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History Seminar 10: Marxism in Context

A Comte, Système de philosophie positive

The Action of Positivism upon the Working Classes

[1] Positivism, whether looked at as a philosophical system or as an instrument of social renovation, cannot count upon much support from any of the classes, whether in church or state, by whom the government of mankind has hitherto been conducted....

[2]. . . The classes to which it must appeal are those who have been left untrained in the present worthless methods of instruction by words and entities, who are animated with strong social instincts, and who consequently have the largest stock of good sense and good feeling. In a word it is among the working classes that the new philosophers will find their most energetic allies. The force necessary for social regeneration depends essentially on the combined action of those two extreme terms of the ultimate social order. Notwithstanding their difference of position, a difference that indeed is more apparent than real, there are strong affinities between them, both morally and intellectually. Both have the same sense of the real, the same preference for the useful, and the same tendency to subordinate special points to general principles. Morally they resemble each other in generosity of feeling, in wise unconcern for material prospects, and in indifference to worldly grandeur. This at least will be the case as soon as philosophers in the true sense of that word have mixed sufficiently with the nobler members of the working classes to raise their own character to its proper level. When the sympathies that unite them upon these essential points have had time to show themselves, it will be felt that the philosopher is, under certain aspects, a member of the working class fully trained, while the working man is in many respects a philosopher without the training. Both too will look with similar feelings upon the intermediate or capitalist class. As that class is necessarily the possessor of material power, the pecuniary existence of both will as a rule be dependent upon it.

[3] These affinities follow as a natural result from their respective position and functions....

[4] The occupations of workingmen are evidently far more conducive to philosophical views than those of the middle classes; since they are not, so absorbing as to prevent continuous thought, even during the hours of labor. And besides having more time for thinking, they have a moral advantage in the absence of any responsibility when their work is over. The workman is preserved by his position from the schemes of this respect aggrandisement which are constantly harassing the capitalist. Their difference in causes a corresponding difference in their modes of thought; the one cares more for general principles, the other more for details. To a sensible workman, the system of dispersive speciality now so much in vogue shows itself in its true light. He sees it, that is, to be brutalising, because it would condemn his intellect to the most paltry mode of culture, such as will never be accepted in France in spite of the irrational endeavours of our Anglomaniac economists. To the capitalist, on the contrary, and even to the man of science, that system, however rigidly and consistently carried out, will seem far less degrading; or rather it will be looked upon as most desirable, unless his education has been such as to counteract these tendencies, and to give him the desire and the ability for abstract and general thought.

[5] Morally, the contrast between the position of the workman and the capitalist is even more striking. Proud as most men are of worldly success, the degree of moral or mental excellence implied in the acquisition of wealth or power, even when the means used have been strictly legitimate, is hardly such as to justify that pride....

[6] The life of the workman, on the other hand, is far more favourable to the development of the nobler instincts. In practical qualities he is usually not wanting, except in caution, a deficiency that makes his energy and perseverance less useful to himself, though fully available for society. But it is in the exercise of the higher feelings that the moral superiority of the working class is most observable. When our habits and opinions have been brought under the influence of systematic principles, the true character of this class, which forms the basis of modern society, will become more distinct.... Their personal experience of the miseries of life is a constant stimulus to the nobler sympathies. In no' class is there so strong an incentive to social feeling, at least to the feeling of solidarity between contemporaries; for all are conscious of the support that they derive from union, support which is not at all incompatible with strong individuality of character. The sense of continuity with the past has not, it is true, been sufficiently developed; but this is a want which can only be supplied by systematic culture. It will hardly be disputed that there are more remarkable instances of prompt and unostentatious self- sacrifice at the call of a great public necessity in this class than in any other. Note too that, in the utter absence of any systematic education, all these moral excellences must be looked upon as inherent in the class....

[7] Positivism rejects the metaphysical doctrine of the sovereignty of the people. But it appropriates all that is really sound in the doctrine, and this with reference not merely to exceptional cases but to the normal state, while at the same time it guards against the danger involved in its application as an absolute truth....

[8] The metaphysical doctrine of the sovereignty of the people contains, however, a truth of permanent value, though in a very confused form. This truth positivism separates very distinctly from its dangerous alloy, yet without weakening, on the contrary, with the effect of enforcing, its social import. There are two distinct conceptions in this doctrine, which have hitherto been confounded: a political conception applicable to certain special cases and a moral conception applicable to all.

[9] In the first place the name of the whole body politic ought to be invoked in the announcement of any special measure of which the motives are sufficiently intelligible, and which directly concern the practical interests of the whole community. Under this head would be included decisions of law courts, declarations of war, etc. When society has reached the positive state, and the sense of universal solidarity is more generally diffused, there will be even more significance and dignity in such expressions than there is now, because the name invoked will no longer be that of a special nation, but that of humanity as a whole. It would be absurd, however, to extend this practice to those still more numerous cases where the people is incompetent to express any opinion and has merely to adopt the opinion of superior officers who have obtained its confidence. This may be owing either to the difficulty of the question or to the fact of its application's being indirect or limited. Such, for instance, would be enactments, very often of great importance, that deal with scientific principles; or, again, most questions relating to special professions or branches of industry. In all these cases popular good sense would under positivist influence easily be kept clear from political illusions....

[10] There is, however, another truth implied in the expression "sovereignty of the people." It implies that it is the first of duties to concentrate all the efforts of society upon the common good. And in this there is a more direct reference to the working class than to any other--first, on account of their immense numerical superiority, and, second, because the difficulties by which their life is surrounded require special interference to a degree which for other classes would be unnecessary. From this point of view it is a principle that all true republicans may accept. It is, in fact, identical with what we have laid down as the universal basis of morality, the direct and permanent preponderance of social feeling over all personal interests....

[11] What, then, it will be asked, is the part assigned to the proletariat in the final constitution of society? The similarity of position that I pointed out between themselves and the philosophic class suggests the answer. They will be of the most essential service to the spiritual power in each of its three social functions--judgement, counsel, and even education. All the intellectual and moral qualities that we have just indicated in this class concur in fitting them for this service.... The working class, then, is better qualified than any other for understanding, and still more for sympathising with, the highest truths of morality, though it may not be able to give them a systematic form.... The working classes are the chief sufferers from the selfishness and domination of men of wealth and power. For this reason they are the likeliest to come forward in defence of public morality. And they will be all the more disposed to give it their hearty support if they have nothing to do directly with political administration. Habitual participation in temporal power, to say nothing of its unsettling influence, would lead them away from the best remedy for their sufferings of which the constitution of society admits.... The people will rapidly become convinced that the surest method of satisfying all legitimate claims lies in the moral agencies that positivism offers, though it appeals to them at the same time to abdicate a political function that is either illusory or subversive....

[12] The direct object of their combined action will be to set in motion the force of public opinion. All views of the future condition of society, the views of practical men as well as of philosophic thinkers, agree in the belief that the principal feature of the issue to which w e are tending will be the increased influence which public opinion is destined to exercise.

[13] It is in this beneficial influence that we shall find the surest guarantee for morality--for domestic and even for personal morality, as well as for social. For as the whole tendency of positivism is to induce everyone to live as far as possible without concealment, the public will be entrusted with a strong check upon the life of the individual. Now that all theological illusions have become so entirely obsolete, the need of such a check is greater than it was before. It compensates for the insufficiency of natural goodness that we find in most men, however wisely their education has been conducted. Except for the noblest of joys, that which springs from social sympathy when called into constant exercise, there is no reward for doing right so satisfactory as the approval of our fellow beings. Even under theological systems it has been one of our strongest aspirations to live esteemed in the memory of others. And still more prominence will be given to this noble form of ambition under positivism, because it is the only way now left of satisfying the inward desire of prolonging life beyond the present. And the increased force of public opinion will correspond to the increased necessity for it. The peculiar reality of positive doctrine and its constant conformity with facts facilitate the recognition of its principles, and remove all obscurity in their application....

[14] In political questions the application of our principle is still more obvious. For political morality public opinion is almost our only guarantee. We feel its force even now in spite of the intellectual anarchy in which we live, whenever any great public excitement controls the wide divergence of convictions that in most cases neutralises it. Indeed, we feel it to our cost sometimes when the popular mind has taken a wrong direction, government in such cases being very seldom able to offer adequate resistance. These cases may convince us how irresistible this power will prove when used legitimately, and when it is formed by systematic accordance in general principles, instead of by a precarious and momentary coincidence of feeling. And here we see more clearly than ever how impossible it is to effect any permanent reconstruction of the institutions of society without a previous reorganization of opinion and of life. The spiritual basis is necessary not merely to determine the character of the temporal reconstruction but to supply the principal motive force by which the work is to be carried out. Intellectual and moral harmony will gradually be restored, and under its influence the new political system will by degrees arise....

[15] Having defined the sphere within which public opinion should operate, we shall find little difficulty in determining the conditions requisite for its proper organization. These are, first, the establishment of fixed principles of social action; second, their adoption by the public, and its consent to their application in special cases; and, last, a recognised organ to lay down the principles, and to apply them to the conduct of daily life. Obvious as these three conditions appear, they are still so little understood that it will be well to explain each of them somewhat more fully.

[16] The first condition, that of laying down fixed principles, is in fact the extension to social questions of that separation between theory and practice that in subjects of less importance is universally recognised. This is the aspect in which the superiority of the new spiritual system to the old is most perceptible. The principles of moral and political conduct that were accepted in the Middle Ages were little better than empirical, and owed their stability entirely to the sanction of religion. . . . But the claims with which positivism presents itself are far more satisfactory. It is based on a complete synthesis, one which embraces not the outer world only but the inner world of human nature. This, while in no way detracting from the practical value of social principles, gives them the imposing weight of theoretical truth and ensures their stability and coherence by connecting them with the whole series of laws on which the life of man and of society depends. For these laws will corroborate even those which are not immediately deduced from them. By connecting all our rules of action with the fundamental conception of social duty, we render their interpretation in each special case clear and consistent, and we secure it against the sophisms of passion....

[17] Next to a system of principles, the most important condition for the exercise of public opinion is the existence of a social atmosphere favourable to the acceptance of these principles.... For, though the intrinsic efficacy of positive reaching is far greater than that of any doctrine not susceptible of demonstration, yet the convictions it inspires cannot be expected to dispense with the aid of vigorous popular support. Human nature is imperfectly organised; and the influence that reason exercises over it is not by any means so great as this supposition would imply. Even social feeling, though its influence is far greater than that of reason, would not in general be sufficient for the right guidance of practical life if public opinion were nor constantly at hand to support the good inclinations of individuals. The arduous struggle of social feeling against self-love requires the constant assertion of true principles to remove uncertainty as to the proper course of action in each case. But it requires also something more. The strong reaction of all upon each is needed, whether to control selfishness or to stimulate sympathy. The tendency of our poor and weak nature to give way to the lower propensities is so great that, but for this universal co-operation, feeling and reason would be almost always inadequate to their task. In the working class we find the requisite conditions. They will, as we have seen, form the principal source of opinion, not merely from their numerical superiority but also from their intellectual and moral qualities, as well as from the influence directly due to their social position. Thus it is that positivism views the great problem of human life and shows us for the first time that the bases of a solution already exist in the very structure of the social organism.

[18] Workingmen, whether as individuals or, what is still more important, collectively, are now at liberty to criticise all the details, and even the general principles, of the social system under which they live, affecting, as it necessarily does, themselves more nearly than any other class. The remarkable eagerness lately shown by our people to form clubs, though there was no special motive for it, and no very marked enthusiasm, was a proof that the checks that had previously prevented this tendency from showing itself were quite unsuited to our times.... In these unions social sympathies are kept in constant action by a stimulus of a most beneficial kind. They offer the speediest and most effectual means of elaborating public opinion: this at least is the case when there has been a fair measure of individual training. No one at present has any idea of the extent of the advantages that will one day spring from these spontaneous meetings, when there is an adequate system of general principles to direct them. Spiritual reorganization will hand them its principal basis of support, for they secure its acceptance by the people; and this will have the greater weight, because it will be always given without compulsion or violence....

[19] In this theory of public opinion one condition yet remains to be described. A philosophic organ is necessary to interpret the doctrine, the influence of which would otherwise in most cases be very inadequate. This third condition has been much disputed, but it is certainly even more indispensable than the second. And in fact it has never been really wanting, for every doctrine must have had some founder, and usually has a permanent body of teachers. It would be difficult to conceive that a system of moral and political principles should be possessed of great social influence, and yet at the same time that the men who originate or inculcate the system should exercise no spiritual authority....

[20]. . . Philosophers are not indeed the principal source of public opinion, as intellectual pride so often leads them to believe. Public opinion proceeds essentially from the free voice and spontaneous co-operation of the people. But in order that the full weight of their unanimous judgement may be felt, it must be announced by some recognised organ. . . . Thus, workingmen and philosophers are mutually necessary, not merely in the creation of public opinion but also in most cases in the manifestation of it. Without the first, the doctrine, however well established, would not have sufficient force. Without the second, it would usually be too incoherent to overcome those obstacles in the constitution of man and of society that make it so difficult to bring practical life under the influence of fixed principles....

[21]. . . Thus even in the present anarchy of feelings and convictions, public opinion cannot dispense with guides and interpreters. It has only to be content with men who at the best can offer only the guarantee of personal responsibility, without any reliable security either for the stability of their convictions or the purity of their feelings. But now that the problem of organising public opinion has once been proposed by positivism, it cannot remain long without a solution. It plainly reduces itself to the principle of separating the two social powers, just as we have seen that the necessity of an established doctrine rested on the analogous principle of separating theory from practice. It is clear, on the one hand, that sound interpretation of moral and political rules, as in the case of any other art, can be furnished only by philosophers engaged in the study of the natural laws on which they rest....

[22] Such, in outline, is the positive theory of public opinion. In each of its three constituent elements, the doctrine, the power, and the organ, it is intimately connected with the whole question of spiritual reorganization: or rather, if forms the simplest mode of viewing that great subject....

[23] Our theory of public opinion shows us at once how far we have already gone in organising this great regulator of modern society, how far we still fall short of what is wanted. The doctrine has at last arisen: there is no doubt of the existence of the power, and even the organ is not wanting. But they do not as yet stand in their right relation to each other. The effective impulse towards social regeneration depends, then, on one ultimate condition: the formation of a firm alliance between philosophers and proletarians.

[24]. . . I have now to explain the advantages that it offers to the people in the way of obtaining sufficient recognition of all legitimate claims.

[25] Of these advantages, the principal . . . is the important social function hereby conferred upon them. They become auxiliaries of the new spiritual power, auxiliaries indispensable to its action. This vast proletarian class, which ever since its rise in the Middle Ages has been shut out from the political system, will now assume the position for which by nature it is best adapted, and which is most conducive to the general well-being of society. Its members, independent of their special vocation, will at last take a regular and most important part in public life, a part that will compensate for the hardships inseparable from their social position. Their combined action, far from disturbing the established order of things, will be its most solid guarantee, from the fact of being moral, not political. And here we see definitely the alteration that positivism introduces in the revolutionary conception of the action of the working classes upon society. For stormy discussions about rights, it substitutes peaceable definition of duties. It supersedes useless disputes for the possession of power by inquiring into the rules that should regulate its wise employment....

[26] One step in this direction they have already taken of their own accord, though its importance has not been duly appreciated. The well-known scheme of communism, which has found such rapid acceptance with them, serves, in the absence of sounder doctrine, to express the way in which they are now looking at the great social problem. The experience of the first part of the Revolution has not yet wholly disabused them of political illusions, but it has at least brought them to feel that property is of more importance than power in the ordinary sense of the word. So far communism has given a wider meaning to the great social problem, and has thereby rendered an essential service, which is not neutralised by the temporary dangers involved in the metaphysical forms in which it comes before us. Communism should therefore be carefully distinguished from the numerous extravagant schemes brought forward in this time of spiritual anarchy.... We should look upon it as the natural progress in the right direction of the revolutionary spirit - progress of a moral rather than intellectual kind. It is a proof that revolutionary tendencies are now concentrating them selves upon moral questions, leaving all purely political questions in the background. It is quite true that the solution of the problem that communists are now putting forward is still as essentially political as that of their predecessors, since the only mode by which they propose to regulate the employment of property is by a change in the mode of its tenure. Still, it is owing to them that the question of property is at last brought forward for discussion, and it is a question that so evidently needs a moral solution; the solution of it by political means is at once so inadequate and so destructive that it cannot long continue to be debated without leading to the more satisfactory result offered by positivism....

[27] To do justice to communism, we must look at the generous sympathies by which it is inspired, not at the shallow theories in which those sympathies find expression provisionally until circumstances enable them to take some other shape. The workmen connected with the communist utopia, caring but very little for metaphysical principles, do not attach nearly the same importance to these theories as is done by men of literary education. As soon as they see a better way of bringing forward the points on which they have such legitimate claims, they will very soon adopt the clear and practical conceptions of positivism, which can be carried out peaceably and permanently, in preference to these vague and confused chimeras, that, as they will instinctively feel, lead only to anarchy.... The people will gradually find that the solution of the great social problem which positivism offers is better than the communistic solution.

[28] A tendency in this direction has already shown itself since the first edition of this work was published. French workmen have now adopted a new expression, "socialism," thus indicating that they accept the problem of the communists while rejecting their solution.... Consequently, the rapid spread of socialism very naturally alarms the upper classes, and their resistance, blind though it be, is at present the only legal guarantee for material order. In fact, the problem brought forward by the communists admits of no solution but their own, so long as the revolutionary confusion of temporal and spiritual power continues. Therefore the universal blame that is lavished on these utopian schemes cannot fail to lead men towards positivism, as the only doctrine which can preserve Western Europe from some serious attempt to bring communism into practical operation. Positivists stand forward now as the party of construction, with a definite basis for political action, namely, systematic prosecution of the wise attempt of medieval statesmen to separate the two social powers. On this basis they are enabled to satisfy the poor and, at the same time, to restore the confidence of the rich. It is a final solution of our difficulties that will make the titles of which we have been speaking unnecessary. Stripping the old word "republican" of any false meaning at present attached to it, we may retain it as the best expression of the social sympathies on which the regeneration of society depends. For the opinions, manners, and even institutions of future society, "positivist" is the only word suitable.

[29] The peculiar reality of positivism, and its invariable tendency to concentrate our intellectual powers upon social questions, form a twofold reason for its presentation in a systematic form of the spontaneous principle of communism, namely, that property is in its nature social, and that it needs control.

[30] Property has been erroneously represented by most modern jurists as conferring an absolute right upon the possessor, irrespective of the good or bad use made of it. The instinctive objection of workmen to this view is shared by all true philosophers. It is an antisocial theory, due historically to exaggerated reaction against previous legislation of a peculiarly oppressive kind, but it has no real foundation either in justice or in fact. Property can neither be created, nor even transmitted by the sole agency of its possessor. Since the co-operation of the public is always necessary, whether in the assertion of the general principle or in its special application, the tenure of property cannot be regarded as purely individual. In every age and in every country the state has intervened, to a greater or less degree, making property subservient to social requirements. Taxation evidently gives the public an interest in the private fortune of each individual--an interest that, instead of diminishing with the progress of civilisation, has been always on the increase, especially in modern times, now that the connection of each member of society with the whole is becoming more apparent.... In their abstract views of property, then, communists are perfectly able to maintain their ground against the jurists.

[31] They are right, again, in dissenting as deeply as they do from the economists, who lay it down as an absolute principle that the application of wealth should be entirely unrestricted by society. This error, like the one just spoken of, is attributable to instances of unjustifiable interference. But it is utterly opposed to all sound philosophical teaching, although it has a certain appearance of truth, insofar as it recognizes the subordination of social phenomena to natural laws.... That the movement of society is subject to natural laws is certain, but this truth, instead of inducing us to abandon all efforts to modify society, should rather lead to a wiser application of such efforts, since they are at once more efficacious and more necessary in social phenomena than in any other.

[32] So far, therefore, the fundamental principle of communism is one that the positivist school must obviously adopt. Positivism not only confirms this principle but widens its scope, by showing its application to other departments of human life, by insisting that not wealth only but all our powers shall be devoted in the true republican spirit to the continuous service of the community. The long period of revolution that has elapsed since the Middle Ages has encouraged individualism in the moral world, as in the intellectual it has fostered the specialising tendency. But both are equally inconsistent with the final order of modern society. In all healthy conditions of humanity, the citizen, whatever his position, has been regarded as a public functionary, whose duties and claims were determined more or less distinctly by his faculties. The case of property is certainly no exception to this general principle. Proprietorship is regarded by the positivist as an important social function--the function, namely, of creating and administering that capital by means of which each generation lays the foundation for the operations of its successor. This is the only tenable view of property, and, wisely interpreted, it is one that, while ennobling to its possessor, does not exclude a due measure of freedom. It will in fact place his position on a firmer basis than ever.

[33] But the agreement here pointed out between sociological science and the spontaneous inspirations of popular judgement goes no further. Positivists accept, and indeed very much enlarge, the program of communism; but we reject its practical solution on the ground that it is at once inadequate and subversive. The chief difference between our own solution and theirs is that we substitute moral agencies for political. Thus we come again to our leading principle of separating spiritual from temporal power--a principle that, disregarded as it has hitherto been in the system of modern renovators, will be found in every one of the important problems of our time to be the sole possible issue....

[34]. . . The mistake consists, in the first place, in disregarding or even denying the natural laws that regulate social phenomena, and, secondly, in resorting to political agencies where moral agency is the real thing needed. The inadequacy and the danger of the various utopian systems that are now setting up their rival claims to bring about the regeneration of society are all attributable in reality to these two closely connected errors. For the sake of clarity, I shall continue to refer specially to communism as the most prominent of these systems. But it will be easy to extend the bearing of my remarks to all the rest.

[35] The ignorance of the true laws of social life under which communists labor is evident in their dangerous tendency to suppress individuality. Not only do they ignore the inherent preponderance in our nature of the personal instincts, but they forget that, in the collective organism, the separation of functions is a feature no less essential than the co-operation of functions.... What would it be, then, if everybody stood in a similar position of dependence towards a community that was indifferent to his happiness? Yet no less a danger than this would be the result of adopting any of those utopian schemes that sacrifice true liberty to uncontrolled equality, or even to an exaggerated sense of fraternity. Wide as the divergence between positivism and the economic schools is, positivists adopt substantially the strictures that they have passed upon communism.

[36] There is another point in which communism is equally inconsistent with the laws of sociology. Acting under false views of the constitution of our modern industrial system, it proposes to remove its directors, who form so essential a part of it. An army can no more exist without officers than without soldiers, and this elementary truth holds good for industry as well as for war. The organization of modern industry has not been found practicable as yet, but the germ of such organization has unquestionably in the division that has arisen spontaneously between capitalist and workman. No great works could be undertaken if each worker were also to be a director, or if the management, instead of being fixed, were entrusted to a passive and irresponsible body. It is evident that under the present system of industry there is a tendency to a constant enlargement of undertakings; each fresh step leads at once to still further extension. Now this tendency, so far from being opposed to the interests of the working classes, is a condition that will most seriously facilitate the real organization of our material existence, as soon as we have a moral authority competent to control it. For it is only the larger employers that the spiritual power can hope to penetrate with a strong and habitual sense of duty to their subordinates. Without a sufficient concentration of material power, the means of satisfying the claims of morality would be found wanting, except at such exorbitant sacrifices as would be soon found incompatible with all industrial progress. This is the weak point of every plan or reform that limits itself to the mode of acquiring power, whether public power or private instead of aiming at controlling its use in whosoever hands it may be placed. It leads to a waste of those forces that, when rightly used, form our principal resource in dealing with grave social difficulties....

[37] Serious as these errors are, a philosophic mind will treat the communism of our day, so far as it is adopted in good faith, with indulgence, whether he look at the motives from which it arose, or at the practical results that will follow from it. It is hardly fair to criticise the intrinsic merits of a doctrine the whole meaning and value of which are relative to the peculiar phase of society in which it is proposed. Communism has in its own way discharged an important function. It has brought prominently forward the greatest of social problems; and, if we except the recent positivist explanation, its mode of stating it has never been surpassed. And let no one suppose that it would have been enough simply to state the problem without any such dangerous solution as is there offered. Those who think so do not understand the exigencies of man's feeble intellect. In far easier subjects than this, it is impossible to give prolonged attention to questions that are simply asked, without any attempt to answer them....

[38]. . . In France, at all events, where property is so easy to acquire, and is consequently so generally enjoyed, the doctrine cannot lead to much practical harm; rather its reaction will be beneficial, because it will fix men's minds more seriously on the just claims of the people. The danger is far greater in other parts of Western Europe, especially in England, where aristocratic influence is less undermined, and where consequently the working classes are less advanced and more oppressed. And even in Catholic countries, where individualism and anarchy have been met by a truer sense of fraternity, communistic disturbances can be avoided finally only by a more rapid dissemination of positivism, which will ultimately dispel all social delusions by establishing the true solution of the questions that gave rise to them.

[39] The nature of the evil shows us at once that the remedy we seek must be almost entirely of a moral kind. This truth, based as it is on real knowledge of human nature, the people will soon come to feel instinctively. And here communists are, without knowing it, preparing the way for the ascendancy of positivism. They are forcing upon men's notice in the strongest possible way a problem to which no peaceable and satisfactory solution can be given, except by the new philosophy.

[40] That philosophy, disregarding all useless and irritating discussions as to the origin of wealth and the extent of its possession, proceeds at once to the moral rules that should regulate it as a social function. The distribution of power among men, of material power especially, lies so far beyond our means of intervention that to set it before us as our main object to rectify the defects of the natural order in this respect would be to waste our short life in barren and interminable disputes. The chief concern of the public is that power, in whosoever hands it may be placed, should be exercised for their benefit, and this is a point to which we may direct our efforts with far greater effect. Besides, by regulating the employment of wealth, we do, indirectly, modify its tenure, for the mode in which wealth is held has some secondary influence over the right use of it.

[41] The regulations required should be moral, not political, in their source; general, not special, in their application. Those who accept them will do so of their own free will, under the influence of their education. Thus their obedience, while steadily maintained, will have, as Aristotle long ago observed, the merit of voluntary action. By converting private property into a public function, we would subject it to no tyrannical interference, for this, by the destruction of free impulse and responsibility, would prove most deeply degrading to man's character. Indeed, the comparison of proprietors with public functionaries will frequently be applied in the inverse sense--with the view, that is, of strengthening the latter rather than of weakening the former. The true principle of republicanism is that all forces should work together for the common good. With this view we have, on the one hand, to determine precisely what it is that the common good requires and, on the other, to develop the temper of mind most likely to satisfy the requirement. The conditions requisite for these two objects are a recognised code of principles, an adequate education, and a healthy direction of public opinion. For such conditions we must look principally to the philosophic body that positivism proposes to establish at the apex of modern society. Doubtless this purely moral influence would not be sufficient of itself. Human frailty is such that government in the ordinary sense of the word will have, as before, to repress by force the more palpable and more dangerous class of delinquencies. But this additional control, though necessary, will not fill so important a place as it did in the Middle Ages under the sway of Catholicism. Spiritual rewards and punishments will preponderate over temporal, in proportion as human development evokes a stronger sense of the ties that unite each with all by the threefold bond of feeling, thought, and action.

[42] Positivism, being more pacific and more efficacious than communism, because more true, is also broader and more complete in its solution of great social problems. The superficial view of property, springing too often from envious motives, that condemns inheritance because it admits of possession without labor, is not subversive merely, but narrow. From the moral point of view we see at once the radical weakness of these empirical reproaches. They show blindness to the fact that this mode of transmitting wealth is really that which is most likely to call out the temper requisite for its right employment. It saves the mind and the heart from the mean and sordid habits that are so often engendered by slow accumulation of capital. The man who is born to wealth is more likely to feel the wish to be respected. And thus those whom we are inclined to condemn as idlers may very easily become the most useful of the rich classes, under a wise reorganization of opinions and habits. Of course too, since with the advance of civilisation the difficulty of living without industry increases, the class we are speaking of becomes more and more exceptional. In every way, then, it is a most serious mistake to wish to upset society on account of abuses that are already in course of removal, and that admit of conversion to a most beneficial purpose.

[43] Again, another feature in which the positivist solution surpasses the communist is the remarkable completeness of its application. Communism takes no account of anything but wealth, as if wealth were the only power in modern society badly distributed and administered. In reality there are greater abuses connected with almost every other power that man possesses, and especially with the powers of intellect; yet these our visionaries make not the smallest attempt to rectify. Positivism, being the only doctrine that embraces the whole sphere of human existence, is therefore the only doctrine that can elevate social feeling to its proper place, by extending it to all departments of human activity without exception. Identification, in a moral sense, of private functions with public duties is even more necessary in the case of the scientific man or the artist than in that of the proprietor--whether we look at the source from which his powers proceed or at the object to which they should be directed....

[44] The method that is peculiar to positivism of solving our great social problems by moral agencies will be found applicable also to the settlement of industrial disputes, insofar as the popular claims involved are well founded. These claims will thus become clear from all tendency to disorder, and will consequently gain immensely in force, especially when they are seen to be consistent with principles that are freely accepted by all, and when they are supported by a philosophic body of known impartiality and enlightenment. This spiritual power, while impressing on the people the duty of respecting their temporal leaders, will impose duties upon these latter that they will find impossible to evade. As all classes will have received a common education, they will all alike be penetrated with the general principles on which these special obligations will rest. And these weapons, derived from no source but that of feeling and reason, and aided solely by public opinion, will wield an influence over practical life of which nothing in the present day can give any conception.... With the new spiritual power praise and blame will form the only resource, but it will be developed and consolidated to a degree that, as I have before shown, was impossible for Catholicism.

[45] This is the only real solution of the disputes that are so constantly arising between workmen and their employers. Both parties will look to this philosophic authority as a supreme court of arbitration. In estimating its importance, we must not forget that the antagonism of employer and employed has not yet been pushed to its full consequences. The struggle between wealth and numbers would have been far more serious but for the fact that combination, without which there can be no struggle worth speaking of, has hitherto been permitted only to the capitalist. It is true that in England combinations of workmen are not legally prohibited. But in that country they are not yet sufficiently emancipated, either intellectually or morally, to make such use of the right as would be the case in France. When French workmen are allowed to concert their plans as freely as their employers, the antagonism of interests that will then arise will make both sides feel the need of a moral power to arbitrate between them. Not that the conciliating influence of such a power will ever be such as to do away entirely with extreme measures, but it will greatly restrict their application, and also will mitigate its harshness. Such measures should be limited on both sides to refusal of co-operation--a power that every free agent ought to be allowed to exercise, on his own personal responsibility, with the object of impressing on those who are treating him unjustly the importance of the services he has been rendering. The workman is not to be compelled to work any more than the capitalist to direct. Any abuse of this extreme protest on either side will of course be disapproved by the moral power, but the option of making the protest is always to be reserved to each element in the collective organism, by virtue of his natural independence. In the most settled times functionaries have always been allowed to suspend their services on special occasions.... All we have to do is to regulate this right, and embody it in the industrial system. This will be one of the secondary duties of the philosophic body, who will naturally be consulted on most of these occasions, as on all others of public or private moment. The formal sanction or positive order that it may give for a suspension of work will render that measure far more effective than it is at present....

[46] This theory of trade unions is, in fact, in the industrial world what the power of insurrection is with regard to the higher social functions: it is an ultimate resource that every collective organism must reserve. The principle is the same in the simpler and more ordinary cases as in the more unusual and important. In both the intervention of the philosophic body, whether solicited or not, whether its purpose is to organise legitimate but empirical efforts or to repress them, will largely influence the result.

[47] We are now in a position to state with more precision the main practical difference between the policy of positivism and that of communism or of socialism. All progressive political schools agree in concentrating their attention upon the problem, How to give the people their proper place as a component element of modern society, which ever since the Middle Ages has been tending more and more distinctly to its normal mode of existence. They also agree that the two great requirements of the working classes are the organization of education and the organization of labor. But here their agreement ends. When the means of effecting these two objects have to be considered, positivists find themselves at issue with all other progressive schools. They maintain that the organization of industry must be based upon the organization of education, whereas it is commonly supposed that both may be begun simultaneously, or indeed that labor may be organised irrespectively of education. It may seem as if we are making too much of a mere question of arrangement, yet the difference is one that affects the whole character and method of social reconstruction. The plan usually followed is simply a repetition of the old attempt to reconstruct politically, without waiting for spiritual reconstruction--in other words, to raise the social edifice before its intellectual and moral foundations have been laid....

[48] This conclusion involves a brief explanation of the general system of education that positivism will introduce as the principal function of the new spiritual power and its most efficient instrument for satisfying the working classes in all reasonable demands.

[49] It was the great social virtue of Catholicism that it introduced for the first time, as far as circumstances permitted, a system of education common to all classes without distinction, not excepting even those who were still slaves. It was a vast undertaking, yet essential to its purpose of founding a spiritual power that was to be independent of the temporal power. Apart from its temporary value, it has left us one imperishable principle--namely, that in all education worthy of the name, moral training should be regarded as of greater importance than scientific teaching. Catholic education, however, was of course extremely defective, owing partly to the circumstances of the time and partly to the weakness of the doctrine on which it rested. Since it referred almost exclusively to the oppressed masses, the principal lesson it taught was the duty of almost passive resignation, with the exception of certain obligations imposed upon rulers. Of intellectual culture in any true sense there was none....

[50] Positive education, adapting itself to the requirements of the organism with which it has to deal, subordinates intellectual conditions to social, regarding the latter as the end, the former as simply the means. Its principal aim is to induce the working classes to accept their high social function of supporting the spiritual power, while at the same time it will render them more efficient in their own special duties.

[51] Presuming that education extends from birth to manhood, we may divide it into two periods, the first ending with puberty that is, at the beginning of industrial apprenticeship. Education here should be essentially spontaneous, and should be carried on as far as possible in the bosom of the family, the only studies required being those connected with aesthetic culture. In the second period, education takes a systematic form, consisting chiefly of a public course of scientific lectures on the essential laws of the various orders of phenomena. This course will be the grand work of a moral system, co-ordinating the whole and pointing out the relation of each part to the social purpose common to all. Thus, at about the time that long experience has fixed as that of legal majority, and when in most cases the term of apprenticeship closes, the workman will be prepared intellectually and morally for his public and private service. .

[52] What has been said makes it clear that any organization of such education as this at the present time would be impossible. However sincere the intentions of governments to effect this great result might be, any premature attempt to do it would but injure the work, especially if they put in a claim to superintend it. The truth is that a system of education, if it deserves the name, presupposes the acceptance of a definite philosophical and social creed to determine its character and purpose. Children cannot be brought up in convictions contrary to those of their parents, or indeed without their parents' assistance. Opinions and habits that have been already formed may subsequently be strengthened by an educational system, but the carrying out of any such system is impossible until the principles of combined action and belief have been well established. Till then our mental and moral synthesis is possible only in the case of individuals who are ripe for it, each of these endeavouring to repair the faults and deficiencies of his own education in the best way he can, by the aid of the general doctrine he accepts. Assuming that the doctrine is destined to triumph, the number of such minds gradually increases, and they superintend the social progress of the next generation. This is the natural process, and no artificial interference can dispense with it. So far, then, from inviting government to organise education, we ought rather to exhort it to abdicate the educational powers it already holds, which, I refer more especially to France, are either useless or a source of discord....

[53] It is with adults, then, that we must deal. We must endeavour to disseminate systematic convictions among them, and thus open the door to a real reform of education for the next generation. The press and the power of free speech offer many ways of bringing about this result, the most important being a more or less connected series of popular lectures on the various positive sciences, including history, which henceforth takes its place among them. Now for these lectures to produce their full effect, they must, even when treating of the most elementary point in mathematics, be thoroughly philosophic and consequently animated by a social spirit. They must be entirely independent of government, so as not to be hampered by any of the authorised views. Lastly, there is a condition in which all the rest are summed up. These lectures should be Occidental, not simply national. What we require is a free association of philosophers throughout Western Europe, formed by the voluntary co-operation of all who can contribute efficiently to this great preliminary work, their services being essentially gratuitous. It is a result that no system but positivism is capable of effecting. By its agency that coalition between philosophers and the working classes on which so much depends will speedily be established.

[54] While the work of propagating positivist convictions is going on in the free and unrestricted manner here described, the spiritual authority will at the same time be forming itself, and will be prepared to make use of these convictions as the basis for social regeneration. Thus the transitional state will be brought as nearly as possible into harmony with the normal state, and this the more in proportion as the natural affinity between philosophers and workmen is brought out more distinctly....

[55] This, then, should be the attitude of the working class, intellectually. Morally, what is required is that they should have a sufficient sense of the dignity of labor, and that they should be prepared for the mission that now lies before them.

[56] The workman must learn to look upon himself, morally, as a public servant, with functions of a special and also of a general kind. Not that he is to receive his wages for the future from the state, instead of from a private hand. The present plan is perfectly well adapted to all services that are so direct and definite that a common standard of value can be at once applied to them. Only let it be understood that the service is not sufficiently recompensed without the social feeling of gratitude towards the agent that performs it, a feeling that is recognised already in the so- called liberal professions, where the client or patient is not dispensed from gratitude by payment of his fee. In this respect the republican instincts of the Convention have instinctively anticipated the teaching of philosophy. They valued the workman's labor at its true worth. Workmen have only to imagine labor suppressed or even suspended in the trade to which they may belong to see its importance to the whole fabric of modern society. Their general functions as a class, the function of forming public opinion and of supporting the action of the spiritual power, it is of course less easy for them to understand at present.... The only danger lies in their insisting on the possession of what metaphysicians call political rights, and in engaging in useless discussions about the distribution of power, instead of fixing their attention on the manner in which it is used. Of this, however, there is no great fear, at all events in France, where the metaphysical theory of right has never reached so fanatical a pitch with the working classes as elsewhere.... Questions of pure politics have ceased to interest the people; their attention is fixed, and will remain fixed, on social questions, which are to be solved for the most part through moral agencies....

[57] For the people to rise to the true level of their position, they have only to develop and cultivate certain dispositions that already exist in them spontaneously. And the most important of these is absence of ambition for wealth or rank.... The moneyed classes, under the influence of blind routine, have lent their aid to this degrading policy by continually preaching to the people the necessity of saving, a precept that is indeed incumbent on their own class but not on others. Without saving, capital could not be accumulated and administered; it is therefore of the highest importance that the moneyed classes be as economical as possible. But in other classes, and especially in those dependent on fixed wages, parsimonious habits are uncalled for and injurious; they lower the character of the labourer, while they do little or nothing to improve his physical condition, and neither the working classes nor their teachers should encourage them. Born the one and the other will find their truest happiness in keeping clear of all serious practical responsibility, and in allowing free play to their mental and moral faculties in public as well as private life. In spite of the economists, savings banks are regarded by the working classes with unmistakable repugnance. And the repugnance is justifiable; they do harm morally, by checking the exercise of generous feelings. Again, it is the fashion to declaim against wine shops, and yet, after all, they are at present the only places where the people can enjoy society. Social instincts are cultivated there that deserve our approval far more than the self-helping spirit that draws men to the saving bank. No doubt this unconcern for money, wise as it is, involves real personal risk, but it is a danger that civilisation is constantly tending to diminish, without effacing qualities that do the workmen honour, and are the source of its most cherished pleasures. The danger ceases when the mental and moral faculties are called into stronger exercise. The interest that positivism will arouse among the people in public questions will lead to the substitution of the club for the wine shop....

[58] One of the principal results of the spiritual power exercised by philosophers and the working classes under the positivist system will be to compensate by a just distribution of blame and praise for the imperfect arrangements of social rank, in which wealth must always preponderate. Leaving the present subordination of offices untouched, each functionary will be judged by the intrinsic worth of his mind and heart, without servility, and yet without any encouragement to anarchy. It must always be obvious that the political importance that high position gives is out of all proportion to the real merit implied in gaining that position. The people will come to see more and more clearly that real happiness, so far from depending on rank, is far more compatible with their own humble station. Exceptional men no doubt there are whose character impels them to seek power--a character more dangerous than useful, unless there be sufficient wisdom in the social body to turn it to good account. The best workmen, like the best philosophers, will soon cease to feel envy for greatness, laden, as it always must be, with heavy responsibilities. At present, the compensation that I hold out to them has not been realised, but when it exists, the people will feel that their spiritual and temporal leaders are combining all the energies of society for the satisfaction of their wants. Recognising this, they will care but little for fame that must be bought by long and tedious meditation, or for power burdened with constant care. There are men whose talents call them to these important duties, and they will be left free to perform them, but the great mass of society will be well satisfied that their own lot is one far more in keeping with the constitution of our nature, and more compatible with that harmonious exercise of the faculties of thought, feeling, and action that is most conducive to happiness. The immediate pressure of poverty once removed, the highest reward of honourable conduct will be found in the permanent esteem, posthumous as it may be sometimes, of that portion of humanity that has witnessed it. In a word, the title servus servorum, which is still retained by the papacy from false humility, but which originated in anticipation of a social truth, is applicable to all functionaries in high position. They may be described as the involuntary servants of voluntary subordinates. It is not chimerical to conceive positivist society so organised that its theoretical and practical directors, with all their personal advantages, will often regret that they were not born, or that they did not remain, in the condition of workmen. The only solid satisfaction that great minds have hitherto found in political or spiritual power has been that, being more occupied with public interests, they had a wider scope for the exercise of social feeling. But the excellence of the future condition of society will be that the possibility of combining public and private life will be open to all. The humblest citizen will be able to influence society not by command but by counsel, always in proportion to his energy and worth.

[59] All the views brought forward in this chapter bear out the statement with which it began, that the proletariat forms the principal basis of the social system, not merely as finally constituted but in its present state of transition, and admitting this, the present state will be seen to have no essential difference from the normal future to which it tends. The principal conditions of our transitional policy were described at the conclusion of the last chapter. The best security for them is to be found in the natural tendencies of the people of Western Europe, and especially of France. Our governors will do well to follow these tendencies instead of attempting to lead them, for they are in perfect keeping with the two great requirements of the present time, liberty and public order....

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