recognized that the welfare of the community may be interpreted to mean the welfare not only of living human beings, but of those who are to come hereafter; while there is no attempt to apply the fact to any law or principle of human development. Bentham's utilitarian philosophy, like that of the two Mills, was based almost entirely on the idea of the State conceived as the social organism. Writers like Herbert Spencer (Sociology) and Schäffle, who was for a time minister of commerce for Austria (Bau and Leben des socialen Körpers), instituted lengthy comparisons between the social organism considered as the State and the living individual organism. These efforts reached their most characteristic expression in the work of the sociologists who have followed G. Simmel in lengthy and ingenious attempts at classifying associations, considering them “as organizations for catering to human desire.” In all these efforts the conception of the State as the social organism is vigorously represented, although it is particularly characteristic of the work of sociologists in countries where the influence of Roman law is still strong, and where, consequently, the Latin conception of the State tends to influence all theories of society as soon as the attempt is made to place them on a scientific basis. The sterilizing effect for long produced on sociology by this first restricted conception of the social organism has been most marked. It is often exemplified in ingenious attempts made, dealing with the principles of sociology, to construct long categories of human associations, based on quite superficial distinctions. None of the comparisons of this kind that have been made have contributed in any marked degree to the elucidation of the principles of modern society. Paul Leroy-Beaulieu's criticism of Schäffle's efforts at comparisons—anatomical, physiological, biological and psychological—between the individual organism and the State as a social organism applies to most of the attempts of this period to institute biological comparisons between the life of the social organism and that of organisms in general, “the mind sinks overwhelmed under the weight of all these analogies, these endless divisions and subdivisions to which they give rise. . . . The result is not in proportion to the effort” (L'État moderne et ses fonctions).

In tracing the direction of this conflict between the newer and older tendencies in modern sociology, it is in Herbert Spencer's Herbert Spencer. writings that the student will find presented in clearest definition the characteristic difficulty with which the old view has tended to be confronted, as the attempt has continued to be made to enunciate the principles of human development from the standpoint that society is to be considered as a “social organism,” but while as yet there is no clear idea of a social organism with its own laws and its own consciousness quite distinct from, and extending far beyond those governing the interests of the individuals at present comprising the State.

With the application of the doctrine of evolution to society considered as an organism, a position has been brought into view of great interest. It is evident in considering the application of natural selection to human society that there is a fact, encountered at the outset, which is so fundamental that it must be held to control all the phenomena of social evolution. It is nowadays a commonplace of knowledge, that the potential efficiency of an organism must always be taken to be greater than the sum total of the potential efficiency of all its members acting as individuals. This arises in the first instance from the fact, to be observed on all hands in life, of the effects of organization, of division of labour, and of specialization of work. But in an organism of indefinitely extended existence like human society, it arises in a special sense from the operation of principles giving society prolonged stability. By these principles individual interests are subordinated over long periods of time to the larger interests of organic society in which the individuals for the time being cannot participate; and it is from this cause that civilization of the highest type obtains its characteristic potency and efficiency in the struggle for existence with lower types. There follows from this fact, obvious enough once it is mentioned, an important inference. This is that in the evolution of society natural selection will, in its characteristic results, reach the individual not directly, but through society. That is to say, in social evolution, the interests of the individual, qua individual, cease to be a matter of first importance. It is by development in the individual of the qualities which will contribute most to the efficiency of society, that natural selection will in the long run produce its distinctive results in the human individual. It is, in short, about this function of socialization, involving the increasing subordination of the individual, that the continued evolution of society by natural selection must be held to centre. Societies in which the individuals resist the process quickly reach the limits of their progress, and have to give way in the struggle for existence before others more organic in which the process of subordination continues to be developed. In the end it is the social organizations in which the interests of the individual are most effectively included in and rendered subservient to the interests of society considered in its most organic aspect that, from their higher efficiency, are naturally selected. In other words, it is the principles subordinating the individual to the efficiency of society in those higher organic aspects that project far beyond the life-interests of its existing units which must ultimately control all principles whatever of human association.

Spencer, in an elaborate comparison which he made (Essays, vol. i., and Principles of Sociology) between the social organism Spencer and Natural Selection. and the individual organism brought into view a position which in its relation to this capital fact of human evolution exhibits in the clearest manner how completely all the early evolutionists, still under the influence of old conceptions, failed at first to grasp the significance of the characteristic problems of the social organism. Spencer's comparison originally appeared in an article published in the Westminster Review for January 1860 entitled “The Social Organism.” This article is in many respects one of the most noteworthy documents in the literature of the last half of the 19th century. In comparing the social with the individual organism Spencer proceeded, after noting the various aspects in which a close analogy between the two can be established, to make, as regards society, an important distinction by which the nature of the difficulty in which he is involved is immediately made apparent. While in an individual organism, he pointed out, it is necessary that the lives of all the parts should be merged in the life of the whole, because the whole has a corporate consciousness capable of happiness or misery, it is not so with society. For in society, he added, the “living units do not and cannot lose individual consciousness, since the community as a whole has no corporate consciousness.” Spencer proceeded, therefore, to emphasize the conclusion that “this is an everlasting reason why the welfare of citizens cannot rightly be sacrificed to some supposed benefit of the State; but why, on the other hand, the State is to be maintained solely for the benefit of citizens.” The extraordinary conclusion is indeed reached by Spencer that “the corporate life in society must be subservient to the lives of the parts, instead of the lives of the parts being subservient to the corporate life.” It will be here clearly in evidence that the “social organism” which Spencer had in view was the State. But it will be noticed at the same time how altogether remarkable was the position into which he was carried. Spencer, like most thinking minds of his time, had the clearest vision, constantly displayed in his writings, of the scientific importance of that development in history which has gradually projected the conception of the individual's rights outside all theories of obligation to the State. He wrote at a time when the attention of the Western mind in all progressive movements in Western politics had been for generations fixed on that development in which the liberties of the individual as against the State had been won. This development had involved nearly all Western countries in a titanic struggle against the institutions of an earlier form of society resting on force organized in the State. Spencer, therefore, like almost every advanced