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Aristocracy & Evolution A Study of the Rights, the Origin, and the Social Functions of the Wealthier Classes

Aristocracy & Evolution
A Study of the Rights, the Origin, and the Social Functions
of the Wealthier Classes
Title: Aristocracy & Evolution A Study of the Rights, the Origin, and the Social Functions of the Wealthier Classes
Release Date: 2019-02-26
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 47
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CLASSES AND MASSES SECOND THOUSAND Crown 8vo. Cloth. Price 3s. 6d.
Toute civilisation est l’œuvre des aristocrates.
’Tis thus the spirit of a single mind
Makes that of multitudes take one direction,
As roll the waters to the breathing wind,
Or roams the herd beneath the bull’s protection,
Or as a little dog will lead the blind,
Or a bell-wether form the flock’s connection
By tinkling sounds, when they go forth to victual,
Such is the sway of your great men o’er little.
   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·
There was not now a luggage-boy but sought
Danger and spoil with ardour much increased;
And why? Because a little—odd—old man,
Stript to his shirt, was come to lead the van.


The word aristocracy as used in the title ofthis volume has no exclusive, and indeed no special reference to aclass distinguished by hereditary political privileges, by titles,or by heraldic pedigree. It here means the exceptionally gifted andefficient minority, no matter what the position in which its membersmay have been born, or what the sphere of social progress in whichtheir exceptional efficiency shows itself. I have chosen the wordaristocracy in preference to the word oligarchy because it meansnot only the rule of the few, but of the best or the most efficientof the few.

Of the various questions involved in the general argument ofthe work, many would, if they were to be examined exhaustively,demand entire treatises to themselves rather than chapters. This isspecially true of such questions as the nature of men’s congenitalinequalities, the effects of different classes of motive in producingdifferent classes of action, and the effects of equal education onunequal talents and temperaments. But the practical bearings of anargument are more readily grasped when its various parts are setforth with comparative brevity, than they are when the attentionclaimed for each is minute enough to do it justice as a separatesubject of inquiry; and it has appeared to me that in the presentcondition of opinion, prevalent social fallacies may be more easilycombated by putting the case against them in a form which will renderit intelligible to everybody, and by leaving many points to beelaborated, if necessary, elsewhere.

I may also add that the conclusions here arrivedat, with whatever completeness they might havebeen explained, elaborated, and defended, would not,in my opinion, do more than partially answer thequestions to which they refer. This volume aimsonly at establishing what are the social rights andsocial functions, in progressive communities, ofthe few. The entire question of their duties andproper liabilities, whether imposed on them bythemselves or by the State, has been left untouched.This side of the question I hope to deal with hereafter.It is enough to observe here that it isimpossible to define the duties of the few, of therich, of the powerful, of the highly gifted, and tosecure that these duties shall be performed bythem, unless we first understand the extent of thefunctions which they inevitably perform, and admitfrankly the indefeasible character of their rights.


  • BOOK I
      • Science during the middle of this century excited popularinterest mainly on account of its bearing on the doctrinesof Christianity• 3
      • Its popularity is now beginning to depend on its bearingnot on religious problems, but on social• 3
      • Science itself is undergoing a corresponding change• 4
      • Its characteristic aim during the middle of thecentury was to deal with physical and physiological evolution • 4
      • Its characteristic aim now is to deal with the evolution ofsociety• 5
      • Social science itself is not wholly new• 5
      • What is new is the application to it of the evolutionarytheory• 6
      • This excites men by suggesting great social changes in thefuture,• 7
      • which will give a speculative meaning to the history ofhumanity,• 8
      • or secure for men now existing, or for their children,practical social advantages• 8
      • Men have thus a double reason for being interested insocial science, and sociologists a double reason forstudying it;• 9
      • and it has attracted a number of men of genius, who haveapplied to it methods learned in the school of physicalscience• 9
      • Yet despite their genius and their diligence, all partiescomplain that the results of their study are inconclusive• 10
      • Professor Marshall and Mr. Kidd, for instance, complain ofthe fact, but can suggest no explanation of it• 10
      • What can the explanation be?• 11
      • The answer will be found in the fact just referred to—thatsocial science attempts to answer two distinct sets ofquestions;• 12
      • and one set—namely, the speculative—it has answered withgreat success;• 12
      • it has failed only in attempting to answer practicalquestions• 13
      • Now the phenomena with which it has dealt successfully arephenomena of social aggregates, considered as wholes;• 13
      • but the practical problems of to-day, with which it hasdealt unsuccessfully, arise out of the conflict betweendifferent parts of aggregates• 15
      • Social science has failed as a practical guide because ithas not recognised this distinction;• 16
      • and hence arise most of the errors of the politicalphilosophy of this century• 16
      • Whatever may be done by some men, or classes of men,sociologists are at present accustomed to attribute toman• 17
      • Mr. Kidd’s Social Evolution, for instance, is basedentirely on this procedure• 17
      • He quotes with approval two other writers who have beenguilty of it;• 18
      • who both attribute to man what is done by only a few men;• 19
      • and the consequences of their reasoning are ludicrous• 20
      • Mr. Kidd’s reasoning itself is not less ludicrous. Thefirst half of his argument is that religion prompts the fewto surrender advantages to the many, which, if they choseto do so, they could keep• 21
      • The second half is that the many could have taken theseadvantages from the few, and that religion alone preventedthem from doing so• 21
      • This contradiction is entirely due to the fact that, havingfirst divided the social aggregate into two classes, hethen obliterates his division, and thinks of them both as“man”• 22
      • Mr. Kidd’s confusion is the result of no accidental error.It is the inevitable result of a radically fallaciousmethod;• 24
      • and of this method the chief exponent is Mr. HerbertSpencer,• 24
      • as a short summary of his arguments will show• 25
      • Mr. Spencer starts with saying that the chief impediment tosocial science is the great-man theory;• 25
      • for, if the appearance of the great man is incalculable,progress, if it depends on him, must be incalculable also;• 26
      • but if the great man is not a miraculous apparition, heowes his greatness to causes outside himself;• 27
      • and it is these causes which really produce the effects ofwhich he is the proximate initiator• 27
      • These effects, therefore, are to be explained by referencenot to the great man, but to the causes that are behind thegreat man• 28
      • The true causes, says Mr. Spencer, of all social phenomenaare physical environment and men’s natural character• 29
      • The first physical cause of progress was an exceptionallyfertile soil• 29
      • and an exceptionally bracing climate• 29
      • All the conquering races came from fertile and bracingregions• 30
      • There were other regions more fertile, but these wereenervating; and hence the inhabitants of the formerenslaved the weaker inhabitants of the latter• 30
      • Again, division of labour, on which industrial progressdepends, was caused by difference in the products ofdifferent localities,• 31
      • which led to the localisation of industries• 32
      • The localisation of industries in its turn led toroad-making;• 33
      • and roads made possible the centralisation of authority andinterchange of ideas• 33
      • Next, as to men’s natural character, which is the othercause of progress,• 33
      • their primitive character did not fit them to progress,• 34
      • till it was gradually improved by the evolution of marriageand the family—especially of monogamy• 34
      • Monogamy represents the survival of the fittest kind ofsexual union• 35
      • It developed the affections and the practice of efficientco-operation• 35
      • The family being established, the nation gradually rosefrom it• 36
      • One family increased, and gave rise to many families,which were obliged, in order to get food, to separate intodifferent groups;• 36
      • and the recompounding of these groups, for purposes ofdefence or aggression, formed the nation;• 37
      • all government being in its origin military• 37
      • But as the arts of life progress, industry emancipatesitself from governmental control, and becomes its ownmaster, and also forms the basis of political democracy• 37
      • Now, if we consider all these conclusions of Mr. Spencer’s,• 39
      • we shall find them to be all conclusions about aggregatesas wholes, not about parts of aggregates• 39
      • The only differences recognised by him between men aredifferences between one homogeneous aggregate and another,• 40
      • and differences between similar men who happen to beoccupied differently• 41
      • But, as has already been said, the social problems ofto-day arise out of a conflict between different partsof the same aggregate; therefore the phenomena of theaggregate as a whole do not help us• 42
      • The conflict between the parts of the aggregate arises frominequalities of position• 43
      • of which Mr. Spencer’s sociology takes no account• 44
      • Social problems arise out of the desire of those whosepositions are inferior to have their positions changed;• 45
      • and the practical question is, is the change they desirepossible?• 45
      • To answer this question we must examine into the causes whysuch and such individuals are in inferior, and others insuperior positions• 46
      • Are inequalities in position due to alterable andaccidental circumstances?• 47
      • Or are they due to congenital inequalities which no one canever do away with?• 47
      • Social inequalities are partly due to circumstances;• 48
      • but most people will admit that congenital inequalities intalent have much to do with them• 48
      • Why then insist on this fact?• 49
      • Because this fact is precisely what our contemporarysociologists ignore,• 49
      • as Mr. Spencer shows us by his distinct admissions andassertions, as well as by the character of his conclusions• 50
      • His condemnation of the great-man theory is a removal ofall congenital inequalities from his field of study;• 51
      • and he actually defines an aggregate as being composed ofapproximately equal units• 52
      • His failure and that of others, as practical sociologists,arises from their building on this false hypothesis• 53
      • The ignoring of natural inequalities is a deliberateprocedure. Let us see how it is defended• 55
      • Let us examine Mr. Spencer’s defence of it• 55
      • He defends it in two ways;• 55
      • (1) by saying that the great man does not really do what heseems to do;• 55
      • (2) by saying that what he seems to do is not really
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