Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/45

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
37
WHAT IS SOCIAL EVOLUTION?
philosopher, is commonly regarded as consisting in the greater number of facts known and laws understood: whereas the actual progress consists in those internal modifications of which this increased knowledge is the expression. Social progress is supposed to consist in the produce of a greater quantity and variety of the articles required for satisfying men's wants; in the increasing security of person and property; in widening freedom of action: whereas, rightly understood, social progress consists in those changes of structure in the social organism which have entailed these consequences. The current conception is a teleological one. The phenomena are contemplated solely as bearing on human happiness. Only those changes are held to constitute progress which directly or indirectly tend to heighten human happiness. And they are thought to constitute progress simply because they tend to heighten human happiness. But rightly to understand progress, we must inquire what is the nature of these changes, considered apart from our interests.[1]

"With the view of excluding these anthropocentric interpretations and also because it served better to cover those inorganic changes which the word "progress" suggests but vaguely, I employed the word "evolution." But my hope that, by the use of this word, irrelevant facts and considerations would be set aside, proves ill-grounded. Mr. Mallock now includes under it those things which I endeavored to exclude. He is dominated by the current idea of progress as a process of improvement, in the human sense; and is thus led to join with those social changes which constitute advance in social organization, those social changes which are ancillary to it—not constituting parts of the advance itself, but yielding fit materials and conditions. It is true that he recognizes social science as aiming "to deduce our civilization of to-day from the condition of the primitive savage." It is true that he says social science "primarily sets itself to explain, not how a given set of social conditions affects those who live among them, but how social conditions at one epoch are different from those of another, how each set of conditions is the resultant of those preceding it."[2] But in his conception as thus indicated he masses together not the phenomena of developing social structures and functions only, but all those which accompany them; as is shown by the complaint he approvingly cites that the sociological theory set forth by me does not yield manifest solutions of current social problems:[3] clearly implying the belief that an account of social evolution containing no lessons which he who runs may read is erroneous.

"While Mr. Mallock's statements and arguments thus recognize Social Evolution in a general way, and its continuity with evolution of simpler kinds, they do not recognize that definition of evolution


  1. Westminster Review, April, 1857.
  2. Aristocracy and Evolution, pp. 5, 7.
  3. Ibid., pp. 10, 11.