Puslapio vaizdai

Sidon was a village. Oh, if I could explain it, I would perhaps care less for her. In part, I think, it means that she loves me; in part, I fear, it means that no really capable woman is going to intrust the proper punishment of her husband to anybody else. Of course all that is merely theory. What is certain is that my wife's confession has been conducted tactfully, and that you and I are going in to talk solemn nonsense with St. Holmendis."

But Satan once more shook his head. "No, Surkrag, no; I am not squeamish, but I have no use for saints."

"Well, Prince, I would not be overhasty to agree with you, for Holmendis has some invaluable points. He is perfectly sincere, for one thing, and for another, he is energetic, and for a third, he never pardons any one who differs with him. Of course he is all for having men better than they were intended to be, and he does frighten them into a great deal of public piety. Still, there are always corners and secluded places wherein one strikes a balance, as it were; so that, in the long run of


affairs, I doubt if you have anywhere upon earth any more serviceable friends than are these saints who will put up with nothing short of perfection. you will be remembering, Prince, that upon the mortal who has gained a hundred followers for you is set the geas of our race. And, well, sir, you may see here in the mud just where I jostled Holmendis from the walkway-"

Satan made luminous his finger-tips, and held them like five candles to the saint's footprint. The Angel of Darkness bowed, with real respect, toward heaven.

"Our Adversary, to do Him justice, keeps an honest score. Come, Surkrag, now this is affecting! This very touchingly recalls that the great game is being played by the dear fellow with candor and fine sportsmanship. Meanwhile"-here Satan laughed"I make a fourth with the fanatic, the woman, and the hypocrite."

"Ah, Prince," said Ninzian, a little shocked, as they went in, "should you not say, more tactfully, with us three leaders of reform?"

[graphic][ocr errors]

What Makes a Social System Good



By BERTRAND RUSSELL, [In collaboration with DORA RUSSELL]

NY man who desires, as I do, a fundamental change in the structure of society is forced sooner or later to ask himself the question, What is it that makes one social system seem to him good and another bad? The answer in most cases is undoubtedly very largely a matter of individual caprice. One does not wish to think that one's political opinions result from mere fanciful preferences of this sort, yet I believe that an enormous proportion of political opinion comes, finally, from some untested, unexamined, almost unconscious love for a certain type of society, actual or imagined.

Afundamental change in struc

The only way to make people's political judgments more conscious, more explicit, and therefore more scientific, is to bring to light the conception of an ideal society which underlies each man's opinion, and to discover, if we can, some method of comparing such ideals in their universality or, otherwise, in their appeal.

I purpose first of all to examine some ways of judging a social system which are common, but which I believe to be erroneous, and then to suggest the ways in which I think such judgments should be formed.

§ 2

Among most people, at most times, the commonest way of judging is

simply by inherited prejudices. Any society which is not in a state of rapid transition has customs and beliefs which have been handed down from previous generations, which are unquestioned, and which it appears utterly monstrous to go against. Such are the customs connected with religion, the family, property, and so on. The peculiar merit of the Greeks was due largely to the fact that, being a commercial and seafaring people, they came across the customs and beliefs of innumerable and widely differing nations, and were thus led to a skeptical examination of the basis of all such customs, including their own.

In our age this weakening of tradition has been produced not only by travel and commerce, but also by the changes in social custom inevitably produced by the growth of industrialism. Wherever industry is well developed and not very new, one finds that religion and the family, which are the twin props of every merely traditional social structure, lose their hold over men's minds. Consequently, the force of tradition is less in the present age than it has ever been before. Nevertheless, it is probably even now as great as all other forces combined.

Take, for example, the belief in the sacredness of private property. It is clear that private property is an inher

itance from the pre-industrial era when an individual man or family could make an individual product. In an industrial system a man never makes the whole of anything, but makes the thousandth part of a million things. In these circumstances it is totally absurd to say that a man has the right to the produce of his own labor. Consider a brakeman on a railway whose business it is to shunt freighttrains: what proportion of the goods carried can be said to represent the produce of his labor? The question is wholly insoluble. Therefore it is impossible to secure social justice by saying that each man shall have what he himself produces. Early socialists in the days before Marx were apt to suggest this as a cure for the injustices of capitalism, but their suggestions were both utopian and retrograde, since they were incompatible with large scale industry.

[Yet the basis of many men's judgment of a social order is its relation to private property.]

[ocr errors]

Another thing which affects people's instinctive judgment of a social system, whether actual or imagined, is whether it would provide a career for the sort of person they think they are. One cannot imagine that Napoleon, even in youth, could have been very enthusiastic about dreams of universal peace, or that captains of industry would be attracted by Samuel Butler's "Erewhon," where all machines were illegal. Similarly, the artist will not enjoy the thought of a society where no man is allowed to paint unless his pictures are pleasing to the town council. And on this ground many artists are opponents of socialism.

Men of science struggled against the system which in the seventeenth century compelled them to teach nothing contradictory to revealed religion, and in like manner intellectuals in Russia object to having to teach their subjects from a Marxian point of view. People who find a pleasure in ordering others about, and this includes most of the energetic people in the world, will not like anarchism, where every man can do as he pleases. They will be in rebellion against existing authority unless they are part of it, but will wish to replace it by their own authority, not to abolish it, because in a world where every man could do as he pleases executive people would find no career.

On the other hand, easy-going people will hate strenuous systems. They will oppose the setting up of drill and severe educational methods. During the war they called such things "Prussianism." If they were better informed about Russia, they would now call them "Bolshevism." I confess to a temperamental sympathy with this point of view, and my sympathy is being daily confirmed by what I see of China, the most easy-going country left in the world. But this is not an easy-going age, or one in which such temperamental preferences can be allowed to weigh. It is an age in which we have to think less of the present than of the future, less of the lives of our own generation than of the lives they are preparing for the generations to come.

8 4

Another thing which influences people more or less unconsciously in their judgment as to a suggested social system is the question whether the activities involved in the creating of it

would be agreeable to them. I fear that revolutionaries are not always exempt from this motive. There are certainly some revolutionaries in whom hatred of the possessing classes is stronger than love for the dispossessed; there are some to whom mere benevolent feeling appears to be repulsive humbug and who derive the zeal of their revolutionary ardor mainly from the delight which they feel in the thought of punishing the bourgeoisie. Such men will, of course, always be found among the advocates of violent tactics, since without violence there is no satisfaction for their impulses. Patriotism and militarism have, in many men, a similar origin. The thought of fighting or, more probably, the thought of setting others to fight, is delightful to them, and patriotism recommends itself to them as a creed likely to produce fighting. I do not mean that men are aware of these impulsive sources of their beliefs, but I do mean that such impulses operate in the kind of way studied by psychoanalysis, and I believe that it is of great importance to drag the operation of these impulses into the light of day, to be aware of their operation in ourselves, and to do what we can to make others similarly aware; for an underground, unconscious force operates against reason, eludes discussion, and makes objectivity impossible while it remains undetected.

§ 5

Among writers of sociology and political theorists generally, a very common way of judging the social structure is by whether it constitutes. a pleasant pattern to contemplate. Many social theorists forget that a community is composed of individual

members, and that whatever of good or bad it may contain must be embodied in them. They think of the state as something having a good of its own, quite distinct from the good of the citizens; and what they call the good of the state is usually, unconsciously to themselves, what gives them a certain esthetic or moral satisfaction. We know that when God created the world he saw that it was good, obviously not from the point of view of the unfortunates who have to live in it, but from a higher point of view, presumably that of esthetic contemplation. In like manner, social theorists create worlds in their imagination which they also see to be good despite the fact that they would be intolerable to live in. Such worlds are neat and tidy; everybody does at each moment something which is in accordance with the central plan; they obey the will of the administrator as the universe obeys the will of God. The theorist, of course, is always in imagination himself the administrator.

Much of the belief in industrialism, particularly as applied to backward countries, is of this sort; it is intolerable to the industrially minded to think of lazy populations sitting under banana-trees, eating the fruit as it drops, and being happy in unproductive idleness. Some forms of socialism are not free from this defect: they aim rather at creating the kind of state which is pleasing to theoretical contemplation than the kind which will suit with the temperaments of its citizens. A very great deal of imperialism is also of this sort; it is pleasant to see a great deal of one's national color on the map, and it is unpleasant to see one's dominions jagged and scattered, owing to the intrusion of foreign

territories. The habit of judging the state as it is to contemplate, not as it is to live in, arises from giving more importance to the faint and transient sentiments of an observer, when that observer happens to be oneself, than to the vivid and continual experiences of those who have to live under the government of the state. It is certainly a very potent source of bad social theory. Whoever wishes to be a social theorist should daily remind himself of the very simple, but important, maxim that a state is something in which people have to live, and not merely something to be read about in books, or contemplated as we contemplate the view from a mountain-top.

So far we have been concerned with ways of judging a society which we believe to be mistaken. It is time to turn to those to which we can assent.

There are two elements in a good society, namely: first, the present wellbeing of those who compose it, and, secondly, its capacity for developing into something better. These two do not, by any means, always go together. Sometimes a society in which there is little present well-being may contain within itself the seeds of something better than any previous system. Sometimes, on the other hand, a society in which there is much diffused well-being may be unprogressive, for a time static, and ultimately decadent. It is therefore necessary to take account of both elements as independent ingredients of the sort of society we should wish to see existing. If the science of social dynamics were more developed and the art of prophecy less insecure, progressiveness would be a much more important quality in a

society than present well-being. But politics is so far from scientific and the social future so very uncertain, that a certain present well-being must be allowed as much weight as an uncertain future good, although this future good, if realized, will outweigh anything merely present because of its longer extension in time. "A bird in hand is worth two in the bush," and this is particularly true when we are not sure there are any birds in the bush at all. Let us therefore begin with what makes the present well-being of a community.

§ 6

In judging of the present well-being of a community, there are two opposite fallacies to be avoided. We may call these, respectively, the fallacy of the aristocrat and the fallacy of the outside observer. We considered a moment ago the fallacy of the outside observer. The fallacy of the aristocrat consists in judging a society by the kind of life it affords to a privileged minority. The ancient empires of Egypt and Babylonia afforded thoroughly agreeable existence for kings and priests and nobles, but the rest of the community were mostly slaves or serfs, and must have had an existence composed of unremitting toil and hardship. Modern capitalism affords a delightful existence for the captains of industry; for them there are adventure and free initiative, luxury and the admiration of contemporaries, but for the great mass of the workers there is merely a certain place in the great machine. To that place they are confined by the need of a livelihood, and no effective choice is open to them except the collective stopping of the whole machine by

« AnkstesnisTęsti »