Gabriel Lambert Political Theory and Social Science Mills Logic Page 1
Uniformity tends to become greater, not less, as society advances. (
, 10.4) Howconvincing was Mills view of social evolution?
A distinction must be drawn here between Mills primary concern, namely the construction of amethodological framework for the future construction of social theory (a theory of the theory of social evolution) and the specific examples he used to tentatively demonstrate the validity of suchmethodology, specifically, his comments on social evolution itself. The fact that his prime interestwas the former is found in his introductory remarks to Book VI of the
- Doubtless, the mosteffectual mode of showing how the sciences of Ethics and Politics may be constructed, would be toconstruct them: a task which...I am not about to undertake. Rather, Mill saw himself as pointing theway for future social scientists to construct more conclusive theories, based on his suggestedmethodology that they should make use of in the pursuit of their ideas. Evidence of Mills generallack of concern for specific theories in the
can be found in his extremely brief treatment of utilitarianism (the final two pages) and his restriction to mentioning only two branches of socialscience political economy and political ethology (the study of the formation of national character).Thus it would be unfair to judge Mill entirely on his specific comments on social evolution as thesewere only intended to provide illustration of his argument concerning the methodology of socialscience. However, such a perspective also allows one to penetrate deeper into Mills thought if hisbasic presuppositions are found to be unconvincing then surely his superstructural ideas based onthem will be similarly discredited. What must be emphasised is Mills overall objective of demonstrating that it was possible to construct scientific laws to explain and hypothesize aboutcollective human behaviour, in other words the existence of some form of objective law of society.We will begin with a critique of Mills specific thoughts on the theory of social evolution and hisillustrations of it before turning to the more methodological material which underlies them. Firstly,Mill subscribed to a stage view of history. Therefore he viewed societies as existing in certainstates which had both an internal consistency and consensus in the sense that they behaved as aliving organism in which actions on a part effect the whole (social statics). But he also believed inthe dynamic nature of societies, in the fact that they undergo transitions from one state to another(social dynamics). The latter view was based on the reciprocal relationship deductively andempirically found to exist between man and his environment the latter shapes the development of the former only to be shaped in turn by the actions of man, allowing for progress in human society,Thus a theory of the evolution of society must contain laws of correspondence betweensimultaneous states and simultaneous changes of those elements.How would one discover such a law? Mill argued only the inverse deductive method was suitable one started with the construction of an empirical law which one would then verify with acomparison to the previously deduced laws of human nature which in turn give the laws of society(already we see references to presupposed constructs that will be examined later). Ones empiricallaw would be found valid if it was consistent or possible given ones previous understanding of human nature. Direct deduction is impossible because, as the quotation hinted at in the title implies,effects on human society gradually comes to rely increasingly on proximate, human-generatedcausation rather than the original natural laws from which the proximate causes could (withsuperhuman effort) be demonstrated to have originated. Thus the natural laws themselves becomedecreasingly directly visible and one must rely on empirical observation of trends before checkingthose observations with deduction.What are the specific observations Mill makes about social evolution? As the title suggests, hebelieved in the growing uniformity as a product of the growing influence of larger and morepowerful civilizations exerting themselves over less powerful ones. The initial diversity would