The American Journal of Sociology/Volume 01/Number 5/Reviews

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The Theory of Social Forces. By Simon N. Patton, P.hD. Supplement to the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. VII., No. 1, January 1896. Philadelphia, pp. 151.

This book consists really of two essays of nearly equal length, having no apparent relation to each other. Neither of them has anything more to do with the theory of social forces or with social forces themselves than would any treatise relating in a general way to social matters. A theory of social forces would be a discussion of the laws according to which social phenomena regularly take place as a consequence of these forces. No such discussion is contained in this treatise.

The first essay, occupying chapters i. to iii. (pp. 7–74), is mainly psychological, but embraces some biographical considerations. Chapter i. professes to be purely biological, and discusses such questions as "the relation of economics to biology," "the causes of a progressive evolution," "the obstacles to a progressive evolution," and "the requisites for survival." These discussions certainly contain nothing new, although some of the statements are true and important, as that "clear perceptions of the environment and the power of definite adjustments depend on the mental mechanism," and that "the single aim of progressive animals is to escape from competition." We will pass it over with a protest against such a contradiction as "static progress," to say nothing of such tautology as "dynamic progress."

Chapter ii., on "Race Psychology," is a pretentious affair, and ought to be reviewed by a trained psychologist. Not professing to be one myself, and finding the psychology so peculiar, I had the curiosity to bring it to the attention, first of one of the leading brain physiologists, and then of one of the foremost experimental psychologists.

Almost at the outset the author says: "It is assumed that there are certain simple elements of thought distinguished by introspection, and certain elements of the nervous system dicovered by a physical analysis of the brain; and that by different arrangements of these elements the various forms of mental activity are secured." He then proceeds to a "classification of ideas," using the term "idea" as practically synonymous with sense impression or sensation. He makes two classes: "knowledge-producing ideas" and "action-producing ideas." Instead of an idea being itself a form of knowledge derived from sense impressions, he makes it a producer of knowledge. His "action ideas," instead of being, as one would naturally suppose, thoughts that generate motor impulses, seem to be nothing but internal sensations or emotions.

He then discourses at some length upon nerve currents, and without indicating that he has made any experiments of his own or seen any described by others, he imagines that he has discovered some new and important laws of nervous action. Among these are that "sensory or ingoing currents" cause "clear ideas," while "motor or outgoing currents," which "move more rapidly than do the sensory currents," cause vivid but obscure ideas. These vivid ideas, he says, "are motor feelings." "They are the pleasures and pains of the organism, its desires, its passions and its beliefs." The "weaker and purer" sensory currents furnish "ideas of the environment," while the "motor feelings" only furnish "ideas of the organism." What he means by motor feelings as distinguished from motor impulses following normally upon the discharges of the sensori-motor centers it is difficult to see. He seems to think there can be motor without sensory phenomena, and to forget that all sensory currents, whether peripheral or internal may produce motor effects. As nearly as I can understand him his "motor feelings" are simply the general effective sensations or emotions, but he does not seem to think that these have to be referred to the brain along sensory currents, the same as external sense impressions, in order to become conscious or be reflected to the organs of motion. It seems like an involved and ambiguous way of saying a very simple thing.

His treatment of "the self-conscious center" with a simple diagram is not altogether trite, and his remarks on "the development of the sensory feelings," and the classification of the motor feelings" are based on the foregoing " principles." They seem to have been evolved wholly from his personal meditations, and he manifests no acquaintance with the general volume of psychological knowledge and thought of the time. The only "psychologists" that he vouchsafes to mention are Locke and Hume, whose views he courageously combats, leaving such names as Wundt, Lewes, Taine, Bain, Sully, Spencer, James, and the rest, in the depth of oblivion.

Being curious to know what foundation he had for his leading statements from which he deduces such far-reaching conclusions relative to the nature of the "social forces," I submitted, as above intimated, a few questions to a prominent experimental psychologist, who kindly permits me to use the answers he gave to them. The questions and answers are as follows:

1. Have any experiments been made on the relative rates at which afferent and efferent nerve currents travel?

Ans. Yes, but with Inconclusive results.

2. If so, do they show that efferent (motor) currents travel faster than afferent (sensory) currents?

Ans. No. My own experiments indicate (but do not prove) that the motor impulse travels more slowly in the spinal cord.

3. Would it be a correct or intelligible statement to say that motor currents are "stronger" or "more intense" than sensory currents?

Ans. It would not be correct and scarcely intelligible in our present ignorance of the nature of the "current."

I also quoted the following passage from page 46 and asked him if he would accept it as true or correct:

"The defects in current psychology are traceable to the fact that analytic psychology has not kept pace with the development of physiologic psychology." His answer was: "I should not accept the above. Experimental psychology and physiological psychology (in so far as it is psychology and not physiology) contribute to and are a part of mental analysis."

From this little piece of history we seem to learn two lessons. One is that it does no good to complain that those who cultivate the more complex sciences often lack the necessary equipment which an acquaintance with the more general sciences in which the former have their roots would furnish; for forthwith they abandon the fields with which they are familiar and become bewildered and lost in new habitats to which they have not become adapted. The other lesson is the old one of the cobbler and his last.

Chapter iii on "Knowledge and Belief," being for the most part derived from the preceding ones, of course partakes of the character that belongs to the general treatment, and we find the term "belief" used in some very peculiar senses and applied to the lower animal organisms. Scattered through this chapter, however, are to be found indications that the conception of the biological origin of mind, including the higher intellectual faculties, and its natural genesis as an aid to survival, which is a somewhat recent conception, has gained access to the writer's thought, notwithstanding "the failure of biologic sociology." There is also here developed a somewhat original explanation of the gradual supplementing of anthropomorphic conceptions by rationalistic ones, as the natural consequence of the growing intelligence applied to inanimate objects. But this scarcely differs from the necessary results of a full discussion of the origin and development of the inventive faculty, and it falls far short of this in philosophic thoroughness.

Without much apparent connection with the rest there has also been worked into this chapter the germ of what I have called the second essay of this work, and I am glad to emerge from the dense fog of the first essay into the clear sunlight of the second.

It occasionally happens that the world finds itself worked up to a high point of tension on some great question before it has any name for the movement itself. In such cases the one who first launches the right word becomes a general benefactor in concentrating attention on the living issue and thus preventing the waste that results from scattered forces and desultory and sporadic thinking. Comte's "Altruism," and especially his "Sociology," are cases in point. Darwin's "Natural Selection," and Spencer's "Survival of the Fittest" are further examples, while Huxley's "Neurosis and Psychosis" in psychology, his "Homotaxis" in geology, and his "Agnosticism" in philosophy have done incalculable service in crystallizing ideas. It is in this class, and scarcely below any of these, that I would place the "Pain Economy" and "Pleasure Economy" of Patton as introduced and defined in this essay. They embody the professional economist's view of one of the deepest and at the same time just now most pressing of all the problems of practical philosophy. This is nothing less than the problem of whether "Life is Worth Living." The biologist seizes the new terminology as eagerly as Darwin seized Malthus' "Principle of Population," for it throws a flood of light upon the whole "Struggle for Existence." The psychologist must see in it the key to the solution of many psychic puzzles; the sociologist reads into it both the statics and the dynamics of his science, while to the moral philosopher as well as to the historian it underlies both optimism and pessimism and points the way to meliorism.

In the mind of the economist these terms of course naturally suggested themselves as a consequence of prolonged reflection upon the fundamental conception and significance of utility, and in fact they embody in a conveniently homogenous and undifferentiated form the entire philosophy of utilitarianism. The modern tendency on the part of the economist to recognize consumption as an important factor in economic discussion is a product of the unconscious and unnamed movement above referred to, which is nothing less than a movement that has been slowly progressing for ages for a pain economy towards a pleasure economy.

The first chapter in this essay describes a "Social Commonwealth" and begins with "the transition from a pain economy to a pleasant economy," which last constitutes the condition to a social commonwealth. The old political economy is based upon and only applicable to a pain economy. This is a condition in which the pains of life exceed its pleasures, in which the chief purpose is to escape pain. The principal motive in such a state is fear; the highest aim is to preserve life. The author correctly says that this is the condition under which animals in the wild state exist, and this is why political economy has been found so well adapted to the study of animal life. Man is, in a pain economy, to all intents and purposes, an animal, living under the biologic law of the survival of the fittest in the struggle for existence. There is no thought of "struggling" for anything but self-preservation. This absorbs all energy, and there is not time even to balance the gains and losses of life in order to see whether the play is worth the candle.

The whole attention of society is concentrated on the effort to escape destruction. All motives to action are negative. The least attempt to pursue positive ends is fatal. An army in front of an enemy cannot afford to indulge in festivities. Every man must sleep on his guns with his eyes open, must watch and pry, and listen, and skulk, and feign, and fly, or he is lost. The overthrow of nations and the fall of empires have been the result of temporarily abandoning the defensive attitude before the world had emerged from a pain economy. The pursuit of pleasure is dangerous, and hence the austerity of the traditional moral code. The ethics under which we live is a negative ethics. The decalogue of nature and history like that of Scripture is:

"Thou Shalt not."

Dr. Patton's "Social Commonwealth" would be a state in which all this is reversed—a pleasure economy. In such a state the environment is conceived as friendly instead of hostile. The aim of life is to secure pleasure, not to avoid pain. The motive to action is hope, not fear. But he is not trying to found a Utopia. He perceives the movement and realizes the transition. He first supposes all external dangers removed and then deals at length with the internal dangers. He considers the reaction which the single pursuit of pleasure must inevitably produce and the possible ways in which this may be gradually prevented. Of course a pleasure economy could only exist under a high state of intelligence, and in the end it is this that must be depended upon to render it safe and successful.

Among the influences working in this direction he names as the two leading ones "economic bonds," or the rational demands of self-interest, and "social bonds," or the pursuit of ideals that must become the common possession of all the members of society. There are many indications that the author has been driven to the study of this problem by the necessity of finding some substitute for Kidd's "Ultrarational Sanction," although he seems to be, here as everywhere else, very much afraid that some one may imagine that he is indebted to others for suggestions, and hence leaves the reader to infer the source of his ideas, which is not usually difficult. The fact is, in this case, that Kidd never rises to the conception of a pleasure economy, and his whole notion of social evolution is such as may take place in a pain economy. This is well adapted to the dominion of gods and spirits whose supposed mysterious power inspires awe and arouses terror, i.e., religion.

In an inchoate pleasure economy the only dangers are those that result from excess. These are vice, disease, and race degeneracy. The chief object of fear is temptation. Until, in a state of high intelligence and culture and of developed moral and aesthetic perceptions, self-interest and social ideals shall become more potent than the temptations to commit excesses the perfect social commonwealth cannot be realized. But who shall say that such a stage may not be ultimately attainable? In seeking to discuss this problem in the concluding chapter on "Normal Progress," our author cannot be said to have been successful except in avoiding its Utopian aspects. Indeed it is a question whether this might not better be left to each reader to work out for himself. The principle once distinctly posited, time and events can alone fill out the details. Any attempt to do this in advance is certain to become antiquated in a short time and reflect no credit on its author. To say that it must be the result of an increased "knowledge of the environment," and depends on the "visualization" of "indirect methods" is only to repeat what has been said before, and is too general to be of any service in the solution of so complex a problem.

It would be inappropriate to a review to point out the golden opportunities which our author has lost to broaden and deepen the lessons of his suggestive theme. I hope on a future occasion to show in what interesting ways the subject may be expanded and connected with others that do not seem at first glance to be related to it. I only regret that such an expansion and correlation of the leading ideas of this essay was not made to take the place of much of the obscure but characteristic discussion which is interspersed among the salient doctrines with which they form such a marked contrast. This apparent ambition to render a treatise unintelligible to laymen is greatly to be deplored, especially in writers who really have a message. Such unevenness may be characteristic of genius but it is a form of genius that is strongly suggestive of paranoia. Dr. Patton may be mad, but he certainly has "lucid intervals." He had one such when he wrote his "Rational Principles of Taxation," and now, in writing his "Pain Economy and Pleasure Economy" (for this should have been the title of his essay) he must have had another or something more—a sort of inspiration.

Ethnology. By A. H. Keane, F.R.G.S. Cambridge Geographical Series, pp. xxx. + 442. "2.60. Macmillan & Co., 1896.

Ethnology, as it is understood by some students, has to do with peoples, groups of mankind separated from other groups, linguistically, physically or geographically, but has nothing to do with "race." Race is thought to be purely a zoological question. Others understand ethnology to be the study of races of men, varieties in the zoological sense, and their subdivisions into smaller groups, peoples.

Mr. Keane adopts the latter view. Hence he very properly discusses the "races of man." But he has introduced other matter which even in his own opinion does not properly belong in a work on ethnology. It is fortunate, however, that he has done so, for the writings and works of many men are summarized in a way to malce the volume convenient for reference. In his treatment the author is somewhat dogmatic. His excuse for this is that "a work speaking with uncertain sound would obviously be useless, or at least of little value" if intended as a guide "amid the initial entanglements of a confessedly difficult subject." Occasionally his views strike one as extreme, for instance, when, in speaking of the "length of man's days on earth," he says: "It becomes obvious that merely to account for the highly specialized Hamito-Semitic division a much longer period will be needed than is conceded by Professor Prestwich to the human family itself." Professor Prestwich has suggested 20,000 or 30,000 years as man's age. On a question so much in debate as that of man's antiquity, dependent as it is on the date of the glacial epoch, moderate and tentative views are to be preferred. In general, however, Mr. Keane is moderate and just on debated points.

The book is divided into two parts, the first dealing with "Fundamental Problems," the second with "The Primary Ethnical Groups." The "Fundamental Problems" are really fundamental to ethnology but are not strictly ethnology. It seems necessary, however, to have this matter included to make the subsequent discussion clear. After defining terms the author treats of the physical evolution of man, including man's relation to the other animals, remains of man, etc. This is evidently a question in physical anthropology. Mental evolution is noticed in a few pages. When did mankind first appear on the earth? It is an interesting problem and one far from solved. It seems fairly well established that man lived in Europe in "interglacial times." Obviously then the question hinges on the date of the glacial epoch or epochs. This leads to a discussion of the glacial problem. From a study of this problem the author concludes that man was living on the earth "not less, probably much more, than half-a-million years ago,"—a courageous conclusion in face of present evidence.

The palæolithic, neolithic and metal ages are taken up in their natural order. The famous relic sites, notably those of England, France and America, the kitchen-middens, lake-dwellings, crannoges, dolmens, menhirs, cromlechs, traces of peoples long since disappeared in name even if still represented by their descendants, are noticed in considerable detail and with many illustrations. But these chapters are not a mere collection of facts. The bearing of these relics and ruins on the question of man's antiquity and his early migrations is shown. A much debated question—more in debate formerly than now perhaps—is that of the "specific" unity of man. Is man a single zoological species, divided into races, that is, varieties, or is he a genus divided into species? From a study of race crossing, from anatomical resemblances, from psychic unity and on physiological grounds, the author concludes that man is one species, and that his subdivisions are only varieties. The first part closes with a review of the criteria physical and mental, used in determining race. Of the physical the most valuable are the shape of the skull, the facial and nasal indices and the hair. There is today no pure race. The four or five divisions usually recognized and called races are all more or less mixed. Just as there are peoples belonging to the White, Caucasian or Eurafrican race who are almost black, so there are men of a light brown or yellow color who belong to the Black, Ethiopian or Austafrican race. Racial divisions are based not on any one character but on many taken together. But men differ not merely physically. There are mental differences as well. Language is the "chief mental criterion." Here we are on uncertain ground. Uncertain however only when we forget with what readiness people may change and often have changed their speech. Difference of language does not mean necessarily difference of race. Language often tells us something of a people's history, of its conflicts and collisions with other peoples, but often fails to tell us anything of racial connections. The author does not lose sight of this fact. He gives many instances to illustrate the adoption of a new tongue. There are the Cornish and a large part of the Irish, Keltic peoples both, now speaking a Teutonic tongue; the French people, in part Kelts, in part Teutons, in part too, perhaps, Iberians, speaking an Italic tongue. In the midst of this confusion in ethnology there is great need of clear, decisive statement. This we find in Mr. Keane's book.

The second part of the work, that devoted to primary ethnical groups, which may be more properly called ethnology, is valuable as a concise statement of the afTmities of the peoples of the world today and a discussion of some important questions. But we do not find it so much to be commended as the first part. The Hominidæ are divided into four primary groups: Homo-Æthiopicus, Mongolicus, Americanus, Caucasicus. This terminology has been seriously criticised. The White or Eurafrican race did not originate in the Caucasus, nor is the typical black man an Ethiopian, nor again are all members of the Yellow or Asian race, Mongolians. No racial designations, however, have been proposed to which no objection has been made, and while we do not ourselves prefer this terminology, it is true, as the author says in speaking of "Caucasic," that the "word, like so many others in scientific nomenclature, is purely conventional."

The original home of the human species the author believes to be somewhere in Indo-African and Austral regions. This is not widely, though slightly, different from Dr. Brinton's view.

Some of the other important questions discussed are the linguistic problem in Oceanica, the racial problem in Australia and Tasmania, the peopling of America, the Ibero-Berber question, the Aryan cradleland, the Aryan race problem. We heartily commend Mr. Keane's book both to those who desire to learn something of the distribution of men and their affinities, and to those who wish to know what ethnology is, what its problems are, and by what methods it works; as well as to the serious student of anthropological problems.


Seligman: Essays in Taxation.

Smart: Studies in Economics.

Seeley: Growth of English Policy.

Bradford: Heredity and Christian Problems.

Wheeler: Our Industrial Utopia.

Adams: Law of Civilization and Decay.

Commons: Proportional Representation.

Ferri: Criminal Sociology.

Bruce: Economic History of Virginia.

Schmoller: The Mercantile System.

Roark: Principles of Pedagogy.

Eckerstein: Woman under Monasticism.

Stimson: Labor in its Relations to Law.

Michel: L'idée de l'état.

Wuarin: La Question Sociale

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1927. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).