From Robert Bierstedt, The Making of Society. New York:Modern Library, 1959, pp. 253-273.
It has been said that Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) exerted aninfluence upon the intellectual history of his time far in excess ofthe intrinsic merit of his work. However this may be, he was born inDerby, England, of nonconformist parents and was encouraged by hisfather, who was a teacher of mathematics and science at a privateschool and a strong believer in self-education, to cultivate aninterest in both science and history. In actuality the young Spencerreceived hardly any formal education except for three years in aschool of which his uncle was the master. In his young manhood he hada job in the engineering department of the London and BirminghamRailroad and afterwards served as editor of various politicaljournals. During the remainder of his life he supported himself onthe somewhat meager returns from his books and from suchsubscriptions as his friends were able to encourage in his behalf.
About 1860 Spencer embarked upon an enterprise that seems to us,now that the day of the system builder is past, almostfantastic--namely, a series of books that would comprehend and unifythe entire sum of human knowledge in terms of a single principle, theprinciple of evolution. Omitting the evolution of the inorganicuniverse, he managed to produce First Principles, 1862;Principles of Biology, 1864-67; Principles ofPsychology, 1870-72; Principles of Sociology, 1876-96; andPrinciples of Ethics, 1879-93. He also wrote, in 1873, TheStudy of Sociology. If it was Darwin who discovered the principleof evolution, it was Spencer who invented Darwinism and who gave itsuch a charge that it lasted for at least a half a century andcolored the whole of social drought.
The following selection is from Volume I of The Principles ofSociology.
Through the minds of some who are critical respecting logicalorder, there has doubtless passed the thought that, along with theData of Sociology, the foregoing chapters have included much whichforms a part of Sociology itself. Admitting an apparent justificationfor this objection, the reply is that in no case can the data of ascience be stated before some knowledge of the science has beenreached; and that the analysis which disclose the data cannot be madewithout reference to the aggregate of phenomena analyzed. Forexample, in Biology the interpretation of functions implies knowledgeof the various physical and chemical actions going on throughout theorganism. Yet these physical and chemical actions becomecomprehensible only as fast as the relations of structures andreciprocities of functions become known; and, further, these physicaland chemical actions cannot be described without reference to thevital actions interpreted by them. Similarly in Sociology, it isimpossible to explain the origin and development of those ideas andsentiments which are leading factors in social evolution, withoutreferring directly or by implication to the phases of that evolution.
The need for this preliminary statement of data, and the especialneed for the latter part of it, will be seen when the results aregathered up, generalized, and formulated.
After recognizing the truth that the phenomena of social evolutionare determined partly by the external actions to which the socialaggregate is exposed, and partly by the natures of its unit and afterobserving that these two sets of factors are themselves progressivelychanged as the society evolves; we glanced at these two sets offactors in their original forms.
A sketch was given of the conditions, inorganic and organic, onvarious parts of the earth's surface; showing the effects of cold andheat, of humidity and dryness, of surface, contour, soil, minerals,of floras and faunas. After seeing how social evolution in itsearlier stages depends entirely on a favorable combination ofcircumstances; and after seeing that though, along with advancingdevelopment, there goes increasing independence of circumstances,these ever remain important factors; it was pointed out that whiledealing with principles of evolution which are common to allsocieties, we might neglect those special external factors whichdetermine some of their special characters.
Our attention was then directed to the internal factors asprimitive societies display them. An account was given of "ThePrimitive Man--Physical" showing that by stature, structure,strength, as well as by callousness and lack of energy, he was illfitted for overcoming the difficulties in the way of advance.Examination of "The Primitive Man--Emotional" led us to see that hisimprovidence and his explosiveness, restrained but little bysociality and by the altruistic sentiments, rendered him unfit forcooperation. And then, in the chapter on "The PrimitiveMan--Intellectual," we saw that while adapted by its active and acuteperceptions to primitive needs, his type of mind is deficient in thefaculties required for progress in knowledge.
After recognizing these as the general traits of the primitivesocial unit, we found that there remained to be noted certain morespecial traits, implied by his ideas and their accompanyingsentiments. This led us to trace the genesis of those beliefsconcerning his own nature and the nature of surrounding things, whichwere summed up in the last chapter. And now observe the generalconclusion reached. It is that while the conduct of the primitive manis in part determined by the feelings with which he regards menaround him, it is in part determined by the feelings with which heregards men who have passed away. From these two sets of feelings,result two all-important sets of social factors. While the fear ofthe living becomes the root of the political control, the fearof the dead becomes the root of the religious control. Onremembering how large a share the resulting ancestor-worship had inregulating life among the people who, in be Nile valley, firstreached a high civilization--on remembering that the ancientPeruvians were subject to a rigid social system rooted in an ancestorworship so elaborate that the living might truly be called slaves ofthe dead--on remembering that in China too, there has been, and stillcontinues, a kindred worship generating kindred restraints; we shallperceive, in the fear of the dead a social factor which is, at first,not less important, if indeed is not more important, than the fear ofthe living.
And thus is made manifest the need for the foregoing account ofthe origin and development of this trait in the social units by whichcoordination of their actions is rendered possible.
Setting out with social units as thus conditioned, as thusconstituted physically, emotionally, and intellectually, and as thuspossessed of certain early-acquired ideas and correlative feelings,the Science of Sociology has to give an account of all the phenomenathat result from their combined actions.
The simplest of such combined actions are those by which thesuccessive generations of units are produced, reared, and broughtinto fitness for cooperation. The development of the family thusstands first in order. The respective ways in which the fosteringoffspring is influenced by promiscuity, by polyandry, by polgyny, andby monogamy, have to be traced; as have also the results of exogamousmarriage and endogamous marriage. These considered first as affectingthe maintenance of the race in number and quality, have also to beconsidered as affecting the domestic lives of adults. Moreover,beyond observing how the several forms of the sexual relations modifyfamily life, they have to be treated in connexion with public life;on which they act and which reacts on them. And then, after thesexual relations, have to be similarly dealt with the parental andfilial relations.
Sociology has next to describe and explain the rise anddevelopment of that political organization which in several waysregulates affairs--which combines the actions of individuals forpurposes of tribal or national offense and defence; which restrainthem in certain of their dealings with one another; and which alsorestrains them in certain of their dealings with themselves. It hasto trace the relations of this coordinating and controlling apparatusto the area occupied, to the amount and distribution of population,to the means of communication. It has to show to differences of formwhich this agency presents in the different social types, nomadic andsettled, military and industrial. It has to describe the changingrelations between this regulative structure which is unproductive,and those structures which carry on production and make national lifepossible. It has also to set forth the connexions between, andreciprocal influences of, the institutions carrying on civilgovernment, and the other governmental institutions simultaneouslydeveloping--the ecclesiastical and the ceremonial. And then it has totake account of those modifications which persistent politicalrestraints are ever working in the characters of the social units, aswell as the modifications worked by the reactions of the changedcharacters of the units on the political organization.
There has to be similarly described the evolution of theecclesiastical structures and functions. Commencing with these asunited to, and often scarcely distinguishable from, the politicalstructures and functions, their divergent developments must betraced. How the share of ecclesiastical agencies in political actionsbecomes gradually less; how, reciprocally, political agencies play adecreasing part in ecclesiastical actions; are phenomena to be setforth. How the internal organization of the priesthood,differentiating and integrating as the society grows, stands relatedin type to the coexisting organizations, political and other; and howchanges of structure in it are connected with changes of structure inthem; are also subjects to be dealt with. Further, there has to beshown the progressive divergence between the set of rules graduallyframed into civil law, and the set of rules which the ecclesiasticalorganization enforces; and in this second set of rules there has tobe traced the divergence between those which become a code ofreligious ceremonial and those which become a code of ethicalprecepts. Once more, the science has to note how the ecclesiasticalagency in its structure, functions, laws, creed, and morals, standsrelated to the mental nature of the citizens; and how the actions andreactions of the two mutually modify them.
The simultaneously evolving system of restraints whereby the minoractions of citizens are regulated in daily life, has next to be dealtwith. Ancillary to the political and ecclesiastical controls, and atfirst inseparable from them, is the control embodied in ceremonialobservances; which, beginning with rules of class subordination, growinto rules of intercourse between man and man. The mutilations whichmark conquest and become badges of servitude; the obeisances whichare originally signs of submission made by the conquered; the titleswhich are words directly or metaphorically attributing mastery overthose who utter them; the salutations which are also the flatteringprofessions of subjection and implied inferiority--these, and someothers, have to be traced in their genesis and development as asupplementary regulative agency. The growth of the structure whichmaintains observances; the accumulation, complication, and increasingdefinition of observances; and the resulting code of bylaws ofconduct which comes to be added to the civil and religious codes;have to be severally delineated. These regulative arrangements, too,must be considered in their relations to coexisting regulativearrangements; with which they all along maintain a certain congruityin respect of coerciveness. And the reciprocal influences exercisedby these restraints on men's natures, and by men's natures on them,need setting forth.
Coordinating structures and functions having been dealt with,there have to be dealt with the structures and functions coordinated.The regulative and the operative are the two most generallycontrasted divisions of every society; and the inquiries of highestimportance in social science concern the relations between them. Thestages through which the industrial part passes, from its originalunion with the governmental part to its ultimate separateness, haveto be studied. An allied subject of study is the growth of thoseregulative structures which the industrial part develops withinitself. For purposes of production the actions of its units have tobe directed; and the various forms of the directive apparatus have tobe dealt with--the kinds of government under which separate groups ofworkers act; the kinds of government under which workers in the samebusiness and of the same class are combined (eventuallydifferentiating into guilds and into unions); and the kind ofgovernment which keeps in balance the activities of the variousindustrial structures. The relations between the forms of theseindustrial governments and the forms of the coexisting political andecclesiastical governments, have to be considered at each successivestage; as have also the relations between each of these successiveforms and the natures of the citizens: there being here, too, areciprocity of influences. After the regulative part of theindustrial organization comes the operative part; also presenting itssuccessive stages of differentiation and integration. The separationof the distributive system from the productive system having beenfirst traced, there has to be traced the growing division of laborwithin each--the rise of grades and kinds of distributors as well asgrades and kinds of producers. And then there have to be added theeffects which the developing and differentiating industries produceon one another--the advances of the industrial arts themselves;caused by the help received from one another's improvements.
After these structures and functions which make up theorganization and life of each society, have to be treated certainassociated developments which aid, and are aided by, socialevolution--the developments of language, knowledge, morals,aesthetics. Linguistic progress has to be considered first asdisplayed in language itself, while passing from a relativelyincoherent, indefinite, homogeneous state, to states that aresuccessively more coherent, definite, and heterogeneous. We have tonote how increasing social complexity conduces to increasingcomplexity of language; and how, as a society becomes settled, itbecomes possible for its language to acquire permanence. Theconnexion between the developments of words and sentences and thecorrelative developments of thought which they aid, and which areaided by them, has to be observed: the reciprocity being traced inthe increasing multiplicity, variety, exactness, which each helps theother to gain. Progress in intelligence, thus associated withprogress in language, has also to be treated as an accompaniment ofsocial progress; which, while furthering it, is furthered by it. Fromexperiences which accumulate and are recorded, come comparisonsleading to generalizations of simple kinds. Gradually the ideas ofuniformity, order, cause, becoming nascent, gain clearness with eachfresh truth established. And while there have to be noted theconnexion between each phase of science and the concomitant phase ofsocial life, there have also to be noted the stages through which,within the body of science itself, there is an advance from a few,simple, incoherent truths, to a number of specialized sciencesforming a body of truths that are multitudinous, varied, exact,coherent. The emotional modifications which, as indicated above,accompany social modifications, both as causes and as consequences,also demand separate attention. Besides observing the interactions ofthe social state and the moral state, we have to observe theassociated modifications of those moral codes in which moral feelingsget their intellectual expression. The kind of behavior which eachkind of regime necessitates, finds for itself a justification whichacquires an ethical character; and hence ethics must be dealt with intheir social dependences. Then come the groups of phenomena we callaesthetic; which, as exhibited in art products and in the correlativesentiments, have to be studied in their respective evolutionsinternally considered, and in the relations of those evolutions toaccompanying social phenomena. Diverging as they do from a commonroot, architecture, sculpture, painting, together with dancing,music, and poetry, have to be severally treated as connected with thepolitical and ecclesiastical stages, with the coexisting phases ofmoral sentiment, and with the degrees of intellectual advance.
Finally we have to consider the inter-dependence of structures,and functions, and products, taken in their totality. Not only do allthe above enumerated organizations, domestic, political,ecclesiastical, ceremonial, industrial, influence one another throughtheir respective activities; and not only are they all dailyinfluenced by the states of language, knowledge, morals, arts; butthe last are severally influenced by them, and are severallyinfluenced by one another. Among these many groups of phenomena thereis a consensus; and the highest achievement in Sociology is soto grasp the vast heterogeneous aggregate, as to see how each groupis at each stage determined partly by its own antecedents and partlyby the past and present actions of the rest upon it.
But now before trying to explain these most involved phenomena, wemust learn by inspecting them the actual relations of coexistence andsequence in which they stand to one another. By comparing societiesof different kinds, and societies in different stages, we mustascertain what traits of size, structure, function, etc., arehabitually associated. In other words, before deductiveinterpretation of the general truths, there must come inductiveestablishment of them.
Here, then, ending preliminaries, let us examine the facts ofSociology, for the purpose of seeing into what empiricalgeneralizations they may be arranged.
This question has to be asked and answered at the outset. Until wehave decided whether or not to regard a society as an entity; anduntil we have decided whether, if regarded as an entity, a society isto be classed as absolutely unlike all other entities or as like someothers; our conception of the subject matter before us remains vague.
It may be said that a society is but a collective name for anumber of individuals. Carrying the controversy between nominalismand realism into another sphere, a nominalist might affirm that justas there exist only the members of a species, while the speciesconsidered apart from them has no existence; so the units of asociety alone exist, while the existence of the society is butverbal. Instancing a lecturer's audience as an aggregate which bydisappearing at the close of the lecture, proves itself to be not athing but only a certain arrangement of persons, he night argue thatthe like holds of the citizens forming a nation.
But without disputing the other steps of his argument, the laststep may be denied. The arrangement, temporary in the one case, islasting in the other; and it is the permanence of the relations amongcomponent parts which constitutes the individuality of a whole asdistinguished from the individualities of its parts. A coherent massbroken into fragments ceases to be a thing; while, conversely, thestones, bricks, and wood, previously separate, become the thingcalled a house if connected in fixed ways. Thus we consistentlyregard a society as an entity, because, though formed of discreteunits, a certain concreteness in the aggregate of them is implied bythe maintenance, for generations and centuries, of a general likenessof arrangement throughout the area occupied. And it is this traitwhich yields our idea of a society. For, withholding the name from anever-changing cluster such as primitive men form, we apply it onlywhere some constancy in the distribution of parts has resulted fromsettled life.
But now, regarding a society as a thing, what kind of thing mustwe call it? It seems totally unlike every object with which oursenses acquaint us. Any likeness it may possibly have to otherobjects, cannot be manifest to perception, but can be discerned onlyby reason. If the constant relations among its parts make it anentity; the question arises whether these constant relations amongits parts are akin to the constant relations among the parts of otherentities. Between a society and anything else, the only conceivableresemblance must be one due to parallelism of principle in thearrangement of components.
There are two great classes of aggregates with which the socialaggregate may be compared--the inorganic and the organic. Are theattributes of a society, considered apart from its living units, inany way like those of a not-living body? or are they in any way likethose of a living body? or are they entirely unlike those of both?
The first of these questions needs only to be asked to be answeredin the negative. A whole of which the parts are alive, cannot, in itsgeneral characters, be like lifeless wholes. The second question, notto be thus promptly answered, is to be answered in the affirmative.The reasons for asserting that the permanent relations among theparts of a society, are analogous to the permanent relations amongthe parts of a living body, we have now to consider.
When we say that growth is common to social aggregates ad organicaggregates, we do not thus entirely exclude community with inorganicaggregates: some of these, as crystals, grow in a visible manner; andall of them, on the hypothesis of evolution are concluded to havearisen by integration at some time or other. Nevertheless, comparedwith things we call inanimate, living bodies and societies soconspicuously exhibit augmentation of mass, that we may fairly regardthis as characteristic of tem both. Many organisms grow throughouttheir lives; and the rest grow throughout considerable parts of theirlives. Social growth usually continues either up to times when thesocieties divide, or up to times when they are overwhelmed.
Here, then, is the first trait by which societies ally themselveswith the organic world and substantially distinguish themselves fromthe inorganic world.
It is also a character of social bodies, as of living bodies, thatwhile they increase in size they increase in structure. A low animal,or the embryo of a high one, has few distinguishable parts; but alongwith its acquirement of greater mass, its parts multiply andsimultaneously differentiate. It is thus with a society. At first theunlikenesses among its groups of units are inconspicuous in numberand degree; but as it becomes more populous, divisions andsubdivisions become more numerous and more decided. Further, in thesocial organism as in the individual organism, differentiations ceaseonly with that completion of the type which marks maturity andprecedes decay.
Though in inorganic aggregates also, as in the entire solar systemand in each of its members, structural differentiations accompany theintegrations; yet these are so relatively slow, and so relativelysimple, that they may be disregarded. The multiplication ofcontrasted parts in bodies politics and in living bodies, is so greatthat it substantially constitutes another common character whichmarks them off from inorganic bodies.
This community will be more fully appreciated on observing thatprogressive differentiation of structures is accompanied byprogressive differentiation of functions.
The multiplying divisions, primary, secondary, and tertiary, whicharise in a developing animal, do not assume their major and minorunlikenesses to no purpose. Along with diversities in their shapesand compositions there go diversities in the actions they perform:they grow into unlike organs having unlike duties. Assuming theentire function of absorbing nutriment at the same time that it takeson its structural characters, the alimentary system becomes graduallymarked off into contrasted portions; each of which has a specialfunction forming part of the general function. A limb, instrumentalto locomotion or prehension, acquires divisions and subdivisionswhich perform their leading and their subsidiary shares in thisoffice. So is it with the parts into which a society divides. Adominant class arising does not simply become unlike the rest, butassumes control over the rest; and when this class separates into themore and the less dominant,
these, again, begin to discharge distinct parts of the entirecontrol. With the classes whose actions are controlled it is thesame. The various groups into which they fall have variousoccupations each of such groups also, within itself, acquiring minorcontrasts of parts along with minor contrasts of duties.
And here we see more clearly how the two classes of things we arecomparing distinguish themselves from things of other classes; forsuch differences of structure as slowly arise in inorganicaggregates, are not accompanied by what we can fairly calldifferences of function.
Why in a body politic and in a living body, these unlike actionsof unlike parts are properly regarded by us as functions, while wecannot so regard the unlike actions of unlike parts in an inorganicbody, we shall perceive on turning to the next and more distinctivecommon trait.
Evolution establishes in them both, not differences simply, butdefinitely connected differences--differences such that each makesthe others possible. The parts of an inorganic aggregate are sorelated that one may change greatly without appreciably affecting therest. It is otherwise with the parts of an organic aggregate or of asocial aggregate. In either of these the changes in the parts aremutually determined, and the changed actions of the parts aremutually dependent. In both, too, this mutuality increases as theevolution advances. The lowest type animal is all stomach, allrespiratory surface, all limb. Development of a type havingappendages by which to move about or lay hold of food, can take placeonly if these appendages, losing power to absorb nutriment directlyfrom surrounding bodies are supplied with nutriment by parts whichretain the power absorption. A respiratory surface to which thecirculating fluids are brought to be aerated, can be formed only oncondition that the concomitant loss of ability to supply itself withmaterial for repair and growth, is made good by the development ofstructure bringing these materials. So is it in a society. What wecall with perfect propriety its organization, has a necessaryimplication of the same kind. While rudimentary, it is all warrior,all hunter, all hut builder, all tool maker: every part fufils foritself all needs. Progress to a stage characterized by a permanentarmy, can go on only as there arise arrangements for supplying thatarmy with food, clothes, and munitions of war by the rest. If herethe population occupies itself solely with agriculture and there withmining--if these manufacture goods while those distribute them; itmust be on condition that in exchange for a special kind of servicerendered by each part to other parts, these other parts severallygive due proportions of their services.
This division of labor, first dwelt on by political economists asa social phenomenon, and thereupon recognized by biologists as aphenomenon of living bodies, which they called the "physiologicaldivision of labor," is that which in the society, as in the animal,makes it a living whole. Scarcely can I emphasize sufficiently thetruth that in respect of this fundamental trait, a social organismand an individual organism are entirely alike. When we see that in amammal, arresting the lungs quickly brings the heart to a stand; thatif the stomach fails absolutely in its office all other partsby-and-by cease to act; that paralysis of its limbs entails on thebody at large death from want of food or inability to escape; thatloss of even such small organs as the eyes, deprives the rest of aservice essential to their preservation; we cannot but admit thatmutual dependence of parts is an essential characteristic. And when,in a society, we see that the workers in iron stop if the miners donot supply materials; that makers of clothes cannot carry on theirbusiness in the absence of those who spin and weave textile fabrics;that the manufacturing community will cease to act unless thefood-producing and food-distributing agencies are acting; that thecontrolling powers, governments, bureaus, judicial officers, police,must fail to keep order when the necessaries of life are not suppliedto them by the parts kept in order; we are obliged to say that thismutual dependence of parts is similarly rigorous. Unlike as the twokinds of aggregates are in sundry respects, they are alike in respectof this fundamental character, and the characters implied by it.
How the combined actions of mutually dependent parts constitutelife of the whole, and how there hence results a parallelism betweennational life and individual life, we see still more clearly onlearning that the life of every visible organism is constituted bythe lives of units too minute to be seen by the unaided eye.
An undeniable illustration is furnished us by the strange orderMyxomycetes. The spores or germs produced by one of theseforms, become ciliated monads which, after a time of activelocomotion, change into shapes like those of amoebae, move about,take in nutriment, grow, multiply by fission. Then these amoeba-formindividuals swarm together, begin to coalesce into groups, and thesegroups to coalesce with one another: making a mass sometimes barelyvisible, sometimes as big as the hand. This plasmodium,irregular, mostly reticulated, and in substance gelatinous, itselfexhibits movements of its parts like those of a gigantic rhizopod;creeping slowly over surfaces of decaying matters and even up thestems of plants. Here, then, union of many minute living individualsto form a relatively vast aggregate in which their individualitiesare apparently lost, but the life of which results from combinationof their lives, is demonstrable.
In other cases, instead of units which, originally discrete, losetheir individualities by aggregation, we have units which, arising bymultiplication from the same germ, do not part company, butnevertheless display their separate lives very clearly. A growingsponge has its horny fibers clothed with a gelatinous substance; andthe microscope shows this to consist of moving monads. We cannot denylife to the sponge as a whole; for it shows us some corporateactions. The outer amoeba-form units partially lose theirindividualities by fusion into a protective layer of skin; thesupporting framework of fibers is produced by the joint agency of themonads; and from their joint agency also result those currents ofwater which are drawn in through the small orifices and expelledthrough the larger. But while there is thus shown a feeble aggregatelife, the lives of the myriads of component units are very littlesubordinated: these units form, as it were, a nation having scarcelyany subdivision of functions. Or, in the words of Professor Huxley,"the sponge represents a kind of subaqueous city, where the peopleare arranged about the streets and roads, in such a manner, that eachcan easily appropriate his food from the water as it passes along."
Even in the highest animals there remains traceable this relationbetween the aggregate life and the lives of components. Blood is aliquid in which, alone with nutritive matters, circulate innumerableliving units--the blood corpuscles. These have severally theirlife-histories. During its first stage each of them, then known as awhite corpuscle, makes independent movements like those of an amoeba;and though in its adult stage as a red, fattened disc, it is notvisibly active, its individual life continues. Nor is this individuallife of the units provable only where free flotation in a liquidallows its signs to be readily seen. Sundry mucous surfaces, as thoseof the air passages, are covered with what is called ciliatedepithelium--a layer of minute cells packed side by side, and eachbearing on its exposed end several cilia continually in motion. Thewavings of these cilia are essentially like those of the monads whichlive in the passages running through a sponge; and just as the jointaction of these ciliated sponge monads propels the current of water,so does the joint action of the ciliated epithelium cells moveforward the mucous secretion covering them. If there needs furtherproof of the individual lives of these epithelium cells, we have itin the fact that when detached and placed in fluid, they "move aboutwith considerable rapidity for some time, by the continued vibrationsof the cilia with which they are furnished."
On thus seeing that an ordinary living organism may be regarded asa nation of units that live individually, and have many of themconsiderable degrees of independence, we shall perceive how truly anation of human beings may be regarded as an organism.
The relation between the lives of the units and the life of theaggregate, has a further character common to the two cases. By acatastrophe the life of the aggregate may be destroyed withoutimmediately destroying the lives of all its units; while, on theother hand, if no catastrophe abridges it, the life of the aggregateimmensely exceeds in length the lives of its units.
In a cold-blooded animal, ciliated cells perform their motionswith perfect regularity long after the creature they are part of hasbecome motionless; muscular fibers retain their power of contractingunder stimulation; the cells of secreting organs go on pouring outtheir product if blood is artificially supplied to them; and thecomponents of an entire organ, as the heart, continue theircooperation for many hours after its detachment. Similarly, arrest ofthose commercial activities and governmental coordinations, etc.,which constitute the corporate life of a nation, may be caused, sayby an inroad of barbarians, without immediately stopping the actionsof all the units. Certain classes of these, especially the widelydiffused ones engaged in food production may, in the remoterdistricts, long survive and carry on their individual occupations.
Conversely, in both cases, if not brought to a close by violence,the life of the aggregate greatly exceeds in duration the lives ofits units. The minute living elements composing a developed animal,severally evolve, play their parts, decay, and are replaced, whilethe animal as a whole continues. In the deep lava of the skin, cellsare formed by fission which, as they enlarge are thrust outwards, andbecoming flattened to form the epidermis, eventually exfoliate, whilethe younger ones beneath take their places. Liver cells, growing byimbibition of matters from which they separate the bile, presentlydie, and their vacant seats are occupied by another generation. Evenbone, though so dense and seemingly inert, is permeated by bloodvessels carrying materials to replace old components by new ones. Andthe replacement, rapid in some tissues and in others slow, goes on atsuch rate that during the continued existence of the entire body eachportion of it has been many times over produced and destroyed. Thusit is also with a society and its units. Integrity of the whole andof each large division is perennially maintained notwithstanding thedeaths of component citizens. The fabric of living persons which, ina manufacturing town, produces some commodity for national use,remains after a century as large a fabric, though all the masters andworkers who a century ago composed it have long since disappeared.Even with the minor parts of this industrial structure the likeholds. A firm that data from past generations, still carrying onbusiness in the name of its founder, has had all its members andemployees changed one by one, perhaps several times over; while thefirm has continued to occupy the same place and to maintain likerelations to buyers and sellers. Throughout we find this. Governingbodies, general and local, ecclesiastical corporations, armies,institutions of all orders down to guilds, clubs, philanthropicassociations, etc., show us a continuity of life exceeding that ofthe persons constituting them. Nay, more. As part of the same law, wesee that the existence of the society at large exceeds in durationthat of some of these compound parts. Private unions, local publicbodies, secondary national institutions, towns carrying on specialindustries, may decay, while the nation, maintaining its integrity,evolves in mass and structure.
In both cases, too, the mutually dependent functions of thevarious divisions, being severally made up of the actions of manyunits, it results that these units dying one by one, are replacedwithout the function in which they share being sensibly affected. Ina muscle each sarcous element wearing out in its turn, is removed anda substitution made while the rest carry on their combinedcontractions as usual; and the retirement of a public official ordeath of a shopman, perturbs inappreciably the business of thedepartment, or activity of the industry, in which he had a share.
Hence arises in the social organism, as in the individualorganism, a life of the whole quite unlike the lives of the units;though it is a life produced by them.
From these likenesses between the social organism and theindividual organism, we must now turn to an extreme unlikeness. Theparts of an animal form a concrete whole; but the parts of a societyform a whole that is discrete. While the living units composing theone are bound together in close contact, the living units composingthe other are free, not in contact, and more or less widelydispersed. How, then, can there be any parallelism?
Though this difference is fundamental and apparently putscomparison out of the question, yet examination proves it to be lessthan it seems. Presently I shall have to point out that completeadmission of it consists with maintenance of the alleged analogy; butwe will first observe how one who thought it needful, might arguethat even in this respect there is more kinship than a cursory glanceshows.
He might urge that the physically coherent body of an animal isnot composed all through of living units; but that it consists inlarge measure of differentiated parts which the vitally active partshave formed, and which thereafter become semivital and in some usesalmost unvital. Taking as an example the protoplasmic layerunderlying the skin, he might say that while this consists of trulyliving units, the cells produced in it, changing into epitheliumscales, become inert protective structures; and pointing to theinsensitive nails, hair, horns, and teeth, arising from this layer hemight show that such parts, though components of the organism, arehardly living components. Carrying out the argument, he would contendthat elsewhere in the body there exist such protoplasmic layers, fromwhich grow the tissues composing to various organs--layers whichalone remain fully alive, while the structures evolved from them losetheir vitality in properties as they are specialized: instancingcartilage, tendon, and connective tissue, as showing in conspicuousways this low vitality. From all which he would draw the inferencethat though the body forms a coherent whole, its essential units,taken by themselves form a whole which is coherent only throughoutthe protoplasmic layers.
And then would follow the argument that the social organismrightly conceived, is much less discontinuous than it seems. He wouldcontend that as, in the individual organism, we include with thefully living parts, the less living and not living part whichcooperate in the total activities; so, in the social orgasm we mustinclude not only those most highly vitalized units, the human beings,who chiefly determine its phenomena, but the various kinds ofdomestic animals, lower in the scale of life, which under the controlof man cooperate with him, and even those far inferior structures theplants, which, propagated by human agency, supply materials foranimal and human activities. In defense of this view he would pointout how largely these lower classes of organisms, coexisting with menin societies, affect the structures and activities of the societies--how the training of the pastoral type depend on the natures of thecreatures reared; and how in settled societies the plants producingfood materials for textile fabrics, etc., determine certain kinds ofsocial arrangements and actions. After which he might insist thatsince the physical characters, mental natures, and daily activitiesof the human units, are, in part, molded by relations to the animalsand vegetals, which, living by their aid, and aiding these to live,enter so much into social life as even to be cared for bylegislation, these lower living things cannot rightly be excludedfrom the conception of the social organism. Hence would come hisconclusion that when, with human beings, are incorporated the lessvitalized beings, animal and vegetal, covering the surface occupiedby the society, an aggregate results having a continuity of parts,more nearly approaching to that of an individual organism; and whichis also like it in being composed of local aggregations of highlyvitalized units, imbedded in a vast aggregation of units of variouslower degrees of vitality, which are, in a sense, produced by,modified by, and arranged by, the higher units.
But without accepting this view, and admitting that thediscreteness of the social organism stands in marked contrast withthe concreteness of the individual organism, the objection may stillbe adequately met.
Though coherence among its parts is a prerequisite to thatcooperation by which the life of an individual organism is carriedon; and though the members of a social organism, not forming aconcrete whole, cannot maintain cooperation by means of physicalinfluences directly propagated from part to part; yet they can and domaintain cooperation by another agency. Not in contact, theynevertheless affect one another through intervening spaces, both byemotional language, and by the language, oral and written, of theintellect. For carrying on mutually-dependent actions, it isrequisite that impulses, adjusted in their kinds, amounts, and times,shall be conveyed from part to part. This requisite is fulfilled inliving bodies by molecular waves, that are indefinitely diffused inlow types, and in high types are carried along definite channels (thefunction of which has been significantly called internuncial).It is fulfilled in societies by the signs of feelings and thoughts,conveyed from person to person; at first in vague ways and only atshort distances but afterwards more definitely and at greaterdistances. That is to say, the internuncial function, not achievableby stimuli physically transferred, is nevertheless achieved bylanguage.
The mutual dependence of parts which constitutes organization isthus effectually established. Though discrete instead of concrete,the social aggregate is rendered a living whole.
But now, on pursuing the course of thought opened by thisobjection and the answer to it, we arrive at an implied contrast ofgreat significance--a contrast fundamentally affecting our idea ofthe ends to be achieved by social life.
Though the discreteness of a social organism does not preventsubdivision of functions and mutual dependence of parts, yet it doesprevent that differentiation by which one part becomes an organ offeeling and thought, while other parts become insensitive. Highanimals of whatever class are distinguished from low ones by complexand well integrated nervous systems. While in inferior types theminute scattered ganglia may be said to exit for the benefit of otherstructures, the concentrated ganglia in superior types are thestructures for the benefit of which the rest may be said to exist.Though a developed nervous system so directs the actions of the wholebody as to preserve its integrity, yet the welfare of the nervoussystem is the ultimate object of all these actions: damage to anyother organ being serious only because it immediately or remotelyentails that pain or loss of pleasure which the nervous systemsuffers. But the discreteness of a society negatives differentiationscarried to this extreme. In an individual organism the minute livingunits, most of them permanently localized, growing up, working,reproducing, and dying away in their respective places, are insuccessive generation molded to their respective functions; so thatsome become specially sentient and others entirely insentient. But itis otherwise in a social organism. The units of this, out of contactand much less rigidly held in their relative positions, cannot be somuch differentiated as to become feelingless units and units whichmonopolize feeling. There are, indeed, slight traces of such adifferentiation. Human beings are unlike in the amounts of sensationand emotion producible in them by like causes: here greatcallousness, here great susceptibility, is characteristic. In thesame society, even where its members are of the same race, and stillmore where its members are of dominant and subject races, theseexists a contrast of this kind. The mechanically working and hardliving units are less sensitive than the mentally working and moreprotected units. But while the regulative structures of the socialorganism tend, like those of the individual organism, to become seatsof feeling, the tendency is checked by this want of physical cohesionwhich brings fixity of function; and it is also checked by thecontinued need for feeling in the mechanically working units for thedue discharge of their functions.
Hence, then, a cardinal difference in the two kinds of organisms.In the one, consciousness is concentrated in a small part of theaggregate. In the other, it is diffused throughout the aggregate: allthe units possess the capacities for happiness and misery, if not inequal degrees, still in degrees that approximate. As, then, there isno social sensorium, it results that the welfare of the aggregate,considered apart from that of the units, is not an end to be sought.The society exists for the benefit of its members; not its membersfor the benefit of the society. It has ever to be remembered thatgreat as may be the efforts made for the prosperity of the bodypolitic, yet the claims of the body politic are nothing inthemselves, and become something only in so far as they embody theclaims of its component individuals.
From this last consideration, which is a digression rather than apart of the argument, let us now return and sum up the variousreasons for regarding a society as an organism.
It undergoes continuous growth; as it grows, its parts, becomingunlike, exhibit increase of structure; the unlike partssimultaneously assume activities of unlike kinds; these activitiesare not simply different, but their differences are so related as tomake one another possible; the reciprocal aid thus given causesmutual dependence of the parts; and the mutually dependent parts,living by and for one another, form an aggregate constituted on thesame general principle as an individual organism. The analogy of asociety to an organism becomes still clearer on learning that everyorganism of appreciable size is a society; and on further learningthat in both, the lives of the units continue for some time if thelife of the aggregate is suddenly arrested, while if the aggregate isnot destroyed by violence its life greatly exceeds in duration thelives of its units. Though the two are contrasted as respectivelydiscrete and concrete, and though there results a difference in theends subserved by the organization, there does not result adifference in the laws of the organization: the required mutualinfluences of the parts, not transmissible in a direct way, beingtransmitted in an indirect way.
Having thus considered in their most general forms the reasons forregarding a society as an organism, we are prepared for following outthe comparison in detail. We shall find that the further we pursue itthe closer does the analogy appear.
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