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Russell Bertrand Selected Works

Russell Bertrand Selected Works

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A Liberal Decalogue

Bertrand Russell

Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not
intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. The Ten Commandments that,
as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:
1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is
sure to come to light.
3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your
children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory
dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to
be found.
6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions
will suppress you.

7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once
8. Find more pleasur e in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value
intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient
when you try to conceal it.
10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a
fool will think that it is happiness.

A Free Man's Worship
by Bertrand Russell

A brief introduction: "A Free Man's Worship" (first published as "The Free Man's
Worship" in Dec. 1903) is perhaps Bertrand Russell's best known and most reprinted
essay. Its mood and language have often been explained, even by Russell himself, as
reflecting a particular time in his life; "it depend(s)," he wrote in 1929, "upon a
metaphysic which is more platonic than that which I now believe in." Yet the essay
sounds many characteristic Russellian themes and preoccupations and deserves
consideration--and further serious study--as an historical landmark of early-twentieth-
century European thought. For a scholarly edition with some documentation, see
Volume 12 of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, entitled Contemplation and
Action, 1902-14 (London, 1985; now published by Routledge).

To Dr. Faustus in his study Mephistopheles told the history of the Creation, saying:
"The endless praises of the choirs of angels had begun to grow wearisome; for, after
all, did he not deserve their praise? Had he not given them endless joy? Would it not
be more amusing to obtain undeserved praise, to be worshipped by beings whom he
tortured? He smiled inwardly, and resolved that the great drama should be performed.
"For countless ages the hot nebula whirled aimlessly through space. At length it began
to take shape, the central mass threw off planets, the planets cooled, boiling seas and
burning mountains heaved and tossed, from black masses of cloud hot sheets of rain
deluged the barely solid crust. And now the first germ of life grew in the depths of the
ocean, and developed rapidly in the fructifying warmth into vast forest trees, huge
ferns springing from the damp mould, sea monsters breeding, fighting, devouring, and
passing away. And from the monsters, as the play unfolded itself, Man was born, with
the power of thought, the knowledge of good and evil, and the cruel thirst for worship.
And Man saw that all is passing in this mad, monstrous world, that all is struggling to
snatch, at any cost, a few brief moments of life before Death's inexorable decree. And
Man said: `There is a hidden purpose, could we but fathom it, and the purpose is
good; for we must reverence something, and in the visible world there is nothing
worthy of reverence.' And Man stood aside from the struggle, resolving that God
intended harmony to come out of chaos by human efforts. And when he followed the
instincts which God had transmitted to him from his ancestry of beasts of prey, he
called it Sin, and asked God to forgive him. But he doubted whether he could be justly
forgiven, until he invented a divine Plan by which God's wrath was to have been
appeased. And seeing the present was bad, he made it yet worse, that thereby the
future might be better. And he gave God thanks for the strength that enabled him to
forgo even the joys that were possible. And God smiled; and when he saw that Man
had become perfect in renunciation and worship, he sent another sun through the sky,
which crashed into Man's sun; and all returned again to nebula.
"`Yes,' he murmured, `it was a good play; I will have it performed again.'"
Such, in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world
which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals
henceforward must find a home. That Man is the product of causes which had no
prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and
fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of
atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an
individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all
the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction
in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement
must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins--all these things, if
not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects
them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm
foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built.
How, in such an alien and inhuman world, can so powerless a creature as Man
preserve his aspirations untarnished? A strange mystery it is that Nature, omnipotent
but blind, in the revolutions of her secular hurryings through the abysses of space, has
brought forth at last a child, subject still to her power, but gifted with sight, with
knowledge of good and evil, with the capacity of judging all the works of his
unthinking Mother. In spite of Death, the mark and seal of the parental control, Man is
yet free, during his brief years, to examine, to criticise, to know, and in imagination to
create. To him alone, in the world with which he is acquainted, this freedom belongs;
and in this lies his superiority to the resistless forces that control his outward life.
The savage, like ourselves, feels the oppression of his impotence before the powers of
Nature; but having in himself nothing that he respects more than Power, he is willing
to prostrate himself before his gods, without inquiring whether they are worthy of his
worship. Pathetic and very terrible is the long history of cruelty and torture, of
degradation and human sacrifice, endured in the hope of placating the jealous gods:
surely, the trembling believer thinks, when what is most precious has been freely
given, their lust for blood must be appeased, and more will not be required. The
religion of Moloch--as such creeds may be generically called--is in essence the
cringing submission of the slave, who dare not, even in his heart, allow the thought
that his master deserves no adulation. Since the independence of ideals is not yet
acknowledged, Power may be freely worshipped, and receive an unlimited respect,
despite its wanton infliction of pain.
But gradually, as morality grows bolder, the claim of the ideal world begins to be felt;
and worship, if it is not to cease, must be given to gods of another kind than those
created by the savage. Some, though they feel the demands of the ideal, will still
consciously reject them, still urging that naked Power is worthy of worship. Such is
the attitude inculcated in God's answer to Job out of the whirlwind: the divine power
and knowledge are paraded, but of the divine goodness there is no hint. Such also is
the attitude of those who, in our own day, base their morality upon the struggle for
survival, maintaining that the survivors are necessarily the fittest. But others, not
content with an answer so repugnant to the moral sense, will adopt the position which
we have become accustomed to regard as specially religious, maintaining that, in
some hidden manner, the world of fact is really harmonious with the world of ideals.
Thus Man creates God, all-powerful and all-good, the mystic unity of what is and
what should be.
But the world of fact, after all, is not good; and, in submitting our judgment to it, there
is an element of slavishness from which our thoughts must be purged. For in all things
it is well to exalt the dignity of Man, by freeing him as far as possible from the
tyranny of non-human Power. When we have realised that Power is largely bad, that
man, with his knowledge of good and evil, is but a helpless atom in a world which has
no such knowledge, the choice is again presented to us: Shall we worship Force, or
shall we worship Goodness? Shall our God exist and be evil, or shall he be recognised
as the creation of our own conscience?
The answer to this question is very momentous, and affects profoundly our whole
morality. The worship of Force, to which Carlyle and Nietzsche and the creed of
Militarism have accustomed us, is the result of failure to maintain our own ideals
against a hostile universe: it is itself a prostrate submission to evil, a sacrifice of our
best to Moloch. If strength indeed is to be respected, let us respect rather the strength
of those who refuse that false "recognition of facts" which fails to recognise that facts
are often bad. Let us admit that, in the world we know, there are many things that
would be better otherwise, and that the ideals to which we do and must adhere are not
realised in the realm of matter. Let us preserve our respect for truth, for beauty, for the
ideal of perfection which life does not permit us to attain, though none of these things
meet with the approval of the unconscious universe. If Power is bad, as it seems to be,
let us reject it from our hearts. In this lies Man's true freedom: in determination to
worship only the God created by our own love of the good, to respect only the heaven
which inspires the insight of our best moments. In action, in desire, we must submit
perpetually to the tyranny of outside forces; but in thought, in aspiration, we are free,
free from our fellow-men, free from the petty planet on which our bodies impotently
crawl, free even, while we live, from the tyranny of death. Let us learn, then, that
energy of faith which enables us to live constantly in the vision of the good; and let us
descend, in action, into the world of fact, with that vision always before us.
When first the opposition of fact and ideal grows fully visible, a spirit of fiery revolt,
of fierce hatred of the gods, seems necessary to the assertion of freedom. To defy with
Promethean constancy a hostile universe, to keep its evil always in view, always
actively hated, to refuse no pain that the malice of Power can invent, appears to be the
duty of all who will not bow before the inevitable. But indignation is still a bondage,
for it compels our thoughts to be occupied with an evil world; and in the fierceness of
desire from which rebellion springs there is a kind of self-assertion which it is
necessary for the wise to overcome. Indignation is a submission of our thoughts, but
not of our desires; the Stoic freedom in which wisdom consists is found in the
submission of our desires, but not of our thoughts. From the submission of our desires
springs the virtue of resignation; from the freedom of our thoughts springs the whole
world of art and philosophy, and the vision of beauty by which, at last, we half
reconquer the reluctant world. But the vision of beauty is possible only to unfettered
contemplation, to thoughts not weighted by the load of eager wishes; and thus
Freedom comes only to those who no longer ask of life that it shall yield them any of
those personal goods that are subject to the mutations of Time.
Although the necessity of renunciation is evidence of the existence of evil, yet
Christianity, in preaching it, has shown a wisdom exceeding that of the Promethean
philosophy of rebellion. It must be admitted that, of the things we desire, some,
though they prove impossible, are yet real goods; others, however, as ardently longed
for, do not form part of a fully purified ideal. The belief that what must be renounced
is bad, though sometimes false, is far less often false than untamed passion supposes;
and the creed of religion, by providing a reason for proving that it is never false, has
been the means of purifying our hopes by the discovery of many austere truths.
But there is in resignation a further good element: even real goods, when they are
unattainable, ought not to be fretfully desired. To every man comes, sooner or later,
the great renunciation. For the young, there is nothing unattainable; a good thing
desired with the whole force of a passionate will, and yet impossible, is to them not
credible. Yet, by death, by illness, by poverty, or by the voice of duty, we must learn,
each one of us, that the world was not made for us, and that, however beautiful may
be the things we crave, Fate may nevertheless forbid them. It is the part of courage,
when misfortune comes, to bear without repining the ruin of our hopes, to turn away
our thoughts from vain regrets. This degree of submission to Power is not only just
and right: it is the very gate of wisdom.
But passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom; for not by renunciation alone
can we build a temple for the worship of our own ideals. Haunting foreshadowings of
the temple appear in the realm of imagination, in music, in architecture, in the
untroubled kingdom of reason, and in the golden sunset magic of lyrics, where beauty
shines and glows, remote from the touch of sorrow, remote from the fear of change,
remote from the failures and disenchantments of the world of fact. In the
contemplation of these things the vision of heaven will shape itself in our hearts,
giving at once a touchstone to judge the world about us, and an inspiration by which
to fashion to our needs whatever is not incapable of serving as a stone in the sacred
Except for those rare spirits that are born without sin, there is a cavern of darkness to
be traversed before that temple can be entered. The gate of the cavern is despair, and
its floor is paved with the gravestones of abandoned hopes. There Self must die; there
the eagerness, the greed of untamed desire must be slain, for only so can the soul be
freed from the empire of Fate. But out of the cavern the Gate of Renunciation leads
again to the daylight of wisdom, by whose radiance a new insight, a new joy, a new
tenderness, shine forth to gladden the pilgrim's heart.
When, without the bitterness of impotent rebellion, we have learnt both to resign
ourselves to the outward rules of Fate and to recognise that the non-human world is
unworthy of our worship, it becomes possible at last so to transform and refashion the
unconscious universe, so to transmute it in the crucible of imagination, that a new
image of shining gold replaces the old idol of clay. In all the multiform facts of the
world--in the visual shapes of trees and mountains and clouds, in the events of the life
of man, even in the very omnipotence of Death--the insight of creative idealism can
find the reflection of a beauty which its own thoughts first made. In this way mind
asserts its subtle mastery over the thoughtless forces of Nature. The more evil the
material with which it deals, the more thwarting to untrained desire, the greater is its
achievement in inducing the reluctant rock to yield up its hidden treasures, the
prouder its victory in compelling the opposing forces to swell the pageant of its
triumph. Of all the arts, Tragedy is the proudest, the most triumphant; for it builds its
shining citadel in the very centre of the enemy's country, on the very summit of his
highest mountain; from its impregnable watchtowers, his camps and arsenals, his
columns and forts, are all revealed; within its walls the free life continues, while the
legions of Death and Pain and Despair, and all the servile captains of tyrant Fate,
afford the burghers of that dauntless city new spectacles of beauty. Happy those
sacred ramparts, thrice happy the dwellers on that all-seeing eminence. Honour to
those brave warriors who, through countless ages of warfare, have preserved for us
the priceless heritage of liberty, and have kept undefiled by sacrilegious invaders the
home of the unsubdued.
But the beauty of Tragedy does but make visible a quality which, in more or less
obvious shapes, is present always and everywhere in life. In the spectacle of Death, in
the endurance of intolerable pain, and in the irrevocableness of a vanished past, there
is a sacredness, an overpowering awe, a feeling of the vastness, the depth, the
inexhaustible mystery of existence, in which, as by some strange marriage of pain, the
sufferer is bound to the world by bonds of sorrow. In these moments of insight, we
lose all eagerness of temporary desire, all struggling and striving for petty ends, all
care for the little trivial things that, to a superficial view, make up the common life of
day by day; we see, surrounding the narrow raft illumined by the flickering light of
human comradeship, the dark ocean on whose rolling waves we toss for a brief hour;
from the great night without, a chill blast breaks in upon our refuge; all the loneliness
of humanity amid hostile forces is concentrated upon the individual soul, which must
struggle alone, with what of courage it can command, against the whole weight of a
universe that cares nothing for its hopes and fears. Victory, in this struggle with the
powers of darkness, is the true baptism into the glorious company of heroes, the true
initiation into the overmastering beauty of human existence. From that awful
encounter of the soul with the outer world, enunciation, wisdom, and charity are born;
and with their birth a new life begins. To take into the inmost shrine of the soul the
irresistible forces whose puppets we seem to be--Death and change, the
irrevocableness of the past, and the powerlessness of Man before the blind hurry of
the universe from vanity to vanity--to feel these things and know them is to conquer
This is the reason why the Past has such magical power. The beauty of its motionless
and silent pictures is like the enchanted purity of late autumn, when the leaves, though
one breath would make them fall, still glow against the sky in golden glory. The Past
does not change or strive; like Duncan, after life's fitful fever it sleeps well; what was
eager and grasping, what was petty and transitory, has faded away, the things that
were beautiful and eternal shine out of it like stars in the night. Its beauty, to a soul
not worthy of it, is unendurable; but to a soul which has conquered Fate it is the key
of religion.
The life of Man, viewed outwardly, is but a small thing in comparison with the forces
of Nature. The slave is doomed to worship Time and Fate and Death, because they are
greater than anything he finds in himself, and because all his thoughts are of things
which they devour. But, great as they are, to think of them greatly, to feel their
passionless splendour, is greater still. And such thought makes us free men; we no
longer bow before the inevitable in Oriental subjection, but we absorb it, and make it
a part of ourselves. To abandon the struggle for private happiness, to expel all
eagerness of temporary desire, to burn with passion for eternal things--this is
emancipation, and this is the free man's worship. And this liberation is effected by a
contemplation of Fate; for Fate itself is subdued by the mind which leaves nothing to
be purged by the purifying fire of Time.
United with his fellow-men by the strongest of all ties, the tie of a common doom, the
free man finds that a new vision is with him always, shedding over every daily task
the light of love. The life of Man is a long march through the night, surrounded by
invisible foes, tortured by weariness and pain, towards a goal that few can hope to
reach, and where none may tarry long. One by one, as they march, our comrades
vanish from our sight, seized by the silent orders of omnipotent Death. Very brief is
the time in which we can help them, in which their happiness or misery is decided. Be
it ours to shed sunshine on their path, to lighten their sorrows by the balm of
sympathy, to give them the pure joy of a never-tiring affection, to strengthen failing
courage, to instil faith in hours of despair. Let us not weigh in grudging scales their
merits and demerits, but let us think only of their need--of the sorrows, the
difficulties, perhaps the blindnesses, that make the misery of their lives; let us
remember that they are fellow-sufferers in the same darkness, actors in the same
tragedy as ourselves. And so, when their day is over, when their good and their evil
have become eternal by the immortality of the past, be it ours to feel that, where they
suffered, where they failed, no deed of ours was the cause; but wherever a spark of the
divine fire kindled in their hearts, we were ready with encouragement, with sympathy,
with brave words in which high courage glowed.
Brief and powerless is Man's life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls
pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter
rolls on its relentless way; for Man, condemned to-day to lose his dearest, to-morrow
himself to pass through the gate of darkness, it remains only to cherish, ere yet the
blow falls, the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day; disdaining the coward terrors
of the slave of Fate, to worship at the shrine that his own hands have built;
undismayed by the empire of chance, to preserve a mind free from the wanton tyranny
that rules his outward life; proudly defiant of the irresistible forces that tolerate, for a
moment, his knowledge and his condemnation, to sustain alone, a weary but
unyielding Atlas, the world that his own ideals have fashioned despite the trampling
march of unconscious power.

Am I an Atheist or an Agnostic?
A Plea for Tolerance in the Face of New Dogmas

Bertrand Russell
I speak as one who was intended by my father to be brought up as a Rationalist. He was
quite as much of a Rationalist as I am, but he died when I was three years old, and the
Court of Chancery decided that I was to have the benefits of a Christian education.
I think perhaps the Court of Chancery might have regretted that since. It does not seem to
have done as much good as they hoped. Perhaps you may say that it would be rather a
pity if Christian education were to cease, because you would then get no more
They arise chiefly out of reaction to a system of education which considers it quite right
that a father should decree that his son should be brought up as a Muggletonian, we will
say, or brought up on any other kind of nonsense, but he must on no account be brought
up to think rationally. When I was young that was considered to be illegal.

Sin And The Bishops

Since I became a Rationalist I have found that there is still considerable scope in the
world for the practical importance of a rationalist outlook, not only in matters of geology,
but in all sorts of practical matters, such as divorce and birth control, and a question
which has come up quite recently, artificial insemination, where bishops tell us that
something is gravely sinful, but it is only gravely sinful because there is some text in the
Bible about it. It is not gravely sinful because it does anybody harm, and that is not the
argument. As long as you can say, and as long as you can persuade Parliament to go on
saying, that a thing must not be done solely because there is some text in the Bible about
it, so long obviously there is great need of Rationalism in practice.
As you may know, I got into great trouble in the United States solely because, on some
practical issues, I considered that the ethical advice given in the Bible was not conclusive,
and that on some points one should act differently from what the Bible says. On this
ground it was decreed by a Law Court that I was not a fit person to teach in any
university in the United States, so that I have some practical ground for preferring
Rationalism to other outlooks.

Don't Be Too Certain!

The question of how to define Rationalism is not altogether an easy one. I do not think
that you could define it by rejection of this or that Christian dogma. It would be perfectly
possible to be a complete and absolute Rationalist in the true sense of the term and yet
accept this or that dogma.
The question is how to arrive at your opinions and not what your opinions are. The thing
in which we believe is the supremacy of reason. If reason should lead you to orthodox
conclusions, well and good; you are still a Rationalist. To my mind the essential thing is
that one should base one's arguments upon the kind of grounds that are accepted in
science, and one should not regard anything that one accepts as quite certain, but only as
probable in a greater or a less degree. Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the
essential things in rationality.

Proof of God

Here there comes a practical question which has often troubled me. Whenever I go into a
foreign country or a prison or any similar place they always ask me what is my religion.
I never know whether I should say "Agnostic" or whether I should say "Atheist". It is a
very difficult question and I daresay that some of you have been troubled by it. As a
philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought
to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive
argument by which one prove that there is not a God.
On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street
I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that
there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the
Homeric gods.
None of us would seriously consider the possibility that all the gods of homer really exist,
and yet if you were to set to work to give a logical demonstration that Zeus, Hera,
Poseidon, and the rest of them did not exist you would find it an awful job. You could not
get such proof.
Therefore, in regard to the Olympic gods, speaking to a purely philosophical audience, I
would say that I am an Agnostic. But speaking popularly, I think that all of us would say
in regard to those gods that we were Atheists. In regard to the Christian God, I should, I
think, take exactly the same line.


There is exactly the same degree of possibility and likelihood of the existence of the
Christian God as there is of the existence of the Homeric God. I cannot prove that either
the Christian God or the Homeric gods do not exist, but I do not think that their existence
is an alternative that is sufficiently probable to be worth serious consideration. Therefore,
I suppose that that on these documents that they submit to me on these occasions I ought
to say "Atheist", although it has been a very difficult problem, and sometimes I have said
one and sometimes the other without any clear principle by which to go.
When one admits that nothing is certain one must, I think, also admit that some things are
much more nearly certain than others. It is much more nearly certain that we are
assembled here tonight than it is that this or that political party is in the right. Certainly
there are degrees of certainty, and one should be very careful to emphasize that fact,
because otherwise one is landed in an utter skepticism, and complete skepticism would,
of course, be totally barren and completely useless.


On must remember that some things are very much more probable than others and may
be so probable that it is not worth while to remember in practice that they are not wholly
certain, except when it comes to questions of persecution.
If it comes to burning somebody at the stake for not believing it, then it is worth while to
remember that after all he may be right, and it is not worth while to persecute him.
In general, if a man says, for instance, that the earth is flat, I am quite willing that he
should propagate his opinion as hard as he likes. He may, of course, be right but I do not
think he is. In practice you will, I think, do better to assume that the earth is round,
although, of course, you may be mistaken. Therefore, I do not think we should go in for
complete skepticism, but for a doctrine of degrees of probability.
I think that, on the whole, that is the kind of doctrine that the world needs. The world has
become very full of new dogmas. he old dogmas have perhaps decayed, but new dogmas
have arisen and, on the whole, I think that a dogma is harmful in proportion to its novelty.
New dogmas are much worse that old ones.

Bertrand Russell: Columns for the Hearst Newspapers

Table of Contents:

• “How to Become a Man of Genius”
• “Of Co-Operation”
• “On Astrologers”
• “On Modern Uncertainty”
• “On Sales Resistance”
• “How to Become a Man of Genius”

If there are among my readers any young men or women who aspire to become leaders of
thought in their generation, I hope they will avoid certain errors into which I fell in youth
for want of good advice. When I wished to form an opinion upon a subject, I used to
study it, weigh the arguments on different sides, and attempt to reach a balanced
conclusion. I have since discovered that this is not the way to do things. A man of genius
knows it all without the need of study; his opinions are pontifical and depend for their
persuasiveness upon literary style rather than argument. It is necessary to be one-sided,
since this facilitates the vehemence that is considered a proof of strength. It is essential to
appeal to prejudices and passions of which men have begun to feel ashamed and to do
this in the name of some new ineffable ethic. It is well to decry the slow and pettifogging
minds which require evidence in order to reach conclusions. Above all, whatever is most
ancient should be dished up as the very latest thing.
There is no novelty in this recipe for genius; it was practised by Carlyle in the time of our
grandfathers, and by Nietzsche in the time of our fathers, and it has been practised in our
own time by D. H. Lawrence. Lawrence is considered by his disciples to have enunciated
all sorts of new wisdom about the relations of men and women; in actual fact he has gone
back to advocating the domination of the male which one associates with the cave
dwellers. Woman exists, in his philosophy, only as something soft and fat to rest the hero
when he returns from his labours. Civilised societies have been learning to see something
more than this in women; Lawrence will have nothing of civilisation. He scours the world
for what is ancient and dark and loves the traces of Aztec cruelty in Mexico. Young men,
who had been learning to behave, naturally read him with delight and go round practising
cave- man stuff so far as the usages of polite society will permit.
One of the most important elements of success in becoming a man of genius is to learn
the art of denunciation. You must always denounce in such a way that your reader thinks
that it is the other fellow who is being denounced and not himself; in that case he will be
impressed by your noble scorn, whereas if he thinks that it is himself that you are
denouncing, he will consider that you are guilty of ill-bred peevishness. Carlyle
remarked: ``The population of England is twenty millions, mostly fools.'' Everybody who
read this considered himself one of the exceptions, and therefore enjoyed the remark.
You must not denounce well-defined classes, such as persons with more than a certain
income, inhabitants of a certain area, or believers in some definite creed; for if you do
this, some readers will know that your invective is directed against them. You must
denounce persons whose emotions are atrophied, persons to whom only plodding study
can reveal the truth, for we all know that these are other people, and we shall therefore
view with sympathy your powerful diagnosis of the evils of the age.
Ignore fact and reason, live entirely in the world of your own fantastic and myth-
producing passions; do this whole-heartedly and with conviction, and you will become
one of the prophets of your age.
28 December 1932
• “Of Co-Operation”

In these days, under the influence of democracy, the virtue of co-operation has taken the
place formerly held by obedience. The old-fashioned schoolmaster would say of a boy
that he was disobedient; the modern schoolmistress says of an infant that he is non-co-
operative. It means the same thing: the child, in either case, fails to do what the teacher
wishes, but in the first case the teacher acts as the government and in the second as the
representative of the People, i.e. of the other children. The result of the new language, as
of the old, is to encourage docility, suggestibility, herd- instinct and conventionality,
thereby necessarily discouraging originality, initiative and unusual intelligence. Adults
who achieve anything of value have seldom been ``co-operative'' children. As a rule, they
have liked solitude: they have tried to slink into a corner with a book and been happiest
when they could escape the notice of their barbarian contemporaries. Almost all men who
have been distinguished as artists, writers or men of science have in boyhood been
objects of derision and contempt to their schoolfellows; and only too often the teachers
have sided with the herd, because it annoyed them that a boy should be odd.
It ought to be part of the training of all teachers to be taught to recognise the marks of
unusual intelligence in children and to restrain the irritation caused in themselves by
anything so unusual. Until this is done, a large proportion of the best talent in America
will be persecuted out of existence before the age of fifteen. Co-operativeness, as an
ideal, is defective: it is right to live with reference to the community and not for oneself
alone, but living for the community does not mean doing what it does. Suppose you are in
a theatre which catches fire, and there is a stampede: the person who has learnt no higher
morality than what is called ``co-operation'' will join in the stampede since he will
possess no inner force that would enable him to stand up against the herd. The
psychology of a nation embarking on a war is at all points identical.
I do not wish, however, to push the doctrine of individual initiative too far. Godwin, who
became Shelley's father- in- law because Shelley so much admired him, asserted that
``everything that is usually understood by the term `co-operation' is in some degree an
evil.'' He admits that, at present, ``to pull down a tree, to cut a canal, to navigate a vessel
requires the labour of many'', but he looks forward to the time when machinery is so
perfected that one man unaided will be able to do any of these things. He thinks also that
hereafter there will be no orchestra. ``Shall we have concerts of music?'' he says. ``The
miserable state of mechanism of the majority of the performers is so conspicuous as to be
even at this day a topic of mortification and ridicule. Will it not be practicable hereafter
for one man to perform the whole?'' He goes on to suggest that the solitary performer will
insist on playing his own productions and refuse to be the slave of composers dead and
All this is, of course, ridiculous, and for my part I find it salutary to see my own opinions
thus caricatured. I remain none the less convinced that our age, partly as a result of
democratic sentiment, and partly because of the complexity of machine production, is in
danger of carrying the doctrine of co-operativeness to lengths which will be fatal to
individual excellence, not only in its more anarchic forms, but also in forms which are
essential to social progress. Perhaps, therefore, even a man like Godwin may have
something to teach those who believe that social conformity is the beginning and end of
18 May 1932
It may be noted that Russell himself was educated by tutors at home until he went to
Cambridge, and so is unlikely to be expressing personal animus against his own teachers
and school-fellows, of which he had none.
• “On Astrologers”

There is always something pathetic about a great and ancient tradition which has fallen
on evil days. The astrologer, as one pictures him in the past, is an aged sage with a long
white beard, speaking in a slow and trance- like manner, and felt by his auditors and
himself to be possessed of mystical lore. In his most glorious days, he controlled the
destiny of nations: among the Chaldeans, he stood to the King in the same relation as the
Governor of the Bank of England now stands to the Prime Minister. In ancient Rome he
was reverenced, except by a few rationalistic Emperors, who banished from the City all
``mathematicians'', as they were called. The Arabs consulted them on all important
occasions; the wisest men of the Renaissance believed in them, and Kepler, the great
astronomer, had to become an astrologer in order to win respect and a livelihood.
Astrologers still exist; it has been my good fortune to know several. But how different
they are from the magnificent beings of former times! They are, so far as I have come
across them, hard-working and highly meritorious business men or women, with an aged
mother or an invalid husband to support. They follow by rule of thumb the ancient
formulae about the House of Life and planets in the ascendant and the rest of it, but their
language is sadly modernised, and their horoscopes, instead of being inscribed
cabalistically upon parchment, are neatly typed upon the best quarto typing paper. In this,
they commit an error of judgement which makes it difficult to have faith in their power of
deciphering the future in the stars.
Do they believe themselves in the sciences that they profess? This is a difficult question.
Everything marvellous is believed by some people, and it is not improbable that
professional astrologers are of this type. And even if they are aware that their own
performances are largely guesswork and inferences from information obtained otherwise,
they probably think that there are superior practitioners who never resort to these inferior
methods. There was once a worthy man who made a vast fortune by professing to have
discovered how to make gold out of sea water. He decamped to South America before it
was too late and prepared to live happily ever after. Unfortunately another man professed
to have made the same discovery; our friend believed in him, invested all his money in
the new process, and lost every penny. This incident shows that people are often less
dishonest than they might be thought to be, and probably professional astrologers are in
the main honourably convinced of the truth of their doctrines.
That this should be possible is creditable to them but very discreditable to our educational
system. In schools and universities information of all sorts is ladled out, but no one is
taught to reason, or to consider what is evidence for what. To any person with even the
vaguest idea of the nature of scientific evidence, such beliefs as those of astrologers are
of course impossible. But so are most of the beliefs upon which governments are based,
such as the peculiar merit of persons living in a certain area, or of persons whose income
exceeds a certain sum. It would not do to teach people to reason correctly, since the result
would be to undermine these beliefs. If these beliefs were to fade, mankind might escape
disaster, but politicians could not. At all costs, therefore, we must be kept stupid.
28 September 1932
• “On Modern Uncertainty”

There have been four sorts of ages in the world's history. There have been ages when
everybody thought they knew everything, ages when nobody thought they knew
anything, ages when clever people thought they knew much and stupid people thought
they knew little, and ages when stupid people thought they knew much and clever people
thought they knew little. The first sort of age is one of stability, the second of slow decay,
the third of progress, the fourth of disaster. All primitive ages belong to the first sort: no
one has any doubt as to the tribal religion, the wisdom of ancient customs, or the magic
by which good crops are to be secured; consequently everyone is happy in the absence of
some tangible reason, such as starvation, for being unhappy.
The second sort of age is exemplified by the ancient world before the rise of Christianity
but after decadence had begun. In the Roman Empire, tribal religions lost their
exclusiveness and force: in proportion as people came to think that there might be truth in
religions of others, they also came to think that their might be falsehood in their own.
Eastern necromancy was half believed, half disbelieved; the German barbarians were
supposed to possess virtues that the more civilised portions of mankind hand lost.
Consequently everybody doubted everything, and doubt paralysed effort.
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, exactly the opposite happened. Science
and scientific technique were a novelty, and gave immense self-confidence to those who
understood them. Their triumphs were obvious and astonishing. Repeatedly, when the
Chinese Emperor had decided to persecute the Jesuits, they would turn out to be right
about the date of an expected eclipse when the imperial astronomers were wrong, and the
Emperor would decide that such clever men, after all, deserved his favours. In England,
those who introduced scientific methods in agriculture obtained visibly larger crops than
those who adhered to old-time methods, while in manufactures team and machinery put
the conservatives to flight. There came, therefore, to be a general belief in educated
intelligence. Those who did not possess it allowed themselves to be guided by those who
did, and an era of rapid progress resulted.
In our age, the exact opposite is the case. Men of science like Eddington are doubtful
whether science really knows anything. Economists perceive that the accepted methods
of doing the world's business are making everybody poor. Statesmen cannot find any way
of securing international co-operation or preventing war. Philosophers have no guidance
to offer mankind. The only people left with positive opinions are those who are too stupid
to know when their opinions are absurd. Consequently the world is ruled by fools, and
the intelligent count for nothing in the councils of the nations.
This state of affairs, if it continues, must plunge the world more and more deeply into
misfortune. The scepticism of the intelligent is the cause of their impotence, and is itself
the effect of their laziness: if there is nothing worth doing, that gives an excuse for sitting
still. But when disaster is impending, no excuse for sitting still can be valid. The
intelligent will have to shed their scepticism, or share responsibility for the evils which
all deplore. And they will have to abandon academic grumblings and peevish pedantries,
for nothing that they amy say will be of any use unless they learn to speak a language that
the democracy can appreciate.
20 July 1932
• “On Sales Resistance”

Throughout recent years, a vast amount of money and time and brains has been employed
in overcoming sales resistance, i.e. in inducing unoffending persons to waste their money
in purchasing objects which they had no desire to possess. It is characteristic of our age
that this sort of thing is considered meritorious: lectures are given on salesmanship, and
those who possess the art are highly rewarded. Yet, if a moment's consideration is given
to the matter, it is clear that the activity is a noxious one which does more harm than
good. Some hard-working professional man, for example, who has been saving up with a
view to giving his family a pleasant summer holiday, is beset in a weak moment by a
highly trained bandit who wants to sell him a grand piano. He points out that that he has
no room large enough to house it, but the bandit shows that, by knocking down a bit of
wall, the tail of the piano can be made to project from the living room into the best
bedroom. Paterfamilias says that he and his wife do not play the piano and his oldest
daughter has only just begun to learn scales. ``The very reason why you should buy my
piano'' says the bandit. ``On ordinary pianos scales may be tiresome, but on mine they
have all the depth of the most exquisite melody.'' The harassed householder mentions that
he has an engagement and cannot stay any longer. The bandit threatens to come again
next day; so, in despair, the victim gives way and his children have to forgo their seaside
holiday, while his wife's complaints are a sauce to every meal throughout the summer.
In return for all this misery, the salesman has a mere commission and the man whose
piano is being sold obtains whatever percentage of the price presents his profits. Yet, both
are thought to have deserved well of their country since their enterprise is supposed to be
good for business.
All this topsy-turvydom is due to the fact that everything economic is looked upon from
the standpoint of the producer rather than of the consumer. In former times, it was
thought that bread is baked in order to be eaten; nowadays we think that it is eaten in
order to be baked. When we spend money, we are expected to do so not with a view to
our enjoyment of what we purchase but to enrich those who have manufactured it. Since
the greatest of virtues is business skill and since skill is shown in making people buy
what they don't want rather than what they do, the man who is most respected is the one
who has caused the most pain to purchasers. All this is connected with a quite elementary
mistake, namely, failure to realise that what a man spends in one direction he has to save
in another so that bullying is not likely to increase his total expenditure. But partly also it
is connected with the notion that a man's working hours are the only important part of his
life and that what he does with the rest of his time is unimportant unless it affects other
men's working hours. A few clergymen, it is true, speak of the American home and the
joys of family life, but that is regarded merely as their professional talk, against which a
very considerable sales resistance has grown up. And so everything is done for the sake
of something else. We make money not in order to enjoy what it provides but in order
that in spending it we may enable others to make money which they will spend in
enabling yet others to make money which.... But the end of this is bedlam.
22 June 1932

Education and Discipline
Bertrand Russell

Any serious educational theory must consist of two parts: a conception of the ends of life,
and a science of psychological dynamics, i.e. of the laws of mental change. Two men
who differ as to the ends of life cannot hope to agree about education. The educational
machine, throughout Western civilization, is dominated by two ethical theories: that of
Christianity, and that of nationalism. These two, when taken seriously, are incompatible,
as is becoming evident in Germany. For my part, I hold that, where they differ,
Christianity is preferable, but where they agree, both are mistaken. The conception which
I should substitute as the purpose of education is civilization, a term which, as I mean it,
has a definition which is partly individual, partly social. It consists, in the individual, of
both intellectual and moral qualities: intellectually, a certain minimum of general
knowledge, technical skill in one's own profession, and a habit of forming opinions on
evidence; morally, of impartiality, kindliness, and a modicum of self-control. I should
add a quality which is neither moral nor intellectual, but perhaps physiological: zest and
joy of life. In communities, civilization demands respect for law, justice as between man
and man, purposes not involving permanent injury to any section of the human race, and
intelligent adaptation of means to ends. If these are to be the purpose of education, it is a
question for the science of psychology to consider what can be done towards realizing
them, and, in particular, what degree of freedom is likely to prove most effective.
On the question of freedom in education there are at present three main schools of
thought, deriving partly from differences as to ends and partly from differences in
psychological theory. There are those who say that children should be completely free,
however bad they may be; there are those who say they should be completely subject to
authority, however good they may be; and there are those who say they should be free,
but in spite of freedom they should be always good. This last party is larger than it has
any logical right to be; children, like adults, will not all be virtuous if they are all free.
The belief that liberty will ensure moral perfection is a relic of Rousseauism, and would
not survive a study of animals and babies. Those who hold this belief think that education
should have no positive purpose, but should merely offer an environment suitable for
spontaneous development. I cannot agree with this school, which seems to me too
individualistic, and unduly indifferent to the importance of knowledge. We live in
communities which require co-operation, and it would be utopian to expect all the
necessary co-operation to result from spontaneous impulse. The existence of a large
population on a limited area is only possible owing to science and technique; education
must, therefore, hand on the necessary minimum of these. The educators who allow most
freedom are men whose success depends upon a degree of benevolence, self-control, and
trained intelligence which can hardly be generated where every impulse is left
unchecked; their merits, therefore, are not likely to be perpetuated if their methods are
undiluted. Education, viewed from a social standpoint, must be something more positive
than a mere opportunity for growth. It must, of course, provide this, but it must also
provide a mental and moral equipment which children cannot acquire entirely for
The arguments in favour of a great degree of freedom in education are derived not from
man's natural goodness, but from the effects of authority, both on those who suffer it and
on those who exercise it. Those who are subject to authority become either submissive or
rebellious, and each attitude has its drawbacks.
The submissive lose initiative, both in thought and action; moreover, the anger generated
by the feeling of being thwarted tends to find an outlet in bullying those who are weaker.
That is why tyrannical institutions are self-perpetuating: what a man has suffered from
his father he inflicts upon his son, and the humiliations which he remembers having
endured at his public school he passes on to Ònatives" when he becomes an empire-
builder. Thus an unduly authoritative education turns the pupils into timid tyrants,
incapable of either claiming or tolerating originality in word or deed. The effect upon the
educators is even worse: they tend to become sadistic disciplinarians, glad to inspire
terror, and content to inspire nothing else. As these men represent knowledge, the pupils
acquire a horror of knowledge, which, among the English upper-class, is supposed to be
part of human nature, but is really part of the well- grounded hatred of the authoritarian
Rebels, on the other hand,, though they may be necessary, can hardly be just to what
exists. Moreover, there are many ways of rebelling, and only a small minority of these are
wise. Galileo was a rebel and was wise; believers in the flat-earth theory are equally
rebels, but are foolish. There is a great danger in the tendency to suppose that opposition
to authority is essentially meritorious and that unconventional opinions are bound to be
correct: no useful purpose is served by smashing lamp-posts or maintaining Shakespeare
to be no poet. Yet this excessive rebelliousness is often the effect that too much authority
has on spirited pupils. And when rebels become educators, they sometimes encourage
defiance in their pupils, for whom at the same time they are trying to produce a perfect
environment, although these two aims are scarcely compatible.
What is wanted is neither submissiveness nor rebellion, but good nature, and general
friendliness both to people and to new ideas. These qualities are due in part to physical
causes, to which old-fashioned educators paid too little attention; but they are due still
more to freedom from the feeling of baffled impotence which arises when vital impulses
are thwarted. If the young are to grow into friendly adults, it is necessary, in most cases,
that they should feel their environment friendly. This requires that there should be a
certain sympathy with the child's important desires, and not merely an attempt to use him
for some abstract end such as the glory of God or the greatness of one's country. And, in
teaching, every attempt should be made to cause the pupil to feel that it is worth his while
to know what is being taught-at least when this is true. When the pupil co-operates
willingly, he learns twice as fast and with half the fatigue. All these are valid reasons for
a very great degree of freedom.
It is easy, however, to carry the argument too far. It is not desirable that children, in
avoiding the vices of the slave, should acquire those of the aristocrat. Consideration for
others, not only in great matters, but also in little everyday things, is an essential element
in civilization, without which social life would be intolerable. I am not thinking of mere
forms of politeness, such as saying "please" and "thank you": formal manners are most
fully developed among barbarians, and diminish with every advance in culture. I am
thinking rather of willingness to take a fair share of necessary work, to be obliging in
small ways that save trouble on the balance. Sanity itself is a form of politeness and it is
not desirable to give a child a sense of omnipotence, or a belief that adults exist only to
minister to the pleasures of the young. And those who disapprove of the existence of the
idle rich are hardly consistent if they bring up their children without any sense that work
is necessary, and without the habits that make continuous application possible.
There is another consideration to which some advocates of freedom attach too little
importance. In a community of children which is left without adult interference there is a
tyranny of the stronger, which is likely to be far more brutal than most adult tyranny. If
two children of two or three years old are left to play together, they will, after a few
fights, discover which is bound to be the victor, and the other will then become a slave.
Where the number of children is larger, one or two acquire complete mastery, and the
others have far less liberty than they would have if the adults interfered to protect the
weaker and less pugnacious. Consideration for others does not, with most children, arise
spontaneously, but has to be taught, and can hardly be taught except by the exercise of
authority. This is perhaps the most important argument against the abdication of the
I do not think that educators have yet solved the problem of combining the desirable
forms of freedom with the necessary minimum of moral training. The right solution, it
must be admitted, is often made impossible by parents before the child is brought to an
enlightened school. just as psychoanalysts, from their clinical experience, conclude that
we are all mad, so the authorities in modern schools, from their contact with pupils whose
parents have made them unmanageable, are disposed to conclude that all children are
"difficult" and all parents utterly foolish. Children who have been driven wild by parental
tyranny (which often takes the form of solicitous affection) may require a longer or
shorter period of complete liberty before they can view any adult without suspicion. But
children who have been sensibly handled at home can bear to be checked in minor ways,
so long as they feel that they are being helped in the ways that they themselves regard as
important. Adults who like children, and are not reduced to a condition of nervous
exhaustion by their company, can achieve a great deal in the way of discipline without
ceasing to be regarded with friendly feelings by their pupils.
I think modern educational theorists are inclined to attach too much importance to the
negative virtue of not interfering with children, and too little to the positive merit of
enjoying their company. If you have the sort of liking for children that many people have
for horses or dogs, they will be apt to respond to your suggestions, and to accept
prohibitions, perhaps with some good- humoured grumbling, but without resentment. It is
no use to have the sort of liking that consists in regarding them as a field for valuable
social endeavour, orÑwhat amounts to the same thingÑas an outlet for power- impulses.
No child will be grateful for an interest in him that springs from the thought that he will
have a vote to be secured for your party or a body to be sacrificed to king and country.
The desirable sort of interest is that which consists in spontaneous pleasure in the
presence of children, without any ulterior purpose. Teachers who have this quality will
seldom need to interfere with children's freedom, but will be able to do so, when
necessary, without causing psychological damage.
Unfortunately, it is utterly impossible for over-worked teachers to preserve an instinctive
liking for children; they are bound to come to feel towards them as the proverbial
confectioner's apprentice does towards macaroons. I do not think that education ought to
be anyone's whole profession: it should be undertaken for at most two hours a day by
people whose remaining hours are spent away from children. The society of the young is
fatiguing, especially when strict discipline is avoided. Fatigue, in the end, produces
irritation, which is likely to express itself somehow, whatever theories the harassed
teacher may have taught himself or herself to believe. The necessary friendliness cannot
be preserved by self-control alone. But where it exists, it should be unnecessary to have
rules in advance as to how "naughty" children are to be treated, since impulse is likely to
lead to the right decision, and almost any decision will be right if the child feels that you
like him. No rules, however wise, are a substitute for affection and tact.

Has Religion Made Useful
Contributions to Civilization?

by Bertrand Russell

My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and
as a source of untold misery to the human race. I cannot, however, deny that it has
made some contributions to civilization. It helped in early days to fix the calendar,
and it caused Egyptian priests to chronicle eclipses with such care that in time they
became able to predict them. These two services I am prepared to acknowledge, but I
do not know of any others.
The word religion is used nowadays in a very loose sense. Some people, under the
influence of extreme Protestantism, employ the word to denote any serious personal
convictions as to morals or the nature of the universe. This use of the word is quite
unhistorical. Religion is primarily a social phenomenon. Churches may owe their
origin to teachers with strong individual convictions, but these teachers have seldom
had much influence upon the churches that they have founded, whereas churches have
had enormous influence upon the communities in which they flourished. To take the
case that is of most interest to members of Western civilization: the teaching of
Christ, as it appears in the Gospels, has had extraordinarily little to do with the ethics
of Christians. The most important thing about Christianity, from a social and
historical point of view, is not Christ but the church, and if we are to judge of
Christianity as a social force we must not go to the Gospels for our material. Christ
taught that you should give your goods to the poor, that you should not fight, that you
should not go to church, and that you should not punish adultery. Neither Catholics
nor Protestants have shown any strong desire to follow His teaching in any of these
respects. Some of the Franciscans, it is true, attempted to teach the doctrine of
apostolic poverty, but the Pope condemned them, and their doctrine was declared
heretical. Or, again, consider such a text as "Judge not, that ye be not judged," and ask
yourself what influence such a text has had upon the Inquisition and the Ku Klux
What is true of Christianity is equally true of Buddhism. The Buddha was amiable
and enlightened; on his deathbed he laughed at his disciples for supposing that he was
immortal. But the Buddhist priesthood -- as it exists, for example, in Tibet -- has been
obscurantist, tyrannous, and cruel in the highest degree.
There is nothing accidental about this difference between a church and its founder. As
soon as absolute truth is supposed to be contained in the sayings of a certain man,
there is a body of experts to interpret his sayings, and these experts infallibly acquire
power, since they hold the key to truth. Like any other privileged caste, they use their
power for their own advantage. They are, however, in one respect worse than any
other privileged caste, since it is their business to expound an unchanging truth,
revealed once for all in utter perfection, so that they become necessarily opponents of
all intellectual and moral progress. The church opposed Galileo and Darwin; in our
own day it opposes Freud. In the days of its greatest power it went further in its
opposition to the intellectual life. Pope Gregory the Great wrote to a certain bishop a
letter beginning: "A report has reached us which we cannot mention without a blush,
that thou expoundest grammar to certain friends." The bishop was compelled by
pontifical authority to desist from this wicked labor, and Latinity did not recover until
the Renaissance. It is not only intellectually but also morally that religion is
pernicious. I mean by this that it teaches ethical codes which are not conducive to
human happiness. When, a few years ago, a plebiscite was taken in Germany as to
whether the deposed royal houses should still be allowed to enjoy their private
property, the churches in Germany officially stated that it would be contrary to the
teaching of Christianity to deprive them of it. The churches, as everyone knows,
opposed the abolition of slavery as long as they dared, and with a few well-advertised
exceptions they oppose at the present day every movement toward economic justice.
The Pope has officially condemned Socialism.
Christianity and Sex
The worst feature of the Christian religion, however, is its attitude toward sex -- an
attitude so morbid and so unnatural that it can be understood only when taken in
relation to the sickness of the civilized world at the time the Roman Empire was
decaying. We sometimes hear talk to the effect that Christianity improved the status
of women. This is one of the grossest perversions of history that it is possible to make.
Women cannot enjoy a tolerable position in society where it is considered of the
utmost importance that they should not infringe a very rigid moral code. Monks have
always regarded Woman primarily as the temptress; they have thought of her mainly
as the inspirer of impure lusts. The teaching of the church has been, and still is, that
virginity is best, but that for those who find this impossible marriage is permissible.
"It is better to marry than to burn," as St. Paul puts it. By making marriage
indissoluble, and by stamping out all knowledge of the ars amandi, the church did
what it could to secure that the only form of sex which it permitted should involve
very little pleasure and a great deal of pain. The opposition to birth control has, in
fact, the same motive: if a woman has a child a year until she dies worn out, it is not
to be supposed that she will derive much pleasure from her married life; therefore
birth control must be discouraged.
The conception of Sin which is bound up with Christian ethics is one that does an
extraordinary amount of harm, since it affords people an outlet for their sadism which
they believe to be legitimate, and even noble. Take, for example, the question of the
prevention of syphilis. It is known that, by precautions taken in advance, the danger of
contracting this disease can be made negligible. Christians, however, object to the
dissemination of knowledge of this fact, since they hold it good that sinners should be
punished. They hold this so good that they are even willing that punishment should
extend to the wives and children of sinners. There are in the world at the present
moment many thousands of children suffering from congenital syphilis who would
never have been born but for the desire of Christians to see sinners punished. I cannot
understand how doctrines leading us to this fiendish cruelty can be considered to have
any good effects upon morals.
It is not only in regard to sexual behaviour but also in regard to knowledge on sex
subjects that the attitude of Christians is dangerous to human welfare. Every person
who has taken the trouble to study the question in an unbiased spirit knows that the
artificial ignorance on sex subjects which orthodox Christians attempt to enforce upon
the young is extremely dangerous to mental and physical health, and causes in those
who pick up their knowledge by the way of "improper" talk, as most children do, an
attitude that sex is in itself indecent and ridiculous. I do not think there can be any
defense for the view that knowledge is ever undesirable. I should not put barriers in
the way of the acquisition of knowledge by anybody at any age. But in the particular
case of sex knowledge there are much weightier arguments in its favor than in the
case of most other knowledge. A person is much less likely to act wisely when he is
ignorant than when he is instructed, and it is ridiculous to give young people a sense
of sin because they have a natural curiosity about an important matter.
Every boy is interested in trains. Suppose we told him that an interest in trains is
wicked; suppose we kept his eyes bandaged whenever he was in a train or on a
railway station; suppose we never allowed the word "train" to be mentioned in his
presence and preserved an impenetrable mystery as to the means by which he is
transported from one place to another. The result would not be that he would cease to
be interested in trains; on the contrary, he would become more interested than ever
but would have a morbid sense of sin, because this interest had been represented to
him as improper. Every boy of active intelligence could by this means be rendered in
a greater or less degree neurasthenic. This is precisely what is done in the matter of
sex; but, as sex is more interesting than trains, the results are worse. Almost every
adult in a Christian community is more or less diseased nervously as a result of the
taboo on sex knowledge when he or she was young. And the sense of sin which is
thus artificially implanted is one of the causes of cruelty, timidity, and stupidity in
later life. There is no rational ground of any sort or kind in keeping a child ignorant of
anything that he may wish to know, whether on sex or on any other matter. And we
shall never get a sane population until this fact is recognized in early education, which
is impossible so long as the churches are able to control educational politics.
Leaving these comparatively detailed objections on one side, it is clear that the
fundamental doctrines of Christianity demand a great deal of ethical perversion before
they can be accepted. The world, we are told, was created by a God who is both good
and omnipotent. Before He created the world He foresaw all the pain and misery that
it would contain; He is therefore responsible for all of it. It is useless to argue that the
pain in the world is due to sin. In the first place, this is not true; it is not sin that
causes rivers to overflow their banks or volcanoes to erupt. But even if it were true, it
would make no difference. If I were going to beget a child knowing that the child was
going to be a homicidal maniac, I should be responsible for his crimes. If God knew
in advance the sins of which man would be guilty, He was clearly responsible for all
the consequences of those sins when He decided to create man. The usual Christian
argument is that the suffering in the world is a purification for sin and is therefore a
good thing. This argument is, of course, only a rationalization of sadism; but in any
case it is a very poor argument. I would invite any Christian to accompany me to the
children's ward of a hospital, to watch the suffering that is there being endured, and
then to persist in the assertion that those children are so morally abandoned as to
deserve what they are suffering. In order to bring himself to say this, a man must
destroy in himself all feelings of mercy and compassion. He must, in short, make
himself as cruel as the God in whom he believes. No man who believes that all is for
the best in this suffering world can keep his ethical values unimpaired, since he is
always having to find excuses for pain and misery.
The Objections to Religion
The objections to religion are of two sorts -- intellectual and moral. The intellectual
objection is that there is no reason to suppose any religion true; the moral objection is
that religious precepts date from a time when men were more cruel than they are and
therefore tend to perpetuate inhumanities which the moral conscience of the age
would otherwise outgrow.
To take the intellectual objection first: there is a certain tendency in our practical age
to consider that it does not much matter whether religious teaching is true or not, since
the important question is whether it is useful. One question cannot, however, well be
decided without the other. If we believe the Christian religion, our notions of what is
good will be different from what they will be if we do not believe it. Therefore, to
Christians, the effects of Christianity may seem good, while to unbelievers they may
seem bad. Moreover, the attitude that one ought to believe such and such a
proposition, independently of the question whether there is evidence in its favor, is an
attitude which produces hostility to evidence and causes us to close our minds to
every fact that does not suit our prejudices.
A certain kind of scientific candor is a very important quality, and it is one which can
hardly exist in a man who imagines that there are things which it is his duty to
believe. We cannot, therefore, really decide whether religion does good without
investigating the question whether religion is true. To Christians, Mohammedans, and
Jews the most fundamental question involved in the truth of religion is the existence
of God. In the days when religion was still triumphant the word "God" had a perfectly
definite meaning; but as a result of the onslaughts of the Rationalists the word has
become paler and paler, until it is difficult to see what people mean when they assert
that they believe in God. Let us take, for purposes of argument, Matthew Arnold's
definition: "A power not ourselves that makes for righteousness." Perhaps we might
make this even more vague and ask ourselves whether we have any evidence of
purpose in this universe apart from the purposes of living beings on the surface of this
The usual argument of religious people on this subject is roughly as follows: "I and
my friends are persons of amazing intelligence and virtue. It is hardly conceivable that
so much intelligence and virtue could have come about by chance. There must,
therefore, be someone at least as intelligent and virtuous as we are who set the cosmic
machinery in motion with a view to producing Us." I am sorry to say that I do not find
this argument so impressive as it is found by those who use it. The universe is large;
yet, if we are to believe Eddington, there are probably nowhere else in the universe
beings as intelligent as men. If you consider the total amount of matter in the world
and compare it with the amount forming the bodies of intelligent beings, you will see
that the latter bears an almost infinitesimal proportion to the former. Consequently,
even if it is enormously improbable that the laws of chance will produce an organism
capable of intelligence out of a casual selection of atoms, it is nevertheless probable
that there will be in the universe that very small number of such organisms that we do
in fact find.
Then again, considered as the climax to such a vast process, we do not really seem to
me sufficiently marvelous. Of course, I am aware that many divines are far more
marvelous than I am, and that I cannot wholly appreciate merits so far transcending
my own. Nevertheless, even after making allowances under this head, I cannot but
think that Omnipotence operating through all eternity might have produced something
better. And then we have to reflect that even this result is only a flash in the pan. The
earth will not always remain habitable; the human race will die out, and if the cosmic
process is to justify itself hereafter it will have to do so elsewhere than on the surface
of our planet.. And even if this should occur, it must stop sooner or later. The second
law of thermodynamics makes it scarcely possible to doubt that the universe is
running down, and that ultimately nothing of the slightest interest will be possible
anywhere. Of course, it is open to us to say that when that time comes God will wind
up the machinery again; but if we do not say this, we can base our assertion only upon
faith, not upon one shred of scientific evidence. So far as scientific evidence goes, the
universe has crawled by slow stages to a somewhat pitiful result on this earth and is
going to crawl by still more pitiful stages to a condition of universal death. If this is to
be taken as evidence of a purpose, I can only say that the purpose is one that does not
appeal to me. I see no reason, therefore, to believe in any sort of God, however vague
and however attenuated. I leave on one side the old metaphysical arguments, since
religious apologists themselves have thrown them over.
The Soul and Immortality
The Christian emphasis on the individual soul has had a profound influence upon the
ethics of Christian communities. It is a doctrine fundamentally akin to that of the
Stoics, arising as theirs did in communities that could no longer cherish political
hopes. The natural impulse of the vigorous person of decent character is to attempt to
do good, but if he is deprived of all political power and of all opportunity to influence
events, he will be deflected from his natural course and will decide that the important
thing is to be good. This is what happened to the early Christians; it led to a
conception of personal holiness as something quite independent of beneficient action,
since holiness had to be something that could be achieved by people who were
impotent in action. Social virtue came therefore to be excluded from Christian ethics.
To this day conventional Christians think an adulterer more wicked than a politician
who takes bribes, although the latter probably does a thousand times as much harm.
The medieval conception of virtue, as one sees in their pictures, was of something
wishy-washy, feeble, and sentimental. The most virtuous man was the man who
retired from the world; the only men of action who were regarded as saints were those
who wasted the lives and substance of their subjects in fighting the Turks, like St.
Louis. The church would never regard a man as a saint because he reformed the
finances, or the criminal law, or the judiciary. Such mere contributions to human
welfare would be regarded as of no importance. I do not believe there is a single saint
in the whole calendar whose saintship is due to work of public utility. With this
separation between the social and the moral person there went an increasing
separation between soul and body, which has survived in Christian metaphysics and
in the systems derived from Descartes. One may say, broadly speaking, that the body
represents the social and public part of a man, whereas the soul represents the private
part. In emphasizing the soul, Christian ethics has made itself completely
individualistic. I think it is clear that the net result of all the centuries of Christianity
has been to make men more egotistic, more shut up in themselves, than nature made
them; for the impulses that naturally take a man outside the walls of his ego are those
of sex, parenthood, and patriotism or herd instinct. Sex the church did everything it
could to decry and degrade; family affection was decried by Christ himself and the
bulk of his followers; and patriotism could find no place among the subject
populations of the Roman Empire. The polemic against the family in the Gospels is a
matter that has not received the attention it deserves. The church treats the Mother of
Christ with reverence, but He Himself showed little of this attitude. "Woman, what
have I to do with thee?" (John ii, 4) is His way of speaking to her. He says also that
He has come to set a man at variance against his father, the daughter against her
mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and that he that loveth
father and mother more than Him is not worthy of Him (Matt. x, 35-37). All this
means the breakup of the biological family tie for the sake of creed -- an attitude
which had a great deal to do with the intolerance that came into the world with the
spread of Christianity.
This individualism culminated in the doctrine of the immortality of the individual
soul, which was to enjoy hereafter endless bliss or endless woe according to
circumstances. The circumstances upon which this momentous difference depended
were somewhat curious. For example, if you died immediately after a priest had
sprinkled water upon you while pronouncing certain words, you inherited eternal
bliss; whereas, if after a long and virtuous life you happened to be struck by lightning
at a moment when you were using bad language because you had broken a bootlace,
you would inherit eternal torment. I do not say that the modern Protestant Christian
believes this, nor even perhaps the modern Catholic Christian who has not been
adequately instructed in theology; but I do say that this is the orthodox doctrine and
was firmly believed until recent times. The Spaniards in Mexico and Peru used to
baptize Indian infants and then immediately dash their brains out: by this means they
secured that these infants went to Heaven. No orthodox Christian can find any logical
reason for condemning their action, although all nowadays do so. In countless ways
the doctrine of personal immortality in its Christian form has had disastrous effects
upon morals, and the metaphysical separation of soul and body has had disastrous
effects upon philosophy.
Sources of Intolerance
The intolerance that spread over the world with the advent of Christianity is one of the
most curious features, due, I think, to the Jewish belief in righteousness and in the
exclusive reality of the Jewish God. Why the Jews should have had these peculiarities
I do not know. They seem to have developed during the captivity as a reaction against
the attempt to absorb the Jews into alien populations. However that may be, the Jews,
and more especially the prophets, invented emphasis upon personal righteousness and
the idea that it is wicked to tolerate any religion except one. These two ideas have had
an extraordinarily disastrous effect upon Occidental history. The church made much
of the persecution of Christians by the Roman State before the time of Constantine.
This persecution, however, was slight and intermittent and wholly political. At all
times, from the age of Constantine to the end of the seventeenth century, Christians
were far more fiercely persecuted by other Christians than they ever were by the
Roman emperors. Before the rise of Christianity this persecuting attitude was
unknown to the ancient world except among the Jews. If you read, for example,
Herodotus, you find a bland and tolerant account of the habits of the foreign nations
he visited. Sometimes, it is true, a peculiarly barbarous custom may shock him, but in
general he is hospitable to foreign gods and foreign customs. He is not anxious to
prove that people who call Zeus by some other name will suffer eternal punishment
and ought to be put to death in order that their punishment may begin as soon as
possible. This attitude has been reserved for Christians. It is true that the modern
Christian is less robust, but that is not thanks to Christianity; it is thanks to the
generations of freethinkers, who from the Renaissance to the present day, have made
Christians ashamed of many of their traditional beliefs. It is amusing to hear the
modern Christian telling you how mild and rationalistic Christianity really is and
ignoring the fact that all its mildness and rationalism is due to the teaching of men
who in their own day were persecuted by all orthodox Christians. Nobody nowadays
believes that the world was created in 4004 BC; but not so very long ago skepticism
on this point was thought an abominable crime. My great-great-grandfather, after
observing the depth of the lava on the slopes of Etna, came to the conclusion that the
world must be older than the orthodox supposed and published this opinion in a book.
For this offense he was cut by the county and ostracized from society. Had he been a
man in humbler circumstances, his punishment would doubtless have been more
severe. It is no credit to the orthodox that they do not now believe all the absurdities
that were believed 150 years ago. The gradual emasculation of the Christian doctrine
has been effected in spite of the most vigorous resistance, and solely as the result of
the onslaughts of freethinkers.
The Doctrine of Free Will
The attitude of the Christians on the subject of natural law has been curiously
vacillating and uncertain. There was, on the one hand, the doctrine of free will, in
which the great majority of Christians believed; and this doctrine required that the
acts of human beings at least should not be subject to natural law. There was, on the
other hand, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a belief in God as
the Lawgiver and in natural law as one of the main evidences of the existence of a
Creator. In recent times the objection to the reign of law in the interests of free will
has begun to be felt more strongly than the belief in natural law as affording evidence
for a Lawgiver. Materialists used the laws of physics to show, or attempt to show, that
the movements of human bodies are mechanically determined, and that consequently
everything that we say and every change of position that we effect fall outside the
sphere of any possible free will. If this be so, whatever may be left for our unfettered
volitions is of little value. If, when a man writes a poem or commits a murder, the
bodily movements involved in his act result solely from physical causes, it would
seem absurd to put up a statue to him in the one case and to hang him in the other.
There might in certain metaphysical systems remain a region of pure thought in which
the will would be free; but, since that can be communicated to others only by means
of bodily movement, the realm of freedom would be one that could never be the
subject of communication and could never have any social importance.
Then, again, evolution has had a considerable influence upon those Christians who
have accepted it. They have seen that it will not do to make claims on behalf of man
which are totally different from those which are made on behalf of other forms of life.
Therefore, in order to safeguard free will in man, they have objected to every attempt
at explaining the behaviour of living matter in terms of physical and chemical laws.
The position of Descartes, to the effect that all lower animals are automata, no longer
finds favor with liberal theologians. The doctrine of continuity makes them inclined to
go a step further still and maintain that even what is called dead matter is not rigidly
governed in its behaviour by unalterable laws. They seem to have overlooked the fact
that, if you abolish the reign of law, you also abolish the possibility of miracles, since
miracles are acts of God which contravene the laws governing ordinary phenomena. I
can, however, imagine the modern liberal theologian maintaining with an air of
profundity that all creation is miraculous, so that he no longer needs to fasten upon
certain occurrences as special evidence of Divine intervention.
Under the influence of this reaction against natural law, some Christian apologists
have seized upon the latest doctrines of the atom, which tend to show that the physical
laws in which we have hitherto believed have only an approximate and average truth
as applied to large numbers of atoms, while the individual electron behaves pretty
much as it likes. My own belief is that this is a temporary phase, and that the
physicists will in time discover laws governing minute phenomena, although these
laws may differ considerably from those of traditional physics. However that may be,
it is worth while to observe that the modern doctrines as to minute phenomena have
no bearing upon anything that is of practical importance. Visible motions, and indeed
all motions that make any difference to anybody, involve such large numbers of atoms
that they come well within the scope of the old laws. To write a poem or commit a
murder (reverting to our previous illustration), it is necessary to move an appreciable
mass of ink or lead. The electrons composing the ink may be dancing freely around
their little ballroom, but the ballroom as a whole is moving according to the old laws
of physics, and this alone is what concerns the poet and his publisher. The modern
doctrines, therefore, have no appreciable bearing upon any of those problems of
human interest with which the theologian is concerned.
The free-will question consequently remains just where it was. Whatever may be
thought about it as a matter of ultimate metaphysics, it is quite clear that nobody
believes it in practice. Everyone has always believed that it is possible to train
character; everyone has always known that alcohol or opium will have a certain effect
on behaviour. The apostle of free will maintains that a man can by will power avoid
getting drunk, but he does not maintain that when drunk a man can say "British
Constitution" as clearly as if he were sober. And everybody who has ever had to do
with children knows that a suitable diet does more to make them virtuous than the
most eloquent preaching in the world. The one effect that the free-will doctrine has in
practice is to prevent people from following out such common-sense knowledge to its
rational conclusion. When a man acts in ways that annoy us we wish to think him
wicked, and we refuse to face the fact that his annoying behaviour is a result of
antecedent causes which, if you follow them long enough, will take you beyond the
moment of his birth and therefore to events for which he cannot be held responsible
by any stretch of imagination.
No man treats a motorcar as foolishly as he treats another human being. When the car
will not go, he does not attribute its annoying behaviour to sin; he does not say, "You
are a wicked motorcar, and I shall not give you any more petrol until you go." He
attempts to find out what is wrong and to set it right. An analogous way of treating
human beings is, however, considered to be contrary to the truths of our holy religion.
And this applies even in the treatment of little children. Many children have bad
habits which are perpetuated by punishment but will probably pass away of
themselves if left unnoticed. Nevertheless, nurses, with very few exceptions, consider
it right to inflict punishment, although by so doing they run the risk of causing
insanity. When insanity has been caused it is cited in courts of law as a proof of the
harmfulness of the habit, not of the punishment. (I am alluding to a recent prosecution
for obscenity in the State of New York.)
Reforms in education have come very largely through the study of the insane and
feeble-minded, because they have not been held morally responsible for their failures
and have therefore been treated more scientifically than normal children. Until very
recently it was held that, if a boy could not learn his lesson, the proper cure was
caning or flogging. This view is nearly extinct in the treatment of children, but it
survives in the criminal law. It is evident that a man with a propensity to crime must
be stopped, but so must a man who has hydrophobia and wants to bite people,
although nobody considers him morally responsible. A man who is suffering from
plague has to be imprisoned until he is cured, although nobody thinks him wicked.
The same thing should be done with a man who suffers from a propensity to commit
forgery; but there should be no more idea of guilt in the one case than in the other.
And this is only common sense, though it is a form of common sense to which
Christian ethics and metaphysics are opposed.
To judge of the moral influence of any institution upon a community, we have to
consider the kind of impulse which is embodied in the institution and the degree to
which the institution increases the efficacy of the impulse in that community.
Sometimes the impulse concerned is quite obvious, sometimes it is more hidden. An
Alpine club, for example, obviously embodies the impulse to adventure, and a learned
society embodies the impulse toward knowledge. The family as an institution
embodies jealousy and parental feeling; a football club or a political party embodies
the impulse toward competitive play; but the two greatest social institutions --
namely, the church and the state -- are more complex in their psychological
motivation. The primary purpose of the state is clearly security against both internal
criminals and external enemies. It is rooted in the tendency of children to huddle
together when they are frightened and to look for a grown-up person who will give
them a sense of security. The church has more complex origins. Undoubtedly the
most important source of religion is fear; this can be seen in the present day, since
anything that causes alarm is apt to turn people's thoughts to God. Battle, pestilence,
and shipwreck all tend to make people religious. Religion has, however, other appeals
besides that of terror; it appeals specifically to our human self-esteem. If Christianity
is true, mankind are not such pitiful worms as they seem to be; they are of interest to
the Creator of the universe, who takes the trouble to be pleased with them when they
behave well and displeased when they behave badly. This is a great compliment. We
should not think of studying an ants' nest to find out which of the ants performed their
formicular duty, and we should certainly not think of picking out those individual ants
who were remiss and putting them into a bonfire. If God does this for us, it is a
compliment to our importance; and it is even a pleasanter compliment if he awards to
the good among us everlasting happiness in heaven. Then there is the comparatively
modern idea that cosmic evolution is all designed to bring about the sort of results
which we call good -- that is to say, the sort of results that give us pleasure. Here
again it is flattering to suppose that the universe is controlled by a Being who shares
our tastes and prejudices.
The Idea of Righteousness
The third psychological impulse which is embodied in religion is that which has led to
the conception of righteousness. I am aware that many freethinkers treat this
conception with great respect and hold that it should be preserved in spite of the decay
of dogmatic religion. I cannot agree with them on this point. The psychological
analysis of the idea of righteousness seems to me to show that it is rooted in
undesirable passions and ought not to be strengthened by the imprimatur of reason.
Righteousness and unrighteousness must be taken together; it is impossible to stress
the one without stressing the other also. Now, what is "unrighteousness" in practise?
It is in practise behaviour of a kind disliked by the herd. By calling it unrighteousness,
and by arranging an elaborate system of ethics around this conception, the herd
justifies itself in wreaking punishment upon the objects of its own dislike, while at the
same time, since the herd is righteous by definition, it enhances its own self-esteem at
the very moment when it lets loose its impulse to cruelty. This is the psychology of
lynching, and of the other ways in which criminals are punished. The essence of the
conception of righteousness, therefore, is to afford an outlet for sadism by cloaking
cruelty as justice.
But, it will be said, the account you have been giving of righteousness is wholly
inapplicable to the Hebrew prophets, who, after all, on your own showing, invented
the idea. There is truth in this: righteousness in the mouths of the Hebrew prophets
meant what was approved by them and Yahweh. One finds the same attitude
expressed in the Acts of the Apostles, where the Apostles began a pronouncement
with the words "For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us" (Acts xv, 28). This
kind of individual certainty as to God's tastes and opinions cannot, however, be made
the basis of any institution. That has always been the difficulty with which
Protestantism has had to contend: a new prophet could maintain that his revelation
was more authentic than those of his predecessors, and there was nothing in the
general outlook of Protestantism to show that this claim was invalid. Consequently
Protestantism split into innumerable sects, which weakened one another; and there is
reason to suppose that a hundred years hence Catholicism will be the only effective
representation of the Christian faith. In the Catholic Church inspiration such as the
prophets enjoyed has its place; but it is recognized that phenomena which look rather
like genuine divine inspiration may be inspired by the Devil, and it is the business of
the church to discriminate, just as it is the business of the art connoisseur to know a
genuine Leonardo from a forgery. In this way revelation becomes institutionalized at
the same time. Righteousness is what the church approves, and unrighteousness is
what it disapproves. Thus the effective part of the conception of righteousness is a
justification of herd antipathy.
It would seem, therefore, that the three human impulses embodied in religion are fear,
conceit, and hatred. The purpose of religion, one may say, is to give an air of
respectability to these passions, provided they run in certain channels. It is because
these passions make, on the whole, for human misery that religion is a force for evil,
since it permits men to indulge these passions without restraint, where but for its
sanction they might, at least to a certain degree, control them.
I can imagine at this point an objection, not likely to be urged perhaps by most
orthodox believers but nevertheless worthy to be examined. Hatred and fear, it may be
said, are essential human characteristics; mankind always has felt them and always
will. The best that you can do with them, I may be told, is to direct them into certain
channels in which they are less harmful than they would be in certain other channels.
A Christian theologian might say that their treatment by the church in analogous to its
treatment of the sex impulse, which it deplores. It attempts to render concupiscence
innocuous by confining it within the bounds of matrimony. So, it may be said, if
mankind must inevitably feel hatred, it is better to direct this hatred against those who
are really harmful, and this is precisely what the church does by its conception of
To this contention there are two replies -- one comparatively superficial; the other
going to the root of the matter. The superficial reply is that the church's conception of
righteousness is not the best possible; the fundamental reply is that hatred and fear
can, with our present psychological knowledge and our present industrial technique,
be eliminated altogether from human life.
To take the first point first. The church's conception of righteousness is socially
undesirable in various ways -- first and foremost in its depriciation of intelligence and
science. This defect is inherited from the Gospels. Christ tells us to become as little
children, but little children cannot understand the differential calculus, or the
principles of currency, or the modern methods of combating disease. To acquire such
knowledge is no part of our duty, according to the church. The church no longer
contends that knowledge is in itself sinful, though it did so in its palmy days; but the
acquisition of knowledge, even though not sinful, is dangerous, since it may lead to a
pride of intellect, and hence to a questioning of the Christian dogma. Take, for
example, two men, one of whom has stamped out yellow fever throughout some large
region in the tropics but has in the course of his labors had occasional relations with
women to whom he was not married; while the other has been lazy and shiftless,
begetting a child a year until his wife died of exhaustion and taking so little care of his
children that half of them died from preventable causes, but never indulging in illicit
sexual intercourse. Every good Christian must maintain that the second of these men
is more virtuous than the first. Such an attitude is, of course, superstitious and totally
contrary to reason. Yet something of this absurdity is inevitable so long as avoidance
of sin is thought more important than positive merit, and so long as the importance of
knowledge as a help to a useful life is not recognized.
The second and more fundamental objection to the utilization of fear and hatred
practised by the church is that these emotions can now be almost wholly eliminated
from human nature by educational, economic, and political reforms. The educational
reforms must be the basis, since men who feel hatred and fear will also admire these
emotions and wish to perpetuate them, although this admiration and wish will
probably be unconscious, as it is in the ordinary Christian. An education designed to
eliminate fear is by no means difficult to create. It is only necessary to treat a child
with kindness, to put him in an environment where initiative is possible without
disastrous results, and to save him from contact with adults who have irrational
terrors, whether of the dark, of mice, or of social revolution. A child must also not be
subject to severe punishment, or to threats, or to grave and excessive reproof. To save
a child from hatred is a somewhat more elaborate business. Situations arousing
jealousy must be very carefully avoided by means of scrupulous and exact justice as
between different children. A child must feel himself the object of warm affection on
the part of some at least of the adults with whom he has to do, and he must not be
thwarted in his natural activities and curiosities except when danger to life or health is
concerned. In particular, there must be no taboo on sex knowledge, or on conversation
about matters which conventional people consider improper. If these simple precepts
are observed from the start, the child will be fearless and friendly.
On entering adult life, however, a young person so educated will find himself or
herself plunged into a world full of injustice, full of cruelty, full of preventable
misery. The injustice, the cruelty, and the misery that exist in the modern world are an
inheritance from the past, and their ultimate source is economic, since life-and-death
competition for the means of subsistence was in former days inevitable. It is not
inevitable in our age. With our present industrial technique we can, if we choose,
provide a tolerable subsistence for everybody. We could also secure that the world's
population should be stationary if we were not prevented by the political influence of
churches which prefer war, pestilence, and famine to contraception. The knowledge
exists by which universal happiness can be secured; the chief obstacle to its utilization
for that purpose is the teaching of religion. Religion prevents our children from
having a rational education; religion prevents us from removing the fundamental
causes of war; religion prevents us from teaching the ethic of scientific co-operation
in place of the old fierce doctrines of sin and punishment. It is possible that mankind
is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the
dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion.

How I Write
Bertrand Russell
I cannot pretend to know how writing ought to be done, or what a wise critic would
advise me to do with a view to improving my own writing. The most that I can do is to
relate some things about my own attempts.
Until I was twenty-one, I wished to write more or less in the style of John Stuart Mill. I
liked the structure of his sentences and his manner of developing a subject. I had,
however, already a different ideal, derived, I suppose, from mathematics. I wished to say
everything in the smallest number of words in which it could be said clearly. Perhaps, I
thought, one should imitate Baedeker rather than any more literary model. I would spend
hours trying to find the shortest way of saying something without ambiguity, and to this
aim I was willing to sacrifice all attempts at aesthetic excellence.
At the age of twenty-one, however, I came under a new influence that of my future
brother- in- law, Logan Pearsall Smith. He was at that time exclusively interested in style
as opposed to matter. His gods were Flaubert and Walter Pater, and I was quite ready to
believe that the way to learn how to write was to copy their technique. He gave me
various simple rules, of which 1 remember only two: "Put a comma every four words",
and "never use 'and' except at the beginning of a sentence". His most emphatic advice
was that one must always re-write. I conscientiously tried this, but found that my first
draft was almost always better than my second. This discovery has saved me an immense
amount of time. I do not, of course, apply it to the substance, but only to the form. When
I discover an error of an important kind I re-write the whole. What I do not find is that I
can improve a sentence when I am satisfied with what it means.
Very gradually I have discovered ways of writing with a minimum of worry and anxiety.
When I was young each fresh piece of serious work used to seem to me for a time-
perhaps a long time-to be beyond my powers. I would fret myself into a nervous state
from fear that it was never going to come right. I would make one unsatisfying attempt
after another, and in the end have to discard them all. At last I found that such fumbling
attempts were a waste of time. It appeared that after first contemplating a book on some
subject, and after giving serious preliminary attention to it, I needed a period of sub-
conscious incubation which could not be hurried and was if anything impeded by
deliberate thinking. Sometimes I would find, after a time, that I had made a mistake, and
that I could not write. the book I had had in mind. But often I was more fortunate.
Having, by a time of very intense concentration, planted the problem in my sub-
consciousness, it would germinate underground until, suddenly, the solution emerged
with blinding clarity, so that it only remained to write down what had appeared as if in a
The most curious example of this process, and the one which led me subsequently to rely
upon it, occurred at the beginning of 1914. I had undertaken to give the Lowell Lectures
at Boston, and had chosen as my subject "Our Knowledge of the External World".
Throughout 1913 I thought about this topic. In term time in my rooms at Cambridge, in
vacations in a quiet inn on the upper reaches of the Thames, I concentrated with such
intensity that I sometimes forgot to breath and emerged panting as from a trance. But all
to no avail. To every theory that I could think of I could perceive fatal objections. At last,
in despair, I went off to Rome for Christmas, hoping that a holiday would revive my
flagging energy. I got back to 'Cambridge on the last day of 1913, and although my
difficulties were still completely unresolved I arranged, because the remaining time was
short, to dictate as best as I could to a stenographer. Next morning, as she came in at the
door, I suddenly saw exactly what I had to say, and proceeded to dictate the whole book
without a moment's hesitation.
I do not want to convey an exaggerated impression. The book was very imperfect, and I
now think that it contains serious errors. But it was the best that I could have done at that
time, and a more leisurely method (within the time at my disposal) would almost
certainly have produced something worse. Whatever may be true of other people, this is
the right method for me. Flaubert and Pater, I have found, are best forgotten so far as I
am concerned.
Although what I now think about how to write is not so very different from what I
thought at the age of eighteen, my development has not been by any means rectilinear.
There was a time, in the first years of this century, when I had more florid and rhetorical
ambitions. This was the time when I wrote The Free Man's Worship, a work of which I
do not now think well. At that time I was steeped in Milton's prose, and his rolling
periods reverberated through the caverns of my mind. I cannot say that I no longer admire
them, but for me to imitate them involves a certain insincerity. In fact, all imitation is
dangerous. Nothing could be better in style than the Prayer Book and the Authorized
Version of the Bible, but they express a way of thinking and feeling which is different
from that of our time. A style is not good unless it is an intimate and almost involuntary
expression of the personality of the writer, and then only if the writer's personality is
worth expressing. But although direct imitation is always to be deprecated, there is much
to be gained by familiarity with good prose, especially in cultivating a sense for prose
There are some simple maxims-not perhaps quite so simple as those which my brother-
in- law Logan Pearsall Smith offered me-which I think might be commanded to writers of
expository prose. First: never use a long word if a short word will do. Second: if you
want to make a statement with a great many qualifications, put some of the qualifications
in separate sentences. Third: do not let the beginning of your sentence lead the reader to
an expectation which is contradicted by the end. Take, say, such a sentence as the
following, which might occur in a work on sociology: "Human beings are completely
exempt from undesirable behaviour-patterns only when certain prerequisites, not satisfied
except in a small percentage of actual cases, have, through some fortuitous concourse of
favourable circumstances, whether congenital or environmental, chanced to combine in
producing an individual in whom many factors deviate from the norm in a socially
advantageous manner". Let us see if we can translate this sentence into English. I suggest
the following: "All men are scoundrels, or at any rate almost all. The men who are not
must have had unusual luck, both in their birth and in their upbringing." This is shorter
and more intelligible, and says just the same thing. But I am afraid any professor who
used the second sentence instead of the first would get the sack.
This suggests a word of advice to such of my hearers as may happen to be professors. I
am allowed to use plain English because everybody knows that I could use mathematical
logic if I chose. Take the statement: "Some people marry their deceased wives' sisters". I
can express this in language which only becomes intelligible after years of study, and this
gives me freedom. I suggest to young professors that their first work should be written in
a jargon only to be understood by the erudite few. With that behind them, they can ever
after say what they have to say in a language "understanded of the people". In these days,
when our very lives are at the mercy of the professors, I cannot but think that they would
deserve our gratitude if they adopted my advice.

The Future of Science

By Bertrand Russell

I. Introductory
Mr. Haldane's Daedalus has set forth an attractive picture of the future as it may become
through the use of scientific discoveries to promote human happiness. Much as I should
like to agree with his forecast, a long experience of statesmen and government has made
me somewhat sceptical. I am compelled to fear that science will be used to promote the
power of dominant groups, rather than to make men happy. Icarus, having been taught to
fly by his father Daedalus, was destroyed by his rashness. I fear that the same fate may
overtake the populations whom modern men of science have taught to fly. Some of the
dangers inherent in the progress of science while we retain our present political and
economic institutions are set forth in the following pages.
This subject is so vast that it is impossible, within a limited space, to do more than outline
some of its aspects. The world in which we live differs profoundly from that of Queen
Anne's time, and this difference is mainly attributable to science. That is to say, the
difference would be very much less than it is but for various scientific discoveries, but
resulted from those discoveries by the operation of ordinary human nature. The changes
that have been brought about have been partly good, partly bad; whether, in the end,
science will prove to have been a blessing or a curse to mankind, is to my mind, still a
doubtful question.
A science may affect human life in two different ways. On the one hand, without altering
men's passions or their general outlook, it may increase their power of gratifying their
desires. On the other hand, it may operate through an effect upon the imaginative
conception of the world, the theology or philosophy which is accepted in practice by
energetic men. The latter is a fascinating study, but I shall almost wholly ignore it, in
order to bring my subject within a manageable compass. I shall confine myself almost
wholly to the effect of science in enabling us to gratify our passions more freely, which
has hitherto been far the more important of the two.
From our point of view, we may divide the sciences into three groups: physical,
biological, and anthropological. In the physical group I include chemistry, and broadly
speaking any science concerned with the properties of matter apart from life. In the
anthropological group I include all studies especially concerned with man: human
physiology and psychology (between which no sharp line can be drawn), anthropology,
history, sociology, and economics. All these studies can be illuminated by considerations
drawn from biology; for instance, Rivers threw a new light on parts of economics by
adducing facts about landed property among birds during the breeding season. But in
spite of their connection with biology --- a connection which is likely to grow closer as
time goes on --- they are broadly distinguished from biology by their methods and data,
and deserve to be grouped apart, at any rate in a sociological inquiry.
The effect of the biological sciences, so far, has been very small. No doubt Darwinism
and the idea of evolution affected men's imaginative outlook; arguments were derived in
favour of free competition, and also of nationalism. But these effects were of the sort that
I propose not to consider. It is probable that great effects will come from these sciences
sooner or later. Mendelism might have revolutionized agriculture, and no doubt some
similar theory will do so sooner or later. Bacteriology may enable us to exterminate our
enemies by disease. The study of heredity may in time make eugenics an exact science,
and perhaps we shall in a later age be able to determine at will the sex of our children.
This would probably lead to an excess of males, involving a complete change in family
institutions. But these speculations belong to the future. I do not propose to deal with the
possible future effects of biology, both because my knowledge of biology is very limited,
and because the subject has been admirably treated by Mr. Haldane.
The anthropological sciences are those from which, a priori, we might have expected the
greatest social effects, but hitherto this has not proved to be the case, partly because these
sciences are mostly still at an early stage of development. Even economics has not so far
had much effect. Where it has seemed to have, this is because it advocated what was
independently desired. Hitherto, the most effective of the anthropological sciences has
been medicine, through its influence on sanitation and public health, and through the fact
that it has discovered how to deal with malaria and yellow fever. Birth-control is also a
very important social fact which comes into this category. But although the future effect
of the anthropological sciences (to which I shall return presently) is illimitable, the effect
up to the present has been confined within fairly narrow limits.
One general observation to begin with. Science has increased man's control over nature,
and might therefore be supposed likely to increase his happiness and well-being. This
would be the case if men were rational, but in fact they are bundles of passions and
instincts. An animal species in a stable environment, if it does not die out, acquires an
equilibrium between its passions and the conditions of its life. If the conditions are
suddenly altered, the equilibrium is upset. Wolves in a state of nature have difficulty in
getting food, and therefore need the stimulus of a very insistent hunger. The result is that
their descendants, domestic dogs, over-eat if they are allowed to do so. When a certain
amount of something is useful, and the difficulty of obtaining it is diminished, instinct
will usually lead an animal to excess in the new circumstances. The sudden change
produced by science has upset the balance between our instincts and our circumstances,
but in directions not sufficiently noted. Over-eating is not a serious danger, but over-
fighting is. The human instincts of power and rivalry, like the dog's wolfish appetite will
need to be artificially curbed, if industrialism is to succeed.
II. Effects of the Physical Sciences
Much the greatest part of the changes which science has made in social life is due to the
physical sciences, as is evident when we consider that they brought about the industrial
revolution. This is a trite topic, about which I shall say as little as my subject permits.
There are, however, some points which must be made.
First, industrialism still has great parts of the earth's surface to conquer. Russia and India
are very imperfectly industrialized; China hardly at all. In South America there is room
for immense development. One of the effects of industrialism is to make the world an
economic unit: its ultimate consequences will be very largely due to this fact. But before
the world can be effectively organized as a unit, it will probably be necessary to develop
industrially all the regions capable of development that are at present backward. The
effects of industrialism change as it becomes more wide-spread; this must be remembered
in any attempt to argue from its past to its future.
The second point about industrialism is that it increases the productivity of labour, and
thus makes more luxuries possible. At first, in England, the chief luxury achieved was a
larger population with an actual lowering of the standard of life. Then came a golden age
when wages increased, hours of labour diminished, and simultaneously the middle-class
grew more prosperous. That was while Great Britain was still supreme. With the growth
of foreign industrialism, a new epoch began. Industrial organizations have seldom
succeeded in becoming world-wide, and have consequently become national.
Competition, formerly between individual firms, is now mainly between nations, and is
therefore conducted by methods quite different from those contemplated by the classical
Modern industrialism is a struggle between nations for two things, markets and raw
materials, as well as for the sheer pleasure of domination. The labour which is set free
from providing the necessaries of life tends to be more and more absorbed by national
rivalry. There are first the armed forces of the State; then those who provide munitions of
war, from the raw minerals up to the finished product; then the diplomatic and consular
services; then the teachers of patriotism in schools; then the Press. All of these perform
other functions as well, but the chief purpose is to minister to international competition.
As another class whose labours are devoted to the same end, we must add a considerable
proportion of the men of science. These men invent continually more elaborate methods
of attack and defence. The net result of their labours is to diminish the proportion of the
population that can be put into the fighting line, since more are required for munitions.
This might seem a boon, but in fact war is now-a-days primarily against the civilian
population, and in a defeated country they are liable to suffer just as much as the soldiers.
It is science above all that has determined the importance of raw materials in international
competition. Coal and iron and oil, especially, are the bases of power, and thence of
wealth. The nation which possesses them, and has the industrial skill required to utilize
them in war, can acquire markets by armed force, and levy tribute upon less fortunate
nations. Economists have underestimated the part played by military prowess in the
acquisition of wealth. The landed aristocracies of Europe were, in origin, warlike
invaders. Their defeat by the bourgeoisie in the French Revolution, and the fear which
this generated in the Duke of Wellington, facilitated the rise of the middle class. The wars
of the eighteenth century decided that England was to be richer than France. The
traditional economist's rules for the distribution of wealth hold only when men's actions
are governed by law, i. e. when most people think the issue unimportant. The issues that
people have considered vital have been decided by civil war or wars between nations.
And for the present, owing to science, the art of war consists in possessing coal, iron, oil,
and the industrial skill to work them. For the sake of simplicity, I omit other raw
materials, since they do not affect the essence of our problem.
We may say, therefore, speaking very generally, that men have used the increased
productivity which they owe to science for three chief purposes in succession: first, to
increase the population; then, to raise the standard of comfort; and, finally, to provide
more energy to war. This last result has been chiefly brought about by competition for
markets, which led to competition for raw materials, especially the raw materials of
III. The Increase of Organization
The stimulation of nationalism which has taken place in modern times is, however, due
very largely to another factor, namely the increase of organization, which is of the very
essence of industrialism. Wherever expensive fixed capital is required, organization, on a
large scale is of course necessary. In view of the economies of large scale production,
organization in marketing also becomes of great importance. For some purposes, if not
for all, many industries come to be organized nationally, so as to be in effect one business
in each nation.
Science has not only brought about the need for large organizations, but also the technical
possibility of their existence. Without railways, telegraphs and telephones, control from a
centre is very difficult. In ancient empires, and in China down to modern times, provinces
were governed by practically independent satraps or proconsuls, who were appointed by
the central government, but decided almost all questions on their own initiative. If they
displeased the sovereign, they could only be controlled by civil war, of which the issue
was doubtful. Until the invention of the telegraph, ambassadors had a great measure of
independence, since it was often necessary to act without waiting for orders from home.
What applied in politics applied also in business: an organization controlled from the
centre had to be very loosely knit, and to allow much autonomy to subordinates. Opinion
as well as action was difficult to mould from a centre, and local variations marred the
uniformity of party creeds.
Now-a-days all this is changed. Telegraph, telephone, and wireless make it easy to
transmit orders from a centre: railways and steamers make it easy to transport troops in
case the orders are disobeyed. Modern methods of printing and advertising make it
enormously cheaper to produce and distribute one newspaper with a large circulation than
many with small circulations; consequently, in so far as the Press controls opinion, there
is uniformity, and, in particular, there is uniformity of news. Elementary education,
except in so far as religious denominations introduce variety, is conducted on a uniform
pattern decided by the State, by means of teachers whom the State has trained, as far as
possible, to imitate the regularity and mutual similarity of machines produced to standard.
Thus the material and psychological conditions for a great intensity of organization have
increased pari passu, but the basis of the whole development is scientific invention in the
purely physical realm. Increased productivity has played its part, by making it possible to
set apart more labour for propaganda, under which head are to be included advertisement,
the cinema, the Press, education, politics, and religion. Broadcasting is a new method
likely to acquire great potency as soon as people are satisfied that it is not a method of
Political controversies, as Mr. Graham Wallas has pointed out, ought to be conducted in
quantitative terms. If sociology were one of the sciences that had affected social
institutions (which it is not), this would be the case. The dispute between anarchism and
bureaucracy at present tends to take the form of one side maintain that we want no
organization, while the other maintains that we want as much as possible. A person
imbued with the scientific spirit would hardly even examine these extreme positions.
Some people think that we keep our rooms too hot for health, others that we keep them
too cold. If this were a political question, one party would maintain that the best
temperature is the absolute zero, the other that it is the melting point of iron. Those who
maintained any intermediate position would be abused as timorous time-servers,
concealed agents of the other side, men who ruined the enthusiasm of a sacred cause by
tepid appeals to mere reason. Any man who had the courage to say that our rooms ought
to be neither very hot nor very cold would be abused by both parties, and probably shot in
No Man's Land. Possibly some day politics may become more rational, but so far there is
not the faintest indication of a change in this direction.
To a rational mind, the question is not: Do we want organization or do we not? The
question is: How much organization do we want, and where and when and of what kind?
In spite of a temperamental leaning to anarchism, I am persuaded that an industrial world
cannot maintain itself against internal disruptive forces without a great deal more
organization than we have at present. It is not the amount of organization, buts its kind
and its purpose, that causes our troubles. But before tackling this question, let us pause
for a moment to ask ourselves what is the measure of the intensity of organization in a
given community.
A man's acts are partly determined by spontaneous impulse, partly by the conscious or
unconscious effects of the various groups to which he belongs. A man who works (say)
on a railway or in a mine, is, in his working hours almost entirely determined in his
actions by those who direct the collective labour of which he forms part. If he decides to
strike, his action is again not individual, but determined by his Union. When he votes for
Parliament, party caucuses have limited his choice to one of two or three men, and party
propaganda has induced him to accept in toto one of two or three blocks of opinions
which form the rival party programmes. His choice between the parties may be
individual, but it may also be determined by the action of some group, such as a trade
union, which collectively supports one party. His newspaper-reading exposes him to
great organized forces; so does the cinema, if he goes to it. His choice of a wife is
probably spontaneous, except that he must choose a woman of his own class. But in the
education of his children he is almost entirely powerless: they must have the education
which is provided. Organization thus determines many vital things in his life. Compare
him to a handicraftsman or peasant-proprietor who cannot read and does not have his
children educated, and it becomes clear what is meant by saying that industrialism has
increased the intensity of organization. To defines this term we must, I think, exclude the
unconscious effects of groups, except as causes facilitating the conscious effects. We may
define the intensity of organization to which a given individual is subject as the
proportion of his acts which is determined by the orders or advice of some group,
expressed through democratic decisions or executive officers. The intensity of
organization in a community may then be defined as the average intensity for its several
The intensity of organization is increased not only when a man belongs to more
organizations, but also when the organizations to which he already belongs play a larger
part in his life, as, for example, the State plays a larger part in war than in peace.
Another matter which needs to be treated quantitatively is the degree of democracy,
oligarchy, or monarchy in an organization. No organization belongs completely to any
one of the three types. There must be executive officers, who will often in practice be
able to decide policy, even if in theory they cannot do so. And even if their power
depends upon persuasion, they may so completely control the relevant publicity that they
can always rely upon a majority. The directors of a railway company, for instance, are to
all intents and purposes uncontrolled by the shareholders, who have no adequate means
of organizing an opposition if they should wish to do so. In America, a railroad president
is almost a monarch. In party politics, the power of leaders, although it depends upon
persuasion, continually increases as printed propaganda becomes more important. For
these reasons, even where formal democracy increases, the real degree of democratic
control tends to diminish, except on a few questions which rouse strong popular passions.
The result of these causes is that, in consequence of scientific inventions which facilitate
centralization and propaganda, groups become more organized, more disciplined, more
group-conscious and more docile to leaders. The effect of leaders on followers is
increased, and the control of events by a few prominent personalities becomes more
In all this there would be nothing very tragic, but for the fact, with which science has
nothing to do, that organization is almost wholly national. If men were actuated by the
love of gain, as the older economists supposed, this would not be the case; the same
causes which have led to national trusts would have led to international trusts. This has
happened in a few instances, but not on a sufficiently wide scale to affect politics or
economics very vitally. Rivalry is, with most well-to-do energetic people, a stronger
motive than love of money. Successful rivalry requires organization of rival forces; the
tendency is for a business such as oil, for example, to organize itself into two rival
groups, between them covering the world. They might, of course, combine, and they
would no doubt increase their wealth if they did so. But combination would take the zest
out of life. The object of a football team, one might say, is to kick goals. If two rival
teams combined, and kicked the ball alternately over the two goals, many more goals
would be scored. Nevertheless no one suggest that this should be done, the object of a
football team being not to kick goals but to win. So the object of a big business is not to
make money, but to win in the contest with some other business. If there were no other
business to be defeated, the whole thing would become uninteresting. This rivalry has
attached itself to nationalism, and enlisted the support of the ordinary citizens of the
countries concerned; they seldom know what it is that they are supporting, but, like the
spectators at a football- match, they grow enthusiastic for their own side. The harm that is
being done by science and industrialism is almost wholly due to the fact that, while they
have proved strong enough to produce a national organization of economic forces, they
have not proved strong enough to produce an international organization. It is clear that
political internationalism such as the League of Nations was supposed to inaugurate, will
never be successful until we have economic internationalism, which would require, as a
minimum, an agreement between various national organizations dividing among them the
raw material and markets of the world. This, however, can hardly be brought about while
big business is controlled by men who are so rich as to have grown indifferent to money,
and to be willing to risk enormous losses for the pleasure of rivalry.
The increase of organization in the modern world has made the ideals of liberalism
wholly inapplicable. Liberalism, from Monteqsuieu to President Wilson, was based upon
the assumption of a number of more or less equal individuals or groups, with no
differences so vital that they were willing to die sooner than compromise. It was
supposed that there was to be free competition between individuals and between ideas.
Experience has shown, however, that the existing economic system is incompatible with
all forms of free competition except between States by means of armaments. I should
wish, for my part, to preserve free competition between ideas, though not between
individuals and groups, but this is only possible by means of what an old- fashioned
liberal would regard as interferences with personal liberty. So long as the sources of
economic power remain in private hands, there will be no liberty except for the few who
control those sources.
Such liberal ideals as free trade, free press, unbiased educated, either already belong to
the past or soon will do so. One of the triumphs of early liberalism in England was the
establishment of parliamentary control of the army; this was the casus belli in the Civil
War, and was decided by the Revolution of 1688. It was effective so long as Parliament
represented the same class from which army officers were drawn. This was still the case
with the late Parliament, but may cease to be the case with the advent of a Labour
Government. Russia, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Bavaria have shown in recent years how
frail democracy has become; east of the Rhine it lingers only in outlying regions.
Constitutional control over armaments must, therefore, be regarded as another liberal
principle which is rapidly becoming obsolete.
It would seem probable that, in the next fifty years or so, we shall see a still further
increase in the power of governments, and a tendency for governments to be such as are
desired by the men who control armaments and raw materials. The forms of democracy
may survive in western countries, since those who possess military and economic power
can control education and the press, and therefore can usually secure a subservient
democracy. Rival economic groups will presumably remain associated with rival nations,
and will foster nationalism in order to recruit their football teams.
There is, however, a hopeful element in the problem. The planet is of finite size, but the
most efficient size for an organization is continually increased by new scientific
inventions. The world becomes more and more of an economic unity. Before very long
the technical conditions will exist for organizing the whole world as one producing and
consuming unit. If, when that time comes, two rival groups contend for mastery, the
victor may be able to introduce that single world-wide organization that is needed to
prevent the mutual extermination of civilized nations. The world which would result
would be, at first, very different from the dreams of either liberals or socialists; but it
might grow less different with the lapse of time. There would be at first economic and
political tyranny of the victors, a dread of renewed upheavals, and therefore a drastic
suppression of liberty. But if the first half-dozen revolts were successfully repressed, the
vanquished would give up hope, and accept the subordinate place assigned to them by the
victors in the great world-trust. As soon as the holders of power felt secure, they would
grow less tyrannical and less energetic. The motive of rivalry being removed, they would
not work so hard as they do now, and would soon cease to exact such hard work from
their subordinates. Life at first might be unpleasant, but it would at least be possible,
which would be enough to recommend the system after a long period of warfare. Given a
stable world-organization, economic and political, even if, at first, it rested upon nothing
but armed force, the evils which now threaten civilization would gradually diminish, and
a more thorough democracy than that which now exists might become possible. I believe
that, owing to men's folly, a world-government will only be established by force, and
therefore be at first cruel and despotic. But I believe that it is necessary for the
preservation of a scientific civilization, and that, if once realized, it will gradually give
rise to the other conditions of a tolerable existence.
IV. The Anthropological Sciences
It remains to say something about the future effects of the anthropological sciences. This
is of course extremely conjectural, because we do not know what discoveries will be
made. The effect is likely to be far greater than we can now imagine, because these
sciences are still in their infancy. I will, however, take a few points on which to hang
conjectures. I do not wish to be supposed to be making prophecies: I am only suggesting
possibilities which it may be instructive to consider.
Birth-control is a matter of great importance, particularly in relation to the possibility of a
world- government, which could hardly be stable if some nations increased their
population much more rapidly than others. At present, birth-control is increasing in all
civilized countries, though in most it is opposed by governments. This opposition is due
partly to mere superstition and desire to conciliate the Catholic vote, partly to the desire
for large armies and severe competition between wage-earners, so as to keep down
wages. In spite of the opposition of governments, it seems probable that birth-cont rol will
lead to a stationary population in most white nations within the next fifty years. There can
be no security that it will stop with a stationary population; it may go on to the point
where the population diminishes.
The increase in the practice of birth-control is an example of a process contrary to that
seen in industrialism: it represents a victory of individual over collective passions.
Collectively, Frenchmen desire that France should be populous, in order to be able to
defeat her enemies in war. Individually, they desire that their own families should be
small, in order to increase the inheritance of their children and to diminish the expense of
education. The individual desire has triumphed over the collective desire, and even, in
many cases, over religious scruples. In this case, as in most others, the individual desire is
less harmful to the world than the collective desire: the man who acts from pure
selfishness does less damage than the man who is actuated by ``public spirit.'' For, since
medicine and sanitation have diminished the infant death-rate, the only checks to over-
population that remain (apart from birth-control) are war and famine. So long as this
continues to be the case, the world must either have a nearly stationary population, or
employ war to produce famine. The latter method, which is that favoured by opponents of
birth-control, has been adopted on a large scale since 1914; it is however somewhat
wasteful. We require a certain number of cattle and sheep, and we take steps to secure the
right number. If we were as indifferent about them as we are about human beings, we
should produce far too many, and cause the surplus to die by the slow misery of under-
feeding. Farmers would consider this plan extravagant, and humanitarians would consider
it cruel. But where human beings are concerned, it is considered the only proper course,
and works advocating any other are confiscated by the police if they are intelligible to
those whom they concern.
It must be admitted, however, that there are certain dangers. Before long the population
may actually diminish. This is already happening in the most intelligent sections of the
most intelligent nations; government opposition to birth-control propaganda gives a
biological advantage to stupidity, since it is chiefly stupid people who governments
succeed in keeping in ignorance. Before long, birth-control may become nearly universal
among the white races; it will then not deteriorate their quality, but only diminish their
numbers, at a time when uncivilized races are still prolific and are preserved from a high
death-rate by white science.
This situation will lead to a tendency --- already shown by the French --- to employ more
prolific races as mercenaries. Governments will oppose the teaching of birth-control
among Africans, for fear of losing recruits. The result will be an immense numerical
inferiority of the white races, leading probably to their extermination in a mutiny of
mercenaries. If, however, a world-government is established, it may see the desirability
of making subject races also less prolific, and may permit mankind to solve the
population question. This is another reason for desiring a world- government.
Passing from quantity to quality of population, we come to the question of eugenics. We
may perhaps assume that, if people grow less superstitious, government will acquire the
right to sterilize those who are not considered desirable as parents. This power will be
used, at first, to diminish imbecility, a most desirable object. But probably, in time,
opposition to the government will be taken to prove imbecility, so that rebels of all kinds
will be sterilized. Epileptics, consumptives, dipsomaniacs and so on will gradually be
included; in the end, there will be a tendency to include all who fail to pass the usual
school examinations. The result will be to increase the average intelligence; in the long
run, it may be greatly increased. But probably the effect upon really exceptional
intelligence will be bad. Mr. Micawber, who was Dickens's father, would hardly have
been regarded as a desirable parent. How many imbeciles ought to outweigh one Dickens
I do not profess to know.
Eugenics has, of course, more ambitious possibilities in a more distant future. It may aim
not only at eliminating undesired types, but at increasing desired types. Moral standards
may alter so as to make it possible for one man to be the sire of a vast progeny by many
different mothers. When men of science envisage a possibility of this kind, they are prone
to a type of fallacy which is common also in other directions. They imagine that a reform
inaugurated by men of science would be administered as men of science would wish, by
men similar in outlook to those who have advocated it. In like manner women who
advocated votes for women used to imagine that the woman voter of the future would
resemble the ardent feminist who won her the vote; and socialist leaders imagine that a
socialist State would be administered by idealistic reformers like themselves. These are,
of course, delusions; a reform, once achieved, is handed over to the average citizen. So, if
eugenics reached the point where it could increase desired types, it would not be the types
desired by present-day eugenists that would be increased, but rather the type desired by
the average official. Prime Ministers, Bishops, and others whom the State considers
desirable might become the fathers of half the next generation. Whether this would be an
improvement it is not for me to say, as I have no hope of ever becoming either a Bishop
or a Prime Minister.
If we knew enough about heredity to determine, within limits, what sort of population we
would have, the matter would of course be in the hands of State officials, presumably
elderly medical men. Whether they would really be preferable to Nature I do not feel
sure. I suspect that they would breed a subservient population, convenient to rulers but
incapable of initiative. However, it may be that I am too sceptical of the wisdom of
The effects of psychology on practical life may in time become very great. Already
advertisers in America employ eminent psychologists to instruct them in the technique of
producing irrational belief; such men may, when they have grown more proficient, be
very useful in persuading the democracy that governments are wise and good. Then,
again, there are the psychological tests of intelligence, as applied to recruits for the
American army during the war. I am very sceptical of the possibility of testing anything
except average intelligence by such methods, and I think that, if they were widely
adopted, they would probably lead to many persons of great artistic capacity being
classified as morons. The same thing would have happened to some first-rate
mathematicians. Specialized ability not infrequently goes with general disability, but this
would not be shown by the kind of tests which psychologists recommend to the American
More sensational than tests of intelligence is the possibility of controlling the emotional
life through the secretions of the ductless glands. It will be possible to make people
choleric or timid, strongly or weakly sexed, and so on, as may be desired. Differences of
emotional disposition seem to be chiefly due to secretions of the ductless glands, and
therefore controllable by injections or by increasing or diminishing the secretions.
Assuming an oligarchic organization of society, the State could give to the children of
holders of power the disposition required for command, and to the children of the
proletariat the disposition required for obedience. Against the injections of the State
physicians the most eloquent Socialist oratory would be powerless. The only difficulty
would be to combine this submissiveness with the necessary ferocity against external
enemies; but I do not doubt that official science would be equal to the task.
It is not necessary, when we are considering political consequences, to pin our faith to the
particular theories of the ductless glands, which may blow over, like other theories. All
that is essential in our hypothesis is the belief that physiology will in time find ways of
controlling emotion, which it is scarcely possible to doubt. When that day comes we shall
have the emotions desired by our rulers, and the chief business of elementary education
will be to produce the desired disposition, no longer by punishment or moral precept, but
by the far surer method of injection or diet. The men who will administer this system will
have a power beyond the dreams of the Jesuits, but there is no reason to suppose that they
will have more sense than the men who control education to-day. Technical scientific
knowledge does not make men sensible in their aims, and administrators in the future,
will be presumably no less stupid and no less prejudiced than they are at present.
It may seem as though I had been at once gloomy and frivolous in some of my
prognostications. I will end, however, with the serious lesson which seems to me to
result. Men sometimes speak as though the progress of science must necessarily be a
boon to mankind, but that, I fear, is one of the comfortable nineteenth-century delusions
which our more disillusioned age must discard. Science enables the holders of power to
realize their purposes more fully than they could otherwise do. If their purposes are good,
this is a gain; if they are evil, it is a loss. In the present age, it seems that the purposes of
the holders of power are in the main evil, in the sense that they involve a diminution, in
the world at large, of the things men are agreed in thinking good. Therefore, at present,
science does harm by increasing the power of rulers. Science is no substitute for virtue;
the heart is as necessary for a good life as the head.
If men were rational in their conduct, that is to say, if they acted in the way most likely to
bring about the ends that they deliberately desire, intelligence would be enough to make
the world almost a paradise. In the main, what is in the long run advantageous to one man
is also advantageous to another. But men are actuated by passions which distort their
view; feeling an impulse to injure others, they persuade themselves that it is to their
interest to do so. They will not, therefore, act in the way that is in fact to their own
interest unless they are actuated by generous impulses which make them indifferent to
their own interest. This is why the heart is as important as the head. By the ``heart'' I
mean, for the moment, the sum-total of kindly impulses. Where they exist, science helps
them to be effective; where they are absent, science only makes men more cleverly
It may be laid down as a general principle to which there are few exceptions that, when
people are mistaken as to what is to their own interest, the course they believe to be wise
is more harmful to others than the course that really is wise. There are innumerable
examples of men making fortunes because, on moral grounds, they did something which
they believed to be contrary to their own interests. For instance, among early Quakers
there were a number of shopkeepers, who adopted the practice of asking no more for their
goods than they were willing to accept, instead of bargaining with each customer, as
everybody else did. They adopted this practice because they held it to be a lie to ask more
than they would take. But the convenience to customers was so great that everybody
came to their shops and they grew rich. (I forget where I read this, but if my memory
serves me it was in some reliable source.) The same policy might have been adopted from
shrewdness, but in fact no one was sufficiently shrewd. Our unconscious is more
malevolent than it pays us to be; therefore the people who do most completely what is in
fact to their interest are those who, on moral grounds, do what they believe to be against
their interest.
For this reason, it is of the greatest importance to inquire whether any method of
strengthening kindly impulses exists. I have no doubt that their strength or weakness
depends upon discoverable physiological causes; let us assume that it depends upon the
glands. If so, an international secret society of physiologists could bring about the
millennium by kidnapping, on a given day, all the rulers of the world, and injecting into
their blood some substance which would fill them with benevolence towards their fellow-
creatures. Suddenly M. Poincare would wish well to Ruhr miners, Lord Curzon to Indian
nationalists, Mr. Smuts to the natives of what was German South West Africa, the
American government to its political prisoners and its victims in Ellis Island. But alas, the
physiologists would first have to administer the love-philtre to themselves before they
would undertake such a task. Otherwise, they would prefer to win titles and fortunes by
injecting military ferocity into recruits. And so we come back to the old dilemma: only
kindliness can save the world, and even if we knew how to produce kindliness we should
not do so unless we were already kindly. Failing that, it seems that the solution which the
Houynhnms adopted towards the Yahoos, namely extermination, is the only one;
apparently the Yahoos are bent on applying it to each other.
We may sum up this discussion in a few words. Science has not given men more self-
control, more kindliness, or more power of discounting their passions in deciding upon a
course of action. It has given communities more power to indulge their collective
passions, but, by making society more organic, it has diminished the part played by
private passions. Men's collective passions are mainly evil; far the strongest of them are
hatred and rivalry directed towards other groups. Therefore at present all that gives men
power to indulge their collective passions is bad. That is why science threatens to cause
the destruction of our civilization. The only solid hope seems to lie in the possibility of
world-wide domination by one group, say the United States, leading to the gradual
formation of an orderly economic and political world-government. But perhaps, in view
of the sterility of the Roman Empire, the collapse of our civilization would in the end be
preferable to this alternative.

Ideas that have harmed Mankind
Bertrand Russell

The misfortunes of human beings may be divided into two classes:
First, those inflicted by the non-human environment and, second,
those inflicted by other people. As mankind have progressed in
knowledge and technique, the second class has become a continually
increasing percentage of the total. In old times, famine, for example,
was due to natural causes, and although people did their best to
combat it, large numbers of them died of starvation. At the present
moment large parts of the world are faced with the threat of famine,
but although natural causes have contributed to the situation, the
principal causes are human. For six years the civilized nations of the
world devoted all their best energies to killing each other, and they
find it difficult suddenly to switch over to keeping each other alive.
Having destroyed harvests, dismantled agricultural machinery, and
disorganized shipping, they find it no easy matter to relieve the
shortage of crops in one place by means of a superabundance in
another, as would easily be done if the economic system were in
normal working order. As this illustration shows, it is now man that is
man's worst enemy. Nature, it is true, still sees to it that we are
mortal, but with the progress in medicine it will become more and
more common for people to live until they have had their fill of life. We
are supposed to wish to live for ever and to look forward to the
unending joys of heaven, of which, by miracle, the monotony will
never grow stale. But in fact, if you question any candid person who is
no longer young, he is very likely to tell you that, having tasted life in
this world, he has no wish to begin again as a 'new boy' in another.
For the future, therefore, it may be taken that much the most
important evils that mankind have to consider are those which they
inflict upon each other through stupidity or malevolence or both.
I think that the evils that men inflict on each other, and by resection
upon themselves, have their main source in evil passions rather than
in ideas or beliefs. But ideas and principles that do harm are, as a rule,
though not always, cloaks for evil passions. In Lisbon when heretics
were publicly burnt, it sometimes happened that one of them, by a
particularly edifying recantation, would be granted the boon of being
strangled before being put into the flames. This would make the
spectators so furious that the authorities had great difficulty in
preventing them from lynching the penitent and burning him on their
own account. The spectacle of the writhing torments of the victims
was, in fact, one of the principal pleasures to which the populace
looked forward to enliven a somewhat drab existence. I cannot doubt
that this pleasure greatly contributed to the general belief that the
burning of heretics was a righteous act. The same sort of thing applies
to war. People who are vigorous and brutal often find war enjoyable,
provided that it is a victorious war and that there is not too much
interference with rape and plunder. This is a great help in persuading
people that wars are righteous. Dr Arnold, the hero of Tom Brown's
Schooldays, and the admired reformer of Public Schools, came across
some cranks who thought it a mistake to flog boys. Anyone reading his
outburst of furious indignation against this opinion will be forced to the
conclusion that he enjoyed inflicting floggings, and did not wish to be
deprived of this pleasure.
It would be easy to multiply instances in support of the thesis that
opinions which justify cruelty are inspired by cruel impulses. When we
pass in review the opinions of former times which are now recognized
as absurd, it will be found that nine times out of ten they were such as
to justify the infliction of suffering. Take, for instance, medical
practice. When anesthetics were invented they were thought to be
wicked as being an attempt to thwart God's will. Insanity was thought
to be due to diabolic possession, and it was believed that demons
inhabiting a madman could be driven out by inflicting pain upon him,
and so making them uncomfortable. In pursuit of this opinion, lunatics
were treated for years on end with systematic and conscientious
brutality. I cannot think of any instance of an erroneous medical
treatment that was agreeable rather than disagreeable to the patient.
Or again, take moral education. Consider how much brutality has been
justified by the rhyme:
A dog, a wife, and a walnut tree,
The more you beat them the better they be.
I have no experience of the moral effect of flagellation on walnut
trees, but no civilized person would now justify the rhyme as regards
wives. The reformative effect of punishment is a belief that dies hard,
chiefly I think, because it is so satisfying to our sadistic impulses.
But although passions have had more to do than beliefs with what is
amiss in human life, yet beliefs, especially where they are ancient and
systematic and embodied in organizations, have a great power of
delaying desirable changes of opinion and of influencing in the wrong
direction people who otherwise would have no strong feelings either
way. Since my subject is 'Ideas that have Harmed Mankind,' it is
especially harmful systems of beliefs that I shall consider.
The most obvious case as regards past history is constituted by the
beliefs which may be called religi ous or superstitious, according to
one's personal bias. It was supposed that human sacrifice would
improve the crops, at first for purely magical reasons, and then
because the blood of victims was thought pleasing to the gods, who
certainly were made in the image of their worshippers. We read in the
Old Testament that it was a religious duty to exterminate conquered
races completely, and that to spare even their cattle and sheep was an
impiety. Dark terrors and misfortunes in the life to come oppressed
the Egyptians and Etruscans, but never reached their full development
until the victory of Christianity. Gloomy saints who abstained from all
pleasures of sense, who lived in solitude in the desert, denying
themselves meat and wine and the society of women, were,
nevertheless, not obliged to abstain from all pleasures. The pleasures
of the mind were considered to be superior to those of the body, and a
high place among the pleasures of the mind was assigned to the
contemplation of the eternal tortures to which the pagans and heretics
would hereafter be subjected. It is one of the drawbacks to asceticism
that it sees no harm in pleasures other than those of sense, and yet, in
fact, not only the best pleasures, but also the very worst, are purely
mental. Consider the pleasures of Milton's Satan when he
contemplates the harm that he could do to man. As Milton makes him
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n hell, a hell of heav'n.
and his psychology is not so very different from that of Tertullian,
exulting in the thought that he will be able to look out from heaven at
the sufferings of the damned. The ascetic depreciation of the pleasures
of sense has not promoted kindliness or tolerance, or any of the other
virtues that a non-superstitious outlook on human life would lead us to
desire. On the contrary, when a man tortures himself he feels that it
gives him a right to torture others, and inclines him to accept any
system of dogma by which this right is fortified.
The ascetic form of cruelty is, unfortunately, not confined to the
fiercer forms of Christian dogma, which are now seldom believed with
their former ferocity. The world has produced new and menacing forms
of the same psychological pattern. The Nazis in the days before they
achieved power lived laborious lives, involving much sacrifice of ease
and present pleasure in obedience to the belief in strenuousness and
Nietzsche's maxim that one should make oneself hard. Even after they
achieved power, the slogan 'guns rather than butter' still involved a
sacrifice of the pleasures of sense for the mental pleasures of
prospective victory - the very pleasures, in fact, with which Milton's
Satan consoles himself while tortured by the fires of hell. The same
mentality is to be found among earnest Communists, to whom luxury
is an evil, hard work the principal duty, and universal poverty the
means to the millennium. The combination of asceticism and cruelty
has not disappeared with the softening of Christian dogma, but has
taken on new forms hostile to Christianity. There is still much of the
same mentality: mankind are divided into saints and sinners; the
saints are to achieve bliss in the Nazi or Communists heaven, while the
sinners are to be liquidated, or to suffer such pains as human beings
can inflict in concentration camps - inferior, of course, to those which
Omnipotence was thought to inflict in hell, but the worst that human
beings with their limited powers are able to achieve. There is still, for
the saints, a hard period of probation followed by 'the shout of them
that triumph, the song of them that feast', as the Christian hymn says
in describing the joys of heaven.
As this psychological pattern seems so persistent and so capable of
clothing itself in completely new mantles of dogma, it must have its
roots somewhat deep in human nature. This is the kind of matter that
is studied by psycho-analysts, and while I am very far from
subscribing to all their doctrines, I think that their general methods are
important if we wish to seek out the source of evil in our innermost
depths. The twin conceptions of sin and vindictive punishment seem to
be at the root of much that is most vigorous, both in religion and
politics. I cannot believe, as some psycho-analysts do, that the feeling
of sin is innate, though I believe it to be a product of very early
infancy. I think that, if this feeling could be eradicated, the amount of
cruelty in the world would be very greatly diminished. Given that we
are all sinners and that we all deserve punishment, there is evidently
much to be said for a system that causes the punishment to fall upon
others than ourselves. Calvinists, by the fiat of undeserved mercy,
would go to heaven, and their feelings that sin deserved punishment
would receive a merely vicarious satisfaction. Communists have a
similar outlook. When we are born we do not choose whether we are
to be born capitalists or proletarians, but if the latter we are among
the elect, and if the former we are not Without any choice on our own
parts, by the working of economic determinism, we are fated to be on
the right side in the one case, and on the wrong side in the other.
Marx'' father became a Christian when Marx was a little boy, and
some, at least, of the dogmas he must have then accepted seem to
have borne fruit in his son's psychology.
One of the odd effects of the importance which each of u attaches to
himself, is that we tend to imagine our own good or evil fortune to be
the purpose of other people's actions. I you pass in a train a field
containing grazing cows, you ma sometimes see them running away in
terror as the train passes. The cow, if it were a metaphysician, would
argue: 'Everything in my own desires and hopes and fears has
reference to myself; hence by induction I conclude that everything in
the universe has reference to myself. This noisy train, therefore,
intends to do me either good or evil. I cannot suppose that it intends
to do me good, since it comes in such a terrifying form, and therefore,
as a prudent cow, I shall endeavor to escape from it.' If you were to
explain to this metaphysical ruminant that the train has no intention of
leaving the rails, and is totally indifferent to the fate of the cow, the
poor beast would be bewildered by anything so unnatural. The train
that wishes her neither well nor ill would seem more cold and more
abysmally horrifying than a train that wished her ill. Just this has
happened with human beings. The course of nature brings them
sometimes good fortune, sometimes evil. They cannot believe that this
happens by accident. The cow, having known of a companion which
had strayed on to the railway line and been killed by a train, would
pursue her philosophical reflections, if she were endowed with that
moderate degree of intelligence that characterizes most human beings,
to the point of concluding that the unfortunate cow had been punished
for sin by the god of the railway. She would be glad when his priests
put fences along the line, and would warn younger and friskier cows
never to avail themselves of accidental openings in the fence, since
the wages of sin is death. By similar myths men have succeeded,
without sacrificing their selfimportance, in explaining many of the
misfortunes to which they are subject. But sometimes misfortune
befalls the wholly virtuous, and what are we to say in this case? We
shall still be prevented by our feeling that we must be the centre of
the universe from admitting that misfortune has merely happened to
us without anybody's intending it, and since we are not wicked by
hypothesis, our misfort une must be due to somebody's malevolence,
that is to say, to somebody wishing to injure us from mere hatred and
not from the hope of any advantage to himself. It was this state of
mind that gave rise to demonology, and the belief in witchcraft and
black magic. The witch is a person who injures her neighbors from
sheer hatred, not from any hope of gain. The belief in witchcraft, until
about the middle of the seventeenth century, afforded a most
satisfying outlet for the delicious emotion of self-righteous cruelty.
There was Biblical warrant for the belief, since the Bible says: 'Thou
shalt not suffer a witch to live.' And on this ground the Inquisition
punished not only witches, but those who did not believe in the
possibility of witchcraft, since to disbelieve it was heresy. Science, by
giving some insight into natural causation, dissipated the belief in
magic, but could not wholly dispel the fear and sense of insecurity that
had given rise to it. In modem times, these same emotions find an
outlet in fear of foreign nations, an outlet which, it must be confessed,
requires not much in the way of superstitious support.
One of the most powerful sources of false belief is envy. In any small
town you will find, if you question the comparatively well-todo, that
they all exaggerate their neighbors' incomes, which gives them an
opportunity to justify an accusation of meanness. The jealousies of
women are proverbial among men, but in any large office you will find
exactly the same kind of jealousy among male ofiicials. When one of
them secures promotion the others will say: 'Humph! So-and so knows
how to make up to the big men. I could have riser quite as fast as he
has if I had chosen to debase myself by using the sycophantic arts of
which he is not ashamed. No doubt his work has a flashy brilliance, but
it lacks solidly, and sooner or later the authorities will find out their
mistake.' So all the mediocre men will say if a really able man is
allowed to rise as fast as his abilities deserve, and that is why there is
a tendency to adopt the rule of seniority, which, since it has nothing to
do with merit, does not give rise to the same envious discontent.
One of the most unfortunate results of our proneness to envy is that
it has caused a complete misconception of economic selfinterest, both
individual and national. I will illustrate by a parable. There was once
upon a time a medium sized town containing a number of butchers, a
number of bakers, and so forth. One butcher, who was exceptionally
energetic, decided that he would make much larger profits if all the
other butchers were ruined and he became a monopolist. By
systematically under-selling them he succeeded in his object, though
his losses meanwhile had almost exhausted his command of capital
and credit. At the same time an energetic baker had had the same
idea and had pursued it to a similar successful conclusion. In every
trade which lived by selling goods to consumers the same thing had
happened. Each of the successful monopolists had a happy anticipation
of making a fortune, but unfortunately the ruined butchers were no
longer in the position to buy bread, and the ruined bakers were no
longer in the position to buy meat. Their employees had had to be
dismissed and had gone elsewhere. The consequence was that,
although the butcher and the baker each had a monopoly, they sold
less than they had done in the old days. They had forgotten that while
a man may be injured by his competitors he is benefited by his
customers, and that customers become more numerous when the
general level of prosperity is increased. Envy had made them
concentrate their attention upon competitors and forget altogether the
aspect of their prosperity that depended upon customers.
This is a fable, and the town of which I have been speaking never
existed, but substitute for a town the world, and for individuals
nations, and you will have a perfect picture of the economic policy
universally pursued in the present day. Every nation is persuaded that
its economic interest is opposed to that of every other nation, and that
it must profit if other nations are reduced to destitution. During the
first World War, I used to hear English people saying how immensely
British trade would benefit from the destruction of German trade,
which was to be one of the principal fruits of our victory. After the war,
although we should have liked to find a market on the Continent of
Europe, and although the industrial life of Western Europe depended
upon coal from the Ruhr, we could not bring ourselves to allow the
Ruhr coal industry to produce more than a tiny fraction of what it
produced before the Germans were defeated. The whole philosophy of
economic nationalism, which is now universal throughout the world, is
based upon the false belief that the economic interest of one nation is
necessarily opposed to that of another. This false belief, by producing
international hatreds and rivalries, is a cause of war, and in this way
tends to make itself true, since when war has once broken out the
conflict of national interests becomes only too real. If you try to
explain to someone, say, in the steel industry, that possibly prosperity
in other countries might be advantageous to him, you will find it quite
impossible to make him see the argument, because the only foreigners
of whom he is vividly aware are his competitors in the steel industry.
Other foreigners are shadowy beings in whom he has no emotional
interest. This is the psychological root of economic nationalism, and
war, and manmade starvation, and all the other evils which will bring
our civilization to a disastrous and disgraceful end unless men can be
induced to take a wider and less hysterical view of their mutual
Another passion which gives rise to false beliefs that are politically
harmful is pride - pride of nationally, race, sex, class, or creed. When I
was young France was still regarded as the traditional enemy of
England, and I gathered as an unquestionable truth that one
Englishman could defeat three Frenchmen. When Germany became the
enemy this belief was modified and English people ceased to mention
derisively the French propensity for eating frogs. But in spite of
governmental efforts, I think few Englishmen succeeded in genuinely
regarding the French as their equals. Americans and Englishmen, when
they become acquainted with the Balkans, feel an astonished contempt
when they study the mutual enmities of Bulgarians and Serbs, or
Hungarians and Rumanians. It is evident to them that these enmities
are absurd and that the belief of each little nation in its own
superiority has no objective basis. But most of them are quite unable
to see that the national pride of a Great Power is essentially as
unjustifiable as that of a little Balkan country.
Pride of race is even more harmful than national pride. When I was in
China I was struck by the fact that cultivated Chinese were perhaps
more highly civilized than any other human beings that it has been my
good fortune to meet. Nevertheless, I found numbers of gross and
ignorant white men who despised even the best of the Chinese solely
because their skins were yellow. In general, the British were more to
blame in this than the Americans, but there were exceptions. I was
once in the company of a Chinese scholar of vast learning, not only of
the traditional Chinese kind, but also of the kind taught in Western
universities, a man with a breadth of culture which I scarcely hoped to
equal. He and I went together into a garage to hire a motor car. The
garage proprietor was a bad type of American, who treated my
Chinese friend like dirt, contemptuously accused him of being
Japanese, and made my blood boil by his ignorant malevolence. The
similar attitude of the English in India, exacerbated by their political
power, was one of the main causes of the friction that arose in that
country between the British and the educated Indians. The superiority
of one race to another is hardly ever believed in for any good reason.
Where the belief persists it is kept alive by military supremacy. So long
as the Japanese were victorious, they entertained a contempt for the
white man, which was the counterpart of the contempt that the white
man had felt for them while they were weak. Sometimes, however, the
feeling of superiority has nothing to do with military prowess. The
Greeks despised the barbarians, even at times when the barbarians
surpassed them in warlike strength. The more enlightened among the
Greeks held that slavery was justifiable so long as the masters were
Greek and the slaves barbarian, but that otherwise it was contrary to
nature. The Jews had, in antiquity, a quite peculiar belief in their own
racial superiority; ever since Christianity became the religion of the
State Gentiles have had an equally irrational belief in their superiority
to Jews. Beliefs of this kind do infinite harm, and it should be, but is
not, one of the aims of education to eradicate them. I spoke a moment
ago about the attitude of superiority that Englishmen have permitted
themselves in their dealings with the inhabitants of India, which was
naturally resented in that country, but the caste system arose as a
result of successive invasions by 'superior' races from the North, and is
every bit as objectionable as white arrogance.
The belief in the superiority of the male sex, which has now officially
died out in Western nations, is a curious example of the sin of pride.
There was, I think, never any reason to believe in any innate
superiority of the male, except his superior muscle. I remember once
going to a place where they kept a number of pedigree bulls, and what
made a bull illustrious was the milk-giving qualities of his female
ancestors. But if bulls had drawn up the pedigrees they would have
been very different. Nothing would have been said about the female
ancestors, except that they were docile and virtuous, whereas the
male ancestors would have been celebrated for their supremacy in
battle. In the case of cattle we can take a disinterested view of the
relative merits of the sexes, but in the case of our own species we find
this more difficult. Male superiority in former days was easily
demonstrated, because if a woman questioned her husband's he could
beat her. From superiority in this respect others were thought to
follow. Men were more reasonable than women, more inventive, less
swayed by their emotions, and so on. Anatomists, until the women had
the vote, developed a number of ingenious arguments from the study
of the brain to show that men's intellectual capacities must be greater
than women's. Each of these arguments in turn was proved to be
fallacious, but it always gave place to another from which the same
conclusion would follow. It used to be held that the male fetus
acquires a soul after six weeks, but the female only after three
months. This opinion also has been abandoned since women have had
the vote. Thomas Aquinas states parenthetically, as something entirely
obvious, that men are more rational than women. For my part, I see
no evidence of this. Some few individuals have some slight
glimmerings of rationality in some directions, but so far as my
observations go, such glimmerings are no commoner among men than
among women.
Male domination has had some very unfortunate effects. It made the
most intimate of human relations, that of marriage, one of master and
slave, instead of one between equal partners. It made it unnecessary
for a man to please a woman in order to acquire her as his wife, and
thus confined the arts of courtship to irregular relations. By the
seclusion which it forced upon respectable women it made them dull
and uninteresting; the only women who could be interesting and
adventurous were social outcasts. Owing to the dullness of respectable
women, the most civilized men in the most civilized countries often
became homosexual. Owing to the fact that there was no equality in
marriage men became confirmed in domineering habits. All this has
now more or less ended in civilized countries, but it will be a long time
before either men or women learn to adapt their behavior completely
to the new state of affairs. Emancipation always has at first certain
bad effects; it leaves former superiors sore and former inferiors self-
assertive. But it is to be hoped that time will bring adjustment in this
matter as in others.
Another kind of superiority which is rapidly disappearing is that of
class, which now survives only in Soviet Russia. In that country the
son of a proletarian has advantages over the son of a bourgeois, but
elsewhere such hereditary privileges are regarded as unjust. The
disappearance of class distinction is, however, far from complete. In
America everybody is of opinion that he has no social superiors, since
all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social
inferiors, for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all
men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards. There is on this
subject a profound and widespread hypocrisy whenever people talk in
general terms. What they really think and feel can be discovered by
reading second-rate novels, where one finds that it is a dreadful thing
to be born on the wrong side of the tracks, and that there is as much
fuss about a mesalliance as there used to be in a small German Court.
So long as great inequalities of wealth survive it is not easy to see how
this can be otherwise. In England, where snobbery is deeply ingrained,
the equalization of incomes which has been brought about by the war
has had a profound effect, and among the young the snobbery of their
elders has begun to seem somewhat ridiculous. There is still a very
large amount of regrettable snobbery in England, but it is connected
more with education and manner of speech than with income or with
social status in the old sense.
Pride of creed is another variety of the same kind of feeling. When I
had recently returned from China I lectured on that country to a
number of women's clubs in America. There was always one elderly
woman who appeared to be sleeping throughout the lecture, but at the
end would ask me, somewhat portentously, why I had omitted to
mention that the Chinese, being heathen, could of course have no
virtues. I imagine that the Mormons of Salt Lake City must have had a
similar attitude when non-Mormons were first admitted among them.
Throughout the Middle Ages, Christians and Mohammedans were
entirely persuaded of each other's wickedness and were incapable of
doubting their own superiority.
All these are pleasant ways of feeling 'grand'. In order to be happy we
require all kinds of supports to our self-esteem. We are human beings,
therefore human beings are the purpose of creation. We are
Americans, therefore America is God's own country. We are white, and
therefore God cursed Ham and his descendants who were black. We
are Protestant or Catholic, as the case may be, therefore Catholics or
Protestants, as the case may be, are an abomination. We are male,
and therefore women are unreasonable; or female, and therefore men
are brutes. We are Easterners, and therefore the West is wild and
woolly; or Westerners, and therefore the East is effete. We work with
our brains, and therefore it is the educated classes that are important;
or we work with our hands, and therefore manual labor alone gives
dignity. Finally, and above all, we each have one merit which is
entirely unique, we are Ourself. With these comforting reflections we
go out to do battle with the world; without them our courage might
fail. Without them, as things are, we should feel inferior because we
have not learnt the sentiment of equality. If we could feel genuinely
that we are the equals of our neighbors, neither their betters nor their
inferiors, perhaps life would become less of a battle, and we should
need less in the way of intoxicating myth to give us Dutch courage.
One of the most interesting and harmful delusions to which men and
nations can be subjected, is that of imagining themselves special
instruments of the Divine Will. We know that when the Israelites
invaded the Promised Land it was they who were fulfilling the Divine
Purpose, and not the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the
Canaanites, the Perizites, the Hivites, or the Jebbusites. Perhaps if
these others had written long history books the matter might have
looked a little different. In fact, the Hittites did leave some
inscriptions, from which you would never guess what abandoned
wretches they were. It was discovered, 'after the fact', that Rome was
destined by the gods for the conquest of the world. Then came Islam
with its fanatical belief that every soldier dying in battle for the True
Faith went straight to a Paradise more attractive than that of the
Christians, as houris are more attractive than harps. Cromwell was
persuaded that he was the Divinely appointed instrument of justice for
suppressing Catholics and malignants. Andrew Jackson was the agent
of Manifest Destiny in freeing North America from the incubus of
Sabbath-breaking Spaniards. In our day, the sword of the Lord has
been put into the hands of the Marxists. Hegel thought that the
Dialectic with fatalistic logic had given supremacy to Germany.
'No,'said Marx,'not to Germany,but to the Proletariat'. This doctrine
has kinship with the earlier doctrines of the Chosen People and
Manifest Destiny. In its character of fatalism it has viewed the struggle
of opponent' as one against destiny, and argued that therefore the
wise man would put himself on the winning side as quickly as possible.
That is why this argument is such a useful one politically. The only
objection to it is that it assumes a knowledge of the Divine purposes to
which no rational man can lay claim, and that in the execution of them
it justifies a ruthless cruelty which would be condemned if our
programme had a merely mundane origin. It is good to know that God
is on our side, but a little confusing when you find the enemy equally
con vinced of the opposite. To quote the immortal lines of the poet
during the first World War:
Gott strafe England, and God save the King.
God this, and God that, and God the other thing.
'Good God,' said God, 'I've got my work cut out.'
Belief in a Divine mission is one of the many forms of certainty that
have afflicted the human race. I think perhaps one of the wisest things
ever said was when Cromwell said to the Scots before the battle of
Dunbar: 'I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that
you may be mistaken.' But the Scots did not, and so he had to defeat
them in battle. It is a pity that Cromwell never addressed the same
remark to himself. Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted
upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about
something which, in fact, was false. To know the truth is more difficult
than most men suppose, and to act with ruthless determination in the
belief that truth is the monopoly of their party is to invite disaster.
Long calculations that certain evil in the present is worth inflicting for
the sake of some doubtful benefit in the future are always to be
viewed with suspicion, for, as Shakespeare says: 'What's to come is
still unsure.' Even the shrewdest men are apt to be wildly astray if
they prophesy so much as ten years ahead. Some people will consider
this doctrine immoral, but after all it is the Gospel which says 'take no
thought for the morrow'.
In public, as in private life, the important thing is tolerance and
kindliness, without the presumption of a superhuman ability to read
the future.
Instead of calling this essay 'Ideas that have harmed mankind', I
might perhaps have called it simply 'Ideas have harmed mankind', for,
seeing that the future cannot be foretold and that there is an almost
endless variety of possible beliefs about it, the chance that any belief
which a man may hold may be true is very slender. Whatever you
think is going to happen ten years hence, unless it is something like
the sun rising tomorrow that has nothing to do with human relations,
you are almost sure to be wrong. I find this thought consoling when I
remember some gloomy prophesies of which I myself have rashly been
But you will say: how is statesmanship possible except on the
assumption that the future can be to some extent foretold} I admit
that some degree of prevision is necessary, and I am not suggesting
that we are completely ignorant. It is a fair prophecy that if you tell a
man he is a knave and a fool he will not love you, and it is a fair
prophecy that if you say the same thing to seventy million people they
will not love you. It is safe to assume that cutthroat competition will
not produce a feeling of good fellowship between the competitors. It is
highly probable that if two States equipped with modern armament
face each other across a frontier, and if their leading statesmen devote
themselves to mutual insults, the population of each side will in time
become nervous, and one side will attack for fear of the other doing
so. It is safe to assume that a great modern war will not raise the level
of prosperity even among the victors. Such generalizations are not
difficult to know. What is difficult is to foresee in detail the long-run
consequences of a concrete policy. Bismarck with extreme astuteness
won three wars and unified Germany. The long run result of his policy
has been that Germany has suffered two colossal defeats. These
resulted because he taught Germans to be indifferent to the interests
of all countries except Germany, and generated an aggressive spirit
which in the end united the world against his successors. Selfishness
beyond a point, whether individual or national, is not wise. It may with
luck succeed, but if it fails failure is terrible. Few men will run this risk
unless they are supported by a theory, for it is only theory that makes
men completely incautious.
Passing from the moral to the purely intellectual point of view, we
have to ask ourselves what social science can do in the way of
establishing such causal laws as should be a help to statesmen in
making political decisions. Some things of real importance have begun
to be known, for example how to avoid slumps and largescale
unemployment such as afflicted the world after the last war. It is also
now generally known by those who have taken the trouble to look into
the matter that only an international government can prevent war, and
that civilization is hardly likely to survive more than one more great
war, if that. But although these things are known, the knowledge is
not effective; it has not penetrated to the great masses of men, and it
is not strong enough to control sinister interests. There is, in fact, a
great deal more social science than politicians are willing or able to
apply. Some people attribute this failure to democracy, but-it seems to
me to be more marked in autocracy than anywhere else. Belief in
democracy, however, like any other belief, may be carried to the point
where it becomes fanatical, and therefore harmful. A democrat need
not believe that the majority will always decide wisely; what he must
believe is that the decision of the majority, whether wise or unwise,
must be accepted until such time as the majority decides otherwise.
And this he believes not from any mystic conception of the wisdom of
the plain man, but as the best practical device for putting the reign of
law in place of the reign of arbitrary force. Nor does the democrat
necessarily believe that democracy is the best system always and
everywhere. There are many nations which lack the self-restraint and
political experience that are required for the success of parliamentary
institutions, where the democrat, while he would wish them to acquire
the necessary political education, will recognize that it is useless to
thrust upon them prematurely a system which is almost certain to
break down. In politics, as elsewhere, it does not do to deal in
absolutes; what is good in one time and place may be bad in another,
and what satisfies the political instincts of one nation may to another
seem wholly futile. The general aim of the democrat is to substitute
government by general assent for government by force, but this
requires a population that has undergone a certain kind of training.
Given a nation divided into two nearly equal portions which hate each
other and long to fly at each other's throats, that portion which is just
less than half will not submit tamely to the domination of the other
portion, nor will the portion which is just more than half show, in the
moment of victory, the kind of moderation which might heal the

The world at the present day stands in need of two kinds of things.
On the one hand, organization - political organization for the
elimination of wars, economic organization to enable men to work
productively, especially in the countries that have been devastated by
war, educational organization to generate a sane internationalism. On
the other hand it needs certain moral qualities the qualities which have
been advocated by moralists for many ages, but hitherto with little
success. The qualities most needed are charity and tolerance, not
some form of fanatical faith such as is offered to us by the various
rampant isms. I think these two aims, the organizational and the
ethical, are closely interwoven; given either the other would soon
follow. But, in effect, if the world is to move in the right direction it will
have to move simultaneously in both respects. There will have to be a
gradual lessening of the evil passions which are the natural aftermath
of war, and a gradual increase of the organizations by means of which
mankind can bring each other mutual help. There will have to be a
realization at once intellectual and moral that we are all one family,
and that the happiness of no one branch of this family can be built
securely upon the ruin of another. At the present time, moral defects
stand in the way of clear thinking, and muddled thinking encourages
moral defects. Perhaps, though I scarcely dare to hope it, the
hydrogen bomb will terrify mankind into sanity and tolerance. If this
should happen we shall have reason to bless its inventors.

Ideas that have helped Mankind
Bertrand Russell

Before we can discuss this subject we must form some conception as
to the kind of effect that we consider a help to mankind. Are mankind
helped when they become more numerous? Or when they become less
like animals? Or when they become happier? Or when they learn to
enjoy a greater diversity of experiences? Or when they come to know
more? Or when they become more friendly to one another? I think all
these things come into our conception of what helps mankind, and I
will say a preliminary word about them.
The most indubitable respect in which ideas have helped mankind is
numbers. There must have been a time when homo sapiens was a
very rare species, subsisting precariously in jungles and caves,
terrified of wild beasts, having difficulty in securing nourishment. At
this period the biological advantage of his greater intelligence, which
was cumulative because it could be handed on from generation to
generation, had scarcely begun to outweigh the disadvantages of his
long infancy, his lessened agility as compared with monkeys, and his
lack of hirsute protection against cold. In those days, the number of
men must certainly have been very small. The main use to which,
throughout the ages, men have put their technical skill has been to
increase the total population. I do not mean that this was the
intention, but that it was, in fact, the effect. If this is something to
rejoice in, then we have occasion to rejoice.
We have also become, in certain respects, progressively less like
animals. I can think in particular of two respects: first, that acquired,
as opposed to congenital, skills play a continually increasing part in
human life, and, secondly, that forethought more and more dominates
impulse. In these respects we have certainly become progressively
less like animals.
As to happiness, I am not so sure. Birds, it is true, die of hunger in
large numbers during the winter, if they are not birds of passage. But
during the summer they do not foresee this catastrophe, or remember
how nearly it befell them in the previous winter. With human beings
the matter is otherwise. I doubt whether the percentage of birds that
will have died of hunger during the present winter (1946-7) is as great
as the percentage of human beings that will have died from this cause
in India and central Europe during the same period. But every human
death by starvation is preceded by a long period of anxiety, and
surrounded by the corresponding anxiety of neighbors. We suffer not
only the evils that actually befall us, but all those that our intelligence
tells us we have reason to fear. The curbing of impulses to which we
are led by forethought averts physical disaster at the cost of worry,
and general lack of joy. I do not think that the learned men of my
acquaintance, even when they enjoy a secure income, are as happy as
the mice that eat the crumbs from their tables while the erudite
gentlemen snooze. In this respect, therefore, I am not convinced that
there has been any progress at all.
As to diversity of enjoyments, however, the matter is otherwise. I
remember reading an account of some lions who were taken to a
movie showing the successful depredations of lions in a wild state, but
none of them got any pleasure from the spectacle. Not only music, and
poetry and science, but football and baseball and alcohol, afford no
pleasure to animals. Our intelligence has, therefore, certainly enabled
us to get a much greater variety of enjoyment than is open to animals,
but we have purchased this advantage at the expense of a much
greater liability to boredom.
But I shall be told that it is neither numbers nor multiplicity of
pleasures that makes the glory of man. It is his intellectual and moral
qualities. It is obvious that we know more than animals do, and it is
common to consider this one of our advantages. Whether it is, in fact,
an advantage, may be doubted. But at any rate it is something that
distinguishes us from the brutes.

Has civilization taught us to be more friendly towards one another?
The answer is easy. Robins (the English, not the American species)
peck an elderly robin to death, whereas men (the English, not the
American species) give an elderly man an oldage pension. Within the
herd we are more friendly to each other than are many species of
animals, but in our attitude towards those outside the herd, in spite of
all that has been done by moralists and religious teachers, our
emotions are as ferocious as those of any animal, and our intelligence
enables us to give them a scope which is denied to even the most
savage beast. It may be hoped, though not very confidently, that the
more humane attitude will in time come to prevail, but so far the
omens are not very propitious.
All these different elements must be borne in mind in considering
what ideas have done most to help mankind. The ideas with which we
shall be concerned may be broadly divided into two kinds: those that
contribute to knowledge and technique, and those that are concerned
with morals and politics. I will treat first those that have to do with
knowledge and technique.
The most important and difficult steps were taken before the dawn of
history. At what stage language began is not known, but we may be
pretty certain that it began very gradually. Without it it would have
been very difficult to hand on from generation to generation the
inventions and discoveries that were gradually made.
Another great step, which may have come either before or after the
beginning of language, was the utilization of fire. I suppose that at first
fire was chiefly used to keep away wild beasts while our ancestors
slept, but the warmth must have been found agreeable. Presumably
on some occasion a child got scolded for throwing the meat into the
fire, but when it was taken out it was found to be much better, and so
the long history of cookery began.
The taming of domestic animals, especially the cow and the sheep,
must have made life much pleasanter and more secure. Some
anthropologists have an attractive theory that the utility of domestic
animals was not foreseen, but that people attempted to tame
whatever animal their religion taught them to worship. The tribes that
worshiped lions and crocodiles died out, while those to whom the cow
or the sheep was a sacred animal prospered. I like this theory, and in
the entire absence of evidence, for or against it, I feel at liberty to play
with it.
Even more important than the domestication of animals was the
invention of agriculture, which, however, introduced bloodthirsty
practices into religion that lasted for many centuries. Fertility rites
tended to involve human sacrifice and cannibalism. Moloch would not
help the corn to grow unless he was allowed to feast on the blood of
children. A similar opinion was adopted by the Evangelicals of
Manchester in the early days of industrialism, when they kept six-year-
old children working twelve to fourteen hours a day, in conditions that
caused most of them to die. It has now been discovered that grain will
grow, and cotton goods can be manufactured, without being watered
by the blood of infants. In the case of the grain, the discovery took
thousands of years; in the case of the cotton goods hardly a century.
So perhaps there is some evidence of progress in the world.
The last of the great pre-historic inventions was the art of writing,
which was indeed a pre-requisite of history. Writing, like speech,
developed gradually, and in the form of pictures designed to convey a
message it was probably as old as speech, but from pictures to syllable
writing and thence to the alphabet was a very slow evolution. In China
the last step was never taken.
Coming to historic times, we find that the earliest important steps
were taken in mathematics and astronomy, both of which began in
Babylonia some millennia before the beginning of our era. Learning in
Babylonia seems, however, to have become stereotyped and non-
progressive, long before the Greeks first came into contact with it. It is
to the Greeks that we owe ways of thinking and investigating that
have ever since been found fruitful. In the prosperous Greek
commercial cities, rich men living on slave labor were brought by the
processes of trade into contact with many nations, some quite
barbarous, others fairly civilized. What the civilized nations - the
Babylonians and Egyptians - had to offer the Greeks quickly
assimilated. They became critical of their own traditional customs, by
perceiving them to be at once analogous to, and different from, the
customs of surrounding inferior people, and so by the sixth century BC
some of them achieved a degree of enlightened rationalism which
cannot be surpassed in the present day. Xenophanes observed that
men make gods in their own image - 'the Ethiopians make their gods
black and snub-nosed; the Thracians say theirs have blue eyes and red
hair: Yes, and if oxen and lions and horses had hands, and could paint
with their hands, and produced works of art as men do, horses would
paint the forms of gods like horses, and oxen like oxen and make their
bodies in the image of their several kinds.'
Some Greeks used their emancipation from tradition in the pursuit of
mathematics and astronomy, in both of which they made the most
amazing progress. Mathematics was not used by the Greeks, as it is by
the moderns, to facilitate industrial processes; it was a 'gentlemanly'
pursuit, valued for its own sake as giving eternal truth, and a super-
sensible standard by which the visible world was condemned as
second-rate. Only Archimedes foreshadowed the modern use of
mathematics by inventing engines of war for the defence of Syracuse
against the Romans. A Roman soldier killed him and the
mathematicians retired again into their ivory tower.
Astronomy, which the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries pursued
with ardor, largely because of its usefulness in navigation, was
pursued by the Greeks with no regard for practical utility, except
when, in later antiquity, it became associated with astrology. At a very
early stage they discovered the earth to be round and made a fairly
accurate estimate of its size They discovered ways of calculating the
distance of the sun and moon, and Aristarchus of Samos even evolved
the complete Copernican hypothesis, but his views were rejected by all
his followers except one, and after the third century BC no very
important progress was made. At the time of the Renaissance,
however, something of what the Greeks had done became known, and
greatly facilitated the rise of modem science.
The Greeks had the conception of natural law, and acquired the habit
of expressing natural laws in mathematical terms. These ideas have
provided the key to a very great deal of the understanding of the
physical world that has been achieved in modern times. But many of
them, including Aristotle, were misled by a belief that science could
make a fruitful use of the idea of purpose. Aristotle distinguished four
kinds of cause, of which only two concern us, the 'efficient' cause and
the 'final' cause. The 'efficient' cause is what we should call simply the
cause. The 'final' cause is the purpose. For instance, if, in the course of
a tramp in the mountains, you find an inn just when your thirst has
become unendurable, the efficient cause of the inn is the actions of the
bricklayers that built it, while its final cause is the satisfaction of your
thirst. If someone were to ask 'why is there an inn there?' it would be
equally appropriate to answer 'because someone had it built there' or
'because many thirsty travelers pass that way'. One is an explanation
by the 'efficient' cause and the other by the 'final' cause. Where
human affairs are concerned, the explanation by 'final' cause is often
appropriate, since human actions have purposes. But where inanimate
nature is concerned, only 'efficient' causes have been found
scientifically discoverable, and the attempt to explain phenomena by
'final' causes has always led to bad science. There may, for ought we
know, be a purpose in natural phenomena, but if so it has remained
completely undiscovered, and all known scientific laws have to do only
with 'efficient' causes. In this respect Aristotle led the world astray,
and it did not recover fully until the time of Galileo.
The seventeenth century, especially Galileo, Descartes, Newton, and
Leibniz, made an advance in our understanding of nature more sudden
and surprising than any other in history, except that of the early
Greeks. It is true that some of the concepts used in the mathematical
physics of that time had not quite the validity that was then ascribed
to them. It is true also that the more recent advances of physics often
reuire new concepts quite di fferent from those of the seventeenth
century. Their concepts, in fact, were not the key to all e secrets of
nature, but they were the key to a great many. Modern technique in
industry and war, with the sole exception of the atomic bomb, is still
wholly based upon a type of dynamics developed out of the principles
of Galileo and Newton. Most of astronomy still rests upon these same
principles, though there are some problems such as 'what keeps the
sun hot?' in which the recent discoveries of quantum mechanics are
essential. The dynamics of Galileo and Newton depended upon two
new principles and a new technique.
The first of the new principles was the law of inertia, which stated that
any body, left to itself, will continue to move as it is moving in the
same straight line, and with the same velocity. The importance of this
principle is only evident when it is contrasted with the principles that
the scholastics had evolved out of Aristotle. Before Galileo it was held
that there was a radical difference between regions below the moon
and regions from the moon upwards. In the regions below the moon,
the 'sublunary' sphere, there was change and decay; the 'natural'
motion of bodies was rectilinear, but any body in motion, if left to
itself, would gradually slow up and presently stop. From the moon
upwards, on the contrary, the 'natural' motion of bodies was circular,
or compounded of circular motions, and in the heavens there was no
such thing as change or decay, except the periodic changes of the
orbits of the heavenly bodies. The movements of the heavenly bodies
were not spontaneous, but were passed on to them from the primum
mobile, which was the outermost of the moving spheres, and itself
derived its motion from the Unmoved Mover, i.e. God. No one thought
of making any appeal to observation, for instance, it was taken that a
projectile would first move horizontally for a while, and then suddenly
begin to la vertically, although it might have been supposed that
anybody watching the fountain could have seen the drops move in
curves. Comets, since they appear and disappear, had to be supposed
to be between the earth and the moon, for if they had been above the
moon they would have had to be indestructible. It is evident that out
of such a jumble nothing could be developed. Galileo unified the
principles governing the earth and the heavens by his single law of
inertia, according to which a body, once in motion, will not stop of
itself, but will move with a constant velocity in a straight line whether
it is on earth or in one of the celestial spheres. This principle made it
possible to develop a science of the motions of matter, without taking
account of any supposed influence of mind or spirit, and thus laid the
foundations of the purely materialistic physics in which men of science,
however pious, have ever since believed.
From the seventeenth century onwards, it has become increasingly
evident that if we wish to understand natural laws, we must get rid of
every kind of ethical and aesthetic bias. We must cease to think that
noble things have noble causes, that intelligent things have intelligent
causes, or that order is impossible without a celestial policeman. The
Greeks admired the sun and moon and planets, and supposed them to
be gods Plotinus explains how superior they are to human beings in
wisdom and virtue. Anaxagoras, who taught otherwise, was
prosecuted for impiety and compelled to fly from Athens The Greeks
also allowed themselves to think that since the circle is the most
perfect figure, the motions of the heavenly bodies must be, or be
derived from circular motions. Every bias of this sort had to be
discarded by seventeenth-century astronomy. The Copernican system
showed that the earth is not the center of the universe, and suggested
to a few bold spirits that perhaps man was not the supreme purpose of
the Creator. In the main, however, astronomers were pious folk, and
until the nineteenth century most of them, except in France, believed
in Genesis.
It was geology, Darwin, and the doctrine of evolution, that first upset
the faith of British men of science. If man was evolved by insensible
gradations from lower forms of life, a number of things became very
difficult to understand. At what moment in evolution did our ancestors
acquire free will? At what stage in the long journey from the amoeba
did they begin to have immortal souls? When did they first become
capable of the kinds of wickedness that would justify a benevolent
Creator in sending them into eternal torment? Most people felt that
such punishment would be hard on monkeys, in spite of their
propensity for throwing coconuts at the heads of Europeans. But how
about Pithecanthropus Erectus? Was it really he who ate the apple? Or
was it Homo Pekiniensis? Or was it perhaps the Piltdown man? I went
to Piltdown once, but saw no evidence of special depravity in that
village, nor did I see any signs of its having changed appreciably since
pre-historic ages. Perhaps then it was the Neanderthal men who first
sinned? This seems the more likely, as they lived in Germany. But
obviously there can be no answer to such questions, and those
theologians who do not wholly reject evolution have had to make
profound readjustments.
One of the 'grand' conceptions which have proved scientifically
useless is the soul. I do not mean that there is positive evidence
showing that men have no souls; I only mean that the soul, if it exists,
plays no part in any discoverable causal law. There are all kinds of
experimental methods of determining how men and animals behave
under various circumstances. You can put rats in mazes and men in
barbed wire cages, and observe their methods of escape. You can
administer drugs and observe their effect. You can turn a male rat into
a female, though so far nothing analogous has been done with human
beings, even at Buchenwald. It appears that socially undesirable
conduct can be dealt with by medical means, or by creating a better
environment, and the conception of sin has thus come to seem quite
unscientific, except, of course, as applied to the Nazis. There is real
hope that, by getting to understand the science of human behavior,
governments may be even more able than they are at present to turn
mankind into rabbles of mutually ferocious lunatics. Governments
could, of course, do exactly the opposite and cause the human race to
co-operate willingly and cheerfully in making themselves happy, rather
than in making others miserable, but only if there is an international
government with a monopoly of armed force. It is very doubtful
whether this will take place.
This brings me to the second kind of idea that has helped or may in
time help mankind; I mean moral as opposed to technical ideas.
Hitherto I have been considering the in creased command over the
forces of nature which men hay' derived from scientific knowledge, but
this, although it is: pre-condition of many forms of progress, does not
of itsel ensure anything desirable. On the contrary, the present state
of the world and the fear of an atomic war show that scientific
progress without a corresponding moral and political progress may
only increase the magnitude of the disaster that misdirected skill may
bring about. In superstitious moments I am tempted to believe in the
myth of the Tower of Babel, and to suppose that in our own day a
similar but greater impiety i about to be visited by a more tragic and
terrible punishment Perhaps - so I sometimes allow myself to fancy -
God does not intend us to understand the mechanism by which He
regulates the material universe. Perhaps the nuclear physicists have
come so near to the ultimate secrets that He thinks it time to bring
their activities to a stop. And what simpler method could He devise
than to let them carry their ingenuity to the point where they
exterminate the human race? If I could think that deer and squirrels,
nightingales and larks, would survive, I might view this catastrophe
with some equanimity, since man has not shown himself worthy to be
the lord of creation. But it is to be feared that the dreadful alchemy of
the atomic bomb will destroy all forms of life equally, and that the
earth will remain for ever a dead clod senselessly whirling round a
futile sun. I do not know the immediate precipitating cause of this
interesting occurrence. Perhaps it will be a dispute about Persian oil,
perhaps a disagreement as to Chinese trade, perhaps a quarrel
between Jews and Mohommedans for the control of Palestine. Any
patriotic person can see that these issues are of such importance as to
make the extermination of mankind preferable to cowardly
In case, however, there should be some among my readers who
would like to see the human race survive, it may be worth while
considering the stock of moral ideas that great men have put into the
world and that might, if they were listened to, secure happiness
instead of misery for the mass of mankind.
Man, viewed morally, is a strange amalgam of angel and devil. He
can feel the splendor of the night, the delicate beauty of spring
flowers, the tender emotion of parental love, and the intoxication of
intellectual understanding. In moments of insight visions come to him
of how life should be lived and how men should order their dealings
one with another. Universal love is an emotion which many have felt
and which many more could feel if the world made it less difficult. This
is one side of the picture. On the other side are cruelty, greed,
indifference and over-weening pride. Men, quite ordinary men, will
compel children to look on while their mothers are raped. In pursuit of
political aims men will submit their opponents to long years of
unspeakable anguish. We know what the Nazis did to Jews at
Auschwitz. In mass cruelty, the expulsions of Germans ordered by the
Russians fall not very far short of the atrocities perpetuated by the
Nazis. And how about our noble selves? We would not do such deeds,
oh no! But we enjoy our juicy steaks and our hot rolls while German
children die of hunger because our governments dare not face our
indignation if they asked us to forgo some part of our pleasures. If
these were a Last Judgment as Christians believe, how do you think
our excuses would sound before that final tribunal?
Moral ideas sometimes wait upon political developments, and
sometimes outrun them. The brotherhood of man is an ideal which
owed its first force to political developments. When Alexander
conquered the East he set to work to obliterate the distinction of Greek
and barbarian, no doubt because his Greek and Macedonian army was
too small to hold down so vast an empire by force. He compelled his
officers to marry barbarian aristocratic ladies, while he himself, to set
a doubly excellent example, married two barbarian princesses. As a
result of this policy Greek pride and exclusiveness were diminished,
and Greek culture spread to many regions not inhabited by Hellenic
stock. Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, who was probably a boy at the
time of Alexander's conquest, was a Phoenician, and few of the
eminent Stoics were Greeks. It was the Stoics who invented the
conception of the brotherhood of man. They taught that all men are
children of Zeus and that the sage will ignore the distinctions of Greek
and barbarian, bond and free. When Rome brought the whole civilised
world under one government, the political environment was favorable
to the spread of this doctrine. In a new form, more capable of
appealing to the emotions of ordinary men and women, Christianity
taught a similar doctrine. Christ said 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor
thyself,' and when asked 'who is my neighbor?' went on to the parable
of the Good Samaritan. If you wish to understand this parable as it
was understood by his hearers, you should substitute 'German' or
'Japanese' for 'Samaritan', I fear many present day Christians would
resent such a substitution, because it would compel them to realise
how far they have departed from the teaching of the Founder of their
religion. A similar doctrine had been taught much earlier by the
Buddhists. According to them, the Buddha declared that he could not
be happy so long as even one man remained miserable. It might seem
as if these lofty ethical teachings had little effect upon the world; in
India Buddhism died out, in Europe Christianity was emptied of most
of the elements it derived from Christ. But I think this would be a
superficial view. Christianity, as soon as it conquered the State, put an
end to gladiatorial shows, not because they were cruel, but because
they were idolatrous. The result, however, was to diminish the
widespread education in cruelty by which the populace of Roman
towns were degraded. Christianity also did much to soften the lot of
slaves. It established charity on a large scale, and inaugurated
hospitals. Although the great majority of Christians failed lamentably
in Christian charity, the ideal remained alive and in every age inspired
some notable saints. In a new form, it passed over into modern
Liberalism, and remains the inspiration of much that is most hopeful in
our sombre world.
The watchwords of the French Revolution, Liberty, Equality and
Fraternity, have religious origins. Of Fraternity I have already spoken.
Equality was a characteristic of the Orphic Societies in ancient Greece,
from which, indirectly, a great deal of Christian dogma took its rise. In
these Societies, slaves and women were admitted on equal terms with
citizens. Plato's advocacy of Votes for Women, which has seemed
surprising to some modern readers, is derived from Orphic practices.
The Orphics believed in transmigration and thought that a soul which
in one life inhabits the body of a slave, may, in another, inhabit that of
a king. Viewed from the standpoint of religion, it is therefore foolish to
discriminate between a slave and a king; both share the dignity
belonging to an immortal soul, and neither, in religion, can claim
anything more. This point of view passed over from Orphism into
Stoicism, and into Christianity. For a long time its practical effect was
small, but ultimately, whenever circumstances were favorable, it
helped in bringing about the diminution of the inequalities in the social
system. Read, for instance, John Woolman's Journal. John Woolman
was a Quaker, one of the first Americans to oppose slavery. No doubt
the real ground of his opposition was humane feeling, but he was able
to fortify this feeling and to make it controversially more effective by
appeals to Christian doctrines, which his neighbors did not dare to
repudiate openly.
Liberty as an ideal has had a very chequered history. In antiquity,
Sparta, which was a totalitarian State, had as little use for it as the
Nazis had. But most of the Greek City States allowed a degree of
liberty which we should now think excessive, and, in fact, do think
excessive when it is practiced by their descendants in the same part of
the world. Politics was a matter of assassination and rival armies, one
of them supporting the government, and the other composed of
refugees. The refugees would often ally themselves with their city's
enemies and march in in triumph on the heels of foreign conquerors.
This sort of thing was done by everybody, and, in spite of much fine
talk in the works of modem historians about Greek loyalty to the City
State, nobody seemed to view such conduct as particularly nefarious.
This was carrying liberty to excess, and led by reaction to admiration
of Sparta.
The word 'liberty' has had strange meanings at different times. In
Rome, in the last days of the Republic and the early days of the
Empire, it meant the right of powerful Senators to plunder Provinces
for their private profit. Brutus, whom most English speaking readers
know as the high-minded hero of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, was, in
fact, rather different from this. He would lend money to a municipality
at 60 percent, and when they failed to pay the interest he would hire a
private army to besiege them, for which his friend Cicero mildly
expostulated with him. In our own day, the word 'liberty' bears a very
similar meaning when used by industrial magnates. Leaving these
vagaries on one side, there are two serious meanings of the word
'liberty'. On the one hand the freedom of a nation from foreign
domination, on the other hand, the freedom of the citizen to pursue
his legitimate avocations. Each of these in a well-ordered world should
be subject to limitations, but unfortunately the former has been taken
in an absolute sense. To this point of view I will return presently; it is
the liberty of the individual citizen that I now wish to speak about.
This kind of liberty first entered practical politics in the form of
religious toleration, a doctrine which came to be widely adopted in the
seventeenth century through the inability of either Protestants or
Catholics to exterminate the opposite party. After they had fought
each other for a hundred years, culminating in the horror of the thirty
years' war, and after it had appeared that as a result of all this
bloodshed the balance of parties at the end was almost exactly what it
had been at the beginning, certain men of genius, mostly Dutchmen,
suggested that perhaps all the killing had been unnecessary, and that
people might be allowed to think what they chose on such matters as
consubstantiation versus transubstantiation, or whether the Cup
should be allowed to the laity. The doctrine of religious toleration came
to England with the Dutch King William, along with the Bank of
England and the National Debt. In fact all three were products of the
commercial mentality.

The greatest of the theoretical advocates of liberty at that period was
John Locke, who devoted much thought to the problem of reconciling
the maximum of liberty with the indispensable minimum of
government, a problem with which his successors in the Liberal
tradition have been occupied down to the present day.
In addition to religious freedom, free press, free speech, and freedom
from arbitrary arrest came to be taken for granted during the
nineteenth century, at least among the Western democracies. But their
hold on men's minds was much more precarious than was at the time
supposed, and now, over the greater part of the earth's surface,
nothing remains of them, either in practice or in theory. Stalin could
neither understand nor respect the point of view which led Churchill to
allow himself to be peaceably dispossessed as a result of a popular
vote. I am a firm believer in democratic representative government as
the best form for those who have the tolerance and self-restraint that
is required to make it workable. But its advocates make a mistake if
they suppose that it can be at once introduced into countries where
the average citizen has hitherto lacked all training in the give and-take
that it requires. In a Balkan country, not so many years ago, a party
which had been beaten by a narrow margin in a general election
retrieved its fortunes by shooting a sufficient number of the
representatives of the other side to give it a majority. People in the
West thought this characteristic of the Balkans, forgetting that
Cromwell and Robespierre had acted likewise.
And this brings me to the last pair of great political ideas to which
mankind owes whatever little success in social organization it has
achieved. I mean the ideas of law and government. Of these,
government is the more fundamental. Government can easily exist
without law, but law cannot exist without government - a fact which
was forgotten by those who framed the League of Nations and the
Kellogg Pact. Government may be defined as a concentration of the
collective forces of a community in a certain organization which, in
virtue of this concentration, is able to control individual citizens and to
resist pressure from foreign States. War has always been the chief
promoter of governmental power. The control of government over the
private citizen is always greater where there is war or imminent
danger of war than where peace seems secure. But when governments
have acquired power with a view to resisting foreign aggression, they
have naturally used it, if they could, to further their private interests at
the expense of the citizens. Absolute monarchy was, until recently, the
grossest form of this abuse of power. But in the modern totalitarian
State the same evil has been carried much further than had been
dreamt of by Xerxes or Nero or any of the tyrants of earlier times.
Democracy was invented as a device for reconciling government with
liberty. It is clear that government is necessary if anything worthy to
be called civilization is to exist, but all history shows that any set of
men entrusted with power over another set will abuse their power if
they can do so with impunity. Democracy is intended to make men's
tenure of power temporary and dependent upon popular approval. In
so far as it achieves this it prevents the worst abuses of power. The
Second Triumvirate in Rome, when they wanted money with a view to
fighting Brutus and Cassius, made a list of rich men and declared them
public enemies, cut off their heads, and seized their property. This sort
of procedure is not possible in America and England at the present
day. We owe the fact that it is not possible not only to democracy, but
also to the doctrine of personal liberty. This doctrine, in practice,
consists of two parts, on the one hand that a man shall not be
punished except by due process of law, and on the other hand that
there shall be a sphere within which a man's actions are not to be
subject to governmental control. This sphere includes free speech, free
press and religious freedom. It used to include freedom of economic
enterprise. All these doctrines, of course, are held in practice with
certain limitations. The British formerly did not adhere to them in their
dealings with India. Freedom of the press is not respected in the case
of doctrines which are thought dangerously subversive. Free speech
would not be held to exonerate public advocacy of assassination of an
unpopular politician. But in spite of these limitations the doctrine of
personal liberty has been of great value throughout the English-
speaking world, as anyone who dives in it will quickly realize when he
finds himself in a police State.
In the history of social evolution it will be found that almost invariably
the establishment of some sort of government has come first and
attempts to make government compatible with personal liberty have
come later. In international affairs we have not yet reached the first
stage, although it is now evident that international government is at
least as important to mankind as national government. I think it may
be seriously doubted whether the next twenty years would be more
disastrous to mankind if all government were abolished than they will
be if no effective international government is established. I find it
often urged that an international government would be oppressive,
and I do not deny that this might be the case, at any rate for a time,
but national governments were oppressive when they were new and
are still oppressive in most countries, and yet hardly anybody would
on this ground advocate anarchy within a nation.
Ordered social life of a kind that could seem in any degree desirable
rests upon a synthesis and balance of certain slowly developed ideas
and institutions: government, law, individual liberty, and democracy.
Individual liberty, of course, existed in the ages before there was
government, but when it existed without government civilized life was
impossible. When governments first arose they involved slavery,
absolute monarchy, and usually the enforcement of superstition by a
powerful priesthood. All these were very great evils, and one can
understand Rousseau's nostalgia for the life of the noble savage. But
this was a mere romantic idealization, and, in fact, the life of the
savage was, as Hobbes said, 'nasty, brutish, and short'. The history of
man reaches occasional great crises. There must have been a crisis
when the apes lost their tails, and another when our ancestors took to
walking upright and lost their protective covering of hair. As I
remarked before, the human population of the globe, which must at
one time have been very small, was greatly increased by the invention
of agriculture, and was increased again in our own time by modern
industrial and medical technique. But modern technique has brought
us to a new crisis. In this new crisis we are faced with an alternative:
either man must again become a rare species as in the days of Homo
Pekiniensis, or we must learn to submit to an international
government. Any such government, whether good, bad or indifferent,
will make the continuation of the human species possible, and, as in
the course of the past 5,000 years men have climbed gradually from
the despotism of the Pharaohs to the glories of the American
Constitution, so perhaps in the next 5,000 they may climb from a bad
international government to a good one. But if they do not establish an
international government of some kind, new progress will have to
begin at a lower level, probably at that of tribal savagery, and will
have to begin after a cataclysmic destruction only to be paralleled by
the Biblical account of the deluge. When we survey the long
development of mankind from a rare hunted animal, hiding
precariously in caves from the fury of wild beasts which he was
incapable of killing; subsisting doubtfully on the raw fruits of the earth
which he did not know how to cultivate; reinforcing real terrors by the
imaginary terrors of ghosts and evil spirits and malign spells; gradually
acquiring the mastery of his environment by the invention of fire,
writing, weapons, and at last science; building up a social organization
which curbed private violence and gave a measure of security to daily
life; using the leisure gained by his skill, not only in idle luxury, but in
the production of beauty and the unveiling of the secrets of natural
law; learning gradually, though imperfectly, to view an increasing
number of his neighbors as allies in the task of production rather than
enemies in the attempts at mutual depredation - when we consider
this long and arduous journey, it becomes intolerable to think that it
may all have to be made again from the beginning owing to failure to
take one step for which past developments, rightly viewed, have been
a preparation. Social cohesion, which among the apes is confined to
the family grew in pre-historic times as far as the tribe, and in the
very beginnings of history reached the level of small kingdoms in
upper and lower Egypt and in Mesopotamia. From these small
kingdoms grew the empires of antiquity. and then graduallv the great
States of our own day, far larger than even the Roman Empire. Quite
recent developments have robbed the smaller States of anv real
independence, until now there remain onl y two that are wholly capable
of independent self direction: I mean, of course, the United States and
the USSR. All that is necessary to save mankind from disaster is the
step from two independent States to one - not by war, which would
bring disaster, but by agreement.
If this step can be accomplished, all the great achievements of
mankind will quickly lead to an era of happiness and wellbeing, such as
has never before been dreamt of. Our scientific skill will make it
possible to abolish poverty throughout the world without necessitating
more than four or five hours a day of productive labor. Disease, which
has been very rapidly reduced during the last hundred years, will be
reduced still further. The leisure achieved through organisation and
science will no doubt be devoted very largely to pure enjoyment, but
there will remain a number of people to whom the pursuit of art and
science will seem important. There will be a new freedom from
economic bondage to the mere necessities of keeping alive, and the
great mass of mankind may enjoy the kind of carefree
adventurousness that characterizes the rich young Athenians of Plato's
Dialogues. All this is easily within the bounds of technical possibility. It
requires for its realization only one thing: that the men who hold
power, and the populations that support them, should think it more
important to keep themselves alive than to cause the death of their
enemies. No very lofty or difficult ideal, one might think, and yet one
which so far has proved beyond the scope of human intelligence.
The present moment is the most important and most crucial that has
ever confronted mankind. Upon our collective wisdom during the next
twenty years depends the question whether mankind shall be plunged
into unparalleled disaster, or shall achieve a new level of happiness,
security, well-being, and intelligence. I do not know which mankind
will choose. There is grave reason for fear, but there is enough
possibility of a good solution to make hope not irrational. And it is on
this hope that we must act.

In Praise Of Idleness
by Bertrand Russell
C. 1932

Like most of my generation, I was brought up on the saying: "Satan finds some
mischief still for idle hands to do." Being a highly virtuous child, I believed all that I
was told, and acquired a conscience which has kept me working hard down to the
present moment. But although my conscience has controlled my actions, my opinions
have undergone a revolution. I think that there is far too much work done in the
world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what
needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what
always has been preached. Everyone knows the story of the traveller in Naples who
saw twelve beggars lying in the sun (it was before the days of Mussolini), and offered
a lira to the laziest of them. Eleven of them jumped up to claim it, so he gave it to the
twelfth. This traveller was on the right lines. But in countries which do not enjoy
Mediterranean sunshine idleness is more difficult, and a great public propaganda will
be required to inaugurate it. I hope that, after reading the following pages, the leaders
of the Y.M.C.A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so,
I shall not have lived in vain.
Before advancing my own arguments for laziness, I must dispose of one which I
cannot accept. Whenever a person who already has enough to live on proposes to
engage in some everyday kind of job, such as school-teaching or typing, he or she is
told that such conduct takes the bread out of other people's mouths, and is therefore
wicked. If this argument were valid, it would only be necessary for us all to be idle in
order that we should all have our mouths full of bread. What people who say such
things forget is that what a man earns he usually spends, and in spending he gives
employment. As long as a man spends his income, he puts just as much bread into
people's mouths in spending as he takes out of other people's mouths in earning. The
real villain, from this point of view, is the man who saves. If he merely puts his
savings in a stocking, like the proverbial French peasant, it is obvious that they do not
give employment. If he invests his savings, the matter is less obvious, and different
cases arise.
One of the commonest things to do with savings is to lend them to some Government.
In view of the fact that the bulk of the public expenditure of most civilized
Governments consists in payment for past wars or preparation for future wars, the
man who lends his money to a Government is in the same position as the bad men in
Shakespeare who hire murderers. The net result of the man's economical habits is to
increase the armed forces of the State to which he lends his savings. Obviously it
would be better if he spent the money, even if he spent it in drink or gambling.
But, I shall be told, the case is quite different when savings are invested in industrial
enterprises. When such enterprises succeed, and produce something useful, this may
be conceded. In these days, however, no one will deny that most enterprises fail. That
means that a large amount of human labour, which might have been devoted to
producing something that could be enjoyed, was expended on producing machines
which, when produced, lay idle and did no good to anyone. The man who invests his
savings in a concern that goes bankrupt is therefore injuring others as well as himself.
If he spent his money, say, in giving parties for his friends, they (we may hope) would
get pleasure, and so would all those upon whom he spent money, such as the butcher,
the baker, and the bootlegger. But if he spends it (let us say) upon laying down rails
for surface cars in some place where surface cars turn out to be not wanted, he has
diverted a mass of labour into channels where it gives pleasure to no one.
Nevertheless, when he becomes poor through the failure of his investment he will be
regarded as a victim of undeserved misfortune, whereas the gay spendthrift, who has
spent his money philanthropically, will be despised as a fool and a frivolous person.
All this is only preliminary. I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm
is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the
road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.
First of all: what is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at
or near the earth's surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people
to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly
paid. The second kind is capable of indefinite extension: there are not only those who
give orders, but those who give advice as to what orders should be given. Usually two
opposite kinds of advice are given simultaneously by two organized bodies of men;
this is called politics. The skill required for this, kind of work is not knowledge of the
subjects as to which advice is given, but knowledge of the art of persuasive speaking
and writing, i.e. of advertising.
Throughout Europe, though not in America, there is a third class of men, more
respected than either of the classes of workers. There are men who, through
ownership of land, are able to make others pay for the privilege of being allowed to
exist and to work. These landowners are idle, and I might therefore be expected to
praise them. Unfortunately, their idleness is only rendered possible by the industry of
others; indeed their desire for comfortable idleness is historically the source of the
whole gospel of work. The last thing they have ever wished is that others should
follow their example.
From the beginning of civilization until the Industrial Revolution, a man could, as a
rule, produce by hard work little more than was required for the subsistence of
himself and his family, although his wife worked at least as hard as he did,, and his
children added their labour as soon as they were old enough to do so. The small
surplus above bare necessaries was not left to those who produced it, but was
appropriated by warriors and priests. In times of famine there was no surplus; the
warriors and priests, however, still secured as much as at other times, with the result
that many of the workers died of hunger. This system persisted in Russia until I9I7

and still persists in the East; in England, in spite of the Industrial Revolution, it
remained in full force throughout the Napoleonic wars, and until a hundred years ago,

Since then, members of the Communists Party have succeeded to this privilege of the warriors and
priests. (Russell)
when the new class of manufacturers acquired power. In America, the system came to
an end with the Revolution, except in the South, where it persisted until the Civil War.
A system which lasted so long and ended so recently has naturally left a profound
impress upon men's thoughts and opinions. Much that we take for granted about the
desirability of work is derived from this system, and, being pre-industrial, is not
adapted to the modern world. Modern technique has made it possible for leisure,
within limits, to be not the prerogative of small privileged classes, but a right evenly
distributed throughout the community. The morality of work is the morality of slaves,
and the modern world has no need of slavery.
It is obvious that, in primitive communities, peasants, left to themselves, would not
have parted with the slender surplus upon which the warriors and priests subsisted,
but would have either produced less or consumed more. At first, sheer force
compelled them to produce and part with the surplus. Gradually, however, it was
found possible to induce many of them to accept an ethic according to which it was
their duty to work hard, although part of their work went to support others in idleness.
By this means the amount of compulsion required was lessened, and the expenses of
government were diminished. To this day, 99 per cent of British wage-earners would
be genuinely shocked if it were proposed that the King should not have a larger
income than a working man. The conception of duty, speaking historically, has been a
means used by the holders of power to induce others to live for the interests of their
masters rather than for their own. Of course the holders of power conceal this fact
from themselves by managing to believe that their interests are identical with the
larger interests of humanity. Sometimes this is true; Athenian slave-owners, for
instance, employed part of their leisure in making a permanent contribution to
civilization which would have been impossible under a just economic system. Leisure
is essential to civilization, and in former times leisure for the few was only rendered
possible by the labours of the many. But their labours were valuable., not because
work is good, but because leisure is good. And with modern technique it would be
possible to distribute leisure justly without injury to civilization.
Modern technique has made it possible to diminish enormously the amount of labour
required to secure the necessaries of life for everyone. This was made obvious during
the war. At that time, all the men in the armed forces, all the men and women engaged
in the production of munitions, all the men and women engaged in spying, war
propaganda, or Government offices connected with the war, were withdrawn from
productive occupations. In spite of this, the general level of physical well-being
among unskilled wage-earners on the side of the Allies was higher than before or
since. The significance of this fact was concealed by finance: borrowing made it
appear as if the future was nourishing the present. But that, of course, would have
been impossible; a man cannot eat a loaf of bread that does not yet exist. The war
showed conclusively that, by the scientific organization of production, it is possible to
keep modern populations in fair comfort on a small part of the working capacity of
the modern world. If, at the end of the war, the scientific organization, which had
been created in order to liberate men for fighting and munition work, had been
preserved, and the hours of work had been cut down to four, all would have been
well. Instead of that the old chaos was restored, those whose work was demanded
were made to work long hours, and the rest were left to starve as unemployed. Why?
because work is a duty, and a man should not receive wages in proportion to what he
has produced, but in proportion to his virtue as exemplified by his industry.
This is the morality of the Slave State, applied in circumstances totally unlike those in
which it arose. No wonder the result has been disastrous. Let us take an illustration.
Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the
manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight
hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can
make twice as many pins as before. But the world does not need twice as many pins:
pins arc already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a
sensible world., everybody concerned in the manufacture of pins would take to
working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in
the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours,
there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously
concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much
leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still
overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery
all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane
be imagined?
The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich. In
England, in the early nineteenth century, fifteen hours was the ordinary day's work for
a man; children sometimes did as much, and very commonly did twelve hours a day.
When meddlesome busybodies suggested that perhaps these hours were rather long,
they were told that work kept adults from drink and children from mischief. When I
was a child, shortly after urban working men had acquired the vote, certain public
holidays were established by law, to the great indignation of the upper classes. I
remember hearing an old Duchess say: "What do the poor want with holidays? They
ought to work." People nowadays are less frank, but the sentiment persists, and is the
source of much of our economic confusion.
Let us, for a moment, consider the ethics of work frankly, without superstition. Every
human being, of necessity, consumes, in the course of his life, a certain amount of the
produce of human labour. Assuming, as we may, that labour is on the whole
disagreeable, it is unjust that a man should consume more than he produces. Of course
he may provide services rather than commodities, like a medical man, for example;
but he should provide something in return for his board and lodging. To this extent,
the duty of work must be admitted, but to this extent only.
I shall not dwell upon the fact that, in all modern societies outside the U.S.S.R., many
people escape even this minimum of work, namely all those who inherit money and
all those who marry money. I do not think the fact that these people are allowed to be
idle is nearly so harmful as the fact that wage-earners are expected to overwork or
If the ordinary wage-earner worked four hours a day, there would be enough for
everybody, and no unemployment-assuming a certain very moderate amount of
sensible organization. This idea shocks the well-to-do., because they are convinced
that the poor would not know how to use so much leisure. In America, men often
work long hours even when they are already well off; such men, naturally, are
indignant at the idea of leisure for wage-earners, except as the grim punishment of
unemployment; in fact, they dislike leisure even for their sons. Oddly enough, while
they wish their sons to work so hard as to have no time to be civilized, they do not
mind their wives and daughters having no work at all. The snobbish admiration of
uselessness, which, in an aristocratic society, extends to both sexes, is, under a
plutocracy, confined to women; this, however, does not make it any more in
agreement with common sense.
The wise use of leisure, it must be conceded, is a product of civilization and
education. A man who has worked long hours all his life will be bored if he becomes
suddenly idle. But without a consider- able amount of leisure a man is cut off from
many of the best things. There is no longer any reason why the bulk of the population
should suffer this deprivation; only a foolish asceticism, usually vicarious., makes us
continue to insist on work in excessive quantities now that the need no longer exists.
In the new creed which controls the government of Russia, while there is much that is
very different from the traditional teaching of the West, there are some things that are
quite unchanged. The attitude of the governing classes, and especially of those who
conduct educational propaganda, on the subject of the dignity of labour, is almost
exactly that which the governing classes of the world have always preached to what
were called the "honest poor." Industry, sobriety, willingness to work long hours for
distant advantages, even submissiveness to authority, all these reappear; moreover
authority still represents the will of the Ruler of the Universe, Who, however, is now
called by a new name, Dialectical Materialism.
The victory of the proletariat in Russia has some points in common with the victory of
the feminists in some other countries. For ages, men had conceded the superior
saintliness of women, and had consoled women for their inferiority by maintaining
that saintliness is more desirable than power. At last the feminists decided that they
would have both, since the pioneers among them believed all that the men had told
them about the desirability of virtue, but not what they had told them about the
worthlessness of political power. A similar thing has happened in Russia as regards
manual work. For ages, the rich and their sycophants have written in praise of "honest
toil," have praised the simple life, have professed a religion which teaches that the
poor are much more likely to go to heaven than the rich, and in general have tried to
make manual workers believe that there is some special nobility about altering the
position of matter in space, just as men tried to make women believe that they derived
some special nobility from their sexual enslavement. In Russia, all this teaching about
the excellence of manual work has been taken seriously, with the result that the
manual worker is more honoured than anyone else. What are, in essence, revivalist
appeals are made, but not for the old purposes: they are made to secure shock workers
for special tasks. Manual work is the ideal which is held before the young, and is the
basis of all ethical teaching.
For the present, possibly, this is all to the good. A large country, full of natural
resources, awaits development, and has to be developed with very little use of credit.
In these circumstances, hard work is necessary, and is likely to bring a great reward.
But what will happen when the point has been reached where everybody could be
comfortable without working long hours?
In the West., we have various ways of dealing with this problem. We have no attempt
at economic justice, so that a large proportion of the total produce goes to a small
minority of the population, many of whom do no work at all. Owing to the absence of
any central control over production, we produce hosts of things that are not wanted,
We keep a large percentage of the working population idle because we can dispense
with their labour by making the others overwork. When all these methods prove
inadequate, we have a war: we cause a number of people to manufacture high
explosives, and a number of others to explode them, as if we were children who had
just discovered fireworks. By a combination of all these devices we manage, though
with difficulty, to keep alive the notion that a great deal of severe manual work must
be the lot of the average man.
In Russia, owing to more economic justice and central control over production, the
problem will have to be differently solved. The rational solution would be, as soon as
the necessaries and elementary comforts can be provided for all, to reduce the hours
of labour gradually, allowing a popular vote to decide, at each stage, whether more
leisure or more goods were to be preferred. But, having taught the supreme virtue of
hard work, it is difficult to see how the authorities can aim at a paradise in which there
will be much leisure and little work. It seems more likely that they will find
continually fresh schemes, by which present leisure is to be sacrificed to future
productivity. I read recently of an ingenious plan put forward by Russian engineers,
for making the White Sea and the northern coasts of Siberia warm, by putting a dam
across the Kara Sea. An admirable project, but liable to postpone proletarian comfort
for a generation, while the nobility of toil is being displayed amid the ice-fields and
snowstorms of the Arctic Ocean. This sort of thing, if it happens, will be the result of
regarding the virtue of hard work as an end in itself, rather than as a means to a state
of affairs in which it is no longer needed.
The fact is that moving matter about, while a certain amount of it is necessary to our
existence, is emphatically not one of the ends of human life. If it were, we should
have to consider every navvy superior to Shakespeare. We have been misled in this
matter by two causes. One is the necessity of keeping the poor contented, which has
led the rich, for thousands of years, to preach the dignity of labour, while taking care
themselves to remain undignified in this respect. The other is the new pleasure in
mechanism, which makes us delight in the astonishingly clever changes that we can
produce on the earth's surface. Neither of these motives makes any great appeal to the
actual worker. If you ask him what he thinks the best part of his life, he is not likely to
say: "I enjoy manual work because it makes me feel that I am fulfilling man's noblest
task, and because I like to think how much man can transform his planet. It is true that
my body demands periods of rest, which I have to fill in as best I may, but I am never
so happy as when the morning comes and I can return to the toil from which my
contentment springs." I have never heard working men say this sort of thing. They
consider work, as it should be considered, a necessary means to a livelihood, and it is
from their leisure hours that they derive whatever happiness they may enjoy.
It will be said that, while a little leisure is pleasant, men would not know how to fill
their days if they had only four hours of work out of the twenty-four. In so far as this
is true in the modern world, it is a condemnation of our civilization; it would not have
been true at any earlier period. There was formerly a capacity for lightheartedness and
play which has been to some extent inhibited by the cult of efficiency. The modern
man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never
for its own sake. Serious-minded persons, for example, are continually condemning
the habit of going to the cinema, and telling us that it leads the young into crime. But
all the work that goes to producing a cinema is respectable, because it is work, and
because it brings a money profit. The notion that the desirable activities are those that
bring a profit has made everything topsy-turvy. The butcher who provides you with
meat and the baker who provides you with bread are praiseworthy, because they are
making money; but when you enjoy the food they have provided, you are merely
frivolous, unless you cat only to get strength for your work. Broadly speaking, it is
held that getting money is good and spending money is bad. Seeing that they are two
sides of one transaction, this is absurd; one might as well maintain that keys are good,
but keyholes are bad. Whatever merit there may be in the production of goods must be
entirely derivative from the advantage to be obtained by consuming them. The
individual, in our society, works for profit; but the social purpose of his work lies in
the consumption of what he produces. It is this divorce between the individual and the
social purpose of production that makes it so difficult for men to think clearly in a
world in which profit-making is the incentive to industry. We think too much of
production, and too little of consumption. One result is that we attach too little
importance to enjoyment and simple happiness, and that we do not judge production
by the pleasure that it gives to the consumer.
When I suggest that working hours should be reduced to four, I am not meaning to
imply that all the remaining time should necessarily be spent in pure frivolity. I mean
that four hours' work a day should entitle a man to the necessities and elementary
comforts of life, and that the rest of his time should be his to use as he might see fit. It
is an essential part of any such social system that education should be carried further
than it usually is at present, and should aim, in part, at providing tastes which would
enable a man to use leisure intelligently. I am not thinking mainly of the sort of things
that would be considered "highbrow." Peasant dances have died out except in remote
rural areas, but the impulses which caused them to be cultivated must still exist in
human nature. The pleasures of urban populations have become mainly passive:
seeing cinemas, watching football matches, listening to the radio, and so on. This
results from the fact that their active energies are fully taken up with work; if they had
more leisure, they would again enjoy pleasures in which they took an active part.
In the past, there was a small leisure class and a larger working class. The leisure class
enjoyed advantages for which there was no basis in social justice; this necessarily
made it oppressive, limited its sympathies, and caused it to invent theories by which
to justify its privileges. These facts greatly diminished its excellence, but in spite of
this drawback it contributed nearly the whole of what we call civilization. It cultivated
the arts and discovered the sciences; it wrote the books, invented the philosophies,
and refined social relations. Even the liberation of the oppressed has usually been
inaugurated from above. Without the leisure class, mankind would never have
emerged from barbarism.
The method of a hereditary leisure class without duties was, however, extraordinarily
wasteful. None of the members of the class had been taught to be industrious, and the
class as a whole was not exceptionally intelligent. The class might produce one
Darwin, but against him had to be set tens of thousands of country gentlemen who
never thought of anything more intelligent than fox-hunting and punishing poachers.
At present, the universities are supposed to provide, in a more systematic way, what
the leisure class provided accidentally and as a by-product. This is a great
improvement, but it has certain drawbacks. University life is so different from life in
the world at large that men who live in an academic milieu tend to be unaware of the
preoccupations and problems of ordinary men and women; moreover their ways of
expressing themselves are usually such as to rob their opinions of the influence that
they ought to have upon the general public. Another disadvantage is that in
universities studies are organized, and the man who thinks of some original line of
research is likely to be discouraged. Academic institutions, therefore, useful as they
are, are not adequate guardians of the interests of civilization in a world where
everyone outside their walls is too busy for unutilitarian pursuits.
In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day, every
person possessed of scientific curiosity will be able to indulge it, and every painter
will be able to paint without starving, however excellent his pictures may be. Young
writers will not be obliged to draw attention to themselves by sensational pot-boilers,
with a view to acquiring the economic independence needed for monumental works,
for which, when the time at last comes, they will have lost the taste and the capacity.
Men who, in their professional work, have become interested in some phase of
economics or government, will be able to develop their ideas without the academic
detachment that makes the work of university economists often seem lacking in
reality. Medical men will have time to learn about the progress of medicine, teachers
will not be exasperatedly struggling to teach by routine methods things which they
learnt in their youth, which may, in the interval,, have been proved to be untrue.
Above all, there will be happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness,
and dyspepsia. The work exacted will be enough to make leisure delightful, but not
enough to produce exhaustion. Since men will not be tired in their spare time, they
will not demand only such amusements as are passive and vapid. At least 1 per cent
will probably devote the time not spent in professional work to pursuits of some
public importance, and, since they will not depend upon these pursuits for their
livelihood, their originality will be unhampered, and there will be no need to conform
to the standards set by elderly pundits. But it is not only in these exceptional cases
that the advantages of leisure will appear. Ordinary men and women, having the
opportunity of a happy life, will become more kindly and less persecuting and less
inclined to view others with suspicion. The taste for war will die out, partly for this
reason, and partly because it will involve long and severe work for all. Good nature is,
of all moral qualities, the one that the world needs most, and good nature is the result
of ease and security, not of a life of arduous struggle. Modern methods of production
have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to
have overwork for some and starvation for the others. Hitherto we have continued to
be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish,
but there is no reason to go on being foolish for ever.

Is There a God?
Bertrand Russell
The question whether there is a God is one which is decided on very different
grounds by different communities and different individuals. The immense majority
of mankind accept the prevailing opinion of their own community. In the earliest
times of which we have definite history everybody believed in many gods. It was the
Jews who first believed in only one. The first commandment, when it was new, was
very difficult to obey because the Jews had believed that Baal and Ashtaroth and
Dagon and Moloch and the rest were real gods but were wicked because they helped
the enemies of the Jews. The step from a belief that these gods were wicked to the
belief that they did not exist was a difficult one. There was a time, namely that of
Antiochus IV, when a vigorous attempt was made to Hellenize the Jews. Antiochus
decreed that they should eat pork, abandon circumcision, and take baths. Most of
the Jews in Jerusalem submitted, but in country places resistance was more
stubborn and under the leadership of the Maccabees the Jews at last established
their right to their peculiar tenets and customs. Monotheism, which at the beginning
of the Antiochan persecution had been the creed of only part of one very small
nation, was adopted by Christianity and later by Islam, and so became dominant
throughout the whole of the world west of India. From India eastward, it had no
success: Hinduism had many gods; Buddhism in its primitive form had none; and
Confucianism had none from the eleventh century onward. But, if the truth of a
religion is to be judged by its worldly success, the argument in favor of monotheism
is a very strong one, since it possessed the largest armies, the largest navies, and the
greatest accumulation of wealth. In our own day this argument is growing less
decisive. It is true that the un-Christian menace of Japan was defeated. But the
Christian is now faced with the menace of atheistic Muscovite hordes, and it is not
so certain as one could wish that atomic bombs will provide a conclusive argument
on the side of theism.
But let us abandon this political and geographical way of considering religions,
which has been increasingly rejected by thinking people ever since the time of the
ancient Greeks. Ever since that time there have been men who were not content to
accept passively the religious opinions of their neighbors, but endeavoured to
consider what reason and philosophy might have to say about the matter. In the
commercial cities of Ionia, where philosophy was invented, there were free-thinkers
in the sixth century B.C. Compared to modern free-thinkers they had an easy task,
because the Olympian gods, however charming to poetic fancy, were hardly such as
could be defended by the metaphysical use of the unaided reason. They were met
popularly by Orphism (to which Christianity owes much) and, philosophically, by
Plato, from whom the Greeks derived a philosophical monotheism very different
from the political and nationalistic monotheism of the Jews. When the Greek world
became converted to Christianity it combined the new creed with Platonic
metaphysics and so gave birth to theology. Catholic theologians, from the time of
Saint Augustine to the present day, have believed that the existence of one God
could be proved by the unaided reason. Their arguments were put into final form by
Saint Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century. When modern philosophy began in
the seventeenth century, Descartes and Leibniz took over the old arguments
somewhat polished up, and, owing largely to their efforts, piety remained
intellectually respectable. But Locke, although himself a completely convinced
Christian, undermined the theoretical basis of the old arguments, and many of his
followers, especially in France, became Atheists. I will not attempt to set forth in all
their subtlety the philosophical arguments for the existence of God. There is, I think,
only one of them which still has weight with philosophers, that is the argument of
the First Cause. This argument maintains that, since everything that happens has a
cause, there must be a First Cause from which the whole series starts. The argument
suffers, however, from the same defect as that of the elephant and the tortoise. It is
said (I do not know with what truth) that a certain Hindu thinker believed the earth
to rest upon an elephant. When asked what the elephant rested upon, he replied that
it rested upon a tortoise. When asked what the tortoise rested upon, he said, "I am
tired of this. Suppose we change the subject." This illustrates the unsatisfactory
character of the First-Cause argument. Nevertheless, you will find it in some ultra-
modern treatises on physics, which contend that physical processes, traced
backward in time, show that there must have been a sudden beginning and infer
that this was due to divine Creation. They carefully abstain from attempts to show
that this hypothesis makes matters more intelligible.
The scholastic arguments for the existence of a Supreme Being are now rejected by
most Protestant theologians in favor of new arguments which to my mind are by no
means an improvement. The scholastic arguments were genuine efforts of thought
and, if their reasoning had been sound, they would have demonstrated the truth of
their conclusion. The new arguments, which Modernists prefer, are vague, and the
Modernists reject with contempt every effort to make them precise. There is an
appeal to the heart as opposed to the intellect. It is not maintained that those who
reject the new arguments are illogical, but that they are destitute of deep feeling or
of moral sense. Let us nevertheless examine the modern arguments and see whether
there is anything that they really prove.
One of the favourite arguments is from evolution. The world was once lifeless, and
when life began it was a poor sort of life consisting of green slime and other
uninteresting things. Gradually by the course of evolution, it developed into animals
and plants and at last into MAN. Man, so the theologians assure us, is so splendid a
Being that he may well be regarded as the culmination to which the long ages of
nebula and slime were a prelude. I think the theologians must have been fortunate
in their human contacts. They do not seem to me to have given due weight to Hitler
or the Beast of Belsen. If Omnipotence, with all time at its disposal, thought it worth
while to lead up to these men through the many millions of years of evolution, I can
only say that the moral and aesthetic taste involved is peculiar. However, the
theologians no doubt hope that the future course of evolution will produce more
men like themselves and fewer men like Hitler. Let us hope so. But, in cherishing
this hope, we are abandoning the ground of experience and taking refuge in an
optimism which history so far does not support.
There are other objections to this evolutionary optimism. There is every reason to
believe that life on our planet will not continue forever so that any optimism based
upon the course of terrestrial history must be temporary and limited in its purview.
There may, of course, be life elsewhere but, if there is, we know nothing about it and
have no reason to suppose that it bears more resemblance to the virtuous
theologians than to Hitler. The earth is a very tiny corner of the universe. It is a
little fragment of the solar system. The solar system is a little fragment of the Milky
Way. And the Milky Way is a little fragment of the many millions of galaxies
revealed by modern telescopes. In this little insignificant corner of the cosmos there
is a brief interlude between two long lifeless epochs. In this brief interlude, there is a
much briefer one containing man. If really man is the purpose of the universe the
preface seems a little long. One is reminded of some prosy old gentleman who tells
an interminable anecdote all quite uninteresting until the rather small point in
which it ends. I do not think theologians show a suitable piety in making such a
comparison possible.
It has been one of the defects of theologians at all times to over-esti-mate the
importance of our planet. No doubt this was natural enough in the days before
Copernicus when it was thought that the heavens revolve about the earth. But since
Copernicus and still more since the modern exploration of distant regions, this pre-
occupation with the earth has become rather parochial. If the universe had a
Creator, it is hardly reasonable to suppose that He was specially interested in our
little corner. And, if He was not, His values must have been different from ours,
since in the immense majority of regions life is impossible.
There is a moralistic argument for belief in God, which was popularized by William
James. According to this argument, we ought to believe in God because, if we do
not, we shall not behave well. The first and greatest objection to this argument is
that, at its best, it cannot prove that there is a God but only that politicians and
educators ought to try to make people think there is one. Whether this ought to be
done or not is not a theological question but a political one. The arguments are of
the same sort as those which urge that children should be taught respect for the flag.
A man with any genuine religious feeling will not be content with the view that the
belief in God is useful, because he will wish to know whether, in fact, there is a God.
It is absurd to contend that the two questions are the same. In the nursery, belief in
Father Christmas is useful, but grown-up people do not think that this proves
Father Christmas to be real.
Since we are not concerned with politics we might consider this sufficient refutation
of the moralistic argument, but it is perhaps worthwhile to pursue this a little
further. It is, in the first place, very doubtful whether belief in God has all the
beneficial moral effects that are attributed to it. Many of the best men known to
history have been unbelievers. John Stuart Mill may serve as an instance. And many
of the worst men known to history have been believers. Of this there are
innumerable instances. Perhaps Henry VIII may serve as typical.
However that may be, it is always disastrous when governments set to work to
uphold opinions for their utility rather than for their truth. As soon as this is done it
becomes necessary to have a censorship to suppress adverse arguments, and it is
thought wise to discourage thinking among the young for fear of encouraging
"dangerous thoughts." When such mal-practices are employed against religion as
they are in Soviet Russia, the theologians can see that they are bad, but they are still
bad when employed in defence of what the theologians think good. Freedom of
thought and the habit of giving weight to evidence are matters of far greater moral
import than the belief in this or that theological dogma. On all these grounds it
cannot be maintained that theological beliefs should be upheld for their usefulness
without regard to their truth.
There is a simpler and more naive form of the same argument, which appeals to
many individuals. People will tell us that without the consolations of religion they
would be intolerably unhappy. So far as this is true, it is a coward's argument.
Nobody but a coward would consciously choose to live in a fool's paradise. When a
man suspects his wife of infidelity, he is not thought the better of for shutting his
eyes to the evidence. And I cannot see why ignoring evidence should be contemptible
in one case and admirable in the other. Apart from this argument the importance of
religion in contributing to individual happiness is very much exaggerated. Whether
you are happy or unhappy depends upon a number of factors. Most people need
good health and enough to eat. They need the good opinion of their social milieu and
the affection of their intimates. They need not only physical health but mental
health. Given all these things, most people wi ll be happy whatever their theology.
Without them, most people will be unhappy, whatever their theology. In thinking
over the people I have known, I do not find that on the average those who had
religious beliefs were happier than those who had not.
When I come to my own beliefs, I find myself quite unable to discern any purpose in
the universe, and still more unable to wish to discern one. Those who imagine that
the course of cosmic evolution is slowly leading up to some consummation pleasing
to the Creator, are logically committed (though they usually fail to realize this) to
the view that the Creator is not omnipotent or, if He were omnipotent, He could
decree the end without troubling about means. I do not myself perceive any
consummation toward which the universe is tending. According to the physicists,
energy will be gradually more evenly distributed and as it becomes more evenly
distributed it will become more useless. Gradually everything that we find
interesting or pleasant, such as life and light, will disappear -- so, at least, they
assure us. The cosmos is like a theatre in which just once a play is performed, but,
after the curtain falls, the theatre is left cold and empty until it sinks in ruins. I do
not mean to assert with any positiveness that this is the case. That would be to
assume more knowledge than we possess. I say only that it is what is probable on
present evidence. I will not assert dogmatically that there is no cosmic purpose, but I
will say that there is no shred of evidence in favor of there being one.
I will say further that, if there be a purpose and if this purpose is that of an
Omnipotent Creator, then that Creator, so far from being loving and kind, as we
are told, must be of a degree of wickedness scarcely conceivable. A man who
commits a murder is considered to be a bad man. An Omnipotent Deity, if there be
one, murders everybody. A man who willingly afflicted another with cancer would
be considered a fiend. But the Creator, if He exists, afflicts many thousands every
year with this dreadful disease. A man who, having the knowledge and power
required to make his children good, chose instead to make them bad, would be
viewed with execration. But God, if He exists, makes this choice in the case of very
many of His children. The whole conception of an omnipotent God whom it is
impious to criticize, could only have arisen under oriental despotisms where
sovereigns, in spite of capricious cruelties, continued to enjoy the adulation of their
slaves. It is the psychology appropriate to this outmoded political system which
belatedly survives in orthodox theology.
There is, it is true, a Modernist form of theism, according to which God is not
omnipotent, but is doing His best, in spite of great difficulties. This view, although it
is new among Christians, is not new in the history of thought. It is, in fact, to be
found in Plato. I do not think this view can be proved to be false. I think all that can
be said is that there is no positive reason in its favour.
Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove
received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a
mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china
teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to
disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to
be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that,
since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of
human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If,
however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the
sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school,
hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle
the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the
Inquisitor in an earlier time. It is customary to suppose that, if a belief is
widespread, there must be something reasonable about it. I do not think this view
can be held by anyone who has studied history. Practically all the beliefs of savages
are absurd. In early civilizations there may be as much as one percent for which
there is something to be said. In our own day.... But at this point I must be careful.
We all know that there are absurd beliefs in Soviet Russia. If we are Protestants, we
know that there are absurd beliefs among Catholics. If we are Catholics, we know
that there are absurd beliefs among Protestants. If we are Conservatives, we are
amazed by the superstitions to be found in the Labour Party. If we are Socialists, we
are aghast at the credulity of Conservatives. I do not know, dear reader, what your
beliefs may be, but whatever they may be, you must concede that nine-tenths of the
beliefs of nine-tenths of mankind are totally irrational. The beliefs in question are,
of course, those which you do not hold. I cannot, therefore, think it presumptuous to
doubt something which has long been held to be true, especially when this opinion
has only prevailed in certain geographical regions, as is the case with all theological
My conclusion is that there is no reason to believe any of the dogmas of traditional
theology and, further, that there is no reason to wish that they were true. Man, in so
far as he is not subject to natural forces, is free to work out his own destiny. The
responsibility is his, and so is the opportunity.

Knowledge and Wisdom
Bertrand Russell

Most people would agree that, although our age far surpasses all previous ages in
knowledge, there has been no correlative increase in wisdom. But agreement ceases as
soon as we attempt to define `wisdom' and consider means of promoting it. I want to ask
first what wisdom is, and then what can be done to teach it.
There are, I think, several factors that contribute to wisdom. Of these I should put first a
sense of proportion: the capacity to take account of all the important factors in a problem
and to attach to each its due weight. This has become more difficult than it used to be
owing to the extent and complexity fo the specialized knowledge required of various
kinds of technicians. Suppose, for example, that you are engaged in research in scientific
medicine. The work is difficult and is likely to absorb the whole of your intellectual
energy. You have not time to consider the effect which your discoveries or inventions
may have outside the field of medicine. You succeed (let us say), as modern medicine has
succeeded, in enormously lowering the infant death-rate, not only in Europe and
America, but also in Asia and Africa. This has the entirely unintended result of making
the food supply inadequate and lowering the standard of life in the most populous parts of
the world. To take an even more spectacular example, which is in everybody's mind at
the present time: You study the composistion of the atom from a disinterested desire for
knowledge, and incidentally place in the hands of powerful lunatics the means of
destroying the human race. In such ways the pursuit of knowledge may becorem harmful
unless it is combined with wisdom; and wisdom in the sense of comprehensive vision is
not necessarily present in specialists in the pursuit of knowledge.
Comprehensiveness alone, however, is not enough to constitute wisdom. There must be,
also, a certain awareness of the ends of human life. This may be illustrated by the study
of history. Many eminent historians have done more harm than good because they viewed
facts through the distorting medium of their own passions. Hegel had a philosophy of
history which did not suffer from any lack of comprehensiveness, since it started from the
earliest times and continued into an indefinite future. But the chief lesson of history
which he sought to unculcate was that from the year 400AD down to his own time
Germany had been the most important nation and the standard-bearer of progress in the
world. Perhaps one could stretch the comprehensiveness that contitutes wisdom to
include not only intellect but also feeling. It is by no means uncommon to find men
whose knowledge is wide but whose feelings are narrow. Such men lack what I call
It is not only in public ways, but in private life equally, that wisdom is needed. It is
needed in the choice of ends to be pursued and in emancipation from personal prejudice.
Even an end which it would be noble to pursue if it were attainable may be pursued
unwisely if it is inherently impossible of achievement. Many men in past ages devoted
their lives to a search for the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life. No doubt, if they
could have found them, they would have conferred great benefits upon mankind, but as it
was their lives were wasted. To descend to less heroic matters, consider the case of two
men, Mr A and Mr B, who hate each other and, through mutual hatred, bring each other
to destruction. Suppose you dgo the Mr A and say, 'Why do you hate Mr B?' He will no
doubt give you an appalling list of Mr B's vices, partly true, partly false. And now
suppose you go to Mr B. He will give you an exactly similar list of Mr A's vices with an
equal admixture of truth and falsehood. Suppose you now come back to Mr A and say,
'You will be surprised too learn that Mr B says the same things about you as you say
about him', and you go to Mr B and make a similar speech. The first effect, no doubt, will
be to increase their mutual hatred, since each will be so horrified by the other's injustice.
But perhaps, if you have sufficient patience and sufficient persuasiveness, you may
succeed in convincing each that the other has only the normal share of human
wickedness, and that their enmity is harmful to both. If you can do this, you will have
instilled some fragment of wisdom.
I think the essence of wisdom is emancipation, as fat as possible, from the tyranny of the
here and now. We cannot help the egoism of our senses. Sight and sound and touch are
bound up with our own bodies and cannot be impersonal. Our emotions start similarly
from ourselves. An infant feels hunger or discomfort, and is unaffected except by his own
physical condition. Gradually with the years, his horizon widens, and, in proportion as his
thoughts and feelings become less personal and less concerned with his own physical
states, he achieves growing wisdom. This is of course a matter of degree. No one can
view the world with complete impartiality; and if anyone could, he would hardly be able
to remain alive. But it is possible to make a continual approach towards impartiality, on
the one hand, by knowing things somewhat remote in time or space, and on the other
hand, by giving to such things their due weight in our feelings. It is this approach towards
impartiality that constitutes growth in wisdom.
Can wisdom in this sense be taught? And, if it can, should the teaching of it be one of the
aims of education? I should answer both these questions in the affirmative. We are told
on Sundays that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. On the other six days of the
week, we are exhorted to hate. But you will remember that the precept was exemplified
by saying that the Samaritan was our neighbour. We no longer have any wish to hate
Samaritans and so we are apt to miss the point of the parable. If you wnat to get its point,
you should substitute Communist or anti-Communist, as the case may be, for Samaritan.
It might be objected that it is right to hate those who do harm. I do not think so. If you
hate them, it is only too likely that you will become equally harmful; and it is very
unlikely that you will induce them to abandon their evil ways. Hatred of evil is itself a
kind of bondage to evil. The way out is through understanding, not through hate. I am not
advocating non-resistance. But I am saying that resistance, if it is to be effective in
preventing the spread of evil, should be combined with the greatest degree of
understanding and the smallest degree of force that is compatible with the survival of the
good things that we wish to preserve.
It is commonly urged that a point of view such as I have been advocating is incompatible
with vigour in action. I do not think history bears out this view. Queen Elizabeth I in
England and Henry IV in France lived in a world where almost everybody was fanatical,
either on the Protestant or on the Catholic side. Both remained free from the errors of
their time and both, by remaining free, were beneficent and certainly not ineffective.
Abraham Lincoln conducted a great war without ever departing from what I have called
I have said that in some degree wisdom can be taught. I think that this teaching should
have a larger intellectual element than has been customary in what has been thought of as
moral instruction. I think that the disastrous results of hatred and narrow- mindedness to
those who feel them can be pointed out incidentally in the course of giving knowledge. I
do not think that knowledge and morals ought to be too much separated. It is true that the
kind of specialized knowledge which is required for various kinds of skill has very little
to do with wisdom. But it should be supplemented in education by wider surveys
calculated to put it in its place in the total of human activities. Even the best technicians
should also be good citizens; and when I say 'citizens', I mean citizens of the world and
not of this or that sect or nation. With every increase of knowledge and skill, wisdom
becomes more necessary, for every such increase augments our capacity of realizing our
purposes, and therefore augments our capacity for evil, if our purposes are unwise. The
world needs wisdom as it has never needed it before; and if knowledge continues to
increase, the world will need wisdom in the future even more than it does now.

This is Bertrand Russell's last manuscript. Untitled, it was annotated "1967" by
Russell, at the age of 95, two or three years before he died. Ray Monk
published it first in The Independent of London on the 25th anniversary of the
Russell Archives. The essay's politics are uncannily prescient.

The time has come to review my life as a whole, and to ask whether it has
served any useful purpose or has been wholly concerned in futility.
Unfortunately, no answer is possible for anyone who does not know the future.
Modern weapons make it practically certain that the next serious war will
exterminate the human race. This is admitted by all competent authorities, and I
shall not waste time in proving it. Any man who cares what the future may
have in store therefore has to choose between nothingness and conciliation, not
once, but throughout future ages until the sun grows cold.
Unfortunately, our politicians are not accustomed to such a choice. However
hard they try, their minds inevitably slide back to the courtroom and the
criminal world. If, out of kindness, the last man foresees the murder of the last
man but one, the whole law-enforcement campaign imagines all the apparatus
of police, Scotland Yard, judges and wigs ready to catch and punish him. But
this is not how the scene will be. There will be first the death of nearly all the
inhabitants of New York or London or Peking or Tokyo, then a gradual
extension of deaths to the country, then famine due to failure of trade, and at
last gasping, horrifying lonely death in the mountains, and then eternal silence.
If the Great Powers continue their present policies, some such end as this is
inevitable. When two or more Powers disagree, what can they do? A can yield
to B, or B can yield to A, or they can reach a compromise, or they can fight. If
either yields, it is thought pusillanimous: either it loses caste, or, next time, it
must fight; or it must secure an ally. Since the number of States is finite, this
process must soon come to an end. We have seen all the steps in this
development since the end of the Second War. Consider what happened in the
Cuba crisis. Both sides were willing to fight, but at the last possible moment
Khrushchev's nerve failed and he allowed the world to live till the next crisis.
But it turned out that Russia would have preferred death, and Khrushchev fell.
Can we count on this always happening?
What is the present system?
When there is a quarrel, a conference is summoned, each side debates, they
reach two compromises, one favoured by one side, the other by the other. If
each contains disarmament clauses, each is aware that they may be infringed.
Each considers the tiniest chance of infringement a greater misfortune than the
end of the human race. And so nothing is done. The powers must learn that
peace is the paramount interest of everybody. To cause this to be realized by
governments should be the supreme aim.
What has been achieved towards this end, and what have I personally
Publicly, in the relations between states, very little, but still something. Russia
has expressed willingness to transform NATO by joining it; but China is a new
threat. The Vietnam war seems likely to end in negotiation. Generally, the
powers (except the U.S.) show a reluctance to go to war. France is uncertain,
but leaves room for hope. At any rate, the stark opposition of Communist and
non-Communist is breaking down. If peace can be preserved for the next 10
years, it will be possible to hope.
What can private persons do meanwhile? They can agitate, by pointing out the
effects of modern war and the danger of the extinction of Man. They can teach
men not to hate peoples other than their own, or to cause themselves to be
hated. They can value, and cause others to value, what Man has achieved in art
and science. They can emphasize the superiority of co-operation to
Finally, have I done anything to further such ends?
Something perhaps, but sadly little in view of the magnitude of the evil. Some
few people in England and the U.S.A. I have encouraged in the expression of
liberal views, or have terrified with the knowledge of what modern weapons
can do. It is not much, but if everybody did as much this Earth would soon be a
paradise. Consider for a moment what our planet is and what it might be. At
present, for most, there is toil and hunger, constant danger, more hatred than
love. There could be a happy world, where co-operation was more in evidence
than competition, and monotonous work is done by machines, where what is
lovely in nature is not destroyed to make room for hideous machines whose
sole business is to kill, and where to promote joy is more respected than to
produce mountains of corpses. Do not say this is impossible: it is not. It waits
only for men to desire it more than the infliction of torture.
There is an artist imprisoned in each one of us. Let him loose to spread joy

Bertrand Russell
The warfare between science and theology has been of a peculiar sort. At all times and
places - except late eighteenth-century France and Soviet Russia - the majority of
scientific men have supported the orthodoxy of their age. Some of the most eminent have
been in the majority. Newton, though an Arian, was in all other respects a supporter of
the Christian faith. Cuvier was a model of Catholic correctness. Faraday was a
Sandymanian, but the errors of that sect did not seem, even to him, to be demonstrable by
scientific arguments, and his views as to the relations of science and religion were such as
every Churchman could applaud. The warfare was between theology and science, not the
men of science. Even when the men of science held views which were condemned, they
generally did their best to avoid conflict. Copernicus, as we saw, dedicated his book to
the Pope; Galileo retracted; Descartes, though he thought it prudent to live in Holland,
took great pains to remain on good terms with ecclesiastics, and by a calculated silence
escaped censure for sharing Galielo's opinions. In the nineteenth century, most British
men of science still thought that there was no essential conflict between their science and
those parts of the Christian faith which liberal Christians still regarded as essential - for it
had been found possible to sacrifice the literal truth of the Flood, and even of Adam and
The situation in the present day is not very different from what it has been at all times
since the victory of Copernicanism. Successive scientific discoveries have caused
Christians to abandon one after another of the beliefs which the Middle Ages regarded as
integral parts of the faith, and these successive retreats have enabled men of science to
remain Christians, unless their work is on that disputed frontier which the warfare has
reached in our day. Now, as at most times during the last three centuries, it is proclaimed
that science and religion have become reconciled: the scientists modestly admit that there
are realms which lie outside science, and the liberal theologians concede that they would
not venture to deny anything capable of scientific proof. There are, it is true, still a few
disturbers of the peace: on the one side, fundamentalists and stubborn Catholic
theologians; on the other side, the more radical students of such subjects as biochemistry
and animal psychology, who refuse to grant even the comparatively modest demands of
the more enlightened Churchmen. But on the whole the fight is languid as compared with
what it was. The newer creeds of Communism and Fascism are the inheritors of
theological bigotry; and perhaps, in some deep region of the unconscious, bishops and
professors feel themselves jointly interested in the maintenance of the status quo.
The present relations between science and religion, as the State wishes them to appear,
may be ascertained from a very instructive volume, Science and Religion, A Symposium,
consisting of twelve talks broadcast from the B.B.C. in the autumn of 1930. Outspoken
opponents of religion were, of course, not included, since (to mention no other argument)
they would have pained the more orthodox among the listeners. There was, it is true, an
excellent introductory talk by Professor Julian Huxley, which contained no support for
even the most shadowy orthodoxy; but it also contained little that liberal Churchmen
would now find objectionable. The speakers who permitted themselves to express
definite opinions, and to advance arguments in their favour, took up a variety of
positions, ranging from Professor Malinowski's pathetic avowal of a balked longing to
believe in God and immortality to Father O'Hara's bold assertion that the truths of
revelation are more certain than those of science, and must prevail where there is conflict;
but, although the details varied, the general impression conveyed was that the conflict
between religion and science is at an end. The result was all that could have been hoped.
Thus Canon Streeter, who spoke late, said that "a remarkable thing about the foregoing
lectures has been the way in which their general drift has been moving in one and the
same direction…. An idea has kept on recurring that science by itself is not enough."
Whether this unanimity is a fact about science and religion, or about the authorities which
control the B.B.C., may be questioned; but it must be admitted that, in spite of many
differences, the authors of the symposium do show something very like agreement on the
point mentioned by Canon Streeter.
Thus Sir J. Arthur Thomson says: "Science as science never asks the question Why? That
is to say, it never inquires into the meaning, or significance, or purpose of this manifold
Being, Becoming, and Having Been." And he continues: "Thus science does not pretend
to be a bedrock of truth." "Science," he tells us, "cannot apply its methods to the mystical
and spiritual." Professor J. S. Haldane holds that "it is only within ourselves, in our active
ideals of truth, right, charity, and beauty, and consequent fellowship with others, that we
find the revelation of God." Dr. Malinowski says that "religious revelation is an
experience which, as a matter of principle, lies beyond the domain of science." I do not,
for the moment, quote the theologians, since their concurrence with such opinions is to be
Before going further, let us try to be clear as to what is asserted, and as to its truth or
falsehood. When Canon Streeter says that "science is not enough," he is, in one sense,
uttering a truism. Science does not include art, or friendship, or various other valuable
elements in life. But of course more than this is meant. There is another, rather more
important, sense in which "science is not enough," which seems to me also true: science
has nothing to say about values, and cannot prove such propositions as "it is better to love
than to hate" or "kindness is more desirable than cruelty." Science can tell us much about
the means of realizing our desires, but it cannot say that one desire is preferable to
another. This is a large subject, as to which I shall have more to say in a later chapter.
But the authors I have quoted certainly mean to assert something further, which I believe
to be false. "Science does not pretend to be a bedrock of truth" (my italics) implies that
there is another, non-scientific method of arriving at truth. "Religious revelation … lies
beyond the domain of science" tells us something as to what this non-scientific method is.
It is the method of religious revelation. Dean Inge is more explicit: "The proof of
religion, then, is experimental." [He has been speaking of the testimony of the mystics.]
"It is a progressive knowledge of God under the three attributes by which He has revealed
Himself to mankind - what are sometimes called the absolute or eternal values -
Goodness or Love, Truth, and Beauty. If that is all, you will say, there is no reason why
religion should come into conflict with natural science at all. One deals with facts, the
other with values. Granting that both are real, they are on different planes. This is not
quite true. We have seen science poaching upon ethics, poetry, and what not. Religion
cannot help poaching either." That is to say, religion must make assertions about what is,
and not only about what ought to be. This opinion, avowed by Dean Inge, is implicit in
the words of Sir J. Arthur Thomson and Dr. Malinowski.
Ought we to admit that there is available, in support of religion, a source of knowledge
which lies outside science and may properly be described as "revelation"? This is a
difficult question to argue, because those who believe that truths have been revealed to
them profess the same kind of certainty in regard to them that we have in regard to
objects of sense. We believe the man who has seen things through the telescope that we
have never seen; why then, they ask, should we not believe them when they report things
that are to them equally unquestionable?
It is, perhaps, useless to attempt an argument such as will appeal to the man who has
himself enjoyed mystic illumination. But something can be said as to whether we others
should accept this testimony. In the first place, it is not subject to the ordinary tests.
When a man of science tells us the result of an experiment, he also tells us how the
experiment was performed; others can repeat it, and if the result is not confirmed it is not
accepted as true; but many mean might put themselves into the situation in which the
mystic's vision occurred without obtaining the same revelation. To this it may be
answered that a man must use the appropriate sense: a telescope is useless to a man who
keeps his eye shut. The argument as to the credibility of the mystic's testimony may be
prolonged almost indefinitely. Science should be neutral, since the argument is a
scientific one, to be conducted exactly as an argument would be conducted about an
uncertain experiment. Science depends upon perception and inference; its credibility is
due to the fact that the perceptions are such as any observer can test. The mystic himself
may be certain that he knows, and he has no need of scientific tests; but those who are
asked to accept his testimony will subject it to the same kind of scientific tests as those
applied to men who say they have been to the North Pole. Science, as such, should have
no expectation, positive or negative, as to the result.
The chief argument in favour of the mystics is their agreement with each other. "I know
nothing more remarkable," says Dean Inge, "than the unanimity of the mystics, ancient,
mediaeval, and modern, Protestant, Catholic, and even Buddhist or Mohammedan,
though the Christian mystics are the most trustworthy." I do not wish to underrate the
force of this argument, which I acknowledged long ago in a book called Mysticism and
Logic. The mystics vary greatly in their capacity for giving verbal expression to their
experiences, but I think we make take it that those who succeeded best all maintain: (1)
that all division and separateness is unreal, and that the universe is a single indivisible
unity; (2) that evil is illusory, and that the illusion arises through falsely regarding a part
as self-subsistent; (3) that time is unreal, and that reality is eternal, not in the sense of
being everlasting, but in the sense of being wholly outside time. I do not pretend that this
is a complete account of the matters on which all mystics concur, but the three
propositions that I have mentioned may serve as representatives of the whole. Let us now
imagine ourselves a jury in a law-court, whose business it is to decide on the credibility
of the witnesses who make these three somewhat surprising assertions.
We shall find, in the first place, that, while the witnesses agree up to a point, they
disagree totally when that point is passed, although they are just as certain as when they
agree. Catholics, but not Protestants, may have visions in which the Virgin appears;
Christians and Mohammedans, but not Buddhists, may have great truths revealed to them
by the Archangel Gabriel; the Chinese mystics of the Tao tell us, as a direct result of their
central doctrine, that all government is bad, whereas most European and Mohammedan
mystics, with equal confidence, urge submission to constituted authority. As regards the
points where they differ, each group will argue that the other groups are untrustworthy;
we might, therefore, if we were content with a mere forensic triumph, point out that most
mystics think most other mystics mistaken on most points. They might, however, make
this only half a triumph by agreeing on the greater importance of the matters about which
they are at one, as compared with those as to which their opinions differ. We will, in any
case, assume that they have composed their differences, and concentrated the defence at
these three points - namely, the unity of the world, the illusory nature of evil, and the
unreality of time. What test can we, as impartial outsiders, apply to their unanimous
As men of scientific temper, we shall naturally first ask whether there is any way by
which we can ourselves obtain the same evidence at first hand. To this we shall receive
various answers. We may be told that we are obviously not in a receptive frame of mind,
and that we lack the requisite humility; or that fasting and religious meditation are
necessary; or (if our witness is Indian or Chinese) that the essential prerequisite is a
course of breathing exercises. I think we shall find that the weight of experimental
evidence is in favour of this last view, though fasting also has been frequently found
effective. As a matter of fact, there is a definite physical discipline, called yoga, which is
practised in order to produce the mystic's certainty, and which is recommended with
much confidence by those who have tried it.[1] Breathing exercises are its most essential
feature, and for our purposes we may ignore the rest.
In order to see how we could test the assertion that yoga gives insight, let us artificially
simplify this assertion. Let us suppose that a number of people assure us that if, for a
certain time, we breathe in a certain way, we shall become convinced that time is unreal.
Let us go further, and suppose that, having tried their recipe, we have ourselves
experienced a state of mind such as they describe. But now, having returned to our
normal mode of respiration, we are not quite sure whether the vision was to be believed.
How shall we investigate this question?
First of all, what can be meant by saying that time is unreal? If we really meant what we
say, we must mean that such statements as "this is before that" are mere empty noise, like
"twas brillig." If we suppose anything less than this - as, for example, that there is a
relation between events which puts them in the same order s the relation of earlier and
later, but that it is a different relation - we shall not have made any assertion that makes
any real change in our outlook. It will be merely like supposing that the Iliad was not
written by Homer, but by another man of the same name. We have to suppose that there
are no "events" at all; there must be only the one vast whole of the universe, embracing
whatever is real in the misleading appearance of a temporal procession. There must be
nothing in reality corresponding to the apparent distinction between earlier and later
events. To say that we are born, and then grow, and then die, must be just as false as to
say that we die, then grow small, and finally are born. The truth of what seems an
individual life is merely the illusory isolation of one element in the timeless and
indivisible being of the universe. There is no distinction between improvement and
deterioration, no difference between sorrows that end in happiness and happiness that
ends in sorrow. If you find a corpse with a dagger in it, it makes no difference whether
the man died of the wound or the dagger was plunged in after death. Such a view, if true,
puts an end, not only to science, but to prudence, hope, and effort; it is incompatible with
worldly wisdom, and - what is more important to religion - with morality.
Most mystics, of course, do not accept these conclusions in their entirety, but they urge
doctrines from which these conclusions inevitably follow. Thus Dean Inge rejects the
kind of religion that appeals to evolution, because it lays too much stress upon a temporal
process. "There is no law of progress, and there is no universal progress," he says. And
again: "The doctrine of automatic and universal progress, the lay religion of many
Victorians, labours under the disadvantage of being almost the only philosophical theory
which can be definitely disproved." On this matter, which I shall discuss at a later stage, I
find myself in agreement with the Dean, for whom, on many grounds, I have a very high
respect. But he naturally does not draw from his premisses all the inferences which seem
to me to be warranted.
It is important not to caricature the doctrine of mysticism, in which there is, I think, a
core of wisdom. Let us see how it seeks to avoid the extreme consequences which seem
to follow from the denial of time.
The philosophy based on mysticism has a great tradition, from Parmenides to Hegel.
Parmenides says: "What is, is uncreated and indestructible; for it is complete, immovable,
and without end. Nor was it ever, nor will it be; for now it is, all at once, a continuous
one."[2] He introduced into metaphysics the distinction between reality and appearance,
or the way of truth and the way of opinion, as he calls them. It is clear that whoever
denies the reality of time must introduce some such distinction, since obviously the world
appears to be in time. It is also clear that, if everyday experience is not to be wholly
illusory, there must be some relation between appearance and the reality behind it. It is at
this point, however, that the greatest difficulties arise: if the relation between appearance
and reality is made too intimate, all the unpleasant features of appearance will have their
unpleasant counterparts in reality, while if the relation is made too remote, we shall be
unable to make inferences from the character of appearance to that of reality, and reality
will be left a vague Unknowable, as with Herbert Spencer. For Christians, there is the
related difficulty of avoiding pantheism: if the world is only apparent, God created
nothing, and the reality corresponding to the world is a part of God; but if the world is in
any degree real and distinct from God, we abandon the wholeness of everything, which is
an essential doctrine of mysticism, and we are compelled to suppose that, in so far as the
world is real, the evil which it contains is also real. Such difficulties make thorough-
going mysticism very difficult for an orthodox Christian. As the Bishop of Birmingham
says: "All forms of pantheism … as it seems to me, must be rejected because, if man is
actually a part of God, the evil in man is also in God."
All this time, I have been supposing that we are a jury, listening to the testimony of the
mystics, and trying to decide whether to accept or reject it. If, when they deny the reality
of the world of sense, we took them to mean "reality" in the ordinary sense of law-courts,
we should have no hesitation in rejecting what they say, since we would find that it runs
counter to all other testimony, and even to their own in their mundane moments. We must
therefore look for some other sense. I believe that, when the mystics contrast "reality"
with "appearance," the word "reality" has not a logical, but an emotional, significance: it
means what is, in some sense, important. When it is said that time is "unreal," what
should be said is that, in some sense and on some occasions, it is important to conceive
the universe as a whole, as the Creator, if He existed, must have conceived it in deciding
to create it. When so conceived, all process is within one completed whole; past, present,
and future, all exist, in some sense, together, and the present does not have that pre-
eminent reality which it has to our usual ways of apprehending the world. It this
interpretation is accepted, mysticism expresses an emotion, not a fact; it does not assert
anything, and therefore can be neither confirmed nor contradicted by science. The fact
that mystics do make assertions is owing to their inability to separate emotional
importance from scientific validity. It is, of course, not to be expected that they will
accept this view, but it is the only one, so far as I can see, which, while admitting
something of their claim, is not repugnant to the scientific intelligence.
The certainty and partial unanimity of mystics is no conclusive reason for accepting their
testimony on a matter of fact. The man of science, when he wishes others to see what he
has seen, arranges his microscope or telescope; that is to say, he makes changes in the
external world, but demands of the observer only normal eyesight. The mystic, on the
other hand, demands changes in the observer, by fasting, by breathing exercises, and by a
careful abstention from external observation. (Some object to such discipline, and think
that the mystic illumination cannot be artificially achieved; from a scientific point of
view, this makes their case more difficult to test than that of those who rely on yoga. But
nearly all agree that fasting and an ascetic life are helpful.) We all know that opium,
hashish, and alcohol produce certain effects on the observer, but as we do not think these
effects admirable we take no account of them in our theory of the universe. They may
even, sometimes, reveal fragments of truth; but we do not regard them as sources of
general wisdom. The drunkard who sees snakes does not imagine, afterwards, that he has
had a revelation of a reality hidden from others, though some not wholly dissimilar belief
must have given rise to the worship of Bacchus. In our own day, as William James
related,[3] there have been people who considered that the intoxication produced by
laughing-gas revealed truths which are hidden at normal times. From a scientific point of
view, we can make no distinction between the man who eats little and sees heaven and
the man who drinks much and sees snakes. Each is in an abnormal physical condition,
and therefore has abnormal perceptions. Normal perceptions, since they have to be useful
in the struggle for life, must have some correspondence with fact; but in abnormal
perceptions there is no reason to expect such correspondence, and their testimony,
therefore, cannot outweigh that of normal perception.
The mystic emotion, if it is freed from unwarranted beliefs, and not so overwhelming as
to remove a man wholly from the ordinary business of life, may give something of very
great value - the same kind of thing, though in a heightened form, that is given by
contemplation. Breadth and calm and profundity may all have their source in this
emotion, in which, for the moment, all self-centred desire is dead, and the mind becomes
a mirror for the vastness of the universe. Those who have had this experience, and
believe it to be bound up unavoidably with assertions about the nature of the universe,
naturally cling to these assertions. I believe myself that the assertions are inessential, and
that there is no reason to believe them true. I cannot admit any method of arriving at truth
except that of science, but in the realm of the emotions I do not deny the value of the
experiences which have given rise to religion. Through association with false beliefs,
they have led to much evil as well as good; freed from this association, it may be hoped
that the good alone will remain.

1. As regards yoga in China, see Waley, The Way and its Power, pp. 117-18.
2. Quoted from Burnet's Early Greek Philosophy, p. 199.
3. See his Varieties of Religious Experience.

On Modern Uncertainty
Bertrand Russell

There have been four sorts of ages in the world's history. There have been ages when
everybody thought they knew everything, ages when nobody thought they knew
anything, ages when clever people thought they knew much and stupid people thought
they knew little, and ages when stupid people thought they knew much and clever people
thought they knew little. The first sort of age is one of stability, the second of slow decay,
the third of progress, the fourth of disaster. All primitive ages belong to the first sort: no
one has any doubt as to the tribal religion, the wisdom of ancient customs, or the magic
by which good crops are to be secured; consequently everyone is happy in the absence of
some tangible reason, such as starvation, for being unhappy.
The second sort of age is exemplified by the ancient world before the rise of Christianity
but after decadence had begun. In the Roman Empire, tribal religions lost their
exclusiveness and force: in proportion as people came to think that there might be truth in
religions of others, they also came to think that their might be falsehood in their own.
Eastern necromancy was half believed, half disbelieved; the German barbarians were
supposed to possess virtues that the more civilised portions of mankind hand lost.
Consequently everybody doubted everything, and doubt paralysed effort.
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, exactly the opposite happened. Science
and scientific technique were a novelty, and gave immense self-confidence to those who
understood them. Their triumphs were obvious and astonishing. Repeatedly, when the
Chinese Emperor had decided to persecute the Jesuits, they would turn out to be right
about the date of an expected eclipse when the imperial astronomers were wrong, and the
Emperor would decide that such clever men, after all, deserved his favours. In England,
those who introduced scientific methods in agriculture obtained visibly larger crops than
those who adhered to old-time methods, while in manufactures team and machinery put
the conservatives to flight. There came, therefore, to be a general belief in educated
intelligence. Those who did not possess it allowed themselves to be guided by those who
did, and an era of rapid progress resulted.
In our age, the exact opposite is the case. Men of science like Eddington are doubtful
whether science really knows anything. Economists perceive that the accepted methods
of doing the world's business are making everybody poor. Statesmen cannot find any way
of securing international co-operation or preventing war. Philosophers have no guidance
to offer mankind. The only people left with positive opinions are those who are too stupid
to know when their opinions are absurd. Consequently the world is ruled by fools, and
the intelligent count for nothing in the councils of the nations.
This state of affairs, if it continues, must plunge the world more and more deeply into
misfortune. The scepticism of the intelligent is the cause of their impotence, and is itself
the effect of their laziness: if there is nothing worth doing, that gives an excuse for sitting
still. But when disaster is impending, no excuse for sitting still can be valid. The
intelligent will have to shed their scepticism, or share responsibility for the evils which
all deplore. And they will have to abandon academic grumblings and peevish pedantries,
for nothing that they amy say will be of any use unless they learn to speak a language that
the democracy can appreciate.

On the Value of Scepticism
Bertrand Russell
I wish to propose a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and
subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a
proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. I must, of
course, admit that if such an opinion became common it would completely transform
our social life and our political system; since both are at present faultless, this must
weigh against it. I am also aware (what is more serious) that it would tend to
diminish the incomes of clairvoyants, bookmakers, bishops, and others who live on
the irrational hopes of those who have done nothing to deserve good fortune here or
hereafter. In spite of these grave arguments, I maintain that a case can be made out
of my paradox, and I shall try to set it forth.
First of all, I wish to guard myself against being thought to take up an extreme
position. I am a British Whig, with a British love of compromise and moderation. A
story is told of Pyrrho, the founder of Pyrrhonism (which was the old name for
scepticism). He maintained that we never know enough to be sure that one course of
action is wiser than another. In his youth, when he was taking his constitutional one
afternoon, he saw his teacher in philosophy (from whom he had imbibed his
principles) with his head stuck in a ditch, unable to get out. After contemplating him
for some time, he walked on, maintaining that there was no
sufficient ground for thinking he would do any good by pulling the man out. Others,
less sceptical, effected a rescue, and blamed Pyrrho for his heartlessness. But his
teacher, true to his principles, praised him for his consistency. Now I do not advocate
such heroic scepticism as that. I am prepared to admit the ordinary beliefs of
common sense, in practice if not in theory. I am prepared to admit any well-
established result of science, not as certainly true, but as sufficiently probable to
afford a basis for rational action. If it is announced that there is to be an eclipse of
the moon on such-and-such a date, I think it worth while to look and see whether it
is taking place. Pyrrho would have thought otherwise. On this ground, I feel justified
in claiming that I advocate a middle position.
There are matters about which those who have investigated them are agreed; the
dates of eclipses may serve as an illustration. There are other matters about which
experts are not agreed. Even when the experts all agree, they may well be mistaken.
Einstein's view as to the magnitude of the deflection of light by gravitation would
have been rejected by all experts not many years ago, yet it proved to be right.
Nevertheless the opinion of experts, when it is unanimous, must be accepted by non-
experts as more likely to be right than the opposite opinion. The scepticism that I
advocate amounts only to this: (1) that when the experts are agreed, the opposite
opinion cannot be held to be certain; (2) that when they are not agreed, no opinion
can be regarded as certain by a non-expert; and (3) that when they all hold that no
sufficient grounds for a positive opinion exist, the ordinary man would do well to
suspend his judgment.
These propositions may seem mild, yet, if accepted, they would absolutely
revolutionize human life.
The opinions for which people are willing to fight and persecute all belong to one of
the three classes which this scepticism condemns. When there are rational grounds
for an opinion, people are content to set them forth and wait for them to operate. In
such cases, people do not hold their opinions with passion; they hold them calmly,
and set forth their reasons quietly. The opinions that are held with passion are
always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of
the holder's lack of rational conviction. Opinions in politics and religion are almost
always held passionately. Except in China, a man is thought a poor creature unless
he has strong opinions on such matters; people hate sceptics far more than they
hate the passionate advocates of opinions hostile to their own. It is thought that the
claims of practical life demand opinions on such questions, and that, if we became
more rational, social existence would be impossible. I believe the opposite of this,
and will try to make it clear why I have this belief.
Take the question of unemployment in the years after 1920. One party held that it
was due to the wickedness of trade unions, another that it was due to the confusion
on the Continent. A third party, while admitting that these causes played a part,
attributed most of the trouble to the policy of the Bank of England in trying to
increase the value of the pound sterling. This third party, I am given to understand,
contained most of the experts, but no one else. Politicians do not find any attractions
in a view which does not lend itself to party declamation, and ordinary mortals prefer
views which attribute misfortune to the machinations of their enemies. Consequently
people fight for and against quite irrelevant measures, while the few who have a
rational opinion are not listened to because they do not minister to any one's
passions. To produce converts, it would have been necessary to persuade people
that the Bank of England is wicked. To convert Labour, it would have been necessary
to show that directors of the Bank of England are hostile to trade unionism; to
convert the Bishop of London, it would have been necessary to show that they are
"immoral." It would be thought to follow that their views currency are mistaken.
Let us take another illustration. It is often said that socialism is contrary to human
nature, and this assertion is denied by socialists with the same heat with which it is
made by their opponents. The late Dr. Rivers, whose death cannot be sufficiently
deplored, discussed this question in a lecture at University College, published in his
posthumous book on Psychology and Politics. This is the only discussion of this topic
known to me that can lay claim to be scientific. It sets forth certain anthropological
data which show that socialism is not contrary to human nature in Melanesia; it then
points out that we do not know whether human nature is the same in Melanesia as in
Europe; and it concludes that the only way of finding out whether socialism is
contrary to European human nature is to try it. It is interesting that on the basis of
this conclusion he was willing to become a Labour candidate. But he would certainly
not have added to the heat and passion in which political controversies are usually
I will now venture on a topic which people find even more difficulty in treating
dispassionately, namely marriage customs. The bulk of the population of every
country is persuaded that all marriage customs other than its own are immoral, and
that those who combat this view do so only in order to justify their awn loose lives.
In India, the remarriage of widows is traditionally regarded as a thing too horrible to
contemplate. In Catholic countries divorce is thought very wicked, but some failure
of conjugal fidelity is tolerated, at least in men. In America divorce is easy, but
extra-conjugal relations are condemned with the utmost severity. Mohammedans
believe in polygamy, which we think degrading. All these differing opinions are held
with extreme vehemence, and very cruel persecutions are inflicted upon those who
contravene them. Yet no one in any of the various countries makes the slightest
attempt to show that the custom of his own country contributes more to human
happiness than the custom of others.
When we open any scientific treatise on the subject, such as (for example)
Westermarck's History of Human Marriage, we find an atmosphere extraordinarily
different from that of popular prejudice. We find that every kind of custom has
existed, many of them such as we should have supposed repugnant to human
nature. We think we can understand polygamy, as a custom forced upon women by
male oppressors. But what are we to say of the Tibetan custom, according to which
one woman has several husbands? Yet travellers in Tibet assure us that family life
there is at least as harmonious as in Europe. A little of such reading must soon
reduce any candid person to complete scepticism, since there seem to be no data
enabling us to say that one marriage custom is better or worse than another. Almost
all involve cruelty and intolerance towards offenders against the local code, but
otherwise they have nothing in common. It seems that sin is geographical. From this
conclusion, it is only a small step to the further conclusion that the notion of "sin" is
illusory, and that the cruelty habitually practiced in punishing it is unnecessary. It is
just this conclusion which is so unwelcome to many minds, since the infliction of
cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists. That is why they invented
Nationalism is of course an ext reme example of fervent belief concerning doubtful
matters. I think it may be safely said that any scientific historian, writing now a
history of the Great War, is bound to make statements which, if made during the
war, would have exposed him to imprisonment in every one of the belligerent
countries on both sides. Again, with the exception of China, there is no country
where people tolerate the truth about themselves; at ordinary times the truth is only
thought ill- mannered, but in war-time it is thought criminal. Opposing systems of
violent belief are built up, the falsehood of which is evident from the fact that they
are believed only by those who share the same national bias. But the application of
reason to these systems of belief is thought as wicked as the application of reason to
religious dogmas was formerly thought. When people are challenged as to why
scepticism in such matters should be wicked, the only answer is that myths help to
win wars, so that a rational nation would be killed rather than kill. The view that
there is something shameful in saving one's skin by wholesale slander of foreigners
is one which, so far as I know, has hitherto found no supporters among professional
moralists outside the ranks of Quakers. If it is suggested that a rational nation would
find ways of keeping out of wars altogether, the answer is usually more abuse.
What would be the effect of a spread of rational scepticism? Human events spring
from passions, which generate systems of attendant myths. Psychoanalysts have
studied the individual manifestations of this process in lunatics, certified and
uncertified. A man who has suffered some humiliation invents a theory that he is
King of England, and develops all kinds of ingenious explanations of the fact that he
is not treated with that respect which his exalted position demands. In this case, his
delusion is one with which his neighbours do not sympathize, so they lock him up.
But if, instead of asserting only his own greatness, he asserts the greatness of his
nation or his class or his creed, he wins hosts of adherents, and becomes a political
or religious leader, even if, to the impartial outsider, his views seem just as absurd
as those found in asylums. In this way a collective insanity grows up, which follows
laws very similar to those of individual insanity. Every one knows that it is dangerous
to depute with a lunatic who thinks he is King of England; but as he is isolated, he
can be overpowered. When a whole nation shares a delusion, its anger is of the same
kind as that of an individual lunatic if its pretensions are disputed, but nothing short
of war can compel it to submit to reason.
The part played by intellectual factors in human behaviour is a matter as to which
there is much disagreement among psychologists. There are two quite distinct
questions: (1) how far are beliefs operative as causes of actions? (2) how far are
beliefs derived from logically adequate evidence, or capable of being so derived? On
both questions, psychologists are agreed in giving a much smaller place to the
intellectual factors than the plain man would give, but within this general agreement
there is room for considerable differences of degree. Let us take the two questions in
(1) How far are beliefs operative as causes of action? Let us not discuss the question
theoretically, but let us take an ordinary day of an ordinary man's life. He begins by
getting up in the morning, probably from force of habit, without the intervention of
any belief. He eats his breakfast, catches his train, reads his newspaper, and goes to
his office, all from force of habit. There was a time in the past when he formed these
habits, and in the choice of the office, at least, belief played a part. He probably
believed, at the time, that the job offered him there was as good as he was likely to
get. In most men, belief plays a part in the original choice of a career, and therefore,
derivatively, in all that is entailed by this choice.
At the office, if he is an underling, he may continue to act merely from habit, without
active volition, and without the explicit intervention of belief. It might be thought
that, if he adds up the columns of figures, he believes the arithmetical rules which he
employs. But that would be an error; these rules are mere habits of his body, like
those of a tennis player. They were acquired in youth, not from an intellectual belief
that they corresponded to the truth, but to please the schoolmaster, just as a dog
learns to sit on its hind legs and beg for food. I do not say that all education is of this
sort, but certainly most learning of the three R's is.
If, however, our friend is a partner or director, he may be called upon during his day
to make difficult decisions of policy. In these decisions it is probable that belief wil l
play a part. He believes that some things will go up and others will go down, that so-
and-so is a sound man, and such-and-such on the verge of bankruptcy. On these
beliefs he acts. It is just because he is called upon to act on beliefs rather than mere
habits that he is considered such a much greater man than a mere clerk, and is able
to get so much more money -- provided his beliefs are true.
In his home-life there will be much the same proportion of occasions when belief is a
cause of action. At ordinary times, his behaviour to his wife and children will be
governed by habit, or by instinct modified by habit. On great occasions -- when he
proposes marriage, when he decides what school to send his son to, or when he
finds reason to suspect his wife of unfaithfulness -- he cannot be guided wholly by
habit. In proposing marriage, he may be guided more by instinct, or he may be
influenced by the belief that the lady is rich. If he is guided by instinct, he no doubt
believes that the lady possesses every virtue, and this may seem to him to be a
cause of his action, but in fact it is merely another effect of the instinct which alone
suffices to account for his action. In choosing a school for his son, he probably
proceeds in much the same way as in making difficult business decisions; here belief
usually plays an important part. If evidence comes into his possession showing that
his wife has been unfaithful, his behaviour is likely to be purely instinctive, but the
instinct is set in operation by a belief, which is the first cause of everything that
Thus, although beliefs are not directly responsible for more than a small part of our
actions, the actions for which they are responsible are among the most important,
and largely determine the general structure of our lives. In particular, our religious
and political actions are associated with beliefs.
(2) I come now to our second question, which is itself twofold: (a) how far are beliefs
in fact based upon evidence? (b) how far is it possible or desirable that they should
(a) The extent to which beliefs are based upon evidence is very much less than
believers suppose. Take the kind of action which is most nearly rational: the
investment of money by a rich City man. You will often find that his view (say) on
the question whether the French franc will go up or down depends upon his political
sympathies, and yet is so strongly held that he is prepared to risk money on it. In
bankruptcies it often appears that some sentimental factor was the original cause of
ruin. Political opinions are hardly ever based upon evidence, except in the case of
civil servants, who are forbidden to give utterance to them. There are of course
exceptions. In the tariff reform controversy which began several years ago, most
manufacturers supported the side that would increase their own incomes, showing
that their opinions were really based on evidence, however little their utterances
would have led one to suppose so. We have here a complication. Freudians have
accustomed us to "rationalizing," i.e. the process of inventing what seem to
ourselves rational grounds for a decision or opinion that is in fact quite irrational. But
there is, especially in English-speaking countries, a converse process which may be
called "irrationalizing." A shrewd man will sum up, more or less subconsciously, the
pros and cons of a question from a selfish point of view. (Unselfish considerations
seldom weigh subconsciously except where one's children are concerned.) Having
come to a sound egoistic decision by the help of the unconscious, a man proceeds to
invent, or adopt from others, a set of high-sounding phrases showing how he is
pursuing the public good at immense personal sacrifice. Anybody who believes that
these phrases give his real reasons must suppose him quite incapable of judging
evidence, since the supposed public good is not going to result from his action. In
this case a man appears less rational than he is; what is still more curious, the
irrational part of him is conscious and the rational part unconscious. It is this trait in
our characters that has made the English and Americans so successful.
Shrewdness, when it is genuine, belong, more to the unconscious than to the
conscious part of our nature. It is, I suppose, the main quality required for success in
business. From a moral point of view, it is a humble quality, since it is always selfish;
yet it suffices to keep men from the worst crimes. If the Germans had had it, they
would not have adopted the unlimited submarine campaign. If the French had had it,
they would not have behaved as they did in the Ruhr. If Napoleon had had it, he
would not have gone to war again after the Treaty of Amiens. It may be laid down as
a general rule to which there are few exceptions that, when people are mistaken as
to what is to their own interest, the course that they believe to be wise is more
harmful to others than the course that really is wise. Therefore anything that makes
people better judges of their own interest does good. There are innumerable
examples of men making fortunes because, on moral grounds, they did something
which they believed to be contrary to their own interests. For instance, among early
Quakers there were a number of shopkeepers who adopted the practice of asking no
more for their goods than they were willing to accept, instead of bargaining with
each customer, as everybody else did. They adopted this practice because they held
it to be a lie to ask more than they would take. But the convenience to customers
was so great that everybody came to their shops, and they grew rich. (I forget
where I read this, but if my memory serves me it was in some reliable source.) The
same policy might have been adopted from shrewdness, but in fact no one was
sufficiently shrewd. Our unconscious is more malevolent than it pays us to be;
therefore the people who do most completely what is in fact to their interest are
those who deliberately, on moral grounds, do what they believe to be against their
interest. Next to them come the people who try to think out rationally and
consciously what is to their own interest, eliminating as far as possible the influence
of passion. Third come the people who have instinctive shrewdness. Last of all come
the people whose malevolence overbalances their shrewdness, making them pursue
the ruin of others in ways that lead to their own ruin. This last class embraces 90 per
cent. of the population of Europe.
I may seem to have digressed somewhat from my topic, but it was necessary to
disentangle unconscious reason, which is called shrewdness, from the conscious
variety. The ordinary methods of education have practically no effect upon the
unconscious, so that shrewdness cannot be taught by our present technique.
Morality, also, except where it consists of mere habit, seems incapable of being
taught by present methods; at any rate I have never noticed any beneficent effect
upon those who are exposed to frequent exhortations. Therefore on our present lines
any deliberate improvement must be brought about by intellectual means. We do not
know how to teach people to be shrewd or virtuous, but we do know, within limits,
how to teach them to be rational: it is only necessary to reverse the practice of
education authorities in every particular. We may hereafter learn to create virtue by
manipulating the ductless glands and stimulating or restraining their secretions. But
for the present it is easier to create rationality than virtue -- meaning by "rationality"
a scientific habit of mind in forecasting the effects of our actions.
(b) This brings me to the question: How far could or should men's actions be
rational? Let us take "should" first. There are very definite limits, to my mind, within
which rationality should be confined; some of the most important departments of life
are ruined by the invasion of reason. Leibniz in his old age told a correspondent that
he had only once asked a lady to marry him, and that was when he was fifty.
"Fortunately," he added, "the lady asked time to consider. This gave me also time to
consider, and I withdrew the offer." Doubtless his conduct was very rational, but I
cannot say that I admire it
Shakespeare puts "the lunatic, the lover, and the poet" together, as being "of imagination
all compact." The problem is to keep the lover and the poet, without the lunatic. I will
give an illustration. In 1919 I saw The Trojan Women acted at the Old Vic. There is an
unbearably pathetic scene where Astyanax is put to death by the Greeks for fear he
should grow up into a second Hector. There was hardly a dry eye in the theatre, and the
audience found the cruelty of the Greeks in the play hardly credible. Yet those very
people who wept were, at that very moment, practicing that very cruelty on a scale which
the imagination of Euripides could have never contemplated. They had lately voted (most
of them) for a Government which prolonged the blockade of Germany after the armistice,
and imposed the blockade of Russia. It was known that these blockades caused the death
of immense numbers of children, but it was felt desirable to diminish the population of
enemy countries: the children, like Astyanax, might grow up to emulate their fathers.
Euripides the poet awakened the lover in the imagination of the audience; but lover
and poet were forgotten at the door of the theatre, and the lunatic (in the shape of
the homicidal maniac) controlled the political actions of these men and women who
thought themselves kind and virtuous.
Is it possible to preserve the lover and the poet without preserving the lunatic? In
each of us, all three exist in varying degrees. Are they so bound up together that
when the one is brought under control the others perish? I do not believe it. I believe
there is in each of us a certain energy which must find vent in art, in passionate love,
or in passionate hate, according to circumstances. Respectability, regularity, and
routine -- the whole cast-iron discipline of a modern industrial society -- have
atrophied the artistic impulse, and imprisoned love so that it can no longer be
generous and free and creative, but must be either stuffy or furtive. Control has
been applied to the very things which should be free, while envy, cruelty, and hate
sprawl at large with the blessing of nearly the whole bench of Bishops. Our
instinctive apparatus consists of two parts -- the one tending to further our own life
and that of our descendants, the other tending to thwart the lives of supposed rivals.
The first includes the joy of life, and love, and art, which is psychologically an
offshoot of love. The second includes competition, patriotism, and war. Conventional
morality does everything to suppress the first and encourage the second. True
morality would do the exact opposite. Our dealings with those whom we love may be
safely left to instinct; it is our dealings with those whom we hate that ought to be
brought under the dominion of reason. In the modern world, those whom we
effectively hate are distant groups, especially foreign nations. We conceive them
abstractly, and deceive ourselves into the belief that acts which are really
embodiments of hatred are done from love of justice or some such lofty motive. Only
a large measure of scepticism can tear away the veils which hide this truth from us.
Having achieved that, we could begi n to build a new morality, not based on envy and
restriction, but on the wish for a full life and the realization that other human beings
are a help and not a hindrance when once the madness of envy has been cured. This
is not a Utopian hope; it was partially realized in Elizabethan England. It could be
realized tomorrow if men would learn to pursue their own happiness rather than the
misery of others. This is no impossibly austere morality, yet its adoption would turn
our earth into a paradise.

On Youthful Cynicism
Bertrand Russell
c. 1930
Any person who visits the Universities of the Western world is liable to be struck by the
fact that the intelligent young of the present day are cynical to a far greater extent than
was the case formerly. This is not true of Russia, India, China or Japan; I believe it is not
the case in Czechoslovakia, Jugoslavia, and Poland, nor by any means universally in
Germany, but it certainly is a notable characteristic of intelligent youth in England,
France and the United States. To understand why youth is cynical in the West, we must
also understand why it is not cynical in the East.
Young men in Russia are not cynical because they accept, on the whole, the Communist
philosophy, and they have a great country full of natural resources, ready to be exploited
by the help of intelligence. The young have therefore a career before them which they
feel to be worth while. You do not have to consider the ends of life when in the course of
creating Utopia you are laying a pipeline, building a railway, or teaching peasants to use
Ford tractors simultaneously on a four- mile front. Consequently the Russian youth are
vigorous and filled with ardent beliefs.
In India the fundamental belief of the earnest young is in the wickedness of England:
from this premiss, as from the existence of Descartes, it is possible to deduce a whole
philosophy. From the fact that England is Christian, it follows that Hinduism or
Mohammedanism, as the case may be, is the only true religion. From the fact that
England is capitalistic and industrial, it follows, according to the temperament of the
logician concerned, either that everyone ought to spin with a spinning- wheel, or that
protective duties ought to be imposed to develop native industrialism and capitalism as
the only weapons with which to combat those of the British. From the fact that the British
hold India by physical force, it follows that only moral force is admirable. The
persecution of nationalist activities in India is just sufficient to make them heroic, and not
sufficient to make them seem futile. In this way the Anglo-Indians save the intelligent
youth of India from the blight of cynicism.
In China hatred of England has also played its part, but a much smaller part than in India
because the English have never conquered the country. The Chinese youth combine
patriotism with genuine enthusiasm for Occidentalism, in the way that was common in
Japan fifty years ago. They want the Chinese people to be enlightened, free and
prosperous, and they have their work cut out to produce this result. Their ideals are, on
the whole, those of the nineteenth century, which in China has not yet begun to seem
antiquated. Cynicism in China was associated with the officials of the Imperial regime
and survived among the warring militarists who have distracted the country since 1911,
but it has no place in the mentality of the modern intellectuals.
In Japan the outlook of young intellectuals is not unlike that which prevailed on the
Continent of Europe between 1815 and 1848. The watchwords of Liberalism are still
potent; parliamentary government, liberty of the subject, free thought and free speech.
The struggle against traditional feudalism and autocracy is quite sufficient to keep young
men busy and enthusiastic.
To the sophisticated youth of the West all this ardour seems a trifle crude. He is firmly
persuaded that having studied everything impartially, he has seen through everything and
found that there is `nothing left remarkable beneath the visiting moon.' There are, of
course, plenty of reasons for this in the teachings of the old. I do not think these go to the
root of the matter, for in other circumstances the young react against the teaching of the
old and achieve a gospel of their own. If the Occidental youth of the present day react
only by cynicism, there must be some special reason for this circumstance. Not only are
the young unable to believe what they are told, but they seem also unable to believe
anything else. This is a peculiar state of affairs, which deserves investigation. Let us first
take some of the old ideals one by one and see why they no longer inspire the old
loyalties. We may enumerate among such ideals religion, country, progress, beauty, truth.
what is wrong with these in the eyes of the young?
Religion. - The trouble here is partly intellectual, partly social. For intellectual reasons
few able men have now the same intensity of religious belief as was possible for, say, St.
Thomas Aquinas. The God of most moderns is a little vague, and apt to degenerate into a
Life Force or a `power not ourselves that makes for righteousness'. Even believers are
concerned much more with the effects of religion in this world than with that other world
they profess to believe in; they are not nearly so sure that this world was created for the
glory of God as they are that God is a useful hypothesis for improving this world. By
subordinating God to the needs of this sublunary life, they cast suspicion upon the
genuineness of their faith. They seem to think that God, like the Sabbath, was made for
man. There are also sociological reasons for not accepting the Churches as the basis of
modern idealism. The Churches, through their endowments, have become bound up with
the defense of property. Moreover, they are connected with an oppressive ethic, which
condemns many pleasures that to the young appear harmless and inflicts many torments
that to the sceptical appear unnecessarily cruel. I have known earnest young men who
accepted wholeheartedly the teaching of Christ; they found themselves in opposition to
official Christianity, outcasts and victims of persecution, quite as much as if they had
been militant atheists.
Country. - Patriotism has been in many times and places a passionate belief to which the
best minds could give full assent. It was so in England in the time of Shakespeare, in
Germany in the time of Fichte, in Italy in the time of Mazzini. It is so still in Poland,
China, and Outer Mongolia. In the Western nations it is still immensely powerful: it
controls politics, public expenditure, military preparations, and so on. But the intelligent
youth are unable to accept it as an adequate ideal; they perceive that it is all very well for
oppressed nations, but that as soon as an oppressed nation achieves its freedom, the
nationalism which was formerly heroic becomes oppressive. The Poles, who had the
sympathy of idealists ever since Maria Teresa `wept but took', have used their freedom to
organize oppression in Ukrainia. The Irish, upon whom the British had inflicted
civilization for eight hundred years, have used their freedom to pass laws preventing the
publication of many good books. The spectacle of the Poles murdering Ukrainians and
the Irish murdering literature makes nationalism seem a somewhat inadequate ideal even
for a small nation. But when it comes to a powerful nation, the argument is even stronger.
The Treaty of Versailles was not very encouraging to those who had the luck not to be
killed in defending the ideals which their rulers betrayed. Those who during the war
averred that they were combating militarism became at its conclusion the leading
militarists in their respective countries. Such facts have made it obvious to all intelligent
young men that patriotism is the chief curse of our age and will bring civilization to an
end if it cannot be mitigated.
Progress. - This is a nineteenth-century ideal which has too much Babbitt about it for the
sophisticated youth. Measurable progress is necessarily in unimportant things, such as the
number of motor-cars made, or the number of peanuts consumed. The really important
things are not measurable and are therefore not suitable for the methods of the booster.
Moreover, many modern inventions tend to make people silly. I might instance the radio,
the talkies, and poison gas. Shakespeare measured the excellence of an age by its style in
poetry (see Sonnet XXXII), but this mode of measurement is out of date.
Beauty. - There is something that sounds old- fashioned about beauty, though it is hard to
say why. A modern painter would be indignant if he were accused of seeking beauty.
Most artists nowadays appear to be inspired by some kind of rage against the world so
that they wish rather to give significant pain than to afford serene satisfaction. Moreover
many kinds of beauty require that a man should take himself more seriously than is
possible for an intelligent modern. A prominent citizen in a small city State, such as
Athens or Florence, could without difficulty feel himself important. The earth was the
center of the Universe, man was the purpose of creation, his own city showed man at his
best, and he himself was among the best of his own city. In such circumstances Æschylus
or Dante could take his own joys or sorrows seriously. He could feel that the emotions of
the individual matter, and that tragic occurrences deserve to be celebrated in immortal
verse. But the modern man, when misfortune assails him, is conscious of himself as a unit
in a statistical total; the past and the future stretch before him in a dreary procession of
trivial defeats. Man himself appears as a somewhat ridiculous strutting animal, shouting
and fussing during a brief interlude between infinite silences. `Unacommodated man is
no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal,' says King Lear, and the idea drives him to
madness because it is unfamiliar. But to the modern man the idea is familiar and drives
him only to triviality.
Truth. - In old days truth was absolute, eternal and superhuman. Myself when young
accepted this view and devoted a misspent youth to the search for truth. But a whole host
of enemies have arisen to slay truth: pragmatism, behaviorism, psychologism, relativity-
physics. Galileo and the Inquisition disagreed as to whether the earth went round the sun
or the sun went round the earth. Both agreed in thinking that there was a great difference
between these two opinions. The point on which they agreed was the one on which they
were both mistaken: the difference is only one of words. In old days it was possible to
worship truth; indeed the sincerity of the worship was demonstrated by the practice of
human sacrifice. But it is difficult to worship a merely human and relative truth. The law
of gravitation, according to Eddington, is only a convenient convention of measurement.
It is not truer than other views, any more than the metric system is truer than feet and
Nature and Nature's law lay hid in night;
God said, `Let Newton be,; and measurement was facilitated.
This sent iment seems lacking in sublimity. When Spinoza believed anything, he
considered that he was enjoying the intellectual love of God. The modern man believes
with Marx that he is swayed by economic motives, or with Freud that some sexual motive
underlies his belief in the exponential theorem or in the distribution of fauna in the Red
Sea. In neither case can he enjoy Spinoza's exaltation.
So far we have been considering modern cynicism in a rationalistic manner, as something
that has intellectual causes. Belief, however, as modern psychologists never weary of
telling us, is seldom determined by rational motives, and the same is true of disbelief,
though sceptics often overlook this fact. The causes of any widespread scepticism are
likely to be sociological rather than intellectual. The main cause is always comfort
without power. The holders of power are not cynical, since they are able to enforce their
ideals. Victims of oppression are not cynical, since they are filled with hate, and hate, like
any other strong passion, brings with it a train of attendant beliefs. Until the advent of
education, democracy, and mass production, intellectuals had everywhere a considerable
influence upon the march of affairs, which was by no means diminished if their heads
were cut off. The modern intellectual finds himself in a quite different situation. It is by
no means difficult for him to obtain a fat job and a good income provided he is willing to
sell his services to the stupid rich either as propagandist or as Court jester. The effect of
mass production and elementary education is that stupidity is more firmly entrenched
than at any other time since the rise of civilization. When the Czarist Government killed
Lenin's brother, it did not turn Lenin into a cynic, since hatred inspired a lifelong activity
in which he was finally successful. But in the more solid countries of the West there is
seldom such potent cause for hatred, or such opportunity for spectacular revenge. The
work of intellectuals is ordered and paid for by Governments or rich men, whose aims
probably seem absurd, if not pernicious, to the intellectuals concerned. But a dash of
cynicism enables them to adjust their consciences to the situation. There are, it is true,
some activities in which wholly admirable work is desired by the powers that be; the
chief of these is science, and the next is public architecture in America. But if a man's
education has been literary, as is still too often the case, he finds himself at the age of
twenty-two with a considerable skill that he cannot exercise in any manner that appear
important to himself. Men of science are not cynical even in the West, because they can
exercise their best brains with the full approval of the community; but in this they are
exceptionally fortunate among modern intellectuals.
If this diagnosis is right, modern cynicism cannot be cured merely by preaching, or by
putting better ideals before the young than those that their pastors and masters fish out
from the rusty armory of outworn superstitions. The cure will only come when
intellectuals can find a career that embodies their creative impulses. I do not see any
prescription except the old one advocated by Disraeli: `Educate our masters.' But it will
have to be a more real education than is commonly given at the present day to either
proletarians or plutocrats, and it will have to be an education taking some account of real
cultural values and not only of the utilitarian desire to produce so many goods that
nobody have time to enjoy them. A man is not allowed to practise medicine unless he
knows something of the human body, but a financier is allowed to operate freely without
any knowledge at all of the multifarious effects of his activities, with the sole exception
of the effect upon his bank account. How pleasant a world would be in which no man was
allowed to operate on the Stock Exchange unless he could pass an examination in
economics and Greek poetry, and in which politicians were obliged to have a competent
knowledge of history and modern novels! Imagine a magnate confronted with the
question: `If you were to make a corner in wheat, what effect would this have upon
German poetry?' Causation in the modern world is more complex and remote in its
ramifications than it ever was before, owing to the increase in large organizations; but
those who control these organizations are ignorant men who do not know the hundredth
part of the consequences of their actions. Rabelais published his book anonymously for
fear of losing his University post. A modern Rabelais would never write the book,
because he would be aware that his anonymity would be penetrated by the perfected
methods of publicity. The rulers of the world have always been stupid, but they have not
in the past been so powerful as they are now. It is therefore more important than it used to
be to find some way of securing that they shall be intelligent. Is this problem insoluble? I
do not think so, but I should be the last to maintain that it is easy.

Philosophical Consequences Of
by Bertrand Russell

[The mathematician, philosopher, and social thinker Bertrand Russell was at work on
his classic exposition of Einstein's theory of relativity, The A. B. C. of Relativity,
when he agreed to write this piece for the Thirteenth Edition (1926) of Britannica. It
makes for an unusual encyclopaedia article--it is tentative, somewhat speculative--but
it provides an interesting counterpoint to Einstein's own, more technical article.]
philosophy which may be supposed to follow from the theory of relativity, some are
fairly certain, while others are open to question. There has been a tendency, not
uncommon in the case of a new scientific theory, for every philosopher to interpret
the work of Einstein in accordance with his own metaphysical system, and to suggest
that the outcome is a great accession of strength to the views which the philosopher in
question previously held. This cannot be true in all cases; and it may be hoped that it
is true in none. It would be disappointing if so fundamental a change as Einstein has
introduced involved no philosophical novelty. (See SPACE-TIME.)
Space-Time.--For philosophy, the most important novelty was present already in the
special theory of relativity; that is, the substitution of space-time for space and time.
In Newtonian dynamics, two events were separated by two kinds of interval, one
being distance in space, the other lapse of time. As soon as it was realised that all
motion is relative (which happened long before Einstein), distance in space became
ambiguous except in the case of simultaneous events, but it was still thought that there
was no ambiguity about simultaneity in different places. The special theory of
relativity showed, by experimental arguments which were new, and by logical
arguments which could have been discovered any time after it became known that
light travels with a finite velocity, that simultaneity is only definite when it applies to
events in the same place, and becomes more and more ambiguous as the events are
more widely removed from each other in space.
This statement is not quite correct, since it still uses the notion of "space." The correct
statement is this: Events have a four-dimensional order, by means of which we can
say that an event A is nearer to an event B than to an event C; this is a purely ordinal
matter, not involving anything quantitative. But, in addition, there is between
neighbouring events a quantitative relation called "interval," which fulfils the
functions both of distance in space and of lapse of time in the traditional dynamics,
but fulfils them with a difference. If a body can move so as to be present at both
events, the interval is time-like. If a ray of light can move so as to be present at both
events, the interval is zero. If neither can happen, the interval is space-like. When we
speak of a body being present "at" an event, we mean that the event occurs in the
same place in space-time as one of the events which make up the history of the body;
and when we say that two events occur at the same place in space-time, we mean that
there is no event between them in the four-dimensional space-time order. All the
events which happen to a man at a given moment (in his own time) are, in this sense,
in one place; for example, if we hear a noise and see a colour simultaneously, our two
perceptions are both in one place in space-time.
When one body can be present at two events which are not in one place in space-time,
the time-order of the two events is not ambiguous, though the magnitude of the time-
interval will be different in different systems of measurement. But whenever the
interval between two events is space-like, their time-order will be different in
different equally legitimate systems of measurement; in this case, therefore, the time-
order does not represent a physical fact. It follows that, when two bodies are in
relative motion, like the sun and a planet, there is no such physical fact as "the
distance between the bodies at a given time"; this alone shows that Newton's law of
gravitation is logically faulty. Fortunately, Einstein has not only pointed out the
defect, but remedied it. His arguments against Newton, however, would have
remained valid even if his own law of gravitation had not proved right.
Time not a Single Cosmic Order.--The fact that time is private to each body, not a
single cosmic order, involves changes in the notions of substance and cause, and
suggests the substitution of a series of events for a substance with changing states.
The controversy about the aether thus becomes rather unreal. Undoubtedly, when
light-waves travel, events occur, and it used to be thought that these events must be
"in" something; the something in which they were was called the aether. But there
seems no reason except a logical prejudice to suppose that the events are "in"
anything. Matter, also, may be reduced to a law according to which events succeed
each other and spread out from centres; but here we enter upon more speculative
Physical Laws.--Prof. Eddington has emphasised an aspect of relativity theory which
is of great philosophical importance, but difficult to make clear without somewhat
abstruse mathematics. The aspect in question is the reduction of what used to be
regarded as physical laws to the status of truisms or definitions. Prof. Eddington, in a
profoundly interesting essay on "The Domain of Physical Science,"
states the matter
as follows:--
In the present stage of science the laws of physics appear to be divisible into three
classes--the identical, the statistical and the transcendental. The "identical laws"
include the great field-laws which are commonly quoted as typical instances of
natural law--the law of gravitation, the law of conservation of mass and energy, the
laws of electric and magnetic force and the conservation of electric charge. These are
seen to be identities, when we refer to the cycle so as to understand the constitution of
the entities obeying them; and unless we have misunderstood this constitution,
violation of these laws is inconceivable. They do not in any way limit the actual basal
structure of the world, and are not laws of governance (op. cit., pp. 214-5).
It is these identical laws that form the subject-matter of relativity theory; the other
laws of physics, the statistical and transcendental, lie outside its scope. Thus the net
result of relativity theory is to show that the traditional laws of physics, rightly

In Science, Religion and Reality, ed. by Joseph Needham (1925).
understood, tell us almost nothing about the course of nature, being rather of the
nature of logical truisms.
This surprising result is an outcome of increased mathematical skill. As the same
says elsewhere:--
In one sense deductive theory is the enemy of experimental physics. The latter is
always striving to settle by crucial tests the nature of the fundamental things; the
former strives to minimise the successes obtained by showing how wide a nature of
things is compatible with all experimental results.
The suggestion is that, in almost any conceivable world, something will be conserved;
mathematics gives us the means of constructing a variety of mathematical expressions
having this property of conservation. It is natural to suppose that it is useful to have
senses which notice these conserved entities; hence mass, energy, and so on seem to
have a basis in our experience, but are in fact merely certain quantities which are
conserved and which we are adapted for noticing. If this view is correct, physics tells
us much less about the real world than was formerly supposed.
Force and Gravitation.--An important aspect of relativity is the elimination of "force."
This is not new in idea; indeed, it was already accepted in rational dynamics. But
there remained the outstanding difficulty of gravitation, which Einstein has overcome.
The sun is, so to speak, at the summit of a hill, and the planets are on the slopes. They
move as they do because of the slope where they are, not because of some mysterious
influence emanating from the summit. Bodies move as they do because that is the
easiest possible movement in the region of space-time in which they find themselves,
not because "forces" operate upon them. The apparent need of forces to account for
observed motions arises from mistaken insistence upon Euclidean geometry; when
once we have overcome this prejudice, we find that observed motions, instead of
showing the presence of forces, show the nature of the geometry applicable to the
region concerned. Bodies thus become far more independent of each other than they
were in Newtonian physics: there is an increase of individualism and a diminution of
central government, if one may be permitted such metaphorical language. This may,
in time, considerably modify the ordinary educated man's picture of the universe,
possibly with far-reaching results.
Realism in Relativity.--It is a mistake to suppose that relativity adopts an idealistic
picture of the world--using "idealism" in the technical sense, in which it implies that
there can be nothing which is not experience. The "observer" who is often mentioned
in expositions of relativity need not be a mind, but may be a photographic plate or any
kind of recording instrument. The fundamental assumption of relativity is realistic,
namely, that those respects in which all observers agree when they record a given
phenomenon may be regarded as objective, and not as contributed by the observers.
This assumption is made by common sense. The apparent sizes and shapes of objects
differ according to the point of view, but common sense discounts these differences.
Relativity theory merely extends this process. By taking into account not only human

A. S. Eddington, Mathematical Theory of Relativity, p. 238 (Cambridge, 1924)
observers, who all share the motion of the earth, but also possible "observers" in very
rapid motion relatively to the earth, it is found that much more depends upon the point
of view of the observer than was formerly thought. But there is found to be a residue
which is not so dependent; this is the part which can be expressed by the method of
"tensors." The importance of this method can hardly be exaggerated; it is, however,
quite impossible to explain it in non-mathematical terms.
Relativity Physics.--Relativity physics is, of course, concerned only with the
quantitative aspects of the world. The picture which it suggests is somewhat as
follows:--In the four-dimensional space-time frame there are events everywhere,
usually many events in a single place in space-time. The abstract mathematical
relations of these events proceed according to the laws of physics, but the intrinsic
nature of the events is wholly and inevitably unknown except when they occur in a
region where there is the sort of structure we call a brain. Then they become the
familiar sights and sounds and so on of our daily life. We know what it is like to see a
star, but we do not know the nature of the events which constitute the ray of light that
travels from the star to our eye. And the space-time frame itself is known only in its
abstract mathematical properties; there is no reason to suppose it similar in intrinsic
character to the spatial and temporal relations of our perceptions as known in
experience. There does not seem any possible way of overcoming this ignorance,
since the very nature of physical reasoning allows only the most abstract inferences,
and only the most abstract properties of our perceptions can be regarded as having
objective validity. Whether any other science than physics can tell us more, does not
fall within the scope of the present article.
Meanwhile, it is a curious fact that this meagre kind of knowledge is sufficient for the
practical uses of physics. From a practical point of view, the physical world only
matters in so far as it affects us, and the intrinsic nature of what goes on in our
absence is irrelevant, provided we can predict the effects upon ourselves. This we can
do, just as a person can use a telephone without understanding electricity. Only the
most abstract knowledge is required for practical manipulation of matter. But there is
a grave danger when this habit of manipulation based upon mathematical laws is
carried over into our dealings with human beings, since they, unlike the telephone
wire, are capable of happiness and misery, desire and aversion. It would therefore be
unfortunate if the habits of mind which are appropriate and right in dealing with
material mechanisms were allowed to dominate the administrator's attempts at social
Bibliography A. S. Eddington, Space, Time, and Gravitation (Cambridge, 1921);
Bertrand A. W. Russell, The A. B. C. of Relativity (1925).

Philosophy for Laymen
Bertrand Russell

Mankind, ever since there have been civilized communities have been
confronted with problems of two different kinds On the one hand there
has been the problem of mastering natural forces, of acquiring the
knowledge and the skill required to produce tools and weapons and to
encourage Nature in the production of useful animals and plants. This
problem, in the modern world, is dealt with by science and scientific
technique, and experience has shown that in order to deal with it
adequately it is necessary to train a large number of rather narrow
But there is a second problem, less precise, and by some mistakenly
regarded as unimportant - I mean the problem of how best to utilize
our command over the forces of nature. This includes such burning
issues as democracy versus dictatorship, capitalism versus socialism,
international government versus international anarchy, free
speculation versus authoritarian dogma. On such issues the laboratory
can give no decisive guidance. The kind of knowledge that gives most
help in solving such problems is a wide survey of human life, in the
past as well as in the present, and an appreciation of the sources of
misery or contentment as they appear in history. It will be found that
increase of skill has not, of itself, insured any increase of human
happiness or wellbeing. When men first learnt to cultivate the soil,
they used their knowledge to establish a cruel cult of human sacrifice.
The men who first tamed the horse employed him to pillage and
enslave peaceable populations. When, in the infancy of the industrial
revolution, men discovered how to make cotton goods by machinery,
the results were horrible: Jefferson's movement for the emancipation
of slaves in America, which had been on the point of success, was
killed dead; child labor in England was developed to a point of
appalling cruelty; and ruthless imperialism in Africa was stimulated in
the hope that black men could be induced to clothe themselves in
cotton goods. In our own day a combination of scientific genius and
technical skill has produced the atomic bomb, but having produced it
we are all terrified, and do not know what to do with it. These
instances, from widely different periods of history, show that
something more than skill is required, something which may perhaps
be called 'wisdom'. This is something that must be learnt, if it can be
learnt, by means of other studies than those required for scientific
technique. And it is something more needed now than ever before,
because the rapid growth of technique has made ancient habits of
thought and action more inadequate than in any earlier time.
'Philosophy' means 'love of wisdom', and philosophy in this sense is
what men must acquire if the new powers invented by technicians, and
handed over by them to be wielded by ordinary men and women, are
not to plunge mankind into an appalling cataclysm. But the philosophy
that should be a part of general education is not the same thing as the
philosophy of specialists. Not only in philosophy, but in all branches of
academic study, there is a distinction between what has cultural value
and what is only of professional interest. Historians may debate what
happened to Sennacherib's unsuccessful expedition of 698 BC, but
those who are not historians need not know the difference between it
and his successful expedition three years earlier. Professional Grecians
may usefully discuss a disputed reading in a play of Aeschylus, but
such matters are not for the man who wishes, in spite of a busy life, to
acquire some knowledge of what the Greeks achieved. Similarly the
men who devote their lives to philosophy must consider questions that
the general educated public does right to ignore, such as the
differences between the theory of universals in Aquinas and in Duns
Scotus, or the characteristics that a language must have if it is to be
able, without falling into nonsense, to say things about itself. Such
questions belong to the technical aspects of philosophy, and their
discussion cannot form part of its contribution to general culture.
Academic education should aim at giving, as a corrective of the
specialization which increase of knowledge has made unavoidable, as
much as time will permit of what has cultural value in such studies as
history, literature and philosophy. It should be made easy for a young
man who knows no Greek to acquire through translations some
understanding, however inadequate, of what the Greeks accomplished.
Instead of studying the Anglo-Saxon kings over and over again at
school, some attempt should be made to give a conspectus of world
history, bringing the problems of our own day into relation with those
of Egyptian priests, Babylonian kings, and Athenian reformers, as well
as with all the hopes and despairs of the intervening centuries. But it is
only of philosophy, treated from a similar point of view, that I wish to
Philosophy has had from its earliest days two different objects which
were believed to be closely interrelated. On the one hand, it aimed at
a theoretical understanding of the structure of the world; on the other
hand, it tried to discover and inculcate the best possible way of life.
From Heraclitus to Hegel, or even to Marx, it consistently kept both
ends in view; it was neither purely theoretical nor purely practical, but
sought a theory of the universe upon which to base a practical ethic.
Philosophy has thus been closely related to science on the one hand,
and to religion on the other. Let us consider first the relation to
science. Until the eighteenth century science was included in what was
commonly called 'philosophy', but since that time the word 'philosophy'
has been confined, on its theoretical side, to what is more speculative
and general in the topics with which science deals. It is often said that
philosophy is unprogressive, but this is largely a verbal matter: as
soon as a way is found of arriving at definite knowledge on some
ancient question, the new knowledge is counted as belonging to
'science', and 'philosophy' is deprived of the credit. In Greek times,
and down to the time of Newton, planetary theory belonged to
'philosophy', because it was uncertain and speculative, but Newton
took the subject out of the realm of the free play of hypothesis, and
made it one requiring a different type of skill from that which it had
required when it was still open to fundamental doubts. Anaximander,
in the sixth century BC, had a theory of evolution, and maintained that
men are descended from fishes. This was philosophy because it was a
speculation unsupported by detailed evidence, but Darwin's theory of
evolution was science, because it was based on the succession of
forms of life as found in fossils, and upon the distribution of animals
and plants in many parts of the world. A man might say, with enough
truth to justify a joke: 'Science is what we know, and philosophy is
what we don't know'. But it should be added that philosophical
speculation as to what we do not yet know has shown itself a valuable
preliminary to exact scientific knowledge. The guesses of the
Pythagoreans in astronomy, of Anaximander and Empedocles in
biological evolution, and of Democritus as to the atomic constitution of
matter, provided the men of science in later times with hypotheses
which, but for the philosophers, might never have entered their heads.
We may say that, on its theoretical side, philosophy consists, at least
in part, in the framing of large general hypotheses which science is not
yet in a position to test; but when it becomes possible to test the
hypotheses they become, if verified, a part of science, and cease to
count as 'philosophy'.
The utility of philosophy, on the theoretical side, is not confined to
speculations which we may hope to see confirmed or confuted by
science within a measurable time. Some men are so impressed by
what science knows that they forget what it does not know; others are
so much more interested in what it does not know than in what it does
that they belittle its achievements. Those who think that science is
everything become complacent and cocksure, and decry all interest in
problems not having the circumscribed definiteness that is necessary
for scientific treatment. In practical matters they tend to think that
skill can take the place of wisdom, and that to kill each other by
means of the latest technique is more 'progressive', and therefore
better, than to keep each other alive by old-fashioned methods. On
the other hand, those who pooh-pooh science revert, as a rule, to
some ancient and pernicious superstition, and refuse to admit the
immense increase of human happiness which scientific technique, if
widely used, would make possible. Both these attitudes are to be
deplored, and it is philosophy that shows the right attitude, by making
clear at once the scope and the limitations of scientific knowledge.
Leaving aside, for the moment, all questions that have to do with
ethics or with values, there are a number of purely theoretical
questions, of perennial and passionate interest, which science is
unable to answer, at any rate at present. Do we survive death in any
sense, and if so, do we survive for a time or for ever? Can mind
dominate matter, or does matter completely dominate mind, or has
each, perhaps, a certain limited independence? Has the universe a
purpose? Or is it driven by blind necessity? Or is it a mere chaos and
jumble, in which the natural laws that we think we find are only a
phantasy generated by our own love of order? If there is a cosmic
scheme, has life more importance in it than astronomy would lead us
to suppose, or is our emphasis upon life mere parochialism and self-
importance? I do not know the answer to these questions, and I do not
believe that anybody else does, but I think human life would be
impoverished if they were forgotten, or if definite answers were
accepted without adequate evidence. To keep alive the interest in such
questions, and to scrutinize suggested answers, is one of the functions
of philosophy.
Those who have a passion for quick returns and for an exact balance
sheet of effort and reward may feel impatient of a study which cannot,
in the present state of our knowledge, arrive at certainties, and which
encourages what may be thought the timewasting occupation of
inconclusive meditation on insoluble problems. To this view I cannot in
any degree subscribe. Some kind of philosophy is a necessity to all but
the most thoughtless, and in the absence of knowledge it is almost
sure to be a silly philosophy. The result of this is that the human race
becomes divided into rival groups of fanatics, each group firmly
persuaded that its own brand of nonsense is sacred truth, while the
other side's is damnable heresy. Arians and Catholics, Crusaders and
Muslims, Protestants and adherents of the Pope, Communists and
Fascists, have filled large parts of the last 1,600 years with futile strife,
when a little philosophy would have shown both sides in all these
disputes that neither had any good reason to believe itself in the right.
Dogmatism is an enemy to peace, and an insuperable barrier to
democracy. In the present age, at least as much as in former times, it
is the greatest of the mental obstacles to human happiness.
The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is
nevertheless an intellectual vice. If you take your children for a picnic
on a doubtful day, they will demand a dogmatic answer as to whether
it will be fine or wet, and be disappointed in you when you cannot be
sure. The same sort of assurance is demanded, in later life, of those
who undertake to lead populations into the Promised Land. 'Liquidate
the capitalists and the survivors will enjoy eternal bliss.' 'Exterminate
the Jews and everyone will be virtuous.' 'Kill the Croats and let the
Serbs reign.' 'Kill the Serbs and let the Croats reign.' These are
samples of the slogans that have won wide popular acceptance in our
time. Even a modicum of philosophy would make it impossible to
accept such bloodthirsty nonsense. But so long as men are not trained
to withhold judgment in the absence of evidence, they will be led
astray by cocksure prophets, and it is likely that their leaders will be
either ignorant fanatics or dishonest charlatans. To endure uncertainty
is difficult, but so are most of the other virtues. For the learning of
every virtue there is an appropriate discipline, and for the learning of
suspended judgment the best discipline is philosophy.
But if philosophy is to serve a positive purpose, it must not teach
mere skepticism, for, while the dogmatist is harmful, the skeptic is
useless. Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute
philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing.
What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or
of ignorance. Knowledge is not so precise a concept as is commonly
thought. Instead of saying 'I know this', we ought to say 'I more or
less know something more or less like this'. It is true that this proviso
is hardly necessary as regards the multiplication table, but knowledge
in practical affairs has not the certainty or the precision of arithmetic.
Suppose I say 'democracy is a good thing': I must admit, first, that I
am less sure of this than I am that two and two are four, and
secondly, that 'democracy' is a somewhat vague term which I cannot
define precisely. We ought to say, therefore: 'I am fairly certain that it
is a good thing if a government has something of the characteristics
that are common to the British and American Constitutions', or
something of this sort. And one of the aims of education ought to be to
make such a statement more effective from a platform than the usual
type of political slogan.
For it is not enough to recognize that all our knowledge is, in a
greater or less degree, uncertain and vague; it is necessary, at the
same time, to learn to act upon the best hypothesis without
dogmatically believing it. To revert to the picnic: even though you
admit that it may rain, you start out if you think fine weather
probable, but you allow for the opposite possibility by taking
mackintoshes. If you were a dogmatist you would leave the
mackintoshes at home. The same principles apply to more important
issues. One may say broadly: all that passes for knowledge can be
arranged in a hierarchy of degrees of certainty, with arithmetic and the
facts of perception at the top. That two and two are four, and that I
am sitting in my room writing, are statements as to which any serious
doubt on my part would be pathological. I am nearly as certain that
yesterday was a fine day, but not quite, because memory does
sometimes play odd tricks. More distant memories are more doubtful,
particularly if there is some strong emotional reason for remembering
falsely, such, for instance, as made George IV remember being at the
battle of Waterloo. Scientific laws may be very nearly certain, or only
slightly probable, according to the state of the evidence When you act
upon a hypothesis which you know to be uncertain, your action should
be such as will not have very harmful results if your hypothesis is
false. In the matter of the picnic, you may risk a wetting if all your
party are robust, but not if one of them is so delicate as to run a risk
of pneumonia Or suppose you meet a Muggletonian, you will be
justified in arguing with him, because not much harm will have beer
done if Mr Muggleton was in fact as great a man as his disciples
suppose, but you will not be justified in burning him at the stake,
because the evil of being burnt alive is more certain than any
proposition of theology. Of course if the Muggletonians were so
numerous and so fanatical that either you or they must be killed the
question would grow more difficult, but the general principle remains,
that an uncertain hypothesis cannot justify a certain evil unless an
equal evil is equally certain on the opposite hypothesis.
Philosophy, we said, has both a theoretical and a practice aim. It is
now time to consider the latter.
Among most of the philosophers of antiquity there was close
connection between a view of the universe and a doctrine as to the
best way of life. Some of them founded fraternities which had a certain
resemblance to the monastic orders of later times. Socrates and Plato
were shocked by the sophists because they had no religious aims. If
philosophy is to play a serious part in the lives of men who are not
specialists, it must not cease to advocate some way of life. In doing
this it is seeking to do something of what religion has done but with
certain differences. The greatest difference is the there is no appeal to
authority, whether that of tradition or that of a sacred book. The
second important difference is the a philosopher should not attempt to
establish a Church; Auguste Comte tried, but failed, as he deserved to
do. The third is that more stress should be laid on the intellectual
virtues than has been customary since the decay of Hellenic
There is one important difference between the ethical teachings of
ancient philosophers and those appropriate to our own day. The
ancient philosophers appealed to gentlemen of leisure, who could live
as seemed good to them, and could even, if they chose, found an
independent City having laws that embodied the master's doctrines.
The immense majority of modern educated men have no such
freedom; they have to earn their living within the existing framework
of society, and they cannot make important changes in their own way
of life unless they can first secure important changes in political and
economic organization. The consequence is that a man's ethical
convictions have to be expressed more in political advocacy, and less
in his private behavior, than was the case in antiquity. And a
conception of a good way of life has to be a social rather than an
individual conception. Even among the ancients, it was so conceived
by Plato in the Republic, but many of them had a more individualistic
conception of the ends of life.
With this proviso, let us see what philosophy has to say on the
subject of ethics.
To begin with the intellectual virtues: The pursuit of philosophy is
founded on the belief that knowledge is good, even if what is known is
painful. A man imbued with the philosophic spirit, whether a
professional philosopher or not, will wish his beliefs to be as true as he
can make them, and will, in equal measure, love to know and hate to
be in error. This principle has a wider scope than may be apparent at
first sight. Our beliefs spring from a great variety of causes: what we
were told in youth by parents and school-teachers, what Powerful
organizations tell us in order to make us act as they wish, what either
embodies or allays our fears, what ministers to our self-esteem, and
so on. Any one of these causes may happen to lead us to true beliefs,
but is more likely to lead us in the opposite direction. Intellectual
sobriety, therefore, will lead us to scrutinize our beliefs closely, with a
view to discovering which of them there is any reason to believe true.
If we are wise, we shall apply solvent criticism especially to the beliefs
that we find it most painful to doubt, and to those most likely to
involve us in violent conflict with men who hold opposite but equally
groundless beliefs. If this attitude could become common, the gain in
diminishing the acerbity of disputes would be incalculable.
There is another intellectual virtue, which is that of generally or
impartially. I recommend the following exercise: When, in a sentence
expressing political opinion, there are words that arouse powerful but
different emotions in different readers, try replacing them by symbols,
A, B. C, and so on and forgetting the particular significance of the
symbols. Suppose A is England, B is Germany and C is Russia. So long
as you remember what the letters mean, most of the things you will
believe will depend upon whether you are English, German or Russian,
which is logically irrelevant. When, in elementary algebra, you do
problems about A, B and C going up a mountain, you have no
emotional interest in the gentlemen concerned, and you do your best
to work out the solution with impersonal correctness. But if you
thought that A was yourself, B your hated rival and C the schoolmaster
who set the problem, your calculations would go askew, and you would
be sure to find that A was first and C was last. In thinking about
political problems this kind of emotional bias is bound to be present,
and only care and practice can enable you to think as objectively as
you do in the algebraic problem.
Thinking in abstract terms is of course not the only way to achieve
ethical generally; it can be achieved as well, or perhaps even better, if
you can feel generalized emotions. But to most people this is difficult.
If you are hungry, you will make great exertions, if necessary, to get
food; if your children are hungry, you may feel an even greater
urgency. If a friend is starving, you will probably exert yourself to
relieve his distress. But if you hear that some millions of Indians or
Chinese are in danger of death from malnutrition, the problem is so
vast and so distant that unless you have some official responsibility
you probably soon forget all about it. Nevertheless, if you have the
emotional capacity to feel distant evils acutely, you can achieve ethical
generally through feeling. If you have not this rather rare gift, the
habit of viewing practical problems abstractly as well as concretely is
the best available substitute.
The inter-relation of logical and emotional generally in ethics is an
interesting subject. 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself' inculcates
emotional generally; 'ethical statements should not contain proper
names' inculcates logical generally. The two precepts sound very
different, but when they are examined it will be found that they are
scarcely distinguishable in practical import. Benevolent men will prefer
the traditional form; logicians may prefer the other. I hardly know
which class of men is the smaller. Either form of statement, if accepted
by statesmen and tolerated by the populations whom they represent,
would quickly lead to the millennium. Jews and Arabs would come
together and say 'Let us see how to get the greatest amount of good
for both together, without inquiring too closely how it is distributed
between us'. Obviously each group would get far more of what makes
for happiness of both than either can at present. The same would be
true of Hindus and Moslems, Chinese communists and adherents of
Chiang Kai-shek, Italians and Yugoslavs, Russians and Western
democrats. But alas! neither logic nor benevolence is to be expected
on either side in any of these disputes.
It is not to be supposed that young men and women who are busy
acquiring valuable specialized knowledge can spare a great deal of
time for the study of philosophy, but even in the time that can easily
be spared without injury to the learning of technical skills, philosophy
can give certain things that will greatly increase the student's value as
a human being and as a citizen. It can give a habit of exact and careful
thought, not only in mathematics and science, but in questions of large
practical import. It can give an impersonal breadth and scope to the
conception of the ends of life. It can give to the individual a just
measure of himself in relation to society, of man in the present to man
in the past and in the future, and of the whole history of man in
relation to the astronomical cosmos. By enlarging the objects of his
thoughts it supplies an antidote to the anxieties and anguish of the
present, and makes possible the nearest approach to serenity that is
available to a sensitive mind in our tortured and uncertain world.

Political I deals
Bertrand Russell
Chapter I: Political Ideals

In dark days, men need a clear faith and a well- grounded hope; and as
the outcome of these, the calm courage which takes no account of
hardships by the way. The times through which we are passing have
afforded to many of us a confirmation of our faith. We see that the
things we had thought evil are really evil, and we know more
definitely than we ever did before the directions in which men must
move if a better world is to arise on the ruins of the one which is
now hurling itself into destruction. We see that men's political
dealings with one another are based on wholly wrong ideals, and can
only be saved by quite different ideals from continuing to be a source
of suffering, devastation, and sin.

Political ideals must be based upon ideals for the individual life.
The aim of politics should be to make the lives of individuals as good
as possible. There is nothing for the politician to consider outside
or above the various men, women, and children who compose the world.
The problem of politics is to adjust the relations of human beings in
such a way that each severally may have as much of good in his
existence as possible. And this problem requires that we should first
consider what it is that we think good in the individual life.

To begin with, we do not want all men to be alike. We do not want to
lay down a pattern or type to which men of all sorts are to be made by
some means or another to approximate. This is the ideal of the
impatient administrator. A bad teacher will aim at imposing his
opinion, and turning out a set of pupils all of whom will give the
same definite answer on a doubtful point. Mr. Bernard Shaw is said to
hold that _Troilus and Cressida_ is the best of Shakespeare's plays.
Although I disagree with this opinion, I should welcome it in a pupil
as a sign of individuality; but most teachers would not tolerate such
a heterodox view. Not only teachers, but all commonplace persons in
authority, desire in their subordinates that kind of uniformity which
makes their actions easily predictable and never inconvenient. The
result is that they crush initiative and individuality when they can,
and when they cannot, they quarrel with it.

It is not one ideal for all men, but a separate ideal for each
separate man, that has to be realized if possible. Every man has it
in his being to develop into something good or bad: there is a best
possible for him, and a worst possible. His circumstances will
determine whether his capacities for good are developed or crushed,
and whether his bad impulses are strengthened or gradually diverted
into better channels.

But although we cannot set up in any detail an ideal of character
which is to be universally applicable--although we cannot say, for
instance, that all men ought to be industrious, or self-sacrificing,
or fond of music--there are some broad principles which can be used to
guide our estimates as to what is possible or desirable.

We may distinguish two sorts of goods, and two corresponding sorts of
impulses. There are goods in regard to which individual possession is
possible, and there are goods in which all can share alike. The food
and clothing of one man is not the food and clothing of another; if
the supply is insufficient, what one man has is obtained at the
expense of some other man. This applies to material goods generally,
and therefore to the greater part of the present economic life of the
world. On the other hand, mental and spiritual goods do not belong to
one man to the exclusion of another. If one man knows a science, that
does not prevent others from knowing it; on the contrary, it helps
them to acquire the knowledge. If one man is a great artist or poet,
that does not prevent others from painting pictures or writing poems,
but helps to create the atmosphere in which such things are possible.
If one man is full of good-will toward others, that does not mean that
there is less good-will to be shared among the rest; the more
good-will one man has, the more he is likely to create among others.
In such matters there is no _possession_, because there is not a
definite amount to be shared; any increase anywhere tends to produce
an increase everywhere.

There are two kinds of impulses, corresponding to the two kinds of
goods. There are _possessive_ impulses, which aim at acquiring or
retaining private goods that cannot be shared; these center in the
impulse of property. And there are _creative_ or constructive impulses,
which aim at bringing into the world or making available for use the
kind of goods in which there is no privacy and no possession.

The best life is the one in which the creative impulses play the
largest part and the possessive impulses the smallest. This is no new
discovery. The Gospel says: "Take no thought, saying, What shall we
eat? or What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?"
The thought we give to these things is taken away from matters of more
importance. And what is worse, the habit of mind engendered by
thinking of these things is a bad one; it leads to competition, envy,
domination, cruelty, and almost all the moral evils that infest the
world. In particular, it leads to the predatory use of force.
Material possessions can be taken by force and enjoyed by the robber.
Spiritual possessions cannot be taken in this way. You may kill an
artist or a thinker, but you cannot acquire his art or his thought.
You may put a man to death because he loves his fellow-men, but you
will not by so doing acquire the love which made his happiness. Force
is impotent in such matters; it is only as regards material goods that
it is effective. For this reason the men who believe in force are the
men whose thoughts and desires are preoccupied with material goods.

The possessive impulses, when they are strong, infect activities which
ought to be purely creative. A man who has made some valuable
discovery may be filled with jealousy of a rival discoverer. If one
man has found a cure for cancer and another has found a cure for
consumption, one of them may be delighted if the other man's discovery
turns out a mistake, instead of regretting the suffering of patients
which would otherwise have been avoided. In such cases, instead of
desiring knowledge for its own sake, or for the sake of its
usefulness, a man is desiring it as a means to reputation. Every
creative impulse is shadowed by a possessive impulse; even the
aspirant to saintliness may be jealous of the more successful saint.
Most affection is accompanied by some tinge of jealousy, which is a
possessive impulse intruding into the creative region. Worst of all,
in this direction, is the sheer envy of those who have missed
everything worth having in life, and who are instinctively bent on
preventing others from enjoying what they have not had. There is
often much of this in the attitude of the old toward the young.

There is in human beings, as in plants and animals, a certain natural
impulse of growth, and this is just as true of mental as of physical
development. Physical development is helped by air and nourishment
and exercise, and may be hindered by the sort of treatment which made
Chinese women's feet small. In just the same way mental development
may be helped or hindered by outside influences. The outside
influences that help are those that merely provide encouragement or
mental food or opportunities for exercising mental faculties. The
influences that hinder are those that interfere with growth by
applying any kind of force, whether discipline or authority or fear or
the tyranny of public opinion or the necessity of engaging in some
totally incongenial occupation. Worst of all influences are those
that thwart or twist a man's fundamental impulse, which is what shows
itself as conscience in the moral sphere; such influences are likely
to do a man an inward danger from which he will never recover.

Those who realize the harm that can be done to others by any use of
force against them, and the worthlessness of the goods that can be
acquired by force, will be very full of respect for the liberty of
others; they will not try to bind them or fetter them; they will be
slow to judge and swift to sympathize; they will treat every human
being with a kind of tenderness, because the principle of good in him
is at once fragile and infinitely precious. They will not condemn
those who are unlike themselves; they will know and feel that
individuality brings differences and uniformity means death. They
will wish each human being to be as much a living thing and as little
a mechanical product as it is possible to be; they will cherish in
each one just those things which the harsh usage of a ruthless world
would destroy. In one word, all their dealings with others will be
inspired by a deep impulse of _reverence_.

What we shall desire for individuals is now clear: strong creative
impulses, overpowering and absorbing the instinct of possession;
reverence for others; respect for the fundamental creative impulse in
ourselves. A certain kind of self-respect or native pride is
necessary to a good life; a man must not have a sense of utter inward
defeat if he is to remain whole, but must feel the courage and the
hope and the will to live by the best that is in him, whatever outward
or inward obstacles it may encounter. So far as it lies in a man's
own power, his life will realize its best possibilities if it has
three things: creative rather than possessive impulses, reverence for
others, and respect for the fundamental impulse in himself.

Political and social institutions are to be judged by the good or harm
that they do to individuals. Do they encourage creativeness rather
than possessiveness? Do they embody or promote a spirit of reverence
between human beings? Do they preserve self-respect?

In all these ways the institutions under which we live are very far
indeed from what they ought to be.

Institutions, and especially economic systems, have a profound
influence in molding the characters of men and women. They may
encourage adventure and hope, or timidity and the pursuit of safety.
They may open men's minds to great possibilities, or close them
against everything but the risk of obscure misfortune. They may make
a man's happiness depend upon what he adds to the general possessions
of the world, or upon what he can secure for himself of the private
goods in which others cannot share. Modern capitalism forces the
wrong decision of these alternatives upon all who are not heroic or
exceptionally fortunate.

Men's impulses are molded, partly by their native disposition, partly
by opportunity and environment, especially early environment. Direct
preaching can do very little to change impulses, though it can lead
people to restrain the direct expression of them, often with the
result that the impulses go underground and come to the surface again
in some contorted form. When we have discovered what kinds of impulse
we desire, we must not rest content with preaching, or with trying to
produce the outward manifestation without the inner spring; we must
try rather to alter institutions in the way that will, of itself,
modify the life of impulse in the desired direction.

At present our institutions rest upon two things: property and power.
Both of these are very unjustly distributed; both, in the actual
world, are of great importance to the happiness of the individual.
Both are possessive goods; yet without them many of the goods in which
all might share are hard to acquire as things are now.

Without property, as things are, a man has no freedom, and no security
for the necessities of a tolerable life; without power, he has no
opportunity for initiative. If men are to have free play for their
creative impulses, they must be liberated from sordid cares by a
certain measure of security, and they must have a sufficient share of
power to be able to exercise initiative as regards the course and
conditions of their lives.

Few men can succeed in being creative rather than possessive in a
world which is wholly built on competition, where the great majority
would fall into utter destitution if they became careless as to the
acquisition of material goods, where honor and power and respect are
given to wealth rather than to wisdom, where the law embodies and
consecrates the injustice of those who have toward those who have not.
In such an environment even those whom nature has endowed with great
creative gifts become infected with the poison of competition. Men
combine in groups to attain more strength in the scramble for material
goods, and loyalty to the group spreads a halo of quasi- idealism round
the central impulse of gr eed. Trade-unions and the Labor party are no
more exempt from this vice than other parties and other sections of
society; though they are largely inspired by the hope of a radically
better world. They are too often led astray by the immediate object
of securing for themselves a large share of material goods. That this
desire is in accordance with justice, it is impossible to deny; but
something larger and more constructive is needed as a political ideal,
if the victors of to-morrow are not to become the oppressors of the
day after. The inspiration and outcome of a reforming movement ought
to be freedom and a generous spirit, not niggling restrictions and

The present economic system concentrates initiative in the hands of a
small number of very rich men. Those who are not capitalists have,
almost always, very little choice as to their activities when once
they have selected a trade or profession; they are not part of the
power that moves the mechanism, but only a passive portion of the
machinery. Despite political democracy, there is still an
extraordinary degree of difference in the power of self-direction
belonging to a capitalist and to a man who has to earn his living.
Economic affairs touch men's lives, at most times, much more
intimately than political questions. At present the man who has no
capital usually has to sell himself to some large organization, such
as a railway company, for example. He has no voice in its management,
and no liberty in politics except what his trade-union can secure for
him. If he happens to desire a form of liberty which is not thought
important by his trade-union, he is powerless; he must submit or

Exactly the same thing happens to professional men. Probably a
majority of journalists are engaged in writing for newspapers whose
politics they disagree with; only a man of wealth can own a large
newspaper, and only an accident can enable the point of view or the
interests of those who are not wealthy to find expression in a
newspaper. A large part of the best brains of the country are in the
civil service, where the condition of their employment is silence
about the evils which cannot be concealed from them. A Nonconformist
minister loses his livelihood if his views displease his congregation;
a member of Parliament loses his seat if he is not sufficiently supple
or sufficiently stupid to follow or share all the turns and twists of
public opinion. In every walk of life, independence of mind is
punished by failure, more and more as economic organizations grow
larger and more rigid. Is it surprising that men become increasingly
docile, increasingly ready to submit to dictation and to forego the
right of thinking for themselves? Yet along such lines civilization
can only sink into a Byzantine immobility.

Fear of destitution is not a motive out of which a free creative life
can grow, yet it is the chief motive which inspires the daily work of
most wage-earners. The hope of possessing more wealth and power than
any man ought to have, which is the corresponding motive of the rich,
is quite as bad in its effects; it compels men to close their minds
against justice, and to prevent themselves from thinking honestly on
social questions while in the depths of their hearts they uneasily
feel that their pleasures are bought by the miseries of others. The
injustices of destitution and wealth alike ought to be rendered
impossible. Then a great fear would be removed from the lives of the
many, and hope would have to take on a better form in the lives of the

But security and liberty are only the negative conditions for good
political institutions. When they have been won, we need also the
positive condition: encouragement of creative energy. Security alone
might produce a smug and stationary society; it demands creativeness
as its counterpart, in order to keep alive the adventure and interest
of life, and the movement toward perpetually new and better things.
There can be no final goal for human institutions; the best are those
that most encourage progress toward others still better. Without
effort and change, human life cannot remain good. It is not a
finished Utopia that we ought to desire, but a world where imagination
and hope are alive and active.

It is a sad evidence of the weariness mankind has suffered from
excessive toil that his heavens have usually been places where nothing
ever happened or changed. Fatigue produces the illusion that only
rest is needed for happiness; but when men have rested for a time,
boredom drives them to renewed activity. For this reason, a happy
life must be one in which there is activity. If it is also to be a
useful life, the activity ought to be as far as possible creative, not
merely predatory or defensive. But creative activity requires
imagination and originality, which are apt to be subversive of the
_status quo_. At present, those who have power dread a disturbance of
the _status quo_, lest their unjust privileges should be taken away.
In combination with the instinct for conventionality,[1] which man
shares wit h the other gregarious animals, those who profit by the
existing order have established a system which punishes originality
and starves imagination from the moment of first going to school down
to the time of death and burial. The whole spirit in which education
is conducted needs to be changed, in order that children may be
encouraged to think and feel for themselves, not to acquiesce
passively in the thoughts and feelings of others. It is not rewards
after the event that will produce initiative, but a certain mental
atmosphere. There have been times when such an atmosphere existed:
the great days of Greece, and Elizabethan England, may serve as
examples. But in our own day the tyranny of vast machine- like
organizations, governed from above by men who know and care little for
the lives of those whom they control, is killing individuality and
freedom of mind, and forcing men more and more to conform to a uniform

[1] In England this is called "a sense of humor."

Vast organizations are an inevitable element in modern life, and it is
useless to aim at their abolition, as has been done by some reformers,
for instance, William Morris. It is true that they make the
preservation of individuality more difficult, but what is needed is a
way of combining them with the greatest possible scope for individual

One very important step toward this end would be to render democratic
the government of every organization. At present, our legislative
institutions are more or less democratic, except for the important
fact that women are excluded. But our administration is still purely
bureaucratic, and our economic organizations are monarchical or
oligarchic. Every limited liability company is run by a small number
of self-appointed or cošpted directors. There can be no real
freedom or democracy until the men who do the work in a business also
control its management.

Another measure which would do much to increase liberty would be an
increase of self- government for subordinate groups, whether
geographical or economic or defined by some common belief, like
religious sects. A modern state is so vast and its machinery is so
little understood that even when a man has a vote he does not feel
himself any effective part of the force which determines its policy.
Except in matters where he can act in conjunction with an
exceptionally powerful group, he feels himself almost impotent, and
the government remains a remote impersonal circumstance, which must be
simply endured, like the weather. By a share in the control of
smaller bodies, a man might regain some of that sense of personal
opportunity and responsibility which belonged to the citizen of a
city-state in ancient Greece or medieval Italy.

When any group of men has a strong corporate consciousness--such as
belongs, for example, to a nation or a trade or a religious
body--liberty demands that it should be free to decide for itself all
matters which are of great importance to the outside world. This is
the basis of the universal claim for national independence. But
nations are by no means the only groups which ought to have
self-government for their internal concerns. And nations, like other
groups, ought not to have complete liberty of action in matters which
are of equal concern to foreign nations. Liberty demands
self-government, but not the right to interfere with others. The
greatest degree of liberty is not secured by anarchy. The
reconciliation of liberty with government is a difficult problem, but
it is one which any political theory must face.

The essence of government is the use of force in accordance with law
to secure certain ends which the holders of power consider desirable.
The coercion of an individual or a group by force is always in itself
more or less harmful. But if there were no government, the result
would not be an absence of force in men's relations to each other; it
would merely be the exercise of force by those who had strong
predatory instincts, necessitating either slavery or a perpetual
readiness to repel force with force on the part of those whose
instincts were less violent. This is the state of affairs at present
in international relations, owing to the fact that no international
government exists. The results of anarchy between states should
suffice to persuade us that anarchism has no solution to offer for the
evils of the world.

There is probably one purpose, and only one, for which the use of
force by a government is beneficent, and that is to diminish the total
amount of force used m the world. It is clear, for example, that the
legal prohibition of murder diminishes the total amount of violence in
the world. And no one would maintain that parents should have
unlimited freedom to ill-treat their children. So long as some men
wish to do violence to others, there cannot be complete liberty, for
either the wish to do violence must be restrained, or the victims must
be left to suffer. For this reason, although individuals and
societies should have the utmost freedom as regards their own affairs,
they ought not to have complete freedom as regards their dealings with
others. To give freedom to the strong to oppress the weak is not the
way to secure the greatest possible amount of freedom in the world.
This is the basis of the socialist revolt against the kind of freedom
which used to be advocated by _laissez- faire_ economists.

Democracy is a device--the best so far invented--for diminishing as
much as possible the interference of governments with liberty. If a
nation is divided into two sections which cannot both have their way,
democracy theoretically insures that the majority shall have their
way. But democracy is not at all an adequate device unless it is
accompanied by a very great amount of devolution. Love of uniformity,
or the mere pleasure of interfering, or dislike of differing tastes
and temperaments, may often lead a majority to control a minority in
matters which do not really concern the majority. We should none of
us like to have the internal affairs of Great Britain settled by a
parliament of the world, if ever such a body came into existence.
Nevertheless, there are matters which such a body could settle much
better than any existing instrument of government.

The theory of the legitimate use of force in human affairs, where a
government exists, seems clear. Force should only be used against
those who attempt to use force against others, or against those who
will not respect the law in cases where a common decision is necessary
and a minority are opposed to the action of the majority. These seem
legitimate occasions for the use of force; and they should be
legitimate occasions in international affairs, if an international
government existed. The problem of the legitimate occasions for the
use of force in the absence of a government is a different one, with
which we are not at present concerned.

Although a government must have the power to use force, and may on
occasion use it legitimately, the aim of the reformers to have such
institutions as will diminish the need for actual coercion will be
found to have this effect. Most of us abstain, for instance, from
theft, not because it is illegal, but because we feel no desire to
steal. The more men learn to live creatively rather than
possessively, the less their wishes will lead them to thwart others or
to attempt violent interference with their liberty. Most of the
conflicts of interests, which lead individuals or organizations into
disputes, are purely imaginary, and would be seen to be so if men
aimed more at the goods in which all can share, and less at those
private possessions that are the source of strife. In proportion as
men live creatively, they cease to wish to interfere with others by
force. Very many matters in which, at present, common action is
thought indispensable, might well be left to individual decision. It
used to be thought absolutely necessary that all the inhabitants of a
country should have the same religion, but we now know that there is
no such necessity. In like manner it will be found, as men grow more
tolerant in their instincts, that many uniformities now insisted upon
are useless and even harmful.

Good political institutions would weaken the impulse toward force and
domination in two ways: first, by increasing the opportunities for the
creative impulses, and by shaping education so as to strengthen these
impulses; secondly, by diminishing the outlets for the possessive
instincts. The diffusion of power, both in the political and the
economic sphere, instead of its concentration in the hands of
officials and captains of industry, would greatly diminish the
opportunities for acquiring the habit of command, out of which the
desire for exercising tyranny is apt to spring. Autonomy, both for
districts and for organizations, would leave fewer occasions when
governments were called upon to make decisions as to other people's
concerns. And the abolition of capitalism and the wage system would
remove the chief incentive to fear and greed, those correlative
passions by which all free life is choked and gagged.

Few men seem to realize how many of the evils from which we suffer are
wholly unnecessary, and that they could be abolished by a united
effort within a few years. If a majority in every civilized country
so desired, we could, within twenty years, abolish all abject poverty,
quite half the illness in the world, the whole economic slavery which
binds down nine tenths of our population; we could fill the world with
beauty and joy, and secure the reign of universal peace. It is only
because men are apathetic that this is not achieved, only because
imagination is sluggish, and what always has been is regarded as what
always must be. With good-will, generosity, intelligence, these
things could be brought about.

Chapter II: Capitalism and the Wage System


The world is full of preventible evils which most men would be glad to
see prevented.

Nevertheless, these evils persist, and nothing effective is done
toward abolishing them.

This paradox produces astonishment in inexperienced reformers, and too
often produces disillusionment in those who have come to know the
difficulty of changing human institutions.

War is recognized as an evil by an immense majority in every civilized
country; but this recognition does not prevent war.

The unjust distribution of wealth must be obvious ly an evil to those
who are not prosperous, and they are nine tenths of the population.
Nevertheless it continues unabated.

The tyranny of the holders of power is a source of needless suffering
and misfortune to very large sections of mankind; but power remains in
few hands, and tends, if anything, to grow more concentrated.

I wish first to study the evils of our present institutions, and the
causes of the very limited success of reformers in the past, and then
to suggest reasons for the hope of a more lasting and permanent
success in the near future.

The war has come as a challenge to all who desire a better world. The
system which cannot save mankind from such an appalling disaster is at
fault somewhere, and cannot be amended in any lasting way unless the
danger of great wars in the future can be made very small.

But war is only the final flower of an evil tree. Even in times of
peace, most men live lives of monotonous labor, most women are
condemned to a drudgery which almost kills the possibility of
happiness before youth is past, most children are allowed to grow up
in ignorance of all that would enlarge their thoughts or stimulate
their imagination. The few who are more fortunate are rendered
illiberal by their unjust privileges, and oppressive through fear of
the awakening indignation of the masses. From the highest to the
lowest, almost all men are absorbed in the economic struggle: the
struggle to acquire what is their due or to retain what is not their
due. Material possessions, in fact or in desire, dominate our
outlook, usually to the exclusion of all generous and creative
impulses. Possessiveness--the passion to have and to hold--is the
ultimate source of war, and the foundation of all the ills from which
the political world is suffering. Only by diminishing the strength of
this passion and its hold upon our daily lives can new institutions
bring permanent benefit to mankind.

Institutions which will diminish the sway of greed are possible, but
only through a complete reconstruction of our whole economic system.
Capitalism and the wage system must be abolished; they are twin
monsters which are eating up the life of the world. In place of them
we need a system which will hold in cheek men's predatory impulses,
and will diminish the economic injustice that allows some to be rich
in idleness while others are poor in spite of unremitting labor; but
above all we need a system which will destroy the tyranny of the
employer, by making men at the same time secure against destitution
and able to find scope for individual initiative in the control of the
industry by which they live. A better system can do all these things,
and can be established by the democracy whenever it grows weary of
enduring evils which there is no reason to endure.

We may distinguish four purposes at which an economic system may aim:
first, it may aim at the greatest possible production of goods and at
facilitating technical progress; second, it may aim at securing
distributive justice; third, it may aim at giving security against
destitution; and, fourth, it may aim at liberating creative impulses
and diminishing possessive impulses.

Of these four purposes the last is the most important. Security is
chiefly important as a means to it. State socialism, though it might
give material security and more justice than we have at present, would
probably fail to liberate creative impulses or produce a progressive

Our present system fails in all four purposes. It is chiefly defended
on the ground that it achieves the first of the four purposes, namely,
the greatest possible production of material goods, but it only does
this in a very short-sighted way, by methods which are wasteful in the
long run both of human material and of natural resources.

Capitalistic enterprise involves a ruthless belief in the importance
of increasing material production to the utmost possible extent now
and in the immediate future. In obedience to this belief, new
portions of the earth's surface are continually brought under the sway
of industrialism. Vast tracts of Africa become recruiting grounds for
the labor required in the gold and diamond mines of the Rand,
Rhodesia, and Kimberley; for this purpose, the population is
demoralized, taxed, driven into revolt, and exposed to the
contamination of European vice and disease. Healthy and vigorous
races from Southern Europe are tempted to America, where sweating and
slum life reduce their vitality if they do not actually cause their
death. What damage is done to our own urban populations by the
conditions under which they live, we all know. And what is true of
the human riches of the world is no less true of the physical
resources. The mines, forests, and wheat-fields of the world are all
being exploited at a rate which must practically exhaust them at no
distant date. On the side of material production, the world is living
too fast; in a kind of delirium, almost all the energy of the world
has rushed into the immediate production of something, no matter what,
and no matter at what cost. And yet our present system is defended on
the ground that it safeguards progress!

It cannot be said that our present economic system is any more
successful in regard to the other three objects which ought to be
aimed at. Among the many obvious evils of capitalism and the wage
system, none are more glaring than that they encourage predatory
instincts, that they allow economic injustice, and that they give
great scope to the tyranny of the employer.

As to predatory instincts, we may say, broadly speaking, that in a
state of nature there would be two ways of acquiring riches--one by
production, the other by robbery. Under our existing system, although
what is recognized as robbery is forbidden, there are nevertheless
many ways of becoming rich without contributing anything to the wealth
of the community. Ownership of land or capital, whether acquired or
inherited, gives a legal right to a permanent income. Although most
people have to produce in order to live, a privileged minority are
able to live in luxury without producing anything at all. As these
are the men who are not only the most fortunate but also the most
respected, there is a general desire to enter their ranks, and a
widespread unwillingness to face the fact that there is no
justification whatever for incomes derived in this way. And apart
from the passive enjoyment of rent or interest, the methods of
acquiring wealth are very largely predatory. It is not, as a rule, by
means of useful inventions, or of any other action which increases the
general wealth of the community, that men amass fortunes; it is much
more often by skill in exploiting or circumventing others. Nor is it
only among the rich that our present rŽgime promotes a narrowly
acquisitive spirit. The constant risk of destitution compels most men
to fill a great part of their time and thought with the economic
struggle. There is a theory that this increases the total output of
wealth by the community. But for reasons to which I shall return
later, I believe this theory to be wholly mistaken.

Economic injustice is perhaps the most obvious evil of our present
system. It would be utterly absurd to maintain that the men who
inherit great wealth deserve better of the community than those who
have to work for their living. I am not prepared to maintain that
economic justice requires an exactly equal income for everybody. Some
kinds of work require a larger income for efficiency than others do;
but there is economic injustice as soon as a man has more than his
share, unless it is because his efficiency in his work requires it, or
as a reward for some definite service. But this point is so obvious
that it needs no elaboration.

The modern growth of monopolies in the shape of trusts, cartels,
federations of employers and so on has greatly increased the power of
the capitalist to levy toll on the community. This tendency will not
cease of itself, but only through definite action on the part of those
who do not profit by the capitalist rŽgime. Unfortunately the
distinction between the proletariat and the capitalist is not so sharp
as it was in the minds of socialist theorizers. Trade-unions have
funds in various securities; friendly societies are large capitalists;
and many individuals eke out their wages by invested savings. All
this increases the difficulty of any clear-cut radical change in our
economic system. But it does not diminish the desirability of such a

Such a system as that suggested by the French syndicalists, in which
each trade would be self- governing and completely independent, without
the control of any central authority, would not secure economic
justice. Some trades are in a much stronger bargaining position than
others. Coal and transport, for example, could paralyze the national
life, and could levy blackmail by threatening to do so. On the other
hand, such people as school teachers, for example, could rouse very
little terror by the threat of a strike and would be in a very weak
bargaining position. Justice can never be secured by any system of
unrestrained force exercised by interested parties in their own
interests. For this reason the abolition of the state, which the
syndicalists seem to desire, would be a measure not compatible with
economic justice.

The tyranny of the employer, which at present robs the greater part of
most men's lives of all liberty and all initiative, is unavoidable so
long as the employer retains the right of dismissal with consequent
loss of pay. This right is supposed to be essential in order that men
may have an incentive to work thoroughly. But as men grow more
civilized, incentives based on hope become increasingly preferable to
those that are based on fear. It would be far better that men should
be rewarded for working well than that they should be punished for
working badly. This system is already in operation in the civil
service, where a man is only dismissed for some exceptional degree of
vice or virtue, such as murder or illegal abstention from it.
Sufficient pay to ensure a livelihood ought to be given to every
person who is willing to work, independently of the question whether
the particular work at which he is skilled is wanted at the moment or
not. If it is not wanted, some new trade which is wanted ought to be
taught at the public expense. Why, for example, should a hansom-cab
driver be allowed to suffer on account of the introduction of taxies?
He has not committed any crime, and the fact that his work is no
longer wanted is due to causes entirely outside his control. Instead
of being allowed to starve, he ought to be given instruction in motor
driving or in whatever other trade may seem most suitable. At
present, owing to the fact that all industrial changes tend to cause
hardships to some section of wage-earners, there is a tendency to
technical conservatism on the part of labor, a dislike of innovations,
new processes, and new methods. But such changes, if they are in the
permanent interest of the community, ought to be carried out without
allowing them to bring unmerited loss to those sections of the
community whose labor is no longer wanted in the old form. The
instinctive conservatism of mankind is sure to make all processes of
production change more slowly than they should. It is a pity to add
to this by the avoidable conservatism which is forced upon organized
labor at present through the unjust workings of a change.

It will be said that men will not work well if the fear of dismissal
does not spur them on. I think it is only a small percentage of whom
this would be true at present. And those of whom it would be true
might easily become industrious if they were given more congenial work
or a wiser training. The residue who cannot be coaxed into industry
by any such methods are probably to be regarded as pathological cases,
requiring medical rather than penal treatment. And against this
residue must be set the very much larger number who are now ruined in
health or in morale by the terrible uncertainty of their livelihood
and the great irregularity of their employment. To very many,
security would bring a quite new possibility of physical and moral

The most dangerous aspect of the tyranny of the employer is the power
which it gives him of interfering with men's activities outside their
working hours. A man may be dismissed because the employer dislikes
his religion or his politics, or chooses to think his private life
immoral. He may be dismissed because he tries to produce a spirit of
independence among his fellow employees. He may fail completely to
find employment merely on the ground that he is better educated than
most and therefore more dangerous. Such cases actually occur at
present. This evil would not be remedied, but rather intensified,
under state socialism, because, where the State is the only employer,
there is no refuge from its prejudices such as may now accidentally
arise through the differing opinions of different men. The State
would be able to enforce any system of beliefs it happened to like,
and it is almost certain that it would do so. Freedom of thought
would be penalized, and all independence of spirit would die out.

Any rigid system would involve this evil. It is very necessary that
there should be diversity and lack of complete systematization.
Minorities must be able to live and develop their opinions freely. If
this is not secured, the instinct of persecution and conformity will
force all men into one mold and make all vital progress impossible.

For these reasons, no one ought to be allowed to suffer destitution so
long as he or she is _willing_ to work. And no kind of inquiry ought
to be made into opinion or private life. It is only on this basis
that it is possible to build up an economic system not founded upon
tyranny and terror.


The power of the economic reformer is limited by the technical
productivity of labor. So long as it was necessary to the bare
subsistence of the human race that most men should work very long
hours for a pittance, so long no civilization was possible except an
aristocratic one; if there were to be men with sufficient leisure for
any mental life, there had to be others who were sacrificed for the
good of the few. But the time when such a system was necessary has
passed away with the progress of machinery. It would be possible now,
if we had a wise economic system, for all who have mental needs to
find satisfaction for them. By a few hours a day of manual work, a
man can produce as much as is necessary for his own subsistence; and
if he is willing to forgo luxuries, that is all that the community has
a right to demand of him. It ought to be open to all who so desire to
do short hours of work for little pay, and devote their leisure to
whatever pursuit happens to attract them. No doubt the great majority
of those who chose this course would spend their time in mere
amusement, as most of the rich do at present. But it could not be
said, in such a society, that they were parasites upon the labor of
others. And there would be a minority who would give their hours of
nominal idleness to science or art or literature, or some other
pursuit out of which fundamental progress may come. In all such
matters, organization and system can only do harm. The one thing that
can be done is to provide opportunity, without repining at the waste
that results from most men failing to make good use of the

But except in cases of unusual laziness or eccentric ambition, most
men would elect to do a full day's work for a full day's pay. For
these, who would form the immense majority, the important thing is
that ordinary work should, as far as possible, afford interest and
independence and scope for initiative. These things are more
important than income, as soon as a certain minimum has been reached.
They can be secured by gild socialism, by industrial self- government
subject to state control as regards the relations of a trade to the
rest of the community. So far as I know, they cannot be secured in
any other way.

Guild socialism, as advocated by Mr. Orage and the "New Age," is
associated with a polemic against "political" action, and in favor of
direct economic action by trade-unions. It shares this with
syndicalism, from which most of what is new in it is derived. But I
see no reason for this attitude; political and economic action seem to
me equally necessary, each in its own time and place. I think there
is danger in the attempt to use the machinery of the present
capitalist state for socialistic purposes. But there is need of
political action to transform the machinery of the state, side by side
with the transformation which we hope to see in economic institutions.
In this country, neither transformation is likely to be brought about
by a sudden revolution; we must expect each to come step by step, if
at all, and I doubt if either could or should advance very far without
the other.

The economic system we should ultimately wish to see would be one in
which the state would be the sole recipient of economic rent, while
private capitalistic enterprises should be replaced by self- governing
combinations of those who actually do the work. It ought to be
optional whether a man does a whole day's work for a whole day's pay,
or half a day's work for half a day's pay, except in cases where such
an arrangement would cause practical inconvenience. A man's pay
should not cease through the accident of his work being no longer
needed, but should continue so long as he is willing to work, a new
trade being taught him at the public expense, if necessary.
Unwillingness to work should be treated medically or educationally,
when it could not be overcome by a change to some more congenial

The workers in a given industry should all be combined in one
autonomous unit, and their work should not be subject to any outside
control. The state should fix the price at which they produce, but
should leave the industry self- governing in all other respects. In
fixing prices, the state should, as far as possible, allow each
industry to profit by any improvements which it might introduce into
its own processes, but should endeavor to prevent undeserved loss or
gain through changes in external economic conditions. In this way
there would be every incentive to progress, with the least possible
danger of unmerited destitution. And although large economic
organizations will continue, as they are bound to do, there will be a
diffusion of power which will take away the sense of individual
impotence from which men and women suffer at present.


Some men, though they may admit that such a system would be desirable,
will argue that it is impossible to bring it about, and that therefore
we must concentrate on more immediate objects.

I think it must be conceded that a political party ought to have
proximate aims, measures which it hopes to carry in the next session
or the next parliament, as well as a more distant goal. Marxian
socialism, as it existed in Germany, seemed to me to suffer in this
way: although the party was numerically powerful, it was politically
weak, because it had no minor measures to demand while waiting for the
revolution. And when, at last, German socialism was captured by those
who desired a less impracticable policy, the modification which
occurred was of exactly the wrong kind: acquiescence in bad policies,
such as militarism and imperialism, rather than advocacy of partial
reforms which, however inadequate, would still have been steps in the
right direction.

A similar defect was inherent in the policy of French syndicalism as
it existed before the war. Everything was to wait for the general
strike; after adequate preparation, one day the whole proletariat
would unanimously refuse to work, the property owners would
acknowledge their defeat, and agree to abandon all their privileges
rather than starve. This is a dramatic conception; but love of drama
is a great enemy of true vision. Men cannot be trained, except under
very rare circumstances, to do something suddenly which is very
different from what they have been doing before. If the general
strike were to succeed, the victors, despite their anarchism, would be
compelled at once to form an administration, to create a new police
force to prevent looting and wanton destruction, to establish a
provisional government issuing dictatorial orders to the various
sections of revolutionaries. Now the syndicalists are opposed in
principle to all political action; they would feel that they were
departing from their theory in taking the necessary practical steps,
and they would be without the required training because of their
previous abstention from politics. For these reasons it is likely
that, even after a syndicalist revolution, actual power would fall
into the hands of men who were not really syndicalists.

Another objection to a program which is to be realized suddenly at
some remote date by a revolution or a general strike is that
enthusiasm flags when there is nothing to do meanwhile, and no partial
success to lessen the weariness of waiting. The only sort of movement
which can succeed by such methods is one where the sentiment and the
program are both very simple, as is the case in rebellions of
oppressed nations. But the line of demarcation between capitalist and
wage-earner is not sharp, like the line between Turk and Armenian, or
between an Englishman and a native of India. Those who have advocated
the social revolution have been mistaken in their political methods,
chiefly because they have not realized how many people there are in
the community whose sympathies and interests lie half on the side of
capital, half on the side of labor. These people make a clear-cut
revolutionary policy very difficult.

For these reasons, those who aim at an economic reconstruction which
is not likely to be completed to- morrow must, if they are to have any
hope of success, be able to approach their goal by degrees, through
measures which are of some use in themselves, even if they should not
ultimately lead to the desired end. There must be activities which
train men for those that they are ultimately to carry out, and there
must be possible achievements in the near future, not only a vague
hope of a distant paradise.

But although I believe that all this is true, I believe no less firmly
that really vital and radical reform requires some vision beyond the
immediate future, some realization of what human beings might make of
human life if they chose. Without some such hope, men will not have
the energy and enthusiasm necessary to overcome opposition, or the
steadfastness to persist when their aims are for the moment unpopular.
Every man who has really sincere desire for any great amelioration in
the conditions of life has first to face ridicule, then persecution,
then cajolery and attempts at subtle corruption. We know from painful
experience how few pass unscathed through these three ordeals. The
last especially, when the reformer is shown all the kingdoms of the
earth, is difficult, indeed almost impossible, except for those who
have made their ultimate goal vivid to themselves by clear and
definite thought.

Economic systems are concerned essentially with the production and
distribution of material goods. Our present system is wasteful on the
production side, and unjust on the side of distribution. It involves
a life of slavery to economic forces for the great majority of the
community, and for the minority a degree of power over the lives of
others which no man ought to have. In a good community the production
of the necessaries of existence would be a mere preliminary to the
important and interesting part of life, except for those who find a
pleasure in some part of the work of producing necessaries. It is not
in the least necessary that economic needs should dominate man as they
do at present. This is rendered necessary at present, partly by the
inequalities of wealth, partly by the fact that things of real value,
such as a good education, are difficult to acquire, except for the

Private ownership of land and capital is not defensible on grounds of
justice, or on the ground that it is an economical way of producing
what the community needs. But the chief objections to it are that it
stunts the lives of men and women, that it enshrines a ruthless
possessiveness in all the respect which is given to success, that it
leads men to fill the greater part of their time and thought with the
acquisition of purely material goods, and that it affords a terrible
obstacle to the advancement of civilization and creative energy.

The approach to a system free from these evils need not be sudden; it
is perfectly possible to proceed step by step towards economic freedom
and industrial self- government. It is not true that there is any
outward difficulty in creating the kind of institutions that we have
been considering. If organized labor wishes to create them, nothing
could stand in its way. The difficulty involved is merely the
difficulty of inspiring men with hope, of giving them enough
imagination to see that the evils from which they suffer are
unnecessary, and enough thought to understand how the evils are to be
cured. This is a difficulty which can be overcome by time and energy.
But it will not be overcome if the leaders of organized labor have no
breadth of outlook, no vision, no hopes beyond some slight superficial
improvement within the framework of the existing system.
Revolutionary action may be unnecessary, but revolutionary thought is
indispensable, and, as the outcome of thought, a rational and
constructive hope.

Chapter III: Pitfalls in Socialism


In its early days, socialism was a revolutionary movement of which the
object was the liberation of the wage-earning classes and the
establishment of freedom and justice. The passage from capitalism to
the new rŽgime was to be sudden and violent: capitalists were to be
expropriated without compensation, and their power was not to be
replaced by any new authority.

Gradually a change came over the spirit of socialism. In France,
socialists became members of the government, and made and unmade
parliamentary majorities. In Germany, social democracy grew so strong
that it became impossible for it to resist the temptation to barter
away some of its intransigeance in return for government recognition
of its claims. In England, the Fabians taught the advantage of reform
as against revolution, and of conciliatory bargaining as against
irreconcilable antagonism.

The method of gradual reform has many merits as compared to the method
of revolution, and I have no wish to preach revolution. But gradual
reform has certain dangers, to wit, the ownership or control of
businesses hitherto in private hands, and by encouraging legislative
interference for the benefit of various sections of the wage-earning
classes. I think it is at least doubtful whether such measures do
anything at all to contribute toward the ideals which inspired the
early socialists and still inspire the great majority of those who
advocate some form of socialism.

Let us take as an illustration such a measure as state purchase of
railways. This is a typical object of state socialism, thoroughly
practicable, already achieved in many countries, and clearly the sort
of step that must be taken in any piecemeal approach to complete
collectivism. Yet I see no reason to believe that any real advance
toward democracy, freedom, or economic justice is achieved when a
state takes over the railways after full compensation to the

Economic justice demands a diminution, if not a total abolition, of
the proportion of the national income which goes to the recipients of
rent and interest. But when the holders of railway shares are given
government stock to replace their shares, they are given the prospect
of an income in perpetuity equal to what they might reasonably expect
to have derived from their shares. Unless there is reason to expect a
great increase in the earnings of railways, the whole operation does
nothing to alter the distribution of wealth. This could only be
effected if the present owners were expropriated, or paid less than
the market value, or given a mere life- interest as compensation. When
full value is given, economic justice is not advanced in any degree.

There is equally little advance toward freedom. The men employed on
the railway have no more voice than they had before in the management
of the railway, or in the wages and conditions of work. Instead of
having to fight the directors, with the possibility of an appeal to
the government, they now have to fight the government directly; and
experience does not lead to the view that a government department has
any special tenderness toward the claims of labor. If they strike,
they have to contend against the whole organized power of the state,
which they can only do successfully if they happen to have a strong
public opinion on their side. In view of the influence which the
state can always exercise on the press, public opinion is likely to be
biased against them, particularly when a nominally progressive
government is in power. There will no longer be the possibility of
divergences between the policies of different railways. Railway men
in England derived advantages for many years from the comparatively
liberal policy of the North Eastern Railway, which they were able to
use as an argument for a similar policy elsewhere. Such possibilities
are excluded by the dead uniformity of state administration.

And there is no real advance toward democracy. The administration of
the railways will be in the hands of officials whose bias and
associations separate them from labor, and who will develop an
autocratic temper through the habit of power. The democratic
machinery by which these officials are nominally controlled is
cumbrous and remote, and can only be brought into operation on
first-class issues which rouse the interest of the whole nation. Even
then it is very likely that the superior education of the officials
and the government, combined with the advantages of their position,
will enable them to mislead the public as to the issues, and alienate
the general sympathy even from the most excellent cause.

I do not deny that these evils exist at present; I say only that they
will not be remedied by such measures as the nationalization of
railways in the present economic and political environment. A greater
upheaval, and a greater change in men's habits of mind, is necessary
for any really vital progress.


State socialism, even in a nation which possesses the form of
political democracy, is not a truly democratic system. The way in
which it fails to be democratic may be made plain by an analogy from
the political sphere. Every democrat recognizes that the Irish ought
to have self- government for Irish affairs, and ought not to be told
that they have no grievance because they share in the Parliament of
the United Kingdom. It is essential to democracy that any group of
citizens whose interests or desires separate them at all widely from
the rest of the community should be free to decide their internal
affairs for themselves. And what is true of national or local groups
is equally true of economic groups, such as miners or railway men.
The national machinery of general elections is by no means sufficient
to secure for groups of this kind the freedom which they ought to

The power of officials, which is a great and growing danger in the
modern state, arises from the fact that the majority of the voters,
who constitute the only ultimate popular control over officials, are
as a rule not interested in any one particular question, and are
therefore not likely to interfere effectively against an official who
is thwarting the wishes of the minority who are interested. The
official is nominally subject to indirect popular control, but not to
the control of those who are directly affected by his action. The
bulk of the public will either never hear about the matter in dispute,
or, if they do hear, will form a hasty opinion based upon inadequate
information, which is far more likely to come from the side of the
officials than from the section of the community which is affected by
the question at issue. In an important political issue, some degree
of knowledge is likely to be diffused in time; but in other matters
there is little hope that this will happen.

It may be said that the power of officials is much less dangerous than
the power of capitalists, because officials have no economic interests
that are opposed to those of wage-earners. But this argument involves
far too simple a theory of political human nature--a theory which
orthodox socialism adopted from the classical political economy, and
has tended to retain in spite of growing evidence of its falsity.
Economic self- interest, and even economic class- interest, is by no
means the only important political motive. Officials, whose salary is
generally quite unaffected by their decisions on particular questions,
are likely, if they are of average honesty, to decide according to
their view of the public interest; but their view will none the less
have a bias which will often lead them wrong. It is important to
understand this bias before entrusting our destinies too unreservedly
to government departments.

The first thing to observe is that, in any very large organization,
and above all in a great state, officials and legislators are usually
very remote from those whom they govern, and not imaginatively
acquainted with the conditions of life to which their decisions will
be applied. This makes them ignorant of much that they ought to know,
even when they are industrious and willing to learn whatever can be
taught by statistics and blue-books. The one thing they understand
intimately is the office routine and the administrative rules. The
result is an undue anxiety to secure a uniform system. I have heard
of a French minister of education taking out his watch, and remarking,
"At this moment all the children of such and such an age in France are
learning so and so." This is the ideal of the administrator, an ideal
utterly fatal to free growth, initiative, experiment, or any far
reaching innovation. Laziness is not one of the motives recognized in
textbooks on political theory, because all ordinary knowledge of human
nature is considered unworthy of the dignity of these works; yet we
all know that laziness is an immensely powerful motive with all but a
small minority of mankind.

Unfortunately, in this case laziness is reinforced by love of power,
which leads energetic officials to create the systems which lazy
officials like to administer. The energetic official inevitably
dislikes anyt hing that he does not control. His official sanction
must be obtained before anything can be done. Whatever he finds in
existence he wishes to alter in some way, so as to have the
satisfaction of feeling his power and making it felt. If he is
conscientious, he will think out some perfectly uniform and rigid
scheme which he believes to be the best possible, and he will then
impose this scheme ruthlessly, whatever promising growths he may have
to lop down for the sake of symmetry. The result inevitably has
something of the deadly dullness of a new rectangular town, as
compared with the beauty and richness of an ancient city which has
lived and grown with the separate lives and individualities of many
generations. What has grown is always more living than what has been
decreed; but the energetic official will always prefer the tidiness of
what he has decreed to the apparent disorder of spontaneous growth.

The mere possession of power tends to produce a love of power, which
is a very dangerous motive, because the only sure proof of power
consists in preventing others from doing what they wish to do. The
essential theory of democracy is the diffusion of power among the
whole people, so that the evils produced by one man's possession of
great power shall be obviated. But the diffusion of power through
democracy is only effective when the voters take an interest in the
question involved. When the question does not interest them, they do
not attempt to control the administration, and all actual power passes
into the hands of officials.

For this reason, the true ends of democracy are not achieved by state
socialism or by any system which places great power in the hands of
men subject to no popular control except that which is more or less
indirectly exercised through parliament.

Any fresh survey of men's political actions shows that, in those who
have enough energy to be politically effective, love of power is a
stronger motive than economic self- interest. Love of power actuates
the great millionaires, who have far more money than they can spend,
but continue to amass wealth merely in order to control more and more
of the world's finance.[2] Love of power is obviously the ruling
motive of many politicians. It is also the chief cause of wars, which
are admittedly almost always a bad speculation from the mere point of
view of wealth. For this reason, a new economic system which merely
attacks economic motives and does not interfere with the concentration
of power is not likely to effect any very great improvement in the
world. This is one of the chief reasons for regarding state socialism
with suspicion.

[2] Cf. J. A. Hobson, "The Evolution of Modern Capitalism."


The problem of the distribution of power is a more difficult one than
the problem of the distribution of wealth. The machinery of
representative government has concentrated on _ultimate_ power as the
only important matter, and has ignored immediate executive power.
Almost nothing has been done to democratize administration.
Government officials, in virtue of their income, security, and social
position, are likely to be on the side of the rich, who have been
their daily associates ever since the time of school and college. And
whether or not they are on the side of the rich, they are not likely,
for the reasons we have been considering, to be genuinely in favor of
progress. What applies to government officials applies also to
members of Parliament, with the sole difference that they have had to
recommend themselves to a constituency. This, however, only adds
hypocrisy to the other qualities of a ruling caste. Whoever has stood
in the lobby of the House of Commons watching members emerge with
wandering eye and hypothetical smile, until the constituent is espied,
his arm taken, "my dear fellow" whispered in his ear, and his steps
guided toward the inner precincts--whoever, observing this, has
realized that these are the arts by which men become and remain
legislators, can hardly fail to feel that democracy as it exists is
not an absolutely perfect instrument of government. It is a painful
fact that the ordinary voter, at any rate in England, is quite blind
to insincerity. The man who does not care about any definite
political measures can generally be won by corruption or flattery,
open or concealed; the man who is set on securing reforms will
generally prefer an ambitious windbag to a man who desires the public
good without possessing a ready tongue. And the ambitious windbag, as
soon as he has become a power by the enthusiasm he has aroused, will
sell his influence to the governing clique, sometimes openly,
sometimes by the more subtle method of intentionally failing at a
crisis. This is part of the normal working of democracy as embodied
in representative institutions. Yet a cure must be found if democracy
is not to remain a farce.

One of the sources of evil in modern large democracies is the fact
that most of the electorate have no direct or vital interest in most
of the questions that arise. Should Welsh children be allowed the use
of the Welsh language in schools? Should gipsies be compelled to
abandon their nomadic life at the bidding of the education
authorities? Should miners have an eight-hour day? Should Christian
Scientists be compelled to call in doctors in case of serious illness?
These are matters of passionate interest to certain sections of the
community, but of very little interest to the great majority. If they
are decided according to the wishes of the numerical majority, the
intense desires of a minority will be overborne by the very slight and
uninformed whims of the indifferent remainder. If the minority are
geographically concentrated, so that they can decide elections in a
certain number of constituencies, like the Welsh and the miners, they
have a good chance of getting their way, by the wholly beneficent
process which its enemies describe as log-rolling. But if they are
scattered and politically feeble, like the gipsies and the Christian
Scientists, they stand a very poor chance against the prejudices of
the majority. Even when they are geographically concentrated, like
the Irish, they may fail to obtain their wishes, because they arouse
some hostility or some instinct of domination in the majority. Such a
state of affairs is the negation of all democratic principles.

The tyranny of the majority is a very real danger. It is a mistake to
suppose that the majority is necessarily right. On every new question
the majority is always wrong at first. In matters where the state
must act as a whole, such as tariffs, for example, decision by
majorities is probably the best method that can be devised. But there
are a great many questions in which there is no need of a uniform
decision. Religion is recognized as one of these. Education ought to
be one, provided a certain minimum standard is attained. Military
service clearly ought to be one. Wherever divergent action by
different groups is possible without anarchy, it ought to be
permitted. In such cases it will be found by those who consider past
history that, whenever any new fundamental issue arises, the majority
are in the wrong, because they are guided by prejudice and habit.
Progress comes through the gradual effect of a minority in converting
opinion and altering custom. At one time--not so very long ago--it
was considered monstrous wickedness to maintain that old women ought
not to be burnt as witches. If those who held this opinion had been
forcibly suppressed, we should still be steeped in medieval
superstition. For such reasons, it is of the utmost importance that
the majority should refrain from imposing its will as regards matters
in which uniformity is not absolutely necessary.


The cure for the evils and dangers which we have been considering is a
very great extension of devolution and federal government. Wherever
there is a national consciousness, as in Wales and Ireland, the area
in which it exists ought to be allowed to decide all purely local
affairs without external interference. But there are many matters
which ought to be left to the management, not of local groups, but of
trade groups, or of organizations embodying some set of opinions. In
the East, men are subject to different laws according to the religion
they profess. Something of this kind is necessary if any semblance of
liberty is to exist where there is great divergence in beliefs.

Some matters are essentially geographical; for instance, gas and
water, roads, tariffs, armies and navies. These must be decided by an
authority representing an area. How large the area ought to be,
depends upon accidents of topography and sentiment, and also upon the
nature of the matter involved. Gas and water require a small area,
roads a somewhat larger one, while the only satisfactory area for an
army or a navy is the whole planet, since no smaller area will prevent

But the proper unit in most economic questions, and also in most
questions that are intimately concerned with personal opinions, is not
geographical at all. The internal management of railways ought not to
be in the hands of the geographical state, for reasons which we have
already considered. Still less ought it to be in the hands of a set
of irresponsible capitalists. The only truly democratic system would
be one which left the internal management of railways in the hands of
the men who work on them. These men should elect the general manager,
and a parliament of directors if necessary. All questions of wages,
conditions of labor, running of trains, and acquisition of material,
should be in the hands of a body responsible only to those actually
engaged in the work of the railway.

The same arguments apply to other large trades: mining, iron and
steel, cotton, and so on. British trade- unionism, it seems to me, has
erred in conceiving labor and capital as both permanent forces, which
were to be brought to some equality of strength by the organization of
labor. This seems to me too modest an ideal. The ideal which I
should wish to substitute involves the conquest of democracy and
self-government in the economic sphere as in the political sphere, and
the total abolition of the power now wielded by the capitalist. The
man who works on a railway ought to have a voice in the government of
the railway, just as much as the man who works in a state has a right
to a voice in the management of his state. The concentration of
business initiative in the hands of the employers is a great evil, and
robs the employees of their legitimate share of interest in the larger
problems of their trade.

French syndicalists were the first to advocate the system of trade
autonomy as a better solution than state socialism. But in their view
the trades were to be independent, almost like sovereign states at
present. Such a system would not promote peace, any more than it does
at present in international relations. In the affairs of any body of
men, we may broadly distinguish what may be called questions of home
politics from questions of foreign politics. Every group sufficiently
well- marked to constitute a political entity ought to be autonomous in
regard to internal matters, but not in regard to those that directly
affect the outside world. If two groups are both entirely free as
regards their relations to each other, there is no way of averting the
danger of an open or covert appeal to force. The relations of a group
of men to the outside world ought, whenever possible, to be controlled
by a neutral authority. It is here that the state is necessary for
adjusting the relations between different trades. The men who make
some commodity should be entirely free as regards hours of labor,
distribution of the total earnings of the trade, and all questions of
business management. But they should not be free as regards the price
of what they produce, since price is a matter concerning their
relations to the rest of the community. If there were nominal freedom
in regard to price, there would be a danger of a constant tug-of-war,
in which those trades which were most immediately necessary to the
existence of the community could always obtain an unfair advantage.
Force is no more admirable in the economic sphere than in dealings
between states. In order to secure the maximum of freedom with the
minimum of force, the universal principle is: _Autonomy within each
politically important group, and a neutral authority for deciding
questions involving relations between groups_. The neutral authority
should, of course, rest on a democratic basis, but should, if
possible, represent a constituency wider than that of the groups
concerned. In international affairs the only adequate authority would
be one representing all civilized nations.

In order to prevent undue extension of the power of such authorities,
it is desirable and necessary that the various autonomous groups
should be very jealous of their liberties, and very ready to resist by
political means any encroachments upon their independence. State
socialism does not tolerate such groups, each with their own officials
responsible to the group. Consequently it abandons the internal
affairs of a group to the control of men not responsible to that group
or specially aware of its needs. This opens the door to tyranny and
to the destruction of initiative. These dangers are avoided by a
system which allows any group of men to combine for any given purpose,
provided it is not predatory, and to claim from the central authority
such self- government as is necessary to the carrying out of the
purpose. Churches of various denominations afford an instance. Their
autonomy was won by centuries of warfare and persecution. It is to be
hoped that a less terrible struggle will be required to achieve the
same result in the economic sphere. But whatever the obstacles, I
believe the importance of liberty is as great in the one case as it
has been admitted to be in the other.

Chapter IV: Individual Liberty and Public Control


Society cannot exist without law and order, and cannot advance except
through the initiative of vigorous innovators. Yet law and order are
always hostile to innovations, and innovators are almost always, to
some extent, anarchists. Those whose minds are dominated by fear of a
relapse towards barbarism will emphasize the importance of law and
order, while those who are inspired by the hope of an advance towards
civilization will usually be more conscious of the need of individual
initiative. Both temperaments are necessary, and wisdom lies in
allowing each to operate freely where it is beneficent. But those who
are on the side of law and order, since they are reinforced by custom
and the instinct for upholding the _status quo_, have no need of a
reasoned defense. It is the innovators who have difficulty in being
allowed to exist and work. Each generation believes that this
difficulty is a thing of the past, but each generation is only
tolerant of _past_ innovations. Those of its own day are met with the
same persecution as though the principle of toleration had never been
heard of.

"In early society," says Westermarck, "customs are not only moral
rules, but the only moral rules ever thought of. The savage strictly
complies with the Hegelian command that no man must have a private
conscience. The following statement, which refers to the Tinnevelly
Shanars, may be quoted as a typical example: 'Solitary individuals
amongst them rarely adopt any new opinions, or any new course of
procedure. They follow the multitude to do evil, and they follow the
multitude to do good. They think in herds.'"[3]

[3] "The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas," 2d edition,
Vol. I, p. 119.

Those among ourselves who have never thought a thought or done a deed
in the slightest degree different from the thoughts and deeds of our
neighbors will congratulate themselves on the difference between us
and the savage. But those who have ever attempted any real innovation
cannot help feeling that the people they know are not so very unlike
the Tinnevelly Shanars.

Under the influence of socialism, even progressive opinion, in recent
years, has been hostile to individual liberty. Liberty is associated,
in the minds of reformers, with _laissez- faire_, the Manchester School,
and the exploitation of women and children which resulted from what
was euphemistically called "free competition." All these things were
evil, and required state interference; in fact, there is need of an
immense increase of state action in regard to cognate evils which
still exist. In everything that concerns the economic life of the
community, as regards both distribution and conditions of production,
what is required is more public control, not less--how much more, I
do not profess to know.

Another direction in which there is urgent need of the substitution of
law and order for anarchy is international relations. At present,
each sovereign state has complete individual freedom, subject only to
the sanction of war. This individual freedom will have to be
curtailed in regard to external relations if wars are ever to cease.

But when we pass outside the sphere of material possessions, we find
that the arguments in favor of public control almost entirely

Religion, to begin with, is recognized as a matter in which the state
ought not to interfere. Whether a man is Christian, Mahometan, or Jew
is a question of no public concern, so long as he obeys the laws; and
the laws ought to be such as men of all religions can obey. Yet even
here there are limits. No civilized state would tolerate a religion
demanding human sacrifice. The English in India put an end to suttee,
in spite of a fixed principle of non- interference with native
religious customs. Perhaps they were wrong to prevent suttee, yet
almost every European would have done the same. We cannot _effectively_
doubt that such practices ought to be stopped, however we may theorize
in favor of religious liberty.

In such cases, the interference with liberty is imposed from without
by a higher civilization. But the more common case, and the more
interesting, is when an independent state interferes on behalf of
custom against individuals who are feeling their way toward more
civilized beliefs and institutions.

"In New South Wales," says Westermarck, "the first-born of every lubra
used to be eaten by the tribe 'as part of a religious ceremony.' In
the realm of Khai- muh, in China, according to a native account, it was
customary to kill and devour the eldest son alive. Among certain
tribes in British Columbia the first child is often sacrificed to the
sun. The Indians of Florida, according to Le Moyne de Morgues,
sacrificed the first-born son to the chief....'"[4]

[4] _Op cit._, p. 459.

There are pages and pages of such instances.

There is nothing analogous to these practices among ourselves. When
the first-born in Florida was told that his king and country needed
him, this was a mere mistake, and with us mistakes of this kind do not
occur. But it is interesting to inquire how these superstitions died
out, in such cases, for example, as that of Khai- muh, where foreign
compulsion is improbable. We may surmise that some parents, under the
selfish influence of parental affection, were led to doubt whether the
sun would really be angry if the eldest child were allowed to live.
Such rationalism would be regarded as very dangerous, since it was
calculated to damage the harvest. For generations the opinion would
be cherished in secret by a handful of cranks, who would not be able
to act upon it. At last, by concealment or flight, a few parents
would save their children from the sacrifice. Such parents would be
regarded as lacking all public spirit, and as willing to endanger the
community for their private pleasure. But gradually it would appear
that the state remained intact, and the crops were no worse than in
former years. Then, by a fiction, a child would be deemed to have
been sacrificed if it was solemnly dedicated to agriculture or some
other work of national importance chosen by the chief. It would be
many generations before the child would be allowed to choose its own
occupation after it had grown old enough to know its own tastes and
capacities. And during all those generations, children would be
reminded that only an act of grace had allowed them to live at all,
and would exist under the shadow of a purely imaginary duty to the

The position of those parents who first disbelieved in the utility of
infant sacrifice illustrates all the difficulties which arise in
connection with the adjustment of individual freedom to public
control. The authorities, believing the sacrifice necessary for the
good of the community, were bound to insist upon it; the parents,
believing it useless, were equally bound to do everything in their
power toward saving the child. How ought both parties to act in such
a case?

The duty of the skeptical parent is plain: to save the child by any
possible means, to preach the uselessness of the sacrifice in season
and out of season, and to endure patiently whatever penalty the law
may indict for evasion. But the duty of the authorities is far less
clear. So long as they remain firmly persuaded that the universal
sacrifice of the first-born is indispensable, they are bound to
persecute those who seek to undermine this belief. But they will, if
they are conscientious, very carefully examine the arguments of
opponents, and be willing in advance to admit that these arguments
_may_ be sound. They will carefully search their own hearts to see
whether hatred of children or pleasure in cruelty has anything to do
with their belief. They will remember that in the past history of
Khai- muh there are innumerable instances of beliefs, now known to be
false, on account of which those who disagreed with the prevalent view
were put to death. Finally they will reflect that, though errors
which are traditional are often wide-spread, new beliefs seldom win
acceptance unless they are nearer to the truth than what they replace;
and they will conclude that a new belief is probably either an
advance, or so unlikely to become common as to be innocuous. All
these considerations will make them hesitate before they resort to


The study of past times and uncivilized races makes it clear beyond
question that the customary beliefs of tribes or nations are almost
invariably false. It is difficult to divest ourselves completely of
the customary beliefs of our own age and nation, but it is not very
difficult to achieve a certain degree of doubt in regard to them. The
Inquisitor who burnt men at the stake was acting with true humanity if
all his beliefs were correct; but if they were in error at any point,
he was inflicting a wholly unnecessary cruelty. A good working maxim
in such matters is this: Do not trust customary beliefs so far as to
perform actions which must be disastrous unless the beliefs in
question are wholly true. The world would be utterly bad, in the
opinion of the average Englishman, unless he could say "Britannia
rules the waves"; in the opinion of the average German, unless he
could say "Deutschland Ÿber alles." For the sake of these beliefs,
they are willing to destroy European civilization. If the beliefs
should happen to be false, their action is regrettable.

One fact which emerges from these considerations is that no obstacle
should be placed in the way of thought and its expression, nor yet in
the way of statements of fact. This was formerly common ground among
liberal thinkers, though it was never quite realized in the practice
of civilized countries. But it has recently become, throughout
Europe, a dangerous paradox, on account of which men suffer
imprisonment or starvation. For this reason it has again become worth
stating. The grounds for it are so evident that I should be ashamed
to repeat them if they were not universally ignored. But in the
actual world it is very necessary to repeat them.

To attain complete truth is not given to mortals, but to advance
toward it by successive steps is not impossible. On any matter of
general interest, there is usually, in any given community at any
given time, a received opinion, which is accepted as a matter of
course by all who give no special thought to the matter. Any
questioning of the received opinion rouses hostility, for a number of

The most important of these is the instinct of conventionality, which
exists in all gregarious animals and often leads them to put to death
any markedly peculiar member of the herd.

The next most important is the feeling of insecurity aroused by doubt
as to the beliefs by which we are in the habit of regulating our
lives. Whoever has tried to explain the philosophy of Berkeley to a
plain man will have seen in its unadulterated form the anger aroused
by this feeling. What the plain man derives from Berkeley's
philosophy at a first hearing is an uncomfortable suspicion that
nothing is solid, so that it is rash to sit on a chair or to expect
the floor to sustain us. Because this suspicion is uncomfortable, it
is irritating, except to those who regard the whole argument as merely
nonsense. And in a more or less analogous way any questioning of what
has been taken for granted destroys the feeling of standing on solid
ground, and produces a condition of bewildered fear.

A third reason which makes men dislike novel opinions is that vested
interests are bound up with old beliefs. The long fight of the church
against science, from Giordano Bruno to Darwin, is attributable to
this motive among others. The horror of socialism which existed in
the remote past was entirely attributable to this cause. But it would
be a mistake to assume, as is done by those who seek economic motives
everywhere, that vested interests are the principal source of anger
against novelties in thought. If this were the case, intellectual
progress would be much more rapid than it is.

The instinct of conventionality, horror of uncertainty, and vested
interests, all militate against the acceptance of a new idea. And it
is even harder to think of a new idea than to get it accepted; most
people might spend a lifetime in reflection without ever making a
genuinely original discovery.

In view of all these obstacles, it is not likely that any society at
any time will suffer from a plethora of heretical opinions. Least of
all is this likely in a modern civilized society, where the conditions
of life are in constant rapid change, and demand, for successful
adaptation, an equally rapid change in intellectual outlook. There
should be an attempt, therefore, to encourage, rather than discourage,
the expression of new beliefs and the dissemination of knowledge
tending to support them. But the very opposite is, in fact, the case.
From childhood upward, everything is done to make the minds of men and
women conventional and sterile. And if, by misadventure, some spark
of imagination remains, its unfortunate possessor is considered
unsound and dangerous, worthy only of contempt in time of peace and of
prison or a traitor's death in time of war. Yet such men are known to
have been in the past the chief benefactors of mankind, and are the
very men who receive most honor as soon as they are safely dead.

The whole realm of thought and opinion is utterly unsuited to public
control; it ought to be as free, and as spontaneous as is possible to
those who know what others have believed. The state is justified in
insisting that children shall be educated, but it is not justified in
forcing their education to proceed on a uniform plan and to be
directed to the production of a dead level of glib uniformity.
Education, and the life of the mind generally, is a matter in which
individual initiative is the chief thing needed; the function of the
state should begin and end with insistence on some kind of education,
and, if possible, a kind which promotes mental individualism, not a
kind which happens to conform to the prejudices of government


Questions of practical morals raise more difficult problems than
questions of mere opinion. The thugs honestly believe it their duty
to commit murders, but the government does not acquiesce. The
conscientious objectors honestly hold the opposite opinion, and again
the government does not acquiesce. Killing is a state prerogative; it
is equally criminal to do it unbidden and not to do it when bidden.
The same applies to theft, unless it is on a large scale or by one who
is already rich. Thugs and thieves are men who use force in their
dealings with their neighbors, and we may lay it down broadly that the
private use of force should be prohibited except in rare cases,
however conscientious may be its motive. But this principle will not
justify compelling men to use force at the bidding of the state, when
they do not believe it justified by the occasion. The punishment of
conscientious objectors seems clearly a violation of individual
liberty within its legitimate sphere.

It is generally assumed without question that the state has a right to
punish certain kinds of sexual irregularity. No one doubts that the
Mormons sincerely believed polygamy to be a desirable practice, yet
the United States required them to abandon its legal recognition, and
probably any other Christian country would have done likewise.
Nevertheless, I do not think this prohibition was wise. Polygamy is
legally permitted in many parts of the world, but is not much
practised except by chiefs and potentates. If, as Europeans generally
believe, it is an undesirable custom, it is probable that the Mormons
would have soon abandoned it, except perhaps for a few men of
exceptional position. If, on the other hand, it had proved a
successful experiment, the world would have acquired a piece of
knowledge which it is now unable to possess. I think in all such
cases the law should only intervene when there is some injury
inflicted without the consent of the injured person.

It is obvious that men and women would not tolerate having their wives
or husbands selected by the state, whatever eugenists might have to
say in favor of such a plan. In this it seems clear that ordinary
public opinion is in the right, not because people choose wisely, but
because any choice of their own is better than a forced marriage.
What applies to marriage ought also to apply to the choice of a trade
or profession; although some men have no marked preferences, most men
greatly prefer some occupations to others, and are far more likely to
be useful citizens if they follow their preferences than if they are
thwarted by a public authority.

The case of the man who has an intense conviction that he ought to do
a certain kind of work is peculiar, and perhaps not very common; but
it is important because it includes some very important individuals.
Joan of Arc and Florence Nightingale defied convention in obedience to
a feeling of this sort; reformers and agitators in unpopular causes,
such as Mazzini, have belonged to this class; so have many men of
science. In cases of this kind the individual conviction deserves the
greatest respect, even if there seems no obvious justification for it.
Obedience to the impulse is very unlikely to do much harm, and may
well do great good. The practical difficulty is to distinguish such
impulses from desires which produce similar manifestations. Many
young people wish to be authors without having an impulse to write any
particular book, or wish to be painters without having an impulse to
create any particular picture. But a little experience will usually
show the difference between a genuine and a spurious impulse; and
there is less harm in indulging the spurious impulse for a time than
in thwarting the impulse which is genuine. Nevertheless, the plain
man almost always has a tendency to thwart the genuine impulse,
because it seems anarchic and unreasonable, and is seldom able to give
a good account of itself in advance.

What is markedly true of some notable personalities is true, in a
lesser degree, of almost every individual who has much vigor or force
of life; there is an impulse towards activity of some kind, as a rule
not very definite in youth, but growing gradually more sharply
outlined under the influence of education and opportunity. The direct
impulse toward a kind of activity for its own sake must be
distinguished from the desire for the expected effects of the
activity. A young man may desire the rewards of great achievement
without having any spontaneous impulse toward the activities which
lead to achievement. But those who actually achieve much, although
they may desire the rewards, have also something in their nature which
inclines them to choose a certain kind of work as the road which they
must travel if their ambition is to be satisfied. This artist's
impulse, as it may be called, is a thing of infinite value to the
individual, and often to the world; to respect it in oneself and in
others makes up nine tenths of the good life. In most human beings it
is rather frail, rather easily destroyed or disturbed; parents and
teachers are too often hostile to it, and our economic system crushes
out its last remnants in young men and young women. The result is
that human beings cease to be individual, or to retain the native
pride that is their birthright; they become machine- made, tame,
convenient for the bureaucrat and the drill-sergeant, capable of being
tabulated in statistics without anything being omitted. This is the
fundamental evil resulting from lack of liberty; and it is an evil
which is being continually intensified as population grows more dense
and the machinery of organization grows more efficient.

The things that men desire are many and various: admiration,
affection, power, security, ease, outlets for energy, are among the
commonest of motives. But such abstractions do not touch what makes
the difference between one man and another. Whenever I go to the
zošlogical gardens, I am struck by the fact that all the movements of
a stork have some common quality, differing from the movements of a
parrot or an ostrich. It is impossible to put in words what the
common quality is, and yet we feel that each thing an animal does is
the sort of thing we might expect that animal to do. This indefinable
quality constitutes the individuality of the animal, and gives rise to
the pleasure we feel in watching the animal's actions. In a human
being, provided he has not been crushed by an economic or governmental
machine, there is the same kind of individuality, a something
distinctive without which no man or woman can achieve much of
importance, or retain the full dignity which is native to human
beings. It is this distinctive individuality that is loved by the
artist, whether painter or writer. The artist himself, and the man
who is creative in no matter what direction, has more of it than the
average man. Any society which crushes this quality, whether
intentionally or by accident, must soon become utterly lifeless and
traditional, without hope of progress and without any purpose in its
being. To preserve and strengthen the impulse that makes
individuality should be the foremost object of all political


We now arrive at certain general principles in regard to individual
liberty and public control.

The greater part of human impulses may be divided into two classes,
those which are possessive and those which are constructive or
creative. Social institutions are the garments or embodiments of
impulses, and may be classified roughly according to the impulses
which they embody. Property is the direct expression of
possessiveness; science and art are among the most direct expressions
of creativeness. Possessiveness is either defensive or aggressive; it
seeks either to retain against a robber, or to acquire from a present
holder. In either case an attitude of hostility toward others is of
its essence. It would be a mistake to suppose that defensive
possessiveness is always justifiable, while the aggressive kind is
always blameworthy; where there is great injustice in the _status
quo_, the exact opposite may be the case, and ordinarily neither is

State interference with the actions of individuals is necessitated by
possessiveness. Some goods can be acquired or retained by force,
while others cannot. A wife can be acquired by force, as the Romans
acquired the Sabine women; but a wife's affection cannot be acquired
in this way. There is no record that the Romans desired the affection
of the Sabine women; and those in whom possessive impulses are strong
tend to care chiefly for the goods that force can secure. All
material goods belong to this class. Liberty in regard to such goods,
if it were unrestricted, would make the strong rich and the weak poor.
In a capitalistic society, owing to the partial restraints imposed by
law, it makes cunning men rich and honest men poor, because the force
of the state is put at men's disposal, not according to any just or
rational principle, but according to a set of traditional maxims of
which the explanation is purely historical.

In all that concerns possession and the use of force, unrestrained
liberty involves anarchy and injustice. Freedom to kill, freedom to
rob, freedom to defraud, no longer belong to individuals, though they
still belong to great states, and are exercised by them in the name of
patriotism. Neither individuals nor states ought to be free to exert
force on their own initiative, except in such sudden emergencies as
will subsequently be admitted in justification by a court of law. The
reason for this is that the exertion of force by one individual
against another is always an evil on both sides, and can only be
tolerated when it is compensated by some overwhelming resultant good.
In order to minimize the amount of force actually exerted in the
world, it is necessary that there should be a public authority, a
repository of practically irresistible force, whose function should be
primarily to repress the private use of force. A use of force is
_private_ when it is exerted by one of the interested parties, or by
his friends or accomplices, not by a public neutral authority
according to some rule which is intended to be in the public interest.

The rŽgime of private property under which we live does much too
little to restrain the private use of force. When a man owns a piece
of land, for example, he may use force against trespassers, though
they must not use force against him. It is clear that some
restriction of the liberty of trespass is necessary for the
cultivation of the land. But if such powers are to be given to an
individual, the state ought to satisfy itself that he occupies no more
land than he is warranted in occupying in the public interest, and
that the share of the produce of the land that comes to him is no more
than a just reward for his labors. Probably the only way in which
such ends can be achieved is by state ownership of land. The
possessors of land and capital are able at present, by economic
pressure, to use force against those who have no possessions. This
force is sanctioned by law, while force exercised by the poor against
the rich is illegal. Such a state of things is unjust, and does not
diminish the use of private force as much as it might be diminished.

The whole realm of the possessive impulses, and of the use of force to
which they give rise, stands in need of control by a public neutral
authority, in the interests of liberty no less than of justice.
Within a nation, this public authority will naturally be the state; in
relations between nations, if the present anarchy is to cease, it will
have to be some international parliament.

But the motive underlying the public control of men's possessive
impulses should always be the increase of liberty, both by the
prevention of private tyranny and by the liberation of creative
impulses. If public control is not to do more harm than good, it must
be so exercised as to leave the utmost freedom of private initiative
in all those ways that do not involve the private use of force. In
this respect all governments have always failed egregiously, and there
is no evidence that they are improving.

The creative impulses, unlike those that are possessive, are directed
to ends in which one man's gain is not another man's loss. The man
who makes a scientific discovery or writes a poem is enriching others
at the same time as himself. Any increase in knowledge or good-will
is a gain to all who are affected by it, not only to the actual
possessor. Those who feel the joy of life are a happiness to others
as well as to themselves. Force cannot create such things, though it
can destroy them; no principle of distributive justice applies to
them, since the gain of each is the gain of all. For these reasons,
the creative part of a man's activity ought to be as free as possible
from all public control, in order that it may remain spontaneous and
full of vigor. The only function of the state in regard to this part
of the individual life should be to do everything possible toward
providing outlets and opportunities.

In every life a part is governed by the community, and a part by
private initiative. The part governed by private initiative is
greatest in the most important individuals, such as men of genius and
creative thinkers. This part ought only to be restricted when it is
predatory; otherwise, everything ought to be done to make it as great
and as vigorous as possible. The object of education ought not to be
to make all men think alike, but to make each think in the way which
is the fullest expression of his own personality. In the choice of a
means of livelihood all young men and young women ought, as far as
possible, to be able to choose what is attractive to them; if no
money-making occupation is attractive, they ought to be free to do
little work for little pay, and spend their leisure as they choose.
Any kind of censure on freedom of thought or on the dissemination of
knowledge is, of course, to be condemned utterly.

Huge organizations, both political and economic, are one of the
distinguishing characteristics of the modern world. These
organizations have immense power, and often use their power to
discourage originality in thought and action. They ought, on the
contrary, to give the freest scope that is possible without producing
anarchy or violent conflict. They ought not to take cognizance of any
part of a man's life except what is concerned with the legitimate
objects of public control, namely, possessions and the use of force.
And they ought, by devolution, to leave as large a share of control as
possible in the hands of individuals and small groups. If this is not
done, the men at the head of these vast organizations will infallibly
become tyrannous through the habit of excessive power, and will in
time interfere in ways that crush out individual initiative.

The problem which faces the modern world is the combination of
individual initiative with the increase in the scope and size of
organizations. Unless it is solved, individuals will grow less and
less full of life and vigor, and more and more passively submissive to
conditions imposed upon them. A society composed of such individuals
cannot be progressive or add much to the world's stock of mental and
spiritual possessions. Only personal liberty and the encouragement of
initiative can secure these things. Those who resist authority when
it encroaches upon the legitimate sphere of the individual are
performing a service to society, however little society may value it.
In regard to the past, this is universally acknowledged; but it is no
less true in regard to the present and the future.

Chapter V: National Independence and Internationalism

In the relations between states, as in the relations of groups within
a single state, what is to be desired is independence for each as
regards internal affairs, and law rather than private force as regards
external affairs. But as regards groups within a state, it is
internal independence that must be emphasized, since that is what is
lacking; subjection to law has been secured, on the whole, since the
end of the Middle Ages. In the relations between states, on the
contrary, it is law and a central government that are lacking, since
independence exists for external as for internal affairs. The stage
we have reached in the affairs of Europe corresponds to the stage
reached in our internal affairs during the Wars of the Roses, when
turbulent barons frustrated the attempt to make them keep the king's
peace. Thus, although the goal is the same in the two cases, the
steps to be taken in order to achieve it are quite different.

There can be no good international system until the boundaries of
states coincide as nearly as possible with the boundaries of nations.

But it is not easy to say what we mean by a nation. Are the Irish a
nation? Home Rulers say yes, Unionists say no. Are the Ulstermen a
nation? Unionists say yes, Home Rulers say no. In all such cases it
is a party question whether we are to call a group a nation or not. A
German will tell you that the Russian Poles are a nation, but as for
the Prussian Poles, they, of course, are part of Prussia. Professors
can always be hired to prove, by arguments of race or language or
history, that a group about which there is a dispute is, or is not, a
nation, as may be desired by those whom the professors serve. If we
are to avoid all these controversies, we must first of all endeavor to
find some definition of a nation.

A nation is not to be defined by affinities of language or a common
historical origin, though these things often help to produce a nation.
Switzerland is a nation, despite diversities of race, religion, and
language. England and Scotland now form one nation, though they did
not do so at the time of the Civil War. This is shown by Cromwell's
saying, in the height of the conflict, that he would rather be subject
to the domain of the royalists than to that of the Scotch. Great
Britain was one state before it was one nation; on the other hand,
Germany was one nation before it was one state.

What constitutes a nation is a sentiment and an instinct, a sentiment
of similarity and an instinct of belonging to the same group or herd.
The instinct is an extension of the instinct which constitutes a flock
of sheep, or any other group of gregarious animals. The sentiment
which goes with this is like a milder and more extended form of family
feeling. When we return to England after being on the Continent, we
feel something friendly in the familiar ways, and it is easy to
believe that Englishmen on the whole are virtuous, while many
foreigners are full of designing wickedness.

Such feelings make it easy to organize a nation into a state. It is
not difficult, as a rule, to acquiesce in the orders of a national
government. We feel that it is our government, and that its decrees
are more or less the same as those which we should have given if we
ourselves had been the governors. There is an instinctive and usually
unconscious sense of a common purpose animating the members of a
nation. This becomes especially vivid when there is war or a danger
of war. Any one who, at such a time, stands out against the orders of
his government feels an inner conflict quite different from any that
he would feel in standing out against the orders of a foreign
government in whose power he might happen to find himself. If he
stands out, he does so with some more or less conscious hope that his
government may in time come to think as he does; whereas, in standing
out against a foreign government, no such hope is necessary. This
group instinct, however it may have arisen, is what constitutes a
nation, and what makes it important that the boundaries of nations
should also be the boundaries of states.

National sentiment is a fact, and should be taken account of by
institutions. When it is ignored, it is intensified and becomes a
source of strife. It can only be rendered harmless by being given
free play, so long as it is not predatory. But it is not, in itself,
a good or admirable feeling. There is nothing rational and nothing
desirable in a limitation of sympathy which confines it to a fragment
of the human race. Diversities of manners and customs and traditions
are, on the whole, a good thing, since they enable different nations
to produce different types of excellence. But in national feeling
there is always latent or explicit an element of hostility to
foreigners. National feeling, as we know it, could not exist in a
nation which was wholly free from external pressure of a hostile kind.

And group feeling produces a limited and often harmful kind of
morality. Men come to identify the good with what serves the
interests of their own group, and the bad with what works against
those interests, even if it should happen to be in the interests of
mankind as a whole. This group morality is very much in evidence
during war, and is taken for granted in men's ordinary thought.
Although almost all Englishmen consider the defeat of Germany
desirable for the good of the world, yet nevertheless most of them
honor a German for fighting for his country, because it has not
occurred to them that his actions ought to be guided by a morality
higher than that of the group.

A man does right, as a rule, to have his thoughts more occupied with
the interests of his own nation than with those of others, because his
actions are more likely to affect his own nation. But in time of war,
and in all matters which are of equal concern to other nations and to
his own, a man ought to take account of the universal welfare, and not
allow his survey to be limited by the interest, or supposed interest,
of his own group or nation.

So long as national feeling exists, it is very important that each
nation should be self- governing as regards its internal affairs.
Government can only be carried on by force and tyranny if its subjects
view it with hostile eyes, and they will so view it if they feel that
it belongs to an alien nation. This principle meets with difficulties
in cases where men of different nations live side by side in the same
area, as happens in some parts of the Balkans. There are also
difficulties in regard to places which, for some geographical reason,
are of great international importance, such as the Suez Canal and the
Panama Canal. In such cases the purely local desires of the
inhabitants may have to give way before larger interests. But in
general, at any rate as applied to civilized communities, the
principle that the boundaries of nations ought to coincide with the
boundaries of states has very few exceptions.

This principle, however, does not decide how the relations between
states are to be regulated, or how a conflict of interests between
rival states is to be decided. At present, every great state claims
absolute sovereignty, not only in regard to its internal affairs but
also in regard to its external actions. This claim to absolute
sovereignty leads it into conflict with similar claims on the part of
other great states. Such conflicts at present can only be decided by
war or diplomacy, and diplomacy is in essence nothing but the threat
of war. There is no more justification for the claim to absolute
sovereignty on the part of a state than there would be for a similar
claim on the part of an individual. The claim to absolute sovereignty
is, in effect, a claim that all external affair s are to be regulated
purely by force, and that when two nations or groups of nations are
interested in a question, the decision shall depend solely upon which
of them is, or is believed to be, the stronger. This is nothing but
primitive anarchy, "the war of all against all," which Hobbes asserted
to be the original state of mankind.

There cannot be secure peace in the world, or any decision of
international questions according to international law, until states
are willing to part with their absolute sovereignty as regards their
external relations, and to leave the decision in such matters to some
international instrument of government.[5] An international government
will have to be legislative as well as judicial. It is not enough
that there should be a Hague tribunal, deciding matters according to
some already existing system of international law; it is necessary
also that there should be a body capable of enacting international
law, and this body will have to have the power of transferring
territory from one state to another, when it is persuaded that
adequate grounds exist for such a transference. Friends of peace will
make a mistake if they unduly glorify the _status quo_. Some nations
grow, while others dwindle; the population of an area may change its
character by emigration and immigration. There is no good reason why
states should resent changes in their boundaries under such
conditions, and if no international authority has power to make
changes of this kind, the temptations to war will sometimes become

[5] For detailed scheme of international government see "International
Government," by L. Woolf. Allen & Unwin.

The international authority ought to possess an army and navy, and
these ought to be the only army and navy in existence. The only
legitimate use of force is to diminish the total amount of force
exercised in the world. So long as men are free to indulge their
predatory instincts, some men or groups of men will take advantage of
this freedom for oppression and robbery. Just as the police are
necessary to prevent the use of force by private citizens, so an
international police will be necessary to prevent the lawless use of
force by separate states.

But I think it is reasonable to hope that if ever an international
government, possessed of the only army and navy in the world, came
into existence, the need of force to enact obedience to its decisions
would be very temporary. In a short time the benefits resulting from
the substitution of law for anarchy would become so obvious that the
international government would acquire an unquestioned authority, and
no state would dream of rebelling against its decisions. As soon as
this stage had been reached, the international army and navy would
become unnecessary.

We have still a very long road to travel before we arrive at the
establishment of an international authority, but it is not very
difficult to foresee the steps by which this result will be gradually
reached. There is likely to be a continual increase in the practice
of submitting disputes to arbitration, and in the realization that the
supposed conflicts of interest between different states are mainly
illusory. Even where there is a real conflict of interest, it must in
time become obvious that neither of the states concerned would suffer
as much by giving way as by fighting. With the progress of
inventions, war, when it does occur, is bound to become increasingly
destructive. The civilized races of the world are faced with the
alternative of cošperation or mutual destruction. The present war
is making this alternative daily more evident. And it is difficult to
believe that, when the enmities which it has generated have had time
to cool, civilized men will deliberately choose to destroy
civilization, rather than acquiesce in the abolition of war.

The matters in which the interests of nations are supposed to clash
are mainly three: tariffs, which are a delusion; the exploitation of
inferior races, which is a crime; pride of power and dominion, which
is a schoolboy folly.

The economic argument against tariffs is familiar, and I shall not
repeat it. The only reason why it fails to carry conviction is the
enmity between nations. Nobody proposes to set up a tariff between
England and Scotland, or between Lancashire and Yorkshire. Yet the
arguments by which tariffs between nations are supported might be used
just as well to defend tariffs between counties. Universal free trade
would indubitably be of economic benefit to mankind, and would be
adopted to- morrow if it were not for the hatred and suspicion which
nations feel one toward another. From the point of view of preserving
the peace of the world, free trade between the different civilized
states is not so important as the open door in their dependencies.
The desire for exclusive markets is one of the most potent causes of

Exploiting what are called "inferior races" has become one of the main
objects of European statecraft. It is not only, or primarily, trade
that is desired, but opportunities for investment; finance is more
concerned in the matter than industry. Rival diplomatists are very
often the servants, conscious or unconscious, of rival groups of
financiers. The financiers, though themselves of no particular
nation, understand the art of appealing to national prejudice, and of
inducing the taxpayer to incur expenditure of which they reap the
benefit. The evils which they produce at home, and the devastation
that they spread among the races whom they exploit, are part of the
price which the world has to pay for its acquiescence in the
capitalist rŽgime.

But neither tariffs nor financiers would be able to cause serious
trouble, if it were not for the sentiment of national pride. National
pride might be on the whole beneficent, if it took the direction of
emulation in the things that are important to civilization. If we
prided ourselves upon our poets, our men of science, or the justice
and humanity of our social system, we might find in national pride a
stimulus to useful endeavors. But such matters play a very small
part. National pride, as it exists now, is almost exclusively
concerned with power and dominion, with the extent of territory that a
nation owns, and with its capacity for enforcing its will against the
opposition of other nations. In this it is reinforced by group
morality. To nine citizens out of ten it seems self-evident, whenever
the will of their own nation clashes with that of another, that their
own nation must be in the right. Even if it were not in the right on
the particular issue, yet it stands in general for so much nobler
ideals than those represented by the other nation to the dispute, that
any increase in its power is bound to be for the good of mankind.
Since all nations equally believe this of themselves, all are equally
ready to insist upon the victory of their own side in any dispute in
which they believe that they have a good hope of victory. While this
temper persists, the hope of international cošperation must remain

If men could divest themselves of the sentiment of rivalry and
hostility between different nations, they would perceive that the
matters in which the interests of different nations coincide
immeasurably outweigh those in which they clash; they would perceive,
to begin with, that trade is not to be compared to warfare; that the
man who sells you goods is not doing you an injury. No one considers
that the butcher and the baker are his enemies because they drain him
of money. Yet as soon as goods come from a foreign country, we are
asked to believe that we suffer a terrible injury in purchasing them.
No one remembers that it is by means of goods exported that we
purchase them. But in the country to which we export, it is the goods
we send which are thought dangerous, and the goods we buy are
forgotten. The whole conception of trade, which has been forced upon
us by manufacturers who dreaded foreign competition, by trusts which
desired to secure monopolies, and by economists poisoned by the virus
of nationalism, is totally and absolutely false. Trade results simply
from division of labor. A man cannot himself make all the goods of
which he has need, and therefore he must exchange his produce with
that of other people. What applies to the individual, applies in
exactly the same way to the nation. There is no reason to desire that
a nation should itself produce all the goods of which it has need; it
is better that it should specialize upon those goods which it can
produce to most advantage, and should exchange its surplus with the
surplus of other goods produced by other countries. There is no use
in sending goods out of the country except in order to get other goods
in return. A butcher who is always willing to part with his meat but
not willing to take bread from the baker, or boots from the bootmaker,
or clothes from the tailor, would soon find himself in a sorry plight.
Yet he would be no more foolish than the protectionist who desires
that we should send goods abroad without receiving payment in the
shape of goods imported from abroad.

The wage system has made people believe that what a man needs is work.
This, of course, is absurd. What he needs is the goods produced by
work, and the less work involved in making a given amount of goods,
the better. But owing to our economic system, every economy in
methods of production enables employers to dismiss some of their
employees, and to cause destitution, where a better system would
produce only an increase of wages or a diminution in the hours of work
without any corresponding diminution of wages.

Our economic system is topsyturvy. It makes the interest of the
individual conflict with the interest of the community in a thousand
ways in which no such conflict ought to exist. Under a better system
the benefits of free trade and the evils of tariffs would be obvious
to all.

Apart from trade, the interests of nations coincide in all that makes
what we call civilization. Inventions and discoveries bring benefit
to all. The progress of science is a matter of equal concern to the
whole civilized world. Whether a man of science is an Englishman, a
Frenchman, or a German is a matter of no real importance. His
discoveries are open to all, and nothing but intelligence is required
in order to profit by them. The whole world of art and literature and
learning is international; what is done in one country is not done for
that country, but for mankind. If we ask ourselves what are the
things that raise mankind above the brutes, what are the things that
make us think the human race more valuable than any species of
animals, we shall find that none of them are things in which any one
nation can have exclusive property, but all are things in which the
whole world can share. Those who have any care for these things,
those who wish to see mankind fruitful in the work which men alone can
do, will take little account of national boundaries, and have little
care to what state a man happens to owe allegiance.

The importance of international cošperation outside the sphere of
politics has been brought home to me by my own experience. Until
lately I was engaged in teaching a new science which few men in the
world were able to teach. My own work in this science was based
chiefly upon the work of a German and an Italian. My pupils came from
all over the civilized world: France, Germany, Austria, Russia,
Greece, Japan, China, India, and America. None of us was conscious of
any sense of national divisions. We felt ourselves an outpost of
civilization, building a new road into the virgin forest of the
unknown. All cošperated in the common task, and in the interest of
such a work the political enmities of nations seemed trivial,
temporary, and futile.

But it is not only in the somewhat rarefied atmosphere of abstruse
science that international cošperation is vital to the progress of
civilization. All our economic problems, all the questions of
securing the rights of labor, all the hopes of freedom at home and
humanity abroad, rest upon the creation of international good-will.

So long as hatred, suspicion, and fear dominate the feelings of men
toward each other, so long we cannot hope to escape from the tyranny
of violence and brute force. Men must learn to be conscious of the
common interests of mankind in which all are at one, rather than of
those supposed interests in which the nations are divided. It is not
necessary, or even desirable, to obliterate the differences of manners
and custom and tradition between different nations. These differences
enable each nation to make its own distinctive contribution to the sum
total of the world's civilization.

What is to be desired is not cosmopolitanism, not the absence of all
national characteristics that one associates with couriers,
_wagon-lit_ attendants, and others, who have had everything
distinctive obliterated by multiple and trivial contacts with men of
every civilized country. Such cosmopolitanism is the result of loss,
not gain. The international spirit which we should wish to see
produced will be something added to love of country, not something
taken away. Just as patriotism does not prevent a man from feeling
family affection, so the international spirit ought not to prevent a
man from feeling affection for his own country. But it will somewhat
alter the character of that affection. The things which he will
desire for his own country will no longer be things which can only be
acquired at the expense of others, but rather those things in which
the excellence of any one country is to the advantage of all the
world. He will wish his own country to be great in the arts of peace,
to be eminent in thought and science, to be magnanimous and just and
generous. He will wish it to help mankind on the way toward that
better world of liberty and international concord which must be
realized if any happiness is to be left to man. He will not desire
for his country the passing triumphs of a narrow possessiveness, but
rather the enduring triumph of having helped to embody in human
affairs something of that spirit of brotherhood which Christ taught
and which the Christian churches have forgotten. He will see that
this spirit embodies not only the highest morality, but also the
truest wisdom, and the only road by which the nations, torn and
bleeding with the wounds which scientific madness has inflicted, can
emerge into a life where growth is possible and joy is not banished at
the frenzied call of unreal and fictitious duties. Deeds inspired by
hate are not duties, whatever pain and self-sacrifice they may
involve. Life and hope for the world are to be found only in the
deeds of love.

Prologue: What I Have Lived For

This is the prologue to the Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, written on 25 July 1956 in
his own hand. The text follows:

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing
for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These
passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a
deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.
I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy -- ecstasy so great that I would often
have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because
it relieves loneliness -- that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks
over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it, finally,
because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the
heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem
too good for human life, this is what -- at last -- I have found.
With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of
men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the
Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not
much, I have achieved.
Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But
always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart.
Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to
their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what
human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.
This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the
chance were offered me.
Archive Box Number: Black Display Binder
Date: 1956
Person(s) in Photograph: Bertrand Russell
Description: This is a page from the
Defence of the Realm permit book which
was issued to Russell during World War I
after his peace activism led to his being
banned from certain areas of Britain. Russell
had already been convicted and fined for
airing his anti-war views, and he served
nearly five months of a six month prison
sentence handed down in February 1918.

Archive Box Number: RA2 *712
Date: 1916
This is a photograph of another page in
Bertrand Russell's permit book. Here he was
denied access to the "Newhaven Special
Military Area". However, special
arrangements were made for him to attend
the court martial of his friend Clifford Allen.
The Garrison Commander of Newhaven
wrote Bertrand Russell the following reply:
"Herewith a Special Pass to enable you to
visit Newhaven Special Military Area for the
purpose of attending the District Court
Martial on Private R.C. Allen. Your Permit
Book is also returned. The Pass will not
enable you to stay the night in Newhaven, or
to go anywhere else in the Town except to
the Court Martial room & return to the
Station." The letter is dated December 10th,
Archive Box Number: Russell Archive RA2

Date: 1916
One of the pages of Bertrand Russell's 1919
Archive Box Number: RA2 *712

Date: 1919
Person(s) in Photograph: Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell's passport photograph and
signature, 1919.
Archive Box Number: RA2 *712

Date: 1919

Person(s) in Photograph: Bertrand Russell, John Russell, Kate Russell
Description: This is a passport picture of Bertrand Russell with his two children by Dora,
John and Kate.
Archive Box Number: RA2 *712
Date: 1941










THE attempt to conceive imaginatively a better
ordering of human society than the destructive and
cruel chaos in which mankind has hitherto existed
is by no means modern: it is at least as old as Plato,
whose ``Republic'' set the model for the Utopias of
subsequent philosophers. Whoever contemplates the
world in the light of an ideal--whether what he seeks
be intellect, or art, or love, or simple happiness, or
all together--must feel a great sorrow in the evils
that men needlessly allow to continue, and--if he be
a man of force and vital energy--an urgent desire to
lead men to the realization of the good which inspires
his creative vision. It is this desire which has been
the primary force moving the pioneers of Socialism
and Anarchism, as it moved the inventors of ideal
commonwealths in the past. In this there is nothing
new. What is new in Socialism and Anarchism, is
that close relation of the ideal to the present
sufferings of men, which has enabled powerful political
movements to grow out of the hopes of solitary thinkers.
It is this that makes Socialism and Anarchism
important, and it is this that makes them dangerous
to those who batten, consciously or unconsciously
upon the evils of our present order of society.

The great majority of men and women, in ordinary
times, pass through life without ever contemplating
or criticising, as a whole, either their own
conditions or those of the world at large. They find
themselves born into a certain place in society, and
they accept what each day brings forth, without any
effort of thought beyond what the immediate present
requires. Almost as instinctively as the beasts of
the field, they seek the satisfaction of the needs of
the moment, without much forethought, and without
considering that by sufficient effort the whole
conditions of their lives could be changed. A certain
percentage, guided by personal ambition, make the effort
of thought and will which is necessary to place
themselves among the more fortunate members of the
community; but very few among these are seriously
concerned to secure for all the advantages which they
seek for themselves. It is only a few rare and exceptional
men who have that kind of love toward mankind
at large that makes them unable to endure
patiently the general mass of evil and suffering,
regardless of any relation it may have to their own
lives. These few, driven by sympathetic pain, will
seek, first in thought and then in action, for some
way of escape, some new system of society by which
life may become richer, more full of joy and less
full of preventable evils than it is at present. But
in the past such men have, as a rule, failed to interest
the very victims of the injustices which they wished
to remedy. The more unfortunate sections of the
population have been ignorant, apathetic from excess
of toil and weariness, timorous through the imminent
danger of immediate punishment by the holders of
power, and morally unreliable owing to the loss of
self-respect resulting from their degradation. To
create among such classes any conscious, deliberate
effort after general amelioration might have seemed
a hopeless task, and indeed in the past it has
generally proved so. But the modern world, by the
increase of education and the rise in the standard of
comfort among wage-earners, has produced new
conditions, more favorable than ever before to the
demand for radical reconstruction. It is above all
the Socialists, and in a lesser degree the Anarchists
(chiefly as the inspirers of Syndicalism), who have
become the exponents of this demand.

What is perhaps most remarkable in regard to
both Socialism and Anarchism is the association of a
widespread popular movement with ideals for a better
world. The ideals have been elaborated, in the
first instance, by solitary writers of books, and yet
powerful sections of the wage-earning classes have
accepted them as their guide in the practical affairs
of the world. In regard to Socialism this is evident;
but in regard to Anarchism it is only true with some
qualification. Anarchism as such has never been a
widespread creed, it is only in the modified form of
Syndicalism that it has achieved popularity. Unlike
Socialism and Anarchism, Syndicalism is primarily
the outcome, not of an idea, but of an organization:
the fact of Trade Union organization came first, and
the ideas of Syndicalism are those which seemed
appropriate to this organization in the opinion of
the more advanced French Trade Unions. But the
ideas are, in the main, derived from Anarchism, and
the men who gained acceptance for them were, for
the most part, Anarchists. Thus we may regard
Syndicalism as the Anarchism of the market-place
as opposed to the Anarchism of isolated individuals
which had preserved a precarious life throughout the
previous decades. Taking this view, we find in
Anarchist-Syndicalism the same combination of ideal
and organization as we find in Socialist political
parties. It is from this standpoint that our study
of these movements will be undertaken.

Socialism and Anarchism, in their modern form,
spring respectively from two protagonists, Marx and
Bakunin, who fought a lifelong battle, culminating
in a split in the first International. We shall begin
our study with these two men--first their teaching,
and then the organizations which they founded or
inspired. This will lead us to the spread of Socialism
in more recent years, and thence to the Syndicalist
revolt against Socialist emphasis on the State
and political action, and to certain movements outside
France which have some affinity with Syndicalism--
notably the I. W. W. in America and Guild
Socialism in England. From this historical survey
we shall pass to the consideration of some of the
more pressing problems of the future, and shall try
to decide in what respects the world would be happier
if the aims of Socialists or Syndicalists were

My own opinion--which I may as well indicate
at the outset--is that pure Anarchism, though it
should be the ultimate ideal, to which society should
continually approximate, is for the present impossible,
and would not survive more than a year or two
at most if it were adopted. On the other hand, both
Marxian Socialism and Syndicalism, in spite of many
drawbacks, seem to me calculated to give rise to a
happier and better world than that in which we live.
I do not, however, regard either of them as the best
practicable system. Marxian Socialism, I fear,
would give far too much power to the State, while
Syndicalism, which aims at abolishing the State,
would, I believe, find itself forced to reconstruct a
central authority in order to put an end to the
rivalries of different groups of producers. The BEST
practicable system, to my mind, is that of Guild
Socialism, which concedes what is valid both in the
claims of the State Socialists and in the Syndicalist
fear of the State, by adopting a system of federalism
among trades for reasons similar to those which
are recommending federalism among nations. The
grounds for these conclusions will appear as we

Before embarking upon the history of recent
movements In favor of radical reconstruction, it will
be worth while to consider some traits of character
which distinguish most political idealists, and are
much misunderstood by the general public for other
reasons besides mere prejudice. I wish to do full
justice to these reasons, in order to show the more
effectually why they ought not to be operative.

The leaders of the more advanced movements
are, in general, men of quite unusual disinterestedness,
as is evident from a consideration of their careers.
Although they have obviously quite as much ability
as many men who rise to positions of great power,
they do not themselves become the arbiters of
contemporary events, nor do they achieve wealth or the
applause of the mass of their contemporaries. Men
who have the capacity for winning these prizes, and
who work at least as hard as those who win them,
but deliberately adopt a line which makes the winning
of them impossible, must be judged to have an
aim in life other than personal advancement;
whatever admixture of self-seeking may enter into the
detail of their lives, their fundamental motive must
be outside Self. The pioneers of Socialism, Anarchism,
and Syndicalism have, for the most part,
experienced prison, exile, and poverty, deliberately
incurred because they would not abandon their
propaganda; and by this conduct they have shown that
the hope which inspired them was not for themselves,
but for mankind.

Nevertheless, though the desire for human welfare
is what at bottom determines the broad lines of such
men's lives, it often happens that, in the detail of
their speech and writing, hatred is far more visible
than love. The impatient idealist--and without some
impatience a man will hardly prove effective--is
almost sure to be led into hatred by the oppositions
and disappointments which he encounters in his
endeavors to bring happiness to the world. The more
certain he is of the purity of his motives and the truth
of his gospel, the more indignant he will become when
his teaching is rejected. Often he will successfully
achieve an attitude of philosophic tolerance as
regards the apathy of the masses, and even as regards
the whole-hearted opposition of professed defenders
of the status quo. But the men whom he finds it
impossible to forgive are those who profess the same desire
for the amelioration of society as he feels himself,
but who do not accept his method of achieving this
end. The intense faith which enables him to withstand
persecution for the sake of his beliefs makes
him consider these beliefs so luminously obvious that
any thinking man who rejects them must be dishonest,
and must be actuated by some sinister motive
of treachery to the cause. Hence arises the spirit of
the sect, that bitter, narrow orthodoxy which is the
bane of those who hold strongly to an unpopular
creed. So many real temptations to treachery exist
that suspicion is natural. And among leaders,
ambition, which they mortify in their choice of a
career, is sure to return in a new form: in the desire
for intellectual mastery and for despotic power
within their own sect. From these causes it results
that the advocates of drastic reform divide
themselves into opposing schools, hating each other with
a bitter hatred, accusing each other often of such
crimes as being in the pay of the police, and demanding,
of any speaker or writer whom they are to
admire, that he shall conform exactly to their
prejudices, and make all his teaching minister to their
belief that the exact truth is to be found within the
limits of their creed. The result of this state of
mind is that, to a casual and unimaginative attention,
the men who have sacrificed most through the
wish to benefit mankind APPEAR to be actuated far
more by hatred than by love. And the demand for
orthodoxy is stifling to any free exercise of intellect.
This cause, as well as economic prejudice, has made
it difficult for the ``intellectuals'' to co-operate prac-
tically with the more extreme reformers, however they
may sympathize with their main purposes and even
with nine-tenths of their program.

Another reason why radical reformers are
misjudged by ordinary men is that they view existing
society from outside, with hostility towards its
institutions. Although, for the most part, they have
more belief than their neighbors in human nature's
inherent capacity for a good life, they are so
conscious of the cruelty and oppression resulting from
existing institutions that they make a wholly
misleading impression of cynicism. Most men have
instinctively two entirely different codes of behavior:
one toward those whom they regard as companions or
colleagues or friends, or in some way members of the
same ``herd''; the other toward those whom they
regard as enemies or outcasts or a danger to society.
Radical reformers are apt to concentrate their
attention upon the behavior of society toward the
latter class, the class of those toward whom the
``herd'' feels ill-will. This class includes, of course,
enemies in war, and criminals; in the minds of those
who consider the preservation of the existing order
essential to their own safety or privileges, it includes
all who advocate any great political or economic
change, and all classes which, through their poverty
or through any other cause, are likely to feel a
dangerous degree of discontent. The ordinary citizen
probably seldom thinks about such individuals or
classes, and goes through life believing that he and
his friends are kindly people, because they have no
wish to injure those toward whom they entertain no
group-hostility. But the man whose attention is
fastened upon the relations of a group with those
whom it hates or fears will judge quite differently.
In these relations a surprising ferocity is apt to be
developed, and a very ugly side of human nature
comes to the fore. The opponents of capitalism
have learned, through the study of certain historical
facts, that this ferocity has often been shown by the
capitalists and by the State toward the wage-earning
classes, particularly when they have ventured to
protest against the unspeakable suffering to which
industrialism has usually condemned them. Hence
arises a quite different attitude toward existing
society from that of the ordinary well-to-do citizen:
an attitude as true as his, perhaps also as untrue,
but equally based on facts, facts concerning his
relations to his enemies instead of to his friends.

The class-war, like wars between nations,
produces two opposing views, each equally true and
equally untrue. The citizen of a nation at war,
when he thinks of his own countrymen, thinks of them
primarily as he has experienced them, in dealings
with their friends, in their family relations, and so
on. They seem to him on the whole kindly, decent
folk. But a nation with which his country is at
war views his compatriots through the medium of a
quite different set of experiences: as they appear
in the ferocity of battle, in the invasion and subjugation
of a hostile territory, or in the chicanery of a
juggling diplomacy. The men of whom these facts
are true are the very same as the men whom their
compatriots know as husbands or fathers or friends,
but they are judged differently because they are
judged on different data. And so it is with those who
view the capitalist from the standpoint of the
revolutionary wage-earner: they appear inconceivably
cynical and misjudging to the capitalist, because the
facts upon which their view is based are facts which
he either does not know or habitually ignores. Yet
the view from the outside is just as true as the view
from the inside. Both are necessary to the complete
truth; and the Socialist, who emphasizes the outside
view, is not a cynic, but merely the friend of the
wage-earners, maddened by the spectacle of the needless
misery which capitalism inflicts upon them.

I have placed these general reflections at the
beginning of our study, in order to make it clear to
the reader that, whatever bitterness and hate may
be found in the movements which we are to examine,
it is not bitterness or hate, but love, that is their
mainspring. It is difficult not to hate those who
torture the objects of our love. Though difficult, it
is not impossible; but it requires a breadth of
outlook and a comprehensiveness of understanding which
are not easy to preserve amid a desperate contest.
If ultimate wisdom has not always been preserved by
Socialists and Anarchists, they have not differed in
this from their opponents; and in the source of their
inspiration they have shown themselves superior to
those who acquiesce ignorantly or supinely in the
injustices and oppressions by which the existing
system is preserved.







SOCIALISM, like everything else that is vital, is
rather a tendency than a strictly definable body of
doctrine. A definition of Socialism is sure either to
include some views which many would regard as not
Socialistic, or to exclude others which claim to be
included. But I think we shall come nearest to the
essence of Socialism by defining it as the advocacy
of communal ownership of land and capital. Communal
ownership may mean ownership by a democratic
State, but cannot be held to include ownership
by any State which is not democratic. Communal
ownership may also be understood, as Anarchist
Communism understands it, in the sense of
ownership by the free association of the men and
women in a community without those compulsory
powers which are necessary to constitute a State.
Some Socialists expect communal ownership to arrive
suddenly and completely by a catastrophic revolution,
while others expect it to come gradually, first
in one industry, then in another. Some insist upon
the necessity of completeness in the acquisition of
land and capital by the public, while others would
be content to see lingering islands of private ownership,
provided they were not too extensive or powerful.
What all forms have in common is democracy
and the abolition, virtual or complete, of the present
capitalistic system. The distinction between Socialists,
Anarchists and Syndicalists turns largely upon
the kind of democracy which they desire. Orthodox
Socialists are content with parliamentary democracy
in the sphere of government, holding that the evils
apparent in this form of constitution at present
would disappear with the disappearance of capitalism.
Anarchists and Syndicalists, on the other
hand, object to the whole parliamentary machinery,
and aim at a different method of regulating the political
affairs of the community. But all alike are
democratic in the sense that they aim at abolishing
every kind of privilege and every kind of artificial
inequality: all alike are champions of the wage-
earner in existing society. All three also have much
in common in their economic doctrine. All three
regard capital and the wages system as a means of
exploiting the laborer in the interests of the possessing
classes, and hold that communal ownership, in one
form or another, is the only means of bringing freedom
to the producers. But within the framework
of this common doctrine there are many divergences,
and even among those who are strictly to be called
Socialists, there is a very considerable diversity of

Socialism as a power in Europe may be said
to begin with Marx. It is true that before his time
there were Socialist theories, both in England and in
France. It is also true that in France, during the
revolution of 1848, Socialism for a brief period
acquired considerable influence in the State. But
the Socialists who preceded Marx tended to indulge
in Utopian dreams and failed to found any strong or
stable political party. To Marx, in collaboration
with Engels, are due both the formulation of a coherent
body of Socialist doctrine, sufficiently true or
plausible to dominate the minds of vast numbers of
men, and the formation of the International Socialist
movement, which has continued to grow in all
European countries throughout the last fifty years.

In order to understand Marx's doctrine, it is
necessary to know something of the influences which
formed his outlook. He was born in 1818 at Treves
in the Rhine Provinces, his father being a legal
official, a Jew who had nominally accepted
Christianity. Marx studied jurisprudence, philosophy,
political economy and history at various German
universities. In philosophy he imbibed the doctrines
of Hegel, who was then at the height of his fame,
and something of these doctrines dominated his
thought throughout his life. Like Hegel, he saw in
history the development of an Idea. He conceived
the changes in the world as forming a logical development,
in which one phase passes by revolution into
another, which is its antithesis--a conception which
gave to his views a certain hard abstractness, and a
belief in revolution rather than evolution. But of
Hegel's more definite doctrines Marx retained nothing
after his youth. He was recognized as a brilliant
student, and might have had a prosperous career as
a professor or an official, but his interest in politics
and his Radical views led him into more arduous
paths. Already in 1842 he became editor of a newspaper,
which was suppressed by the Prussian Government
early in the following year on account of
its advanced opinions. This led Marx to go to Paris,
where he became known as a Socialist and acquired
a knowledge of his French predecessors.[1] Here in the
year 1844 began his lifelong friendship with Engels,
who had been hitherto in business in Manchester,
where he had become acquainted with English Socialism
and had in the main adopted its doctrines.[2] In
1845 Marx was expelled from Paris and went with
Engels to live in Brussels. There he formed a German
Working Men's Association and edited a paper
which was their organ. Through his activities in
Brussels he became known to the German Communist
League in Paris, who, at the end of 1847, invited him
and Engels to draw up for them a manifesto, which
appeared in January, 1848. This is the famous
``Communist Manifesto,'' in which for the first time
Marx's system is set forth. It appeared at a fortunate
moment. In the following month, February,
the revolution broke out in Paris, and in March it
spread to Germany. Fear of the revolution led the
Brussels Government to expel Marx from Belgium,
but the German revolution made it possible for him
to return to his own country. In Germany he again
edited a paper, which again led him into a conflict
with the authorities, increasing in severity as the
reaction gathered force. In June, 1849, his paper
was suppressed, and he was expelled from Prussia.
He returned to Paris, but was expelled from there
also. This led him to settle in England--at that
time an asylum for friends of freedom--and in England,
with only brief intervals for purposes of agitation,
he continued to live until his death in 1883.

[1] Chief among these were Fourier and Saint-Simon, who
constructed somewhat fantastic Socialistic ideal commonwealths.
Proudhon, with whom Marx had some not wholly friendly relations,
is to be regarded as a forerunner of the Anarchists rather
than of orthodox Socialism.

[2] Marx mentions the English Socialists with praise in ``The
Poverty of Philosophy'' (1847). They, like him, tend to base
their arguments upon a Ricardian theory of value, but they
have not his scope or erudition or scientific breadth. Among
them may be mentioned Thomas Hodgskin (1787-1869), originally
an officer in the Navy, but dismissed for a pamphlet critical
of the methods of naval discipline, author of ``Labour Defended
Against the Claims of Capital'' (1825) and other works;
William Thompson (1785-1833), author of ``Inquiry into the
Principles of Distribution of Wealth Most Conducive to Human
Happiness'' (1824), and ``Labour Rewarded'' (1825); and
Piercy Ravenstone, from whom Hodgskin's ideas are largely
derived. Perhaps more important than any of these was Robert

The bulk of his time was occupied in the composition
of his great book, ``Capital.''[3] His other
important work during his later years was the formation
and spread of the International Working Men's
Association. From 1849 onward the greater part
of his time was spent in the British Museum, accumulating,
with German patience, the materials for his
terrific indictment of capitalist society, but he
retained his hold on the International Socialist movement.
In several countries he had sons-in-law as
lieutenants, like Napoleon's brothers, and in the
various internal contests that arose his will generally

[3] The first and most important volume appeared in 1867;
the other two volumes were published posthumously (1885 and

The most essential of Marx's doctrines may be
reduced to three: first, what is called the material-
istic interpretation of history; second, the law of the
concentration of capital; and, third, the class-war.

1. The Materialistic Interpretation of History.--
Marx holds that in the main all the phenomena of
human society have their origin in material conditions,
and these he takes to be embodied in economic
systems. Political constitutions, laws, religions,
philosophies--all these he regards as, in their broad
outlines, expressions of the economic regime in the
society that gives rise to them. It would be unfair
to represent him as maintaining that the conscious
economic motive is the only one of importance; it
is rather that economics molds character and opinion,
and is thus the prime source of much that appears
in consciousness to have no connection with them.
He applies his doctrine in particular to two revolutions,
one in the past, the other in the future. The
revolution in the past is that of the bourgeoisie
against feudalism, which finds its expression, according
to him, particularly in the French Revolution.
The one in the future is the revolution of the wage-
earners, or proletariat, against the bourgeoisie,
which is to establish the Socialist Commonwealth.
The whole movement of history is viewed by him as
necessary, as the effect of material causes operating
upon human beings. He does not so much advocate
the Socialist revolution as predict it. He holds, it
is true, that it will be beneficent, but he is much more
concerned to prove that it must inevitably come.
The same sense of necessity is visible in his exposition
of the evils of the capitalist system. He does
not blame capitalists for the cruelties of which he
shows them to have been guilty; he merely points out
that they are under an inherent necessity to behave
cruelly so long as private ownership of land and
capital continues. But their tyranny will not last
forever, for it generates the forces that must in the
end overthrow it.

2. The Law of the Concentration of Capital.--
Marx pointed out that capitalist undertakings tend
to grow larger and larger. He foresaw the substitution
of trusts for free competition, and predicted
that the number of capitalist enterprises must diminish
as the magnitude of single enterprises increased.
He supposed that this process must involve a diminution,
not only in the number of businesses, but also
in the number of capitalists. Indeed, he usually
spoke as though each business were owned by a single
man. Accordingly, he expected that men would be
continually driven from the ranks of the capitalists
into those of the proletariat, and that the capitalists,
in the course of time, would grow numerically weaker
and weaker. He applied this principle not only to
industry but also to agriculture. He expected to
find the landowners growing fewer and fewer while
their estates grew larger and larger. This process
was to make more and more glaring the evils and
injustices of the capitalist system, and to stimulate
more and more the forces of opposition.

3. The Class War.--Marx conceives the wage-
earner and the capitalist in a sharp antithesis. He
imagines that every man is, or must soon become,
wholly the one or wholly the other. The wage-
earner, who possesses nothing, is exploited by the
capitalists, who possess everything. As the capitalist
system works itself out and its nature becomes more
clear, the opposition of bourgeoisie and proletariat
becomes more and more marked. The two classes,
since they have antagonistic interests, are forced
into a class war which generates within the capitalist
regime internal forces of disruption. The working
men learn gradually to combine against their
exploiters, first locally, then nationally, and at last
internationally. When they have learned to combine
internationally they must be victorious. They
will then decree that all land and capital shall be
owned in common; exploitation will cease; the tyranny
of the owners of wealth will no longer be
possible; there will no longer be any division of
society into classes, and all men will be free.

All these ideas are already contained in the
``Communist Manifesto,'' a work of the most amazing
vigor and force, setting forth with terse compression
the titanic forces of the world, their epic battle, and
the inevitable consummation. This work is of such
importance in the development of Socialism and
gives such an admirable statement of the doctrines
set forth at greater length and with more pedantry
in ``Capital,'' that its salient passages must be
known by anyone who wishes to understand the hold
which Marxian Socialism has acquired over the intellect
and imagination of a large proportion of working-class

``A spectre is haunting Europe,'' it begins, ``the
spectre of Communism. All the Powers of old
Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise
this spectre--Pope and Czar, Metternich and Guizot,
French Radicals and German police-spies. Where
is the party in opposition that has not been decried
as communistic by its opponents in power? Where
the Opposition that has not hurled back the branding
reproach of Communism against the more
advanced opposition parties, as well as against its
re-actionary adversaries?''

The existence of a class war is nothing new:
``The history of all hitherto existing society is the
history of class struggles.'' In these struggles the
fight ``each time ended, either in a revolutionary
re-constitution of society at large, or in the common
ruin of the contending classes.''

``Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie . . .
has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a
whole is more and more splitting up into two great
hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing
each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.'' Then follows
a history of the fall of feudalism, leading to a
description of the bourgeoisie as a revolutionary
force. ``The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a
most revolutionary part.'' ``For exploitation, veiled
by religious and political illusions, it has substituted
naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.'' ``The
need of a constantly expanding market for its products
chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface
of the globe.'' ``The bourgeoisie, during its rule of
scarce one hundred years, has created more massive
and more colossal productive forces than have all
preceding generations together.'' Feudal relations
became fetters: ``They had to be burst asunder;
they were burst asunder. . . . A similar movement
is going on before our own eyes.'' ``The weapons
with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the
ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself.
But not only has the bourgoisie forged the weapons
that bring death to itself; it has also called into
existence the men who are to wield those weapons--
the modern working class--the proletarians.''

The cause of the destitution of the proletariat
are then set forth. ``The cost of production of a
workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means
of subsistence that he requires for his maintenance
and for the propagation of his race. But the price
of a commodity, and therefore also of labor, is equal
to its cost of production. In proportion, therefore,
as the repulsiveness of the work increases, the wage
decreases. Nay more, in proportion as the use of
machinery and diversion of labor increases, in the
same proportion the burden of toil also increases.''

``Modern industry has converted the little workshop
of the patriarchal master into the great factory
of the industrial capitalist. Masses of laborers,
crowded into the factory, are organized like soldiers.
As privates of the industrial army they are placed
under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers
and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois
class, and of the bourgeois State, they are
daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the
over-looker, and, above all, by the individual
bourgeois manufacturer himself. The more openly this
despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the
more petty, the more hateful, and the more embittering
it is.''

The Manifesto tells next the manner of growth
of the class struggle. ``The proletariat goes
through various stages of development. With its
birth begins its struggle with the bourgeoisie. At
first the contest is carried on by individual laborers,
then by the workpeople of a factory, then by the
operatives of one trade, in one locality, against the
individual bourgeois who directly exploits them.
They direct their attacks not against the bourgeois
conditions of production, but against the instruments
of production themselves.''

``At this stage the laborers still form an incoherent
mass scattered over the whole country, and broken
up by their mutual competition. If anywhere they
unite to form more compact bodies, this is not yet
the consequence of their own active union, but of
the union of the bourgeoisie, which class, in order to
attain its own political ends, is compelled to set the
whole proletariat in motion, and is moreover yet, for
a time, able to do so.''

``The collisions between individual workmen and
individual bourgeois take more and more the character
of collisions between two classes. Thereupon
the workers begin to form combinations (Trades
Unions) against the bourgeois; they club together
in order to keep up the rate of wages; they found
permanent associations in order to make provision
beforehand for these occasional revolts. Here and
there the contest breaks out into riots. Now and
then the workers are victorious, but only for a time.
The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate
result, but in the ever-expanding union of
the workers. This union is helped on by the im-
proved means of communication that are created
by modern industry, and that place the workers
of different localities in contact with one another.
It was just this contact that was needed to centralize
the numerous local struggles, all of the same character,
into one national struggle between classes.
But every class struggle is a political struggle. And
that union, to attain which the burghers of the
Middle Ages, with their miserable highways, required
centuries, the modern proletarians, thanks to railways,
achieve in a few years. This organization of
the proletarians into a class, and consequently into
a political party, is continually being upset again by
the competition between the workers themselves. But
it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier. It
compels legislative recognition of particular interests
of the workers, by taking advantage of the divisions
among the bourgeoisie itself.''

``In the conditions of the proletariat, those of
old society at large are already virtually swamped.
The proletarian is without property; his relation
to his wife and children has no longer anything in
common with the bourgeois family-relations; modern
industrial labor, modern subjection to capital, the
same in England as in France, in America as in
Germany, has stripped him of every trace of national
character. Law, morality, religion, are to him so
many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in
ambush just as many bourgeois interests. All the
preceding classes that got the upper hand, sought
to fortify their already acquired status by subjecting
society at large to their conditions of appropriation.
The proletarians cannot become masters
of the productive forces of society, except by abolishing
their own previous mode of appropriation, and
thereby also every other previous mode of appropriation.
They have nothing of their own to secure and to
fortify; their mission is to destroy all previous
securities for, and insurances of, individual property.
All previous historical movements were movements
of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The
proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent
movement of the immense majority, in the
interest of the immense majority. The proletariat,
the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot
stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole super-
incumbent strata of official society being sprung
into the air.''

The Communists, says Marx, stand for the proletariat
as a whole. They are international. ``The
Communists are further reproached with desiring
to abolish countries and nationality. The working
men have no country. We cannot take from them
what they have not got.''

The immediate aim of the Communists is the conquests
of political power by the proletariat. ``The
theory of the Communists may be summed up in the
single sentence: Abolition of private property.''

The materialistic interpretation of history is
used to answer such charges as that Communism is
anti-Christian. ``The charges against Communism
made from a religious, a philosophical, and, generally,
from an ideological standpoint, are not deserving
of serious examination. Does it require deep
intuition to comprehend that man's ideas, views and
conceptions, in one word, man's consciousness,
changes with every change in the conditions of his
material existence, in his social relations, and in his
social life?''

The attitude of the Manifesto to the State is not
altogether easy to grasp. ``The executive of the
modern State,'' we are told, ``is but a Committee for
managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.''
Nevertheless, the first step for the proletariat
must be to acquire control of the State. ``We have
seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the
working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position
of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy.
The proletariat will use its political supremacy to
wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie,
to centralize all instruments of production in the
hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized
as the ruling class; and to increase the total of productive
forces as rapidly as possible.''

The Manifesto passes on to an immediate program
of reforms, which would in the first instance
much increase the power of the existing State, but
it is contended that when the Socialist revolution is
accomplished, the State, as we know it, will have
ceased to exist. As Engels says elsewhere, when the
proletariat seizes the power of the State ``it puts an
end to all differences of class and antagonisms of
class, and consequently also puts an end to the State
as a State.'' Thus, although State Socialism might,
in fact, be the outcome of the proposals of Marx and
Engels, they cannot themselves be accused of any
glorification of the State.

The Manifesto ends with an appeal to the wage-
earners of the world to rise on behalf of Communism.
``The Communists disdain to conceal their views and
aims. They openly declare that their ends can be
attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing
social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble
at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have
nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world
to win. Working men of all countries, unite!''

In all the great countries of the Continent,
except Russia, a revolution followed quickly on the
publication of the Communist Manifesto, but the
revolution was not economic or international, except
at first in France. Everywhere else it was inspired
by the ideas of nationalism. Accordingly, the rulers
of the world, momentarily terrified, were able to
recover power by fomenting the enmities inherent
in the nationalist idea, and everywhere, after a very
brief triumph, the revolution ended in war and
reaction. The ideas of the Communist Manifesto
appeared before the world was ready for them, but
its authors lived to see the beginnings of the growth
of that Socialist movement in every country, which
has pressed on with increasing force, influencing
Governments more and more, dominating the Russian
Revolution, and perhaps capable of achieving
at no very distant date that international triumph to
which the last sentences of the Manifesto summon
the wage-earners of the world.

Marx's magnum opus, ``Capital,'' added bulk
and substance to the theses of the Communist Manifesto.
It contributed the theory of surplus value,
which professed to explain the actual mechanism
of capitalist exploitation. This doctrine is very
complicated and is scarcely tenable as a contribution
to pure theory. It is rather to be viewed as a translation
into abstract terms of the hatred with which
Marx regarded the system that coins wealth out of
human lives, and it is in this spirit, rather than in
that of disinterested analysis, that it has been read
by its admirers. A critical examination of the theory
of surplus value would require much difficult and
abstract discussion of pure economic theory without
having much bearing upon the practical truth or
falsehood of Socialism; it has therefore seemed impossible
within the limits of the present volume. To
my mind the best parts of the book are those which
deal with economic facts, of which Marx's knowledge
was encyclopaedic. It was by these facts that
he hoped to instil into his disciples that firm and
undying hatred that should make them soldiers to
the death in the class war. The facts which he
accumulates are such as are practically unknown to
the vast majority of those who live comfortable lives.
They are very terrible facts, and the economic system
which generates them must be acknowledged to be
a very terrible system. A few examples of his choice
of facts will serve to explain the bitterness of many

Mr. Broughton Charlton, county magistrate, declared,
as chairman of a meeting held at the Assembly Rooms,
Nottingham, on the 14th January, 1860, ``that there was
an amount of privation and suffering among that portion
of the population connected with the lace trade, unknown
in other parts of the kingdom, indeed, in the civilized
world. . . . Children of nine or ten years are dragged
from their squalid beds at two, three, or four o clock in
the morning and compelled to work for a bare subsistence
until ten, eleven, or twelve at night, their limbs wearing
away, their frames dwindling, their faces whitening,
and their humanity absolutely sinking into a stone-like
torpor, utterly horrible to contemplate.''[4]

[4] Vol. i, p. 227.

Three railway men are standing before a London coroner's
jury--a guard, an engine-driver, a signalman.
A tremendous railway accident has hurried hundreds of
passengers into another world. The negligence of the
employes is the cause of the misfortune. They declare
with one voice before the jury that ten or twelve years
before, their labor only lasted eight hours a day. During
the last five or six years it had been screwed up to
14, 18, and 20 hours, and under a specially severe pressure
of holiday-makers, at times of excursion trains, it
often lasted 40 or 50 hours without a break. They
were ordinary men, not Cyclops. At a certain point their
labor-power failed. Torpor seized them. Their brain
ceased to think, their eyes to see. The thoroughly
``respectable'' British jurymen answered by a verdict that
sent them to the next assizes on a charge of manslaughter,
and, in a gentle ``rider'' to their verdict, expressed the
pious hope that the capitalistic magnates of the railways
would, in future, be more extravagant in the purchase of
a sufficient quantity of labor-power, and more ``abstemious,''
more ``self-denying,'' more ``thrifty,'' in the
draining of paid labor-power.[5]

[5] Vol. i, pp. 237, 238.

In the last week of June, 1863, all the London daily
papers published a paragraph with the ``sensational''
heading, ``Death from simple over-work.'' It dealt with
the death of the milliner, Mary Anne Walkley, 20 years
of age, employed in a highly respectable dressmaking
establishment, exploited by a lady with the pleasant name
of Elise. The old, often-told story was once more recounted.
This girl worked, on an average, 16 1/2 hours,
during the season often 30 hours, without a break, whilst
her failing labor-power was revived by occasional supplies
of sherry, port, or coffee. It was just now the
height of the season. It was necessary to conjure up
in the twinkling of an eye the gorgeous dresses for the
noble ladies bidden to the ball in honor of the newly-
imported Princess of Wales. Mary Anne Walkley had
worked without intermission for 26 1/2 hours, with 60
other girls, 30 in one room, that only afforded 1/3 of
the cubic feet of air required for them. At night, they
slept in pairs in one of the stifling holes into which the
bedroom was divided by partitions of board. And this
was one of the best millinery establishments in London.
Mary Anne Walkley fell ill on the Friday, died on Sunday,
without, to the astonishment of Madame Elise,
having previously completed the work in hand. The doctor,
Mr. Keys, called too late to the death bed, duly bore
witness before the coroner's jury that ``Mary Anne
Walkley had died from long hours of work in an over-
crowded workroom, and a too small and badly ventilated
bedroom.'' In order to give the doctor a lesson in good
manners, the coroner's jury thereupon brought in a verdict
that ``the deceased had died of apoplexy, but there
was reason to fear that her death had been accelerated
by over-work in an over-crowded workroom, &c.'' ``Our
white slaves,'' cried the ``Morning Star,'' the organ of the
free-traders, Cobden and Bright, ``our white slaves, who
are toiled into the grave, for the most part silently pine
and die.''[6]

[6] Vol. i, pp. 239, 240.

Edward VI: A statue of the first year of his reign,
1547, ordains that if anyone refuses to work, he shall be
condemned as a slave to the person who has denounced
him as an idler. The master shall feed his slave on bread
and water, weak broth and such refuse meat as he thinks
fit. He has the right to force him to do any work, no
matter how disgusting, with whip and chains. If the
slave is absent a fortnight, he is condemned to slavery for
life and is to be branded on forehead or back with the
letter S; if he runs away thrice, he is to be executed as
a felon. The master can sell him, bequeath him, let him
out on hire as a slave, just as any other personal chattel
or cattle. If the slaves attempt anything against the
masters, they are also to be executed. Justices of the
peace, on information, are to hunt the rascals down. If it
happens that a vagabond has been idling about for three
days, he is to be taken to his birthplace, branded with a
redhot iron with the letter V on the breast and be set
to work, in chains, in the streets or at some other labor.
If the vagabond gives a false birthplace, he is then to
become the slave for life of this place, of its inhabitants,
or its corporation, and to be branded with an S. All persons
have the right to take away the children of the
vagabonds and to keep them as apprentices, the young
men until the 24th year, the girls until the 20th. If
they run away, they are to become up to this age the
slaves of their masters, who can put them in irons, whip
them, &c., if they like. Every master may put an iron
ring around the neck, arms or legs of his slave, by which
to know him more easily and to be more certain of him.
The last part of this statute provides that certain poor
people may be employed by a place or by persons, who
are willing to give them food and drink and to find them
work. This kind of parish-slaves was kept up in England
until far into the 19th century under the name of

[7] Vol. i, pp. 758, 759.

Page after page and chapter after chapter of
facts of this nature, each brought up to illustrate
some fatalistic theory which Marx professes to have
proved by exact reasoning, cannot but stir into fury
any passionate working-class reader, and into
unbearable shame any possessor of capital in whom
generosity and justice are not wholly extinct.

Almost at the end of the volume, in a very brief
chapter, called ``Historical Tendency of Capitalist
Accumulation,'' Marx allows one moment's glimpse
of the hope that lies beyond the present horror:--

As soon as this process of transformation has
sufficiently decomposed the old society from top to bottom,
as soon as the laborers are turned into proletarians, their
means of labor into capital, as soon as the capitalist
mode of production stands on its own feet, then the
further socialization of labor and further transformation
of the land and other means of production into so-
cially exploited and, therefore, common means of production,
as well as the further expropriation of private proprietors,
takes a new form. That which is now to be
expropriated is no longer the laborer working for himself,
but the capitalist exploiting many laborers. This
expropriation is accomplished by the action of the immanent
laws of capitalistic production itself, by the
centralization of capital. One capitalist always kills
many, and in hand with this centralization, or this
expropriation of many capitalists by few, develop, on
an ever extending scale, the co-operative form of the
labor-process, the conscious technical application of
science, the methodical cultivation of the soil, the
transformation of the instruments of labor into instruments
of labor only usable in common, the economizing of all
means of production by their use as the means of production
of combined, socialized labor, the entanglement
of all peoples in the net of the world-market, and with
this, the international character of the capitalistic regime.
Along with the constantly diminishing number of the
magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolize all
advantages of this process of transformation, grows the
mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation;
but with this, too, grows the revolt of the working-
class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined,
united, organized by the very mechanism of the
process of capitalist production itself. The monopoly of
capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production,
which has sprung up and flourished along with, and
under it. Centralization of the means of production and
socialization of labor at last reach a point where they
become incompatible with their capitalist integument.
This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist
private property sounds. The expropriators are

[8] Vol. i pp. 788, 789.

That is all. Hardly another word from beginning
to end is allowed to relieve the gloom, and in this
relentless pressure upon the mind of the reader lies
a great part of the power which this book has

Two questions are raised by Marx's work: First,
Are his laws of historical development true? Second,
Is Socialism desirable? The second of these questions
is quite independent of the first. Marx professes
to prove that Socialism must come, but scarcely concerns
himself to argue that when it comes it will be
a good thing. It may be, however, that if it comes,
it will be a good thing, even though all Marx's arguments
to prove that it must come should be at fault.
In actual fact, time has shown many flaws in Marx's
theories. The development of the world has been
sufficiently like his prophecy to prove him a man of
very unusual penetration, but has not been sufficiently
like to make either political or economic history
exactly such as he predicted that it would be.
Nationalism, so far from diminishing, has increased,
and has failed to be conquered by the cosmopolitan
tendencies which Marx rightly discerned in finance.
Although big businesses have grown bigger and have
over a great area reached the stage of monopoly,
yet the number of shareholders in such enterprises
is so large that the actual number of individuals
interested in the capitalist system has continually
increased. Moreover, though large firms have grown
larger, there has been a simultaneous increase in
firms of medium size. Meanwhile the wage-earners,
who were, according to Marx, to have remained at
the bare level of subsistence at which they were in
the England of the first half of the nineteenth century,
have instead profited by the general increase
of wealth, though in a lesser degree than the capitalists.
The supposed iron law of wages has been
proved untrue, so far as labor in civilized countries
is concerned. If we wish now to find examples of
capitalist cruelty analogous to those with which
Marx's book is filled, we shall have to go for most
of our material to the Tropics, or at any rate to
regions where there are men of inferior races to
exploit. Again: the skilled worker of the present day
is an aristocrat in the world of labor. It is a question
with him whether he shall ally himself with the
unskilled worker against the capitalist, or with the
capitalist against the unskilled worker. Very often
he is himself a capitalist in a small way, and if he
is not so individually, his trade union or his friendly
society is pretty sure to be so. Hence the sharpness
of the class war has not been maintained. There
are gradations, intermediate ranks between rich and
poor, instead of the clear-cut logical antithesis
between the workers who have nothing and the capitalists
who have all. Even in Germany, which
became the home of orthodox Marxianism and developed
a powerful Social-Democratic party, nominally
accepting the doctrine of ``Das Kapital'' as all but
verbally inspired, even there the enormous increase
of wealth in all classes in the years preceding the
war led Socialists to revise their beliefs and to adopt
an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary attitude.
Bernstein, a German Socialist who lived long in
England, inaugurated the ``Revisionist'' movement
which at last conquered the bulk of the party. His
criticisms of Marxian orthodoxy are set forth in
his ``Evolutionary Socialism.''[9] Bernstein's work,
as is common in Broad Church writers, consists
largely in showing that the Founders did not hold
their doctrines so rigidly as their followers have
done. There is much in the writings of Marx and
Engels that cannot be fitted into the rigid orthodoxy
which grew up among their disciples. Bernstein's
main criticisms of these disciples, apart from such as
we have already mentioned, consist in a defense of
piecemeal action as against revolution. He protests
against the attitude of undue hostility to Liberalism
which is common among Socialists, and he blunts the
edge of the Internationalism which undoubtedly is
part of the teachings of Marx. The workers, he
says, have a Fatherland as soon as they become
citizens, and on this basis he defends that degree of
nationalism which the war has since shown to be
prevalent in the ranks of Socialists. He even goes
so far as to maintain that European nations have a
right to tropical territory owing to their higher
civilization. Such doctrines diminish revolutionary
ardor and tend to transform Socialists into a left
wing of the Liberal Party. But the increasing prosperity
of wage-earners before the war made these
developments inevitable. Whether the war will have
altered conditions in this respect, it is as yet
impossible to know. Bernstein concludes with the wise
remark that: ``We have to take working men as they
are. And they are neither so universally paupers as
was set out in the Communist Manifesto, nor so free
from prejudices and weaknesses as their courtiers
wish to make us believe.''

[9] Die Voraussetzungen des Sozialismus und die Aufgaben
der Sozial-Demokratie.''

In March, 1914, Bernstein delivered a lecture in Budapest
in which he withdrew from several of the positions he had taken
up (vide Budapest ``Volkstimme,'' March 19, 1914).

Berstein represents the decay of Marxian orthodoxy
from within. Syndicalism represents an attack
against it from without, from the standpoint of a
doctrine which professes to be even more radical and
more revolutionary than that of Marx and Engels.
The attitude of Syndicalists to Marx may be seen in
Sorel's little book, ``La Decomposition du Marxisme,''
and in his larger work, ``Reflections on
Violence,'' authorized translation by T. E. Hulme
(Allen & Unwin, 1915). After quoting Bernstein,
with approval in so far as he criticises Marx, Sorel
proceeds to other criticisms of a different order. He
points out (what is true) that Marx's theoretical
economics remain very near to Manchesterism: the
orthodox political economy of his youth was accepted
by him on many points on which it is now known to
be wrong. According to Sorel, the really essential
thing in Marx's teaching is the class war. Whoever
keeps this alive is keeping alive the spirit of Socialism
much more truly than those who adhere to the
letter of Social-Democratic orthodoxy. On the basis
of the class war, French Syndicalists developed a
criticism of Marx which goes much deeper than those
that we have been hitherto considering. Marx's
views on historical development may have been in a
greater or less degree mistaken in fact, and yet the
economic and political system which he sought to
create might be just as desirable as his followers
suppose. Syndicalism, however, criticises, not only
Marx's views of fact, but also the goal at which he
aims and the general nature of the means which he
recommends. Marx's ideas were formed at a time
when democracy did not yet exist. It was in the
very year in which ``Das Kapital'' appeared that
urban working men first got the vote in England and
universal suffrage was granted by Bismarck in
Northern Germany. It was natural that great hopes
should be entertained as to what democracy would
achieve. Marx, like the orthodox economists,
imagined that men's opinions are guided by a more
or less enlightened view of economic self-interest, or
rather of economic class interest. A long experience
of the workings of political democracy has shown
that in this respect Disraeli and Bismarck were
shrewder judges of human nature than either Liberals
or Socialists. It has become increasingly difficult
to put trust in the State as a means to liberty,
or in political parties as instruments sufficiently
powerful to force the State into the service of the
people. The modern State, says Sorel, ``is a body of
intellectuals, which is invested with privileges, and
which possesses means of the kind called political for
defending itself against the attacks made on it by
other groups of intellectuals, eager to possess the
profits of public employment. Parties are constituted
in order to acquire the conquest of these
employments, and they are analogous to the State.''[10]

[10] La Decomposition du Marxisme,'' p. 53.

Syndicalists aim at organizing men, not by party,
but by occupation. This, they say, alone represents
the true conception and method of the class war.
Accordingly they despise all POLITICAL action through
the medium of Parliament and elections: the kind of
action that they recommend is direct action by the
revolutionary syndicate or trade union. The battle-
cry of industrial versus political action has spread
far beyond the ranks of French Syndicalism. It is
to be found in the I. W. W. in America, and among
Industrial Unionists and Guild Socialists in Great
Britain. Those who advocate it, for the most part,
aim also at a different goal from that of Marx. They
believe that there can be no adequate individual
freedom where the State is all-powerful, even if the
State be a Socialist one. Some of them are out-and-
out Anarchists, who wish to see the State wholly
abolished; others only wish to curtail its authority.
Owing to this movement, opposition to Marx, which
from the Anarchist side existed from the first, has
grown very strong. It is this opposition in its older
form that will occupy us in our next chapter.



IN the popular mind, an Anarchist is a person
who throws bombs and commits other outrages,
either because he is more or less insane, or because
he uses the pretense of extreme political opinions as
a cloak for criminal proclivities. This view is, of
course, in every way inadequate. Some Anarchists
believe in throwing bombs; many do not. Men of
almost every other shade of opinion believe in throwing
bombs in suitable circumstances: for example,
the men who threw the bomb at Sarajevo which
started the present war were not Anarchists, but
Nationalists. And those Anarchists who are in
favor of bomb-throwing do not in this respect differ
on any vital principle from the rest of the community,
with the exception of that infinitesimal portion
who adopt the Tolstoyan attitude of non-resistance.
Anarchists, like Socialists, usually believe
in the doctrine of the class war, and if they use
bombs, it is as Governments use bombs, for purposes
of war: but for every bomb manufactured by an
Anarchist, many millions are manufactured by Governments,
and for every man killed by Anarchist
violence, many millions are killed by the violence of
States. We may, therefore, dismiss from our minds
the whole question of violence, which plays so large
a part in the popular imagination, since it is neither
essential nor peculiar to those who adopt the Anarchist

Anarchism, as its derivation indicates, is the
theory which is opposed to every kind of forcible
government. It is opposed to the State as the
embodiment of the force employed in the government
of the community. Such government as Anarchism
can tolerate must be free government, not merely in
the sense that it is that of a majority, but in the sense
that it is that assented to by all. Anarchists object
to such institutions as the police and the criminal
law, by means of which the will of one part of the
community is forced upon another part. In their
view, the democratic form of government is not very
enormously preferable to other forms so long as
minorities are compelled by force or its potentiality
to submit to the will of majorities. Liberty is the
supreme good in the Anarchist creed, and liberty
is sought by the direct road of abolishing all forcible
control over the individual by the community.

Anarchism, in this sense, is no new doctrine. It
is set forth admirably by Chuang Tzu, a Chinese philosopher,
who lived about the year 300 B. C.:--

Horses have hoofs to carry them over frost and snow;
hair, to protect them from wind and cold. They eat grass
and drink water, and fling up their heels over the champaign.
Such is the real nature of horses. Palatial
dwellings are of no use to them.

One day Po Lo appeared, saying: ``I understand the
management of horses.''

So he branded them, and clipped them, and pared
their hoofs, and put halters on them, tying them up by
the head and shackling them by the feet, and disposing
them in stables, with the result that two or three in
every ten died. Then he kept them hungry and thirsty,
trotting them and galloping them, and grooming, and
trimming, with the misery of the tasselled bridle before
and the fear of the knotted whip behind, until more than
half of them were dead.

The potter says: ``I can do what I will with Clay.
If I want it round, I use compasses; if rectangular, a

The carpenter says: ``I can do what I will with
wood. If I want it curved, I use an arc; if straight, a

But on what grounds can we think that the natures
of clay and wood desire this application of compasses and
square, of arc and line? Nevertheless, every age extols
Po Lo for his skill in managing horses, and potters and
carpenters for their skill with clay and wood. Those
who govern the empire make the same mistake.

Now I regard government of the empire from quite
a different point of view.

The people have certain natural instincts:--to weave
and clothe themselves, to till and feed themselves. These
are common to all humanity, and all are agreed thereon.
Such instincts are called ``Heaven-sent.''

And so in the days when natural instincts prevailed,
men moved quietly and gazed steadily. At that time
there were no roads over mountains, nor boats, nor
bridges over water. All things were produced, each for
its own proper sphere. Birds and beasts multiplied,
trees and shrubs grew up. The former might be led by
the hand; you could climb up and peep into the raven's
nest. For then man dwelt with birds and beasts, and
all creation was one. There were no distinctions of good
and bad men. Being all equally without knowledge,
their virtue could not go astray. Being all equally
without evil desires, they were in a state of natural
integrity, the perfection of human existence.

But when Sages appeared, tripping up people over
charity and fettering them with duty to their neighbor,
doubt found its way into the world. And then, with
their gushing over music and fussing over ceremony, the
empire became divided against itself.[11]

[11] ``Musings of a Chinese Mystic.'' Selections from the Philosophy
of Chuang Tzu. With an Introduction by Lionel Giles,
M.A. (Oxon.). Wisdom of the East Series, John Murray, 1911.
Pages 66-68.

The modern Anarchism, in the sense in which we
shall be concerned with it, is associated with belief
in the communal ownership of land and capital, and
is thus in an important respect akin to Socialism.
This doctrine is properly called Anarchist Com-
munism, but as it embraces practically all modern
Anarchism, we may ignore individualist Anarchism
altogether and concentrate attention upon the
communistic form. Socialism and Anarchist Communism
alike have arisen from the perception that private
capital is a source of tyranny by certain individuals
over others. Orthodox Socialism believes that the
individual will become free if the State becomes the
sole capitalist. Anarchism, on the contrary, fears
that in that case the State might merely inherit the
tyrannical propensities of the private capitalist.
Accordingly, it seeks for a means of reconciling communal
ownership with the utmost possible diminution
in the powers of the State, and indeed ultimately with
the complete abolition of the State. It has arisen
mainly within the Socialist movement as its extreme
left wing.

In the same sense in which Marx may be regarded
as the founder of modern Socialism, Bakunin may
be regarded as the founder of Anarchist Communism.
But Bakunin did not produce, like Marx, a finished
and systematic body of doctrine. The nearest
approach to this will be found in the writings of his
follower, Kropotkin. In order to explain modern
Anarchism we shall begin with the life of Bakunin[12]
and the history of his conflicts with Marx, and shall
then give a brief account of Anarchist theory as set
forth partly in his writings, but more in those of

[12] An account of the life of Bakunin from the Anarchist
standpoint will be found in vol. ii of the complete edition of
his works: ``Michel Bakounine, OEuvres,'' Tome II. Avec une
notice biographique, des avant-propos et des notes, par James
Guillaume. Paris, P.-V, Stock, editeur, pp. v-lxiii.

[13] Criticism of these theories will be reserved for Part II.

Michel Bakunin was born in 1814 of a Russian
aristocratic family. His father was a diplomatist,
who at the time of Bakunin's birth had retired to his
country estate in the Government of Tver. Bakunin
entered the school of artillery in Petersburg at the
age of fifteen, and at the age of eighteen was sent as
an ensign to a regiment stationed in the Government
of Minsk. The Polish insurrection of 1880 had just
been crushed. ``The spectacle of terrorized Poland,''
says Guillaume, ``acted powerfully on the heart of
the young officer, and contributed to inspire in him
the horror of despotism.'' This led him to give up
the military career after two years' trial. In 1834
he resigned his commission and went to Moscow,
where he spent six years studying philosophy. Like
all philosophical students of that period, he became
a Hegelian, and in 1840 he went to Berlin to continue
his studies, in the hope of ultimately becoming a
professor. But after this time his opinions underwent
a rapid change. He found it impossible to
accept the Hegelian maxim that whatever is, is
rational, and in 1842 he migrated to Dresden, where
he became associated with Arnold Ruge, the publisher
of ``Deutsche Jahrbuecher.'' By this time he had
become a revolutionary, and in the following year
he incurred the hostility of the Saxon Government.
This led him to go to Switzerland, where he came in
contact with a group of German Communists, but, as
the Swiss police importuned him and the Russian
Government demanded his return, he removed to
Paris, where he remained from 1843 to 1847. These
years in Paris were important in the formation of his
outlook and opinions. He became acquainted with
Proudhon, who exercised a considerable influence on
him; also with George Sand and many other well-
known people. It was in Paris that he first made
the acquaintance of Marx and Engels, with whom he
was to carry on a lifelong battle. At a much later
period, in 1871, he gave the following account of his
relations with Marx at this time:--

Marx was much more advanced than I was, as he
remains to-day not more advanced but incomparably more
learned than I am. I knew then nothing of political
economy. I had not yet rid myself of metaphysical
abstractions, and my Socialism was only instinctive. He,
though younger than I, was already an atheist, an
instructed materialist, a well-considered Socialist. It
was just at this time that he elaborated the first foundations
of his present system. We saw each other fairly
often, for I respected him much for his learning and his
passionate and serious devotion (always mixed, however,
with personal vanity) to the cause of the proletariat,
and I sought eagerly his conversation, which was always
instructive and clever, when it was not inspired by a
paltry hate, which, alas! happened only too often. But
there was never any frank intimacy between as. Our
temperaments would not suffer it. He called me a
sentimental idealist, and he was right; I called him a
vain man, perfidious and crafty, and I also was right.

Bakunin never succeeded in staying long in one
place without incurring the enmity of the authorities.
In November, 1847, as the result of a speech
praising the Polish rising of 1830, he was expelled
from France at the request of the Russian Embassy,
which, in order to rob him of public sympathy, spread
the unfounded report that he had been an agent of
the Russian Government, but was no longer wanted
because he had gone too far. The French Government,
by calculated reticence, encouraged this story,
which clung to him more or less throughout his life.

Being compelled to leave France, he went to
Brussels, where he renewed acquaintance with Marx.
A letter of his, written at this time, shows that he
entertained already that bitter hatred for which
afterward he had so much reason. ``The Germans,
artisans, Bornstedt, Marx and Engels--and, above
all, Marx--are here, doing their ordinary mischief.
Vanity, spite, gossip, theoretical overbearingness
and practical pusillanimity--reflections on life, action
and simplicity, and complete absence of life,
action and simplicity--literary and argumentative
artisans and repulsive coquetry with them: `Feuerbach
is a bourgeois,' and the word `bourgeois' grown
into an epithet and repeated ad nauseum, but all of
them themselves from head to foot, through and
through, provincial bourgeois. With one word, lying
and stupidity, stupidity and lying. In this society
there is no possibility of drawing a free, full breath.
I hold myself aloof from them, and have declared
quite decidedly that I will not join their communistic
union of artisans, and will have nothing to do
with it.''

The Revolution of 1848 led him to return to Paris
and thence to Germany. He had a quarrel with
Marx over a matter in which he himself confessed
later that Marx was in the right. He became a member
of the Slav Congress in Prague, where he vainly
endeavored to promote a Slav insurrection. Toward
the end of 1848, he wrote an ``Appeal to Slavs,''
calling on them to combine with other revolutionaries
to destroy the three oppressive monarchies, Russia,
Austria and Prussia. Marx attacked him in print,
saying, in effect, that the movement for Bohemian
independence was futile because the Slavs had no
future, at any rate in those regions where they hap-
pened to be subject to Germany and Austria.
Bakunin accused Mars of German patriotism in
this matter, and Marx accused him of Pan-Slavism,
no doubt in both cases justly. Before this dispute,
however, a much more serious quarrel had taken
place. Marx's paper, the ``Neue Rheinische Zeitung,''
stated that George Sand had papers proving
Bakunin to be a Russian Government agent and one
of those responsible for the recent arrest of Poles.
Bakunin, of course, repudiated the charge, and
George Sand wrote to the ``Neue Rheinische
Zeitung,'' denying this statement in toto. The denials
were published by Marx, and there was a nominal
reconciliation, but from this time onward there was
never any real abatement of the hostility between
these rival leaders, who did not meet again until 1864.

Meanwhile, the reaction had been everywhere
gaining ground. In May, 1849, an insurrection in
Dresden for a moment made the revolutionaries masters
of the town. They held it for five days and
established a revolutionary government. Bakunin
was the soul of the defense which they made against
the Prussian troops. But they were overpowered,
and at last Bakunin was captured while trying to
escape with Heubner and Richard Wagner, the last
of whom, fortunately for music, was not captured.

Now began a long period of imprisonment in
many prisons and various countries. Bakunin was
sentenced to death on the 14th of January, 1850, but
his sentence was commuted after five months, and he
was delivered over to Austria, which claimed the
privilege of punishing him. The Austrians, in their
turn, condemned him to death in May, 1851, and
again his sentence was commuted to imprisonment for
life. In the Austrian prisons he had fetters on hands
and feet, and in one of them he was even chained to the
wall by the belt. There seems to have been some
peculiar pleasure to be derived from the punishment
of Bakunin, for the Russian Government in its turn
demanded him of the Austrians, who delivered him
up. In Russia he was confined, first in the Peter and
Paul fortress and then in the Schluesselburg. There
be suffered from scurvy and all his teeth fell out.
His health gave way completely, and he found almost
all food impossible to assimilate. ``But, if his body
became enfeebled, his spirit remained inflexible. He
feared one thing above all. It was to find himself
some day led, by the debilitating action of prison,
to the condition of degradation of which Silvio Pellico
offers a well-known type. He feared that he might
cease to hate, that he might feel the sentiment of
revolt which upheld him becoming extinguished in
his hearts that he might come to pardon his persecutors
and resign himself to his fate. But this fear
was superfluous; his energy did not abandon him a
single day, and he emerged from his cell the same
man as when he entered.''[14]

[14] Ibid. p. xxvi.

After the death of the Tsar Nicholas many political
prisoners were amnested, but Alexander II with
his own hand erased Bakunin's name from the list.
When Bakunin's mother succeeded in obtaining an
interview with the new Tsar, he said to her, ``Know,
Madame, that so long as your son lives, he can never
be free.'' However, in 1857, after eight years of
captivity, he was sent to the comparative freedom of
Siberia. From there, in 1861, he succeeded in escaping
to Japan, and thence through America to London.
He had been imprisoned for his hostility to
governments, but, strange to say, his sufferings had
not had the intended effect of making him love those
who inflicted them. From this time onward, he
devoted himself to spreading the spirit of Anarchist
revolt, without, however, having to suffer any further
term of imprisonment. For some years he lived in
Italy, where he founded in 1864 an ``International
Fraternity'' or ``Alliance of Socialist Revolutionaries.''
This contained men of many countries, but
apparently no Germans. It devoted itself largely to
combating Mazzini's nationalism. In 1867 he moved
to Switzerland, where in the following year he
helped to found the ``International Alliance of So-
cialist Democracy,'' of which he drew up the program.
This program gives a good succinct resume of
his opinions:--

The Alliance declares itself atheist; it desires the
definitive and entire abolition of classes and the political
equality and social equalization of individuals of both
sexes. It desires that the earth, the instrument of labor,
like all other capital, becoming the collective property of
society as a whole, shall be no longer able to be utilized
except by the workers, that is to say, by agricultural and
industrial associations. It recognizes that all actually
existing political and authoritarian States, reducing
themselves more and more to the mere administrative functions
of the public services in their respective countries,
must disappear in the universal union of free
associations, both agricultural and industrial.

The International Alliance of Socialist Democracy
desired to become a branch of the International
Working Men's Association, but was refused admission
on the ground that branches must be local, and
could not themselves be international. The Geneva
group of the Alliance, however, was admitted later,
in July, 1869.

The International Working Men's Association
had been founded in London in 1864, and its statutes
and program were drawn up by Marx. Bakunin at
first did not expect it to prove a success and refused
to join it. But it spread with remarkable rapidity
in many countries and soon became a great power
for the propagation of Socialist ideas. Originally
it was by no means wholly Socialist, but in successive
Congresses Marx won it over more and more to his
views. At its third Congress, in Brussels in September,
1868, it became definitely Socialist. Meanwhile
Bakunin, regretting his earlier abstention, had
decided to join it, and he brought with him a
considerable following in French-Switzerland, France,
Spain and Italy. At the fourth Congress, held at
Basle in September, 1869, two currents were strongly
marked. The Germans and English followed Marx
in his belief in the State as it was to become after the
abolition of private property; they followed him also
in his desire to found Labor Parties in the various
countries, and to utilize the machinery of democracy
for the election oœ representatives of Labor to
Parliaments. On the other hand, the Latin nations in
the main followed Bakunin in opposing the State and
disbelieving in the machinery of representative
government. The conflict between these two groups grew
more and more bitter, and each accused the other
of various offenses. The statement that Bakunin
was a spy was repeated, but was withdrawn after
investigation. Marx wrote in a confidential
communication to his German friends that Bakunin was
an agent of the Pan-Slavist party and received from
them 25,000 francs a year. Meanwhile, Bakunin
became for a time interested in the attempt to stir
up an agrarian revolt in Russia, and this led him
to neglect the contest in the International at a crucial
moment. During the Franco-Prussian war Bakunin
passionately took the side of France, especially after
the fall of Napoleon III. He endeavored to rouse
the people to revolutionary resistance like that of
1793, and became involved in an abortive attempt at
revolt in Lyons. The French Government accused
him of being a paid agent of Prussia, and it was
with difficulty that he escaped to Switzerland. The
dispute with Marx and his followers had become
exacerbated by the national dispute. Bakunin, like
Kropotkin after him, regarded the new power of
Germany as the greatest menace to liberty in the
world. He hated the Germans with a bitter hatred,
partly, no doubt, on account of Bismarck, but probably
still more on account of Marx. To this day,
Anarchism has remained confined almost exclusively
to the Latin countries, and has been associated with, a
hatred of Germany, growing out of the contests
between Marx and Bakunin in the International.

The final suppression of Bakunin's faction
occurred at the General Congress of the International
at the Hague in 1872. The meeting-place was
chosen by the General Council (in which Marx was
unopposed), with a view--so Bakunin's friends contend--
to making access impossible for Bakunin (on
account of the hostility of the French and German
governments) and difficult for his friends. Bakunin
was expelled from the International as the result of
a report accusing him inter alia of theft backed; up
by intimidation.

The orthodoxy of the International was saved,
but at the cost of its vitality. From this time onward,
it ceased to be itself a power, but both sections continued
to work in their various groups, and the Socialist
groups in particular grew rapidly. Ultimately
a new International was formed (1889) which continued
down to the outbreak of the present war. As
to the future of International Socialism it would be
rash to prophesy, though it would seem that the
international idea has acquired sufficient strength to
need again, after the war, some such means of expression
as it found before in Socialist congresses.

By this time Bakunin's health was broken, and
except for a few brief intervals, he lived in retirement
until his death in 1876.

Bakunin's life, unlike Marx's, was a very stormy
one. Every kind of rebellion against authority
always aroused his sympathy, and in his support he
never paid the slightest attention to personal risk.
His influence, undoubtedly very great, arose chiefly
through the influence of his personality upon important
individuals. His writings differ from Marx's as
much as his life does, and in a similar way. They are
chaotic, largely, aroused by some passing occasion,
abstract and metaphysical, except when they deal
with current politics. He does not come to close
quarters with economic facts, but dwells usually in
the regions of theory and metaphysics. When he
descends from these regions, he is much more at the
mercy of current international politics than Marx,
much less imbued with the consequences of the belief
that it is economic causes that are fundamental. He
praised Marx for enunciating this doctrine,[15] but
nevertheless continued to think in terms of nations.
His longest work, ``L'Empire Knouto-Germanique et
la Revolution Sociale,'' is mainly concerned with the
situation in France during the later stages of the
Franco-Prussian War, and with the means of resisting
German imperialism. Most of his writing was
done in a hurry in the interval between two insurrections.
There is something of Anarchism in his lack
of literary order. His best-known work is a fragment
entitled by its editors ``God and the State.''[16]

In this work he represents belief in God and belief in
the State as the two great obstacles to human liberty.
A typical passage will serve to illustrate its style.

[15] ``Marx, as a thinker, is on the right road. He has established
as a principle that all the evolutions, political, religious,
and juridical, in history are, not the causes, but the effects of
economic evolutions. This is a great and fruitful thought, which
he has not absolutely invented; it has been glimpsed, expressed
in part, by many others besides him; but in any case to him
belongs the honor of having solidly established it and of having
enunciated it as the basis of his whole economic system. (1870;
ib. ii. p. xiii.)

[16] This title is not Bakunin's, but was invented by Cafiero
and Elisee Reclus, who edited it, not knowing that it was a
fragment of what was intended to he the second version of
``L'Empire Knouto-Germanique'' (see ib. ii. p 283).

The State is not society, it is only an historical form
of it, as brutal as it is abstract. It was born historically
in all countries of the marriage of violence, rapine, pillage,
in a word, war and conquest, with the gods successively
created by the theological fantasy of nations.
It has been from its origin, and it remains still at present,
the divine sanction of brutal force and triumphant

The State is authority; it is force; it is the ostentation
and infatuation of force: it does not insinuate
itself; it does not seek to convert. . . . Even when
it commands what is good, it hinders and spoils it, just
because it commands it, and because every command provokes
and excites the legitimate revolts of liberty; and
because the good, from the moment that it is commanded,
becomes evil from the point of view of true morality, of
human morality (doubtless not of divine), from the point
of view of human respect and of liberty. Liberty, morality,
and the human dignity of man consist precisely
in this, that he does good, not because it is commanded,
but because he conceives it, wills it and loves it.

We do not find in Bakunin's works a clear picture
of the society at which he aimed, or any argument
to prove that such a society could be stable.
If we wish to understand Anarchism we must turn
to his followers, and especially to Kropotkin--like
him, a Russian aristocrat familiar with the prisons
of Europe, and, like him, an Anarchist who, in spite
of his internationalism, is imbued with a fiery hatred
of the Germans.

Kropotkin has devoted much of his writing to
technical questions of production. In ``Fields,
Factories and Workshops'' and ``The Conquest of
Bread'' he has set himself to prove that, if production
were more scientific and better organized, a
comparatively small amount of quite agreeable work
would suffice to keep the whole population in comfort.
Even assuming, as we probably must, that he
somewhat exaggerates what is possible with our
present scientific knowledge, it must nevertheless be
conceded that his contentions contain a very large
measure of truth. In attacking the subject of production
he has shown that he knows what is the really
crucial question. If civilization and progress are to
be compatible with equality, it is necessary that
equality should not involve long hours of painful
toil for little more than the necessaries of life, since,
where there is no leisure, art and science will die and
all progress will become impossible. The objection
which some feel to Socialism and Anarchism alike on
this ground cannot be upheld in view of the possible
productivity of labor.

The system at which Kropotkin aims, whether or
not it be possible, is certainly one which demands a
very great improvement in the methods of production
above what is common at present. He desires
to abolish wholly the system of wages, not only, as
most Socialists do, in the sense that a man is to be
paid rather for his willingness to work than for the
actual work demanded of him, but in a more fundamental
sense: there is to be no obligation to work,
and all things are to be shared in equal proportions
among the whole population. Kropotkin relies upon
the possibility of making work pleasant: he holds
that, in such a community as he foresees, practically
everyone will prefer work to idleness, because work will
not involve overwork or slavery, or that excessive
specialization that industrialism has brought about,
but will be merely a pleasant activity for certain
hours of the day, giving a man an outlet for his
spontaneous constructive impulses. There is to be no
compulsion, no law, no government exercising force;
there will still be acts of the community, but these
are to spring from universal consent, not from any
enforced submission of even the smallest minority.
We shall examine in a later chapter how far such
an ideal is realizable, but it cannot be denied that
Kropotkin presents it with extraordinary persuasiveness
and charm.

We should be doing more than justice to Anarchism
if we did not say something of its darker side,
the side which has brought it into conflict with the
police and made it a word of terror to ordinary citizens.
In its general doctrines there is nothing essentially
involving violent methods or a virulent hatred
of the rich, and many who adopt these general doctrines
are personally gentle and temperamentally
averse from violence. But the general tone of the
Anarchist press and public is bitter to a degree that
seems scarcely sane, and the appeal, especially in
Latin countries, is rather to envy of the fortunate
than to pity for the unfortunate. A vivid and readable,
though not wholly reliable, account, from a
hostile point of view, is given in a book called ``Le
Peril Anarchiste,'' by Felix Dubois,[17] which
incidentally reproduces a number of cartoons from anarchist
journals. The revolt against law naturally leads,
except in those who are controlled by a real passion
for humanity, to a relaxation of all the usually
accepted moral rules, and to a bitter spirit of
retaliatory cruelty out of which good can hardly come.

[17] Paris, 1894.

One of the most curious features of popular
Anarchism is its martyrology, aping Christian forms,
with the guillotine (in France) in place of the cross.
Many who have suffered death at the hands of the
authorities on account of acts of violence were no
doubt genuine sufferers for their belief in a cause,
but others, equally honored, are more questionable.
One of the most curious examples of this outlet for
the repressed religious impulse is the cult of Ravachol,
who was guillotined in 1892 on account of
various dynamite outrages. His past was dubious,
but he died defiantly; his last words were three lines
from a well-known Anarchist song, the ``Chant du
Pere Duchesne'':--

Si tu veux etre heureux,
Nom de Dieu!
Pends ton proprietaire.

As was natural, the leading Anarchists took no part
in the canonization of his memory; nevertheless it
proceeded, with the most amazing extravagances.

It would be wholly unfair to judge Anarchist
doctrine, or the views of its leading exponents, by
such phenomena; but it remains a fact that Anarchism
attracts to itself much that lies on the borderland
of insanity and common crime.[18] This must be
remembered in exculpation of the authorities and
the thoughtless public, who often confound in a common
detestation the parasites of the movement and
the truly heroic and high-minded men who have elaborated
its theories and sacrificed comfort and success
to their propagation.

[18] The attitude of all the better Anarchists is that expressed
by L. S. Bevington in the words: ``Of course we know that
among those who call themselves Anarchists there are a minority
of unbalanced enthusiasts who look upon every illegal and sensational
act of violence as a matter for hysterical jubilation.
Very useful to the police and the press, unsteady in intellect
and of weak moral principle, they have repeatedly shown themselves
accessible to venal considerations. They, and their violence,
and their professed Anarchism are purchasable, and in
the last resort they are welcome and efficient partisans of the
bourgeoisie in its remorseless war against the deliverers of the
people.'' His conclusion is a very wise one: ``Let us leave
indiscriminate killing and injuring to the Government--to its
Statesmen, its Stockbrokers, its Officers, and its Law.'' (``Anarchism
and Violence,'' pp. 9-10. Liberty Press, Chiswick, 1896.)

The terrorist campaign in which such men as
Ravachol were active practically came to an end in
1894. After that time, under the influence of Pelloutier,
the better sort of Anarchists found a less
harmful outlet by advocating Revolutionary Syndicalism
in the Trade Unions and Bourses du Travail.[19]

[19] See next Chapter.

The ECONOMIC organization of society, as conceived
by Anarchist Communists, does not differ
greatly from that which is sought by Socialists.
Their difference from Socialists is in the matter of
government: they demand that government shall
require the consent of all the governed, and not only
of a majority. It is undeniable that the rule of a
majority may be almost as hostile to freedom as the
rule of a minority: the divine right of majorities is a
dogma as little possessed of absolute truth as any
other. A strong democratic State may easily be led
into oppression of its best citizens, namely, those
those independence of mind would make them a force
for progress. Experience of democratic parliamentary
government has shown that it falls very far
short of what was expected of it by early Socialists,
and the Anarchist revolt against it is not surprising.
But in the form of pure Anarchism, this revolt has
remained weak and sporadic. It is Syndicalism, and
the movements to which Syndicalism has given rise,
that have popularized the revolt against parliamentary
government and purely political means of emancipating
the wage earner. But this movement must
be dealt with in a separate chapter.



SYNDICALISM arose in France as a revolt against
political Socialism, and in order to understand it
we must trace in brief outline the positions attained
by Socialist parties in the various countries.

After a severe setback, caused by the Franco-
Prussian war, Socialism gradually revived, and in all
the countries of Western Europe Socialist parties
have increased their numerical strength almost
continuously during the last forty years; but, as is
invariably the case with a growing sect, the intensity
of faith has diminished as the number of believers
has increased.

In Germany the Socialist party became the
strongest faction of the Reichstag, and, in spite of
differences of opinion among its members, it preserved
its formal unity with that instinct for military
discipline which characterizes the German nation.
In the Reichstag election of 1912 it polled a third
of the total number of votes cast, and returned 110
members out of a total of 397. After the death of
Bebel, the Revisionists, who received their first
impulse from Bernstein, overcame the more strict
Marxians, and the party became in effect merely one
of advanced Radicalism. It is too soon to guess what
will be the effect of the split between Majority and
Minority Socialists which has occurred during the
war. There is in Germany hardly a trace of Syndicalism;
its characteristic doctrine, the preference of
industrial to political action, has found scarcely
any support.

In England Marx has never had many followers.
Socialism there has been inspired in the main by the
Fabians (founded in 1883), who threw over the
advocacy of revolution, the Marxian doctrine of
value, and the class-war. What remained was State
Socialism and a doctrine of ``permeation.'' Civil
servants were to be permeated with the realization
that Socialism would enormously increase their
power. Trade Unions were to be permeated with the
belief that the day for purely industrial action was
past, and that they must look to government (inspired
secretly by sympathetic civil servants) to bring
about, bit by bit, such parts of the Socialist program
as were not likely to rouse much hostility in the rich.
The Independent Labor Party (formed in 1893) was
largely inspired at first by the ideas of the Fabians,
though retaining to the present day, and especially
since the outbreak of the war, much more of the
original Socialist ardor. It aimed always at
co-operation with the industrial organizations of
wage-earners, and, chiefly through its efforts, the
Labor Party[20] was formed in 1900 out of a
combination of the Trade Unions and the political
Socialists. To this party, since 1909, all the important
Unions have belonged, but in spite of the fact
that its strength is derived from Trade Unions, it
has stood always for political rather than industrial
action. Its Socialism has been of a theoretical and
academic order, and in practice, until the outbreak
of war, the Labor members in Parliament (of whom
30 were elected in 1906 and 42 in December, 1910)
might be reckoned almost as a part of the Liberal

[20] Of which the Independent Labor Party is only a section.

France, unlike England and Germany, was not
content merely to repeat the old shibboleths with
continually diminishing conviction. In France[21] a new
movement, originally known as Revolutionary
Syndicalism--and afterward simply as Syndicalism--
kept alive the vigor of the original impulse, and
remained true to the spirit of the older Socialists,
while departing from the letter. Syndicalism, unlike
Socialism and Anarchism, began from an existing
organization and developed the ideas appropriate
to it, whereas Socialism and Anarchism began with
the ideas and only afterward developed the organizations
which were their vehicle. In order to understand
Syndicalism, we have first to describe Trade
Union organization in France, and its political
environment. The ideas of Syndicalism will then
appear as the natural outcome of the political and
economic situation. Hardly any of these ideas are
new; almost all are derived from the Bakunist section
of the old International.[21] The old International
had considerable success in France before the Franco-
Prussian War; indeed, in 1869, it is estimated to
have had a French membership of a quarter of a million.
What is practically the Syndicalist program
was advocated by a French delegate to the Congress
of the International at Bale in that same year.[22]

[20] And also in Italy. A good, short account of the Italian
movement is given by A. Lanzillo, ``Le Mouvement Ouvrier en
Italie,'' Bibliotheque du Mouvement Proletarien. See also Paul
Louis, ``Le Syndicalisme Europeen,'' chap. vi. On the other
hand Cole (``World of Labour,'' chap. vi) considers the strength
of genuine Syndicalism in Italy to be small.

[21] This is often recognized by Syndicalists themselves. See,
e.g., an article on ``The Old International'' in the Syndicalist
of February, 1913, which, after giving an account of the struggle
between Marx and Bakunin from the standpoint of a sympathizer
with the latter, says: ``Bakounin's ideas are now more alive
than ever.''

[22] See pp. 42-43, and 160 of ``Syndicalism in France,'' Louis
Levine, Ph.D. (Columbia University Studies in Political Science,
vol. xlvi, No. 3.) This is a very objective and reliable account
of the origin and progress of French Syndicalism. An admirable
short discussion of its ideas and its present position will be
found in Cole's ``World of Labour'' (G. Bell & Sons), especially
chapters iii, iv, and xi.

The war of 1870 put an end for the time being
to the Socialist Movement in France. Its revival
was begun by Jules Guesde in 1877. Unlike the Ger-
man Socialists, the French have been split into many
different factions. In the early eighties there was a
split between the Parliamentary Socialists and the
Communist Anarchists. The latter thought that the
first act of the Social Revolution should be the
destruction of the State, and would therefore have
nothing to do with Parliamentary politics. The
Anarchists, from 1883 onward, had success in Paris
and the South. The Socialists contended that the
State will disappear after the Socialist society has
been firmly established. In 1882 the Socialists split
between the followers of Guesde, who claimed to represent
the revolutionary and scientific Socialism of
Marx, and the followers of Paul Brousse, who were
more opportunist and were also called possibilists
and cared little for the theories of Marx. In 1890
there was a secession from the Broussists, who followed
Allemane and absorbed the more revolutionary
elements of the party and became leading spirits in
some of the strongest syndicates. Another group
was the Independent Socialists, among whom were
Jaures, Millerand and Viviani.[23]

[23] See Levine, op. cit., chap. ii.

The disputes between the various sections of
Socialists caused difficulties in the Trade Unions and
helped to bring about the resolution to keep politics
out of the Unions. From this to Syndicalism was
an easy step.

Since the year 1905, as the result of a union
between the Parti Socialiste de France (Part; Ouvrier
Socialiste Revolutionnaire Francais led by
Guesde) and the Parti Socialiste Francais (Jaures),
there have been only two groups of Socialists, the
United Socialist Party and the Independents, who
are intellectuals or not willing to be tied to a party.
At the General Election of 1914 the former secured
102 members and the latter 30, out of a total of 590.

Tendencies toward a rapprochement between the
various groups were seriously interfered with by an
event which had considerable importance for the
whole development of advanced political ideas in
France, namely, the acceptance of office in the Waldeck-
Rousseau Ministry by the Socialist Millerand
in 1899. Millerand, as was to be expected, soon
ceased to be a Socialist, and the opponents of political
action pointed to his development as showing
the vanity of political triumphs. Very many French
politicians who have risen to power have begun their
political career as Socialists, and have ended it not
infrequently by employing the army to oppress
strikers. Millerand's action was the most notable
and dramatic among a number of others of a similar
kind. Their cumulative effect has been to produce a
certain cynicism in regard to politics among the more
class-conscious of French wage-earners, and this
state of mind greatly assisted the spread of Syndicalism.

Syndicalism stands essentially for the point of
view of the producer as opposed to that of the consumer;
it is concerned with reforming actual work,
and the organization of industry, not MERELY with
securing greater rewards for work. From this point
of view its vigor and its distinctive character are
derived. It aims at substituting industrial for political
action, and at using Trade Union organization
for purposes for which orthodox Socialism would
look to Parliament. ``Syndicalism'' was originally
only the French name for Trade Unionism, but the
Trade Unionists of France became divided into two
sections, the Reformist and the Revolutionary, of
whom the latter only professed the ideas which we
now associate with the term ``Syndicalism.'' It is
quite impossible to guess how far either the organization
or the ideas of the Syndicalists will remain intact
at the end of the war, and everything that we shall say
is to be taken as applying only to the years before
the war. It may be that French Syndicalism as a
distinctive movement will be dead, but even in that
case it will not have lost its importance, since it has
given a new impulse and direction to the more vigorous
part of the labor movement in all civilized countries,
with the possible exception of Germany.

The organization upon which Syndicalism de-
pended was the Confederation Generale du Travail,
commonly known as the C. G. T., which was founded
in 1895, but only achieved its final form in 1902. It
has never been numerically very powerful, but has
derived its influence from the fact that in moments
of crisis many who were not members were willing
to follow its guidance. Its membership in the year
before the war is estimated by Mr. Cole at somewhat
more than half a million. Trade Unions (Syndicats)
were legalized by Waldeck-Rousseau in 1884,
and the C. G. T., on its inauguration in 1895, was
formed by the Federation of 700 Syndicats. Alongside
of this organization there existed another, the
Federation des Bourses du Travail, formed in 1893.
A Bourse du Travail is a local organization, not of
any one trade, but of local labor in general, intended
to serve as a Labor Exchange and to perform such
functions for labor as Chambers of Commerce perform
for the employer.[24] A Syndicat is in general
a local organization of a single industry, and is thus
a smaller unit than the Bourse du Travail.[25] Under
the able leadership of Pelloutier, the Federation des
Bourses prospered more than the C. G. T., and at
last, in 1902, coalesced with it. The result was an
organization in which the local Syndicat was fed-
erated twice over, once with the other Syndicat in
its locality, forming together the local Bourse du
Travail, and again with the Syndicats in the same
industry in other places. ``It was the purpose of the
new organization to secure twice over the membership
of every syndicat, to get it to join both its local
Bourse du Travail and the Federation of its industry.
The Statutes of the C. G. T. (I. 3) put this point
plainly: `No Syndicat will be able to form a part of
the C. G. T. if it is not federated nationally and an
adherent of a Bourse du Travail or a local or departmental
Union of Syndicats grouping different associations.'
Thus, M. Lagardelle explains, the two sections
will correct each other's point of view: national
federation of industries will prevent parochialism
(localisme), and local organization will check the
corporate or `Trade Union' spirit. The workers will
learn at once the solidarity of all workers in a locality
and that of all workers in a trade, and, in learning
this, they will learn at the same time the complete
solidarity of the whole working-class.''[26]

[24] Cole, ib., p. 65.

[25] ``Syndicat in France still means a local union--there are
at the present day only four national syndicats'' (ib., p. 66).

[26] Cole, ib. p. 69.

This organization was largely the work of Pellouties,
who was Secretary of the Federation des Bourses
from 1894 until his death in 1901. He was an Anarchist
Communist and impressed his ideas upon the
Federation and thence posthumously on the C. G. T.
after its combination with the Federation des
Bourses. He even carried his principles into the
government of the Federation; the Committee had
no chairman and votes very rarely took place. He
stated that ``the task of the revolution is to free
mankind, not only from all authority, but also from
every institution which has not for its essential purpose
the development of production.''

The C. G. T. allows much autonomy to each unit
in the organization. Each Syndicat counts for one,
whether it be large or small. There are not the
friendly society activities which form so large a part
of the work of English Unions. It gives no orders,
but is purely advisory. It does not allow politics
to be introduced into the Unions. This decision was
originally based upon the fact that the divisions
among Socialists disrupted the Unions, but it is now
reinforced in the minds of an important section by
the general Anarchist dislike of politics. The C. G.
T. is essentially a fighting organization; in strikes, it
is the nucleus to which the other workers rally.

There is a Reformist section in the C. G. T., but
it is practically always in a minority, and the C. G.
T. is, to all intents and purposes, the organ of
revolutionary Syndicalism, which is simply the creed
of its leaders.

The essential doctrine of Syndicalism is the class-
war, to be conducted by industrial rather than politi-
cal methods. The chief industrial methods advocated
are the strike, the boycott, the label and sabotage.

The boycott, in various forms, and the label,
showing that the work has been done under trade-
union conditions, have played a considerable part
in American labor struggles.

Sabotage is the practice of doing bad work, or
spoiling machinery or work which has already been
done, as a method of dealing with employers in a
dispute when a strike appears for some reason
undesirable or impossible. It has many forms, some
clearly innocent, some open to grave objections. One
form of sabotage which has been adopted by shop
assistants is to tell customers the truth about the
articles they are buying; this form, however it may
damage the shopkeeper's business, is not easy to
object to on moral grounds. A form which has been
adopted on railways, particularly in Italian strikes,
is that of obeying all rules literally and exactly, in
such a way as to make the running of trains practically
impossible. Another form is to do all the
work with minute care, so that in the end it is better
done, but the output is small. From these innocent
forms there is a continual progression, until we come
to such acts as all ordinary morality would consider
criminal; for example, causing railway accidents.
Advocates of sabotage justify it as part of
war, but in its more violent forms (in which it is
seldom defended) it is cruel and probably inexpedient,
while even in its milder forms it must tend to encourage
slovenly habits of work, which might easily persist
under the new regime that the Syndicalists wish
to introduce. At the same time, when capitalists
express a moral horror of this method, it is worth
while to observe that they themselves are the first
to practice it when the occasion seems to them appropriate.
If report speaks truly, an example of this
on a very large scale has been seen during the Russian

By far the most important of the Syndicalist
methods is the strike. Ordinary strikes, for specific
objects, are regarded as rehearsals, as a means of
perfecting organization and promoting enthusiasm,
but even when they are victorious so far as concerns
the specific point in dispute, they are not regarded
by Syndicalists as affording any ground for industrial
peace. Syndicalists aim at using the strike,
not to secure such improvements of detail as employers
may grant, but to destroy the whole system of
employer and employed and win the complete emancipation
of the worker. For this purpose what is
wanted is the General Strike, the complete cessation
of work by a sufficient proportion of the wage-earners
to secure the paralysis of capitalism. Sorel, who
represents Syndicalism too much in the minds of the
reading public, suggests that the General Strike is to
be regarded as a myth, like the Second Coming in
Christian doctrine. But this view by no means suits
the active Syndicalists. If they were brought to
believe that the General Strike is a mere myth, their
energy would flag, and their whole outlook would
become disillusioned. It is the actual, vivid belief
in its possibility which inspires them. They are much
criticised for this belief by the political Socialists
who consider that the battle is to be won by obtaining
a Parliamentary majority. But Syndicalists have
too little faith in the honesty of politicians to place
any reliance on such a method or to believe in the
value of any revolution which leaves the power of the
State intact.

Syndicalist aims are somewhat less definite than
Syndicalist methods. The intellectuals who endeavor
to interpret them--not always very faithfully--
represent them as a party of movement and change,
following a Bergsonian elan vital, without needing
any very clear prevision of the goal to which it is to
take them. Nevertheless, the negative part, at any
rate, of their objects is sufficiently clear.

They wish to destroy the State, which they
regard as a capitalist institution, designed essentially
to terrorize the workers. They refuse to
believe that it would be any better under State Socialism.
They desire to see each industry self-governing,
but as to the means of adjusting the relations between
different industries, they are not very clear. They
are anti-militarist because they are anti-State, and
because French troops have often been employed
against them in strikes; also because they are
internationalists, who believe that the sole interest of the
working man everywhere is to free himself from the
tyranny of the capitalist. Their outlook on life is
the very reverse of pacifist, but they oppose wars
between States on the ground that these are not
fought for objects that in any way concern the
workers. Their anti-militarism, more than anything
else, brought them into conflict with the authorities
in the years preceding the war. But, as was to be
expected, it did not survive the actual invasion of

The doctrines of Syndicalism may be illustrated
by an article introducing it to English readers in
the first number of ``The Syndicalist Railwayman,''
September, 1911, from which the following is quoted:--

``All Syndicalism, Collectivism, Anarchism aims at
abolishing the present economic status and existing private
ownership of most things; but while Collectivism
would substitute ownership by everybody, and Anarchism
ownership by nobody, Syndicalism aims at ownership by
Organized Labor. It is thus a purely Trade Union
reading of the economic doctrine and the class war
preached by Socialism. It vehemently repudiates Parliamentary
action on which Collectivism relies; and it is,
in this respect, much more closely allied to Anarchism,
from which, indeed, it differs in practice only in being
more limited in range of action.'' (Times, Aug. 25, 1911).

In truth, so thin is the partition between Syndicalism
and Anarchism that the newer and less familiar ``ism''
has been shrewdly defined as ``Organized Anarchy.'' It
has been created by the Trade Unions of France; but it
is obviously an international plant, whose roots have
already found the soil of Britain most congenial to its
growth and fructification.

Collectivist or Marxian Socialism would have us believe
that it is distinctly a LABOR Movement; but it is
not so. Neither is Anarchism. The one is substantially
bourgeois; the other aristocratic, plus an abundant output
of book-learning, in either case. Syndicalism, on the contrary,
is indubitably laborist in origin and aim, owing
next to nothing to the ``Classes,'' and, indeed,, resolute to
uproot them. The Times (Oct. 13, 1910), which almost
single-handed in the British Press has kept creditably
abreast of Continental Syndicalism, thus clearly set forth
the significance of the General Strike:

``To understand what it means, we must remember
that there is in France a powerful Labor Organization
which has for its open and avowed object a Revolution,
in which not only the present order of Society, but the
State itself, is to be swept away. This movement is called
Syndicalism. It is not Socialism, but, on the contrary,
radically opposed to Socialism, because the Syndicalists
hold that the State is the great enemy and that the
Socialists' ideal of State or Collectivist Ownership would
make the lot of the Workers much worse than it is now
under private employers. The means by which they hope
to attain their end is the General Strike, an idea which
was invented by a French workman about twenty years
ago,[27] and was adopted by the French Labor Congress in
1894, after a furious battle with the Socialists, in which
the latter were worsted. Since then the General Strike
has been the avowed policy of the Syndicalists, whose
organization is the Confederation Generale du Travail.''

[27] In fact the General Strike was invented by a Londoner
William Benbow, an Owenite, in 1831.

Or, to put it otherwise, the intelligent French worker
has awakened, as he believes, to the fact that Society
(Societas) and the State (Civitas) connote two separable
spheres of human activity, between which there is no
connection, necessary or desirable. Without the one, man,
being a gregarious animal, cannot subsist: while without
the other he would simply be in clover. The ``statesman''
whom office does not render positively nefarious
is at best an expensive superfluity.

Syndicalists have had many violent encounters
with the forces of government. In 1907 and 1908,
protesting against bloodshed which had occurred in
the suppression of strikes, the Committee of the C.
G. T. issued manifestoes speaking of the Government
as ``a Government of assassins'' and alluding
to the Prime Minister as ``Clemenceau the murderer.''
Similar events in the strike at Villeneuve St. Georges
in 1908 led to the arrest of all the leading members
of the Committee. In the railway strike of October,
1910, Monsieur Briand arrested the Strike Committee,
mobilized the railway men and sent soldiers
to replace strikers. As a result of these vigorous
measures the strike was completely defeated, and
after this the chief energy of the C. G. T. was directed
against militarism and nationalism.

The attitude of Anarchism to the Syndicalist
movement is sympathetic, with the reservation that
such methods as the General Strike are not to be
regarded as substitutes for the violent revolution
which most Anarchists consider necessary. Their
attitude in this matter was defined at the International
Anarchist Congress held in Amsterdam in
August, 1907. This Congress recommended ``comrades
of all countries to actively participate in autonomous
movements of the working class, and to
develop in Syndicalist organizations the ideas of
revolt, individual initiative and solidarity, which are
the essence of Anarchism.'' Comrades were to
``propagate and support only those forms and manifestations
of direct action which carry, in themselves,
a revolutionary character and lead to the
transformation of society.'' It was resolved that
``the Anarchists think that the destruction of the
capitalist and authoritary society can only be realized
by armed insurrection and violent expropriation,
and that the use of the more or less General Strike
and the Syndicalist movement must not make us
forget the more direct means of struggle against
the military force of government.''

Syndicalists might retort that when the movement
is strong enough to win by armed insurrection
it will be abundantly strong enough to win by the
General Strike. In Labor movements generally, success
through violence can hardly be expected except
in circumstances where success without violence is
attainable. This argument alone, even if there were
no other, would be a very powerful reason against
the methods advocated by the Anarchist Congress.

Syndicalism stands for what is known as industrial
unionism as opposed to craft unionism. In this
respect, as also in the preference of industrial to
political methods, it is part of a movement which
has spread far beyond France. The distinction
between industrial and craft unionism is much dwelt
on by Mr. Cole. Craft unionism ``unites in a single
association those workers who are engaged on a single
industrial process, or on processes so nearly akin
that any one can do another's work.'' But ``organization
may follow the lines, not of the work done,
but of the actual structure of industry. All workers
working at producing a particular kind of commodity
may be organized in a single Union. . . .
The basis of organization would be neither the craft
to which a man belonged nor the employer under
whom he worked, but the service on which he was
engaged. This is Industrial Unionism properly
so called.[28]

[28] ``World of Labour,'' pp. 212, 213.

Industrial unionism is a product of America,
and from America it has to some extent spread to
Great Britain. It is the natural form of fighting
organization when the union is regarded as the means
of carrying on the class war with a view, not to
obtaining this or that minor amelioration, but to a
radical revolution in the economic system. This is
the point of view adopted by the ``Industrial Workers
of the World,'' commonly known as the I. W. W.
This organization more or less corresponds in America
to what the C. G. T. was in France before the
war. The differences between the two are those due
to the different economic circumstances of the two
countries, but their spirit is closely analogous. The
I. W. W. is not united as to the ultimate form which
it wishes society to take. There are Socialists,
Anarchists and Syndicalists among its members. But it
is clear on the immediate practical issue, that the
class war is the fundamental reality in the present
relations of labor and capital, and that it is by
industrial action, especially by the strike, that
emancipation must be sought. The I. W. W., like the
C. G. T., is not nearly so strong numerically as it is
supposed to be by those who fear it. Its influence
is based, not upon its numbers, but upon its power
of enlisting the sympathies of the workers in moments
of crisis.

The labor movement in America has been characterized
on both sides by very great violence. Indeed,
the Secretary of the C. G. T., Monsieur Jouhaux,
recognizes that the C. G. T. is mild in comparison
with the I. W. W. ``The I. W. W.,'' he says,
``preach a policy of militant action, very necessary
in parts of America, which would not do in France.''[29]
A very interesting account of it, from the point of
view of an author who is neither wholly on the side
of labor nor wholly on the side of the capitalist, but
disinterestedly anxious to find some solution of the
social question short of violence and revolution, is
the work of Mr. John Graham Brooks, called ``American
Syndicalism: the I. W. W.'' (Macmillan, 1913).
American labor conditions are very different from
those of Europe. In the first place, the power of the
trusts is enormous; the concentration of capital has
in this respect proceeded more nearly on Marxian
lines in America than anywhere else. In the second
place, the great influx of foreign labor makes the
whole problem quite different from any that arises
in Europe. The older skilled workers, largely American
born, have long been organized in the American
Federation of Labor under Mr. Gompers. These
represent an aristocracy of labor. They tend to
work with the employers against the great mass of
unskilled immigrants, and they cannot be regarded as
forming part of anything that could be truly called
a labor movement. ``There are,'' says Mr. Cole,
``now in America two working classes, with different
standards of life, and both are at present almost
impotent in the face of the employers. Nor is it possible
for these two classes to unite or to put forward
any demands. . . . The American Federation
of Labor and the Industrial Workers of the
World represent two different principles of
combination; but they also represent two different
classes of labor.''[30] The I. W. W. stands for industrial
unionism, whereas the American Federation of
Labor stands for craft unionism. The I. W. W. were
formed in 1905 by a union of organizations, chief
among which was the Western Federation of Miners,
which dated from 1892. They suffered a split by the
loss of the followers of Deleon, who was the leader of
the ``Socialist Labor Party'' and advocated a
``Don't vote'' policy, while reprobating violent
methods. The headquarters of the party which he
formed are at Detroit, and those of the main body
are at Chicago. The I. W. W., though it has a less
definite philosophy than French Syndicalism, is quite
equally determined to destroy the capitalist system.
As its secretary has said: ``There is but one bargain
the I. W. W. will make with the employing class--
complete surrender of all control of industry to the
organized workers.''[31] Mr. Haywood, of the Western
Federation of Miners, is an out-and-out follower
of Marx so far as concerns the class war and the
doctrine of surplus value. But, like all who are in
this movement, he attaches more importance to industrial
as against political action than do the European
followers of Marx. This is no doubt partly
explicable by the special circumstances of America,
where the recent immigrants are apt to be voteless.
The fourth convention of the I. W. W. revised a
preamble giving the general principles underlying
its action. ``The working class and the employing
class,'' they say, ``have nothing in common. There
can be no peace so long as hunger and want are
found among millions of the working people and the
few, who make up the employing class, have all the
good things of life. Between these two classes, a
struggle must go on until the workers of the world
organize as a class, take possession of the earth and
the machinery of production, and abolish the wage
system. . . . Instead of the conservative motto,
`A fair day's wages for a fair day's work,' we must
inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword,
`Abolition of the wage system.' ''[32]

[29] Quoted in Cole, ib. p. 128.

[30] Ib., p. 135.

[31] Brooks, op. cit., p. 79.

[32] Brooks, op. cit., pp. 86-87.

Numerous strikes have been conducted or encouraged
by the I. W. W. and the Western Federation
of Miners. These strikes illustrate the class-war
in a more bitter and extreme form than is to be found
in any other part of the world. Both sides are always
ready to resort to violence. The employers have
armies of their own and are able to call upon the
Militia and even, in a crisis, upon the United States
Army. What French Syndicalists say about the
State as a capitalist institution is peculiarly true in
America. In consequence of the scandals thus arising,
the Federal Government appointed a Commission
on Industrial Relations, whose Report, issued in 1915,
reveals a state of affairs such as it would be difficult
to imagine in Great Britain. The report states that
``the greatest disorders and most of the outbreaks
of violence in connection with industrial `disputes
arise from the violation of what are considered
to be fundamental rights, and from the perversion
or subversion of governmental institutions''
(p. 146). It mentions, among such perversions,
the subservience of the judiciary to the mili-
tary authorities,[33] the fact that during a labor
dispute the life and liberty of every man within
the State would seem to be at the mercy of the
Governor (p. 72), and the use of State troops
in policing strikes (p. 298). At Ludlow (Colorado)
in 1914 (April 20) a battle of the militia and the
miners took place, in which, as the result of the fire
of the militia, a number of women and children were
burned to death.[34] Many other instances of pitched
battles could be given, but enough has been said to
show the peculiar character of labor disputes in the
United States. It may, I fear, be presumed that this
character will remain so long as a very large
proportion of labor consists of recent immigrants.
When these difficulties pass away, as they must
sooner or later, labor will more and more find its
place in the community, and will tend to feel and
inspire less of the bitter hostility which renders the
more extreme forms of class war possible. When

that time comes, the labor movement in America will
probably begin to take on forms similar to those of

[33] Although uniformly held that the writ of habeas corpus
can only be suspended by the legislature, in these labor disturbances
the executive has in fact suspended or disregarded the
writ. . . . In cases arising from labor agitations, the judiciary
has uniformly upheld the power exercised by the military,
and in no case has there been any protest against the use of
such power or any attempt to curtail it, except in Montana,
where the conviction of a civilian by military commission was
annulled'' (``Final Report of the Commission on Industrial
Relations'' (1915) appointed by the United States Congress,''
p. 58).

[34] Literary Digest, May 2 and May 16, 1914.

Meanwhile, though the forms are different, the
aims are very similar, and industrial unionism,
spreading from America, has had a considerable
influence in Great Britain--an influence naturally
reinforced by that of French Syndicalism. It is
clear, I think, that the adoption of industrial rather
than craft unionism is absolutely necessary if Trade
Unionism is to succeed in playing that part in altering
the economic structure of society which its advocates
claim for it rather than for the political
parties. Industrial unionism organizes men, as craft
unionism does not, in accordance with the enemy
whom they have to fight. English unionism is still
very far removed from the industrial form, though
certain industries, especially the railway men, have
gone very far in this direction, and it is notable that
the railway men are peculiarly sympathetic to Syndicalism
and industrial unionism.

Pure Syndicalism, however, is not very likely to
achieve wide popularity in Great Britain. Its spirit
is too revolutionary and anarchistic for our temperament.
It is in the modified form of Guild Socialism
that the ideas derived from the C. G. T. and the I. W.
W. are tending to bear fruit.[35] This movement is as
yet in its infancy and has no great hold upon the rank
and file, but it is being ably advocated by a group
of young men, and is rapidly gaining ground among
those who will form Labor opinion in years to come.
The power of the State has been so much increased
during the war that those who naturally dislike
things as they are, find it more and more difficult to
believe that State omnipotence can be the road to the
millennium. Guild Socialists aim at autonomy in
industry, with consequent curtailment, but not abolition,
of the power of the State. The system which
they advocate is, I believe, the best hitherto proposed,
and the one most likely to secure liberty without
the constant appeals to violence which are to be
feared under a purely Anarchist regime.

[35] The ideas of Guild Socialism were first set forth in
``National Guilds,'' edited by A. R. Orage (Bell & Sons, 1914),
and in Cole's ``World of Labour'' (Bell & Sons), first published
in 1913. Cole's ``Self-Government in Industry'' (Bell &
Sons, 1917) and Rickett & Bechhofer's ``The Meaning of
National Guilds'' (Palmer & Hayward, 1918) should also be
read, as well as various pamphlets published by the National
Guilds League. The attitude of the Syndicalists to Guild
Socialism is far from sympathetic. An article in ``The
Syndicalist'' for February, 1914, speaks of it in the following
terms: a Middle-class of the middle-class, with all the shortcomings
(we had almost said `stupidities') of the middle-
classes writ large across it, `Guild Socialism' stands forth
as the latest lucubration of the middle-class mind. It is a
`cool steal' of the leading ideas of Syndicalism and a deliberate
perversion of them. . . . We do protest against the `State'
idea . . . in Guild Socialism. Middle-class people, even
when they become Socialists, cannot get rid of the idea that the
working-class is their `inferior'; that the workers need to be
`educated,' drilled, disciplined, and generally nursed for a very
long time before they will be able to walk by themselves. The
very reverse is actually the truth. . . . It is just the plain
truth when we say that the ordinary wage-worker, of average
intelligence, is better capable of taking care of himself than the
half-educated middle-class man who wants to advise him. He
knows how to make the wheels of the world go round.''

The first pamphlet of the ``National Guilds
League'' sets forth their main principles. In industry
each factory is to be free to control its own
methods of production by means of elected managers.
The different factories in a given industry are to be
federated into a National Guild which will deal with
marketing and the general interests of the industry
as a whole. ``The State would own the means of
production as trustee for the community; the Guilds
would manage them, also as trustees for the community,
and would pay to the State a single tax or
rent. Any Guild that chose to set its own interests
above those of the community would be violating
its trust, and would have to bow to the judgment of
a tribunal equally representing the whole body of
producers and the whole body of consumers. This
Joint Committee would be the ultimate sovereign
body, the ultimate appeal court of industry. It
would fix not only Guild taxation, but also standard
prices, and both taxation and prices would be periodically
readjusted by it.'' Each Guild will be
entirely free to apportion what it receives among its
members as it chooses, its members being all those who
work in the industry which it covers. ``The distribution
of this collective Guild income among the
members seems to be a matter for each Guild to decide
for itself. Whether the Guilds would, sooner or later,
adopt the principle of equal payment for every member,
is open to discussion.'' Guild Socialism accepts
from Syndicalism the view that liberty is not to be
secured by making the State the employer: ``The
State and the Municipality as employers have turned
out not to differ essentially from the private capitalist.''
Guild Socialists regard the State as consisting
of the community in their capacity as consumers,
while the Guilds will represent them in their capacity
as producers; thus Parliament and the Guild Congress
will be two co-equal powers representing consumers
and producers respectively. Above both will
be the joint Committee of Parliament and the Guild
Congress for deciding matters involving the interests
of consumers and producers alike. The view of the
Guild Socialists is that State Socialism takes account
of men only as consumers, while Syndicalism takes
account of them only as producers. ``The problem,''
say the Guild Socialists, ``is to reconcile the two
points of view. That is what advocates of National
Guilds set out to do. The Syndicalist has claimed
everything for the industrial organizations of producers,
the Collectivist everything for the territorial
or political organizations of consumers. Both are
open to the same criticism; you cannot reconcile two
points of view merely by denying one of them.''[36]
But although Guild Socialism represents an attempt
at readjustment between two equally legitimate points
of view, its impulse and force are derived from
what it has taken over from Syndicalism. Like Syndicalism;
it desires not primarily to make work better
paid, but to secure this result along with others by
making it in itself more interesting and more democratic
in organization.

[36] The above quotations are all from the first pamphlet of the
National Guilds League, ``National Guilds, an Appeal to Trade

Capitalism has made of work a purely commercial
activity, a soulless and a joyless thing. But substitute
the national service of the Guilds for the profiteering of
the few; substitute responsible labor for a saleable commodity;
substitute self-government and decentralization
for the bureaucracy and demoralizing hugeness of the
modern State and the modern joint stock company; and
then it may be just once more to speak of a ``joy in
labor,'' and once more to hope that men may be proud
of quality and not only of quantity in their work. There
is a cant of the Middle Ages, and a cant of ``joy in
labor,'' but it were better, perhaps, to risk that cant
than to reconcile ourselves forever to the philosophy of
Capitalism and of Collectivism, which declares that work
is a necessary evil never to be made pleasant, and that
the workers' only hope is a leisure which shall be longer,
richer, and well adorned with municipal amenities.[37]

[37] ``The Guild Idea,'' No. 2 of the Pamphlets of the National
Guilds League, p. 17.

Whatever may be thought of the practicability
of Syndicalism, there is no doubt that the ideas which
it has put into the world have done a great deal
to revive the labor movement and to recall it to certain
things of fundamental importance which it had
been in danger of forgetting. Syndicalists consider
man as producer rather than consumer. They are
more concerned to procure freedom in work than to
increase material well-being. They have revived the
quest for liberty, which was growing somewhat
dimmed under the regime of Parliamentary Socialism,
and they have reminded men that what our modern
society needs is not a little tinkering here and there,
nor the kind of minor readjustments to which the
existing holders of power may readily consent, but
a fundamental reconstruction, a sweeping away of
all the sources of oppression, a liberation of men's
constructive energies, and a wholly new way of
conceiving and regulating production and economic
relations. This merit is so great that, in view of it,
all minor defects become insignificant, and this merit
Syndicalism will continue to possess even if, as a
definite movement, it should be found to have passed
away with the war.





THE man who seeks to create a better order of
society has two resistances to contend with: one that
of Nature, the other that of his fellow-men. Broadly
speaking, it is science that deals with the resistance
of Nature, while politics and social organization are
the methods of overcoming the resistance of men.

The ultimate fact in economics is that Nature only
yields commodities as the result of labor. The necessity
of SOME labor for the satisfaction of our wants
is not imposed by political systems or by the exploitation
of the working classes; it is due to physical
laws, which the reformer, like everyone else, must
admit and study. Before any optimistic economic
project can be accepted as feasible, we must examine
whether the physical conditions of production impose
an unalterable veto, or whether they are capable of
being sufficiently modified by science and organization.
Two connected doctrines must be considered
in examining this question: First, Malthus' doctrine
of population; and second, the vaguer, but very
prevalent, view that any surplus above the bare
necessaries of life can only be produced if most men
work long hours at monotonous or painful tasks,
leaving little leisure for a civilized existence or
rational enjoyment. I do not believe that either
of these obstacles to optimism will survive a close
scrutiny. The possibility of technical improvement
in the methods of production is, I believe, so
great that, at any rate for centuries to come, there
will be no inevitable barrier to progress in the general
well-being by the simultaneous increase of commodities
and diminution of hours of labor.

This subject has been specially studied by Kropotkin,
who, whatever may be thought of his general
theories of politics, is remarkably instructive, concrete
and convincing in all that he says about the
possibilities of agriculture. Socialists and Anarchists
in the main are products of industrial life, and
few among them have any practical knowledge on the
subject of food production. But Kropotkin is an
exception. His two books, ``The Conquest of Bread''
and ``Fields, Factories and Workshops,'' are very
full of detailed information, and, even making great
allowances for an optimistic bias, I do not think it
can be denied that they demonstrate possibilities in
which few of us would otherwise have believed.

Malthus contended, in effect, that population
always tends to increase up to the limit of subsistence,
that the production of food becomes more expensive
as its amount is increased, and that therefore, apart
from short exceptional periods when new discoveries
produce temporary alleviations, the bulk of mankind
must always be at the lowest level consistent with
survival and reproduction. As applied to the civilized
races of the world, this doctrine is becoming
untrue through the rapid decline in the birth-rate;
but, apart from this decline, there are many other
reasons why the doctrine cannot be accepted, at any
rate as regards the near future. The century which
elapsed after Malthus wrote, saw a very great
increase in the standard of comfort throughout the
wage-earning classes, and, owing to the enormous
increase in the productivity of labor, a far greater
rise in the standard of comfort could have been
effected if a more just system of distribution had
been introduced. In former times, when one man's
labor produced not very much more than was needed
for one man's subsistence, it was impossible either
greatly to reduce the normal hours of labor, or
greatly to increase the proportion of the population
who enjoyed more than the bare necessaries of life.
But this state of affairs has been overcome by modern
methods of production. At the present moment,
not only do many people enjoy a comfortable income
derived from rent or interest, but about half the
population of most of the civilized countries in the
world is engaged, not in the production of commodities,
but in fighting or in manufacturing munitions
of war. In a time of peace the whole of this
half might be kept in idleness without making the
other half poorer than they would have been if the
war had continued, and if, instead of being idle, they
were productively employed, the whole of what they
would produce would be a divisible surplus over and
above present wages. The present productivity of
labor in Great Britain would suffice to produce an
income of about 1 pound per day for each family, even
without any of those improvements in methods which
are obviously immediately possible.

But, it will be said, as population increases, the
price of food must ultimately increase also as
the sources of supply in Canada, the Argentine,
Australia and elsewhere are more and more used up.
There must come a time, so pessimists will urge, when
food becomes so dear that the ordinary wage-earner
will have little surplus for expenditure upon other
things. It may be admitted that this would be true
in some very distant future if the population were to
continue to increase without limit. If the whole
surface of the world were as densely populated as
London is now, it would, no doubt, require almost
the whole labor of the population to produce the
necessary food from the few spaces remaining for
agriculture. But there is no reason to suppose that
the population will continue to increase indefinitely,
and in any case the prospect is so remote that it may
be ignored in all practical considerations.

Returning from these dim speculations to the
facts set forth by Kropotkin, we find it proved in
his writings that, by methods of intensive cultivation,
which are already in actual operation, the amount of
food produced on a given area can be increased far
beyond anything that most uninformed persons suppose
possible. Speaking of the market-gardeners in
Great Britain, in the neighborhood of Paris, and in
other places, he says:--

They have created a totally new agriculture. They
smile when we boast about the rotation system having
permitted us to take from the field one crop every year,
or four crops each three years, because their ambition is
to have six and nine crops from the very same plot of
land during the twelve months. They do not understand
our talk about good and bad soils, because they make
the soil themselves, and make it in such quantities as to
be compelled yearly to sell some of it; otherwise it would
raise up the level of their gardens by half an inch every
year. They aim at cropping, not five or six tons of
grass on the acre, as we do, but from 50 to 100 tons of
various vegetables on the same space; not 5 pound sworth of
hay, but 100 pounds worth of vegetables, of the plainest description,
cabbage and carrots.[38]

[38] Kropotkin, ``Fields, Factories and Workshops,'' p. 74.

As regards cattle, he mentions that Mr. Champion
at Whitby grows on each acre the food of two or
three head of cattle, whereas under ordinary high
farming it takes two or three acres to keep each head
of cattle in Great Britain. Even more astonishing
are the achievements of the Culture Maraicheres
round Paris. It is impossible to summarize these
achievements, but we may note the general

There are now practical Maraichers who venture to
maintain that if all the food, animal and vegetable,
necessary for the 3,500,000 inhabitants of the Departments
of Seine and Seine-et-Oise had to be grown on
their own territory (3250 square miles), it could be
grown without resorting to any other methods of culture
than those already in use--methods already tested on a
large scale and proved successful.[39]

[39] Ib. p. 81.

It must be remembered that these two departments
include the whole population of Paris.

Kropotkin proceeds to point out methods by
which the same result could be achieved without long
hours of labor. Indeed, he contends that the great
bulk of agricultural work could be carried on by
people whose main occupations are sedentary, and
with only such a number of hours as would serve to
keep them in health and produce a pleasant diversification.
He protests against the theory of exces-
sive division of labor. What he wants is INTEGRATION,
``a society where each individual is a producer of
both manual and intellectual work; where each able-
bodied human being is a worker, and where each
worker works both in the field and in the industrial

[40] Kropotkin, ``Field, Factories, and Workshops,'' p. 6.

These views as to production have no essential
connection with Kropotkin's advocacy of Anarchism.
They would be equally possible under State
Socialism, and under certain circumstances they
might even be carried out in a capitalistic regime.
They are important for our present purpose, not
from any argument which they afford in favor of one
economic system as against another, but from the
fact that they remove the veto upon our hopes which
might otherwise result from a doubt as to the productive
capacity of labor. I have dwelt upon agriculture
rather than industry, since it is in regard
to agriculture that the difficulties are chiefly supposed
to arise. Broadly speaking, industrial production
tends to be cheaper when it is carried on on
a large scale, and therefore there is no reason in
industry why an increase in the demand should lead
to an increased cost of supply.

Passing now from the purely technical and material
side of the problem of production, we come
to the human factor, the motives leading men to
work, the possibilities of efficient organization of
production, and the connection of production with
distribution. Defenders of the existing system
maintain that efficient work would be impossible without
the economic stimulus, and that if the wage
system were abolished men would cease to do enough
work to keep the community in tolerable comfort.
Through the alleged necessity of the economic motive,
the problems of production and distribution
become intertwined. The desire for a more just
distribution of the world's goods is the main inspiration
of most Socialism and Anarchism. We must,
therefore, consider whether the system of distribution
which they propose would be likely to lead to
a diminished production.

There is a fundamental difference between Socialism
and Anarchism as regards the question of distribution.
Socialism, at any rate in most of its
forms, would retain payment for work done or for
willingness to work, and, except in the case of persons
incapacitated by age or infirmity, would make
willingness to work a condition of subsistence, or at
any rate of subsistence above a certain very low
minimum. Anarchism, on the other hand, aims at
granting to everyone, without any conditions whatever,
just as much of all ordinary commodities as
he or she may care to consume, while the rarer com-
modities, of which the supply cannot easily be
indefinitely increased, would be rationed and divided
equally among the population. Thus Anarchism
would not impose any OBLIGATIONS of work, though
Anarchists believe that the necessary work could be
made sufficiently agreeable for the vast majority of
the population to undertake it voluntarily. Socialists,
on the other hand, would exact work. Some of
them would make the incomes of all workers equal,
while others would retain higher pay for the work
which is considered more valuable. All these different
systems are compatible with the common ownership
of land and capital, though they differ greatly
as regards the kind of society which they would

Socialism with inequality of income would not
differ greatly as regards the economic stimulus to
work from the society in which we live. Such differences
as it would entail would undoubtedly be to the
good from our present point of view. Under the
existing system many people enjoy idleness and
affluence through the mere accident of inheriting land
or capital. Many others, through their activities in
industry or finance, enjoy an income which is certainly
very far in excess of anything to which their
social utility entitles them. On the other hand, it
often happens that inventors and discoverers, whose
work has the very greatest social utility, are robbed
of their reward either by capitalists or by the failure
of the public to appreciate their work until too
late. The better paid work is only open to those who
have been able to afford an expensive training, and
these men are selected in the main not by merit but
by luck. The wage earner is not paid for his willingness
to work, but only for his utility to the employer.
Consequently, he may be plunged into destitution by
causes over which he has no control. Such destitution
is a constant fear, and when it occurs it produces
undeserved suffering, and often deterioration
in the social value of the sufferer. These are a few
among the evils of our existing system from the
standpoint of production. All these evils we might
expect to see remedied under any system of Socialism.

There are two questions which need to be considered
when we are discussing how far work requires
the economic motive. The first question is: Must
society give higher pay for the more skilled or socially
more valuable work, if such work is to be done in
sufficient quantities? The second question is: Could
work be made so attractive that enough of it would
be done even if idlers received just as much of the
produce of work? The first of these questions concerns
the division between two schools of Socialists:
the more moderate Socialists sometimes concede that
even under Socialism it would be well to retain
unequal pay for different kinds of work, while the
more thoroughgoing Socialists advocate equal
incomes for all workers. The second question, on the
other hand, forms a division between Socialists and
Anarchists; the latter would not deprive a man of
commodities if he did not work, while the former in
general would.

Our second question is so much more fundamental
than our first that it must be discussed at once, and
in the course of this discussion what needs to be said
on our first question will find its place naturally.

Wages or Free Sharing?--``Abolition of the
wages system'' is one of the watchwords common
to Anarchists and advanced Socialists. But in its
most natural sense it is a watchword to which only
the Anarchists have a right. In the Anarchist conception
of society all the commoner commodities will
be available to everyone without stint, in the kind
of way in which water is available at present.[41] Advo-
cates of this system point out that it applies already
to many things which formerly had to be paid for,
e.g., roads and bridges. They point out that it
might very easily be extended to trams and local
trains. They proceed to argue--as Kropotkin does
by means of his proofs that the soil might be made
indefinitely more productive--that all the commoner
kinds of food could be given away to all who demanded
them, since it would be easy to produce them in quantities
adequate to any possible demand. If this system
were extended to all the necessaries of life,
everyone's bare livelihood would be secured, quite
regardless of the way in which he might choose to
spend his time. As for commodities which cannot
be produced in indefinite quantities, such as luxuries
and delicacies, they also, according to the Anarchists,
are to be distributed without payment, but on a system
of rations, the amount available being divided
equally among the population. No doubt, though
this is not said, something like a price will have
to be put upon these luxuries, so that a man may
be free to choose how he will take his share: one man
will prefer good wine, another the finest Havana
cigars, another pictures or beautiful furniture. Presumably,
every man will be allowed to take such luxuries
as are his due in whatever form he prefers, the
relative prices being fixed so as to equalize the
demand. In such a world as this, the economic stimulus
to production will have wholly disappeared, and
if work is to continue it must be from other motives.[42]

[41] ``Notwithstanding the egotistic turn given to the public
mind by the merchant-production of our century, the Communist
tendency is continually reasserting itself and trying to
make its way into public life. The penny bridge disappears before
the public bridge; and the turnpike road before the free
road. The same spirit pervades thousands of other institutions.
Museums, free libraries, and free public schools; parks and
pleasure grounds; paved and lighted streets, free for everybody's
use; water supplied to private dwellings, with a growing tendency
towards disregarding the exact amount of it used by the
individual, tramways and railways which have already begun to
introduce the season ticket or the uniform tax, and will surely
go much further on this line when they are no longer private
property: all these are tokens showing in what direction further
progress is to be expected.''--Kropotkin, ``Anarchist Communism.''

[42] An able discussion of this question, at of various others,
from the standpoint of reasoned and temperate opposition to
Anarchism, will be found in Alfred Naquet's ``L'Anarchie et le
Collectivisme,'' Paris, 1904.

Is such a system possible? First, is it technically
possible to provide the necessaries of life in such
large quantities as would be needed if every man and
woman could take as much of them from the public
stores as he or she might desire?

The idea of purchase and payment is so familiar
that the proposal to do away with it must be thought
at first fantastic. Yet I do not believe it is nearly
so fantastic as it seems. Even if we could all have
bread for nothing, we should not want more than
a quite limited amount. As things are, the cost of
bread to the rich is so small a proportion of their
income as to afford practically no check upon their
consumption; yet the amount of bread that they consume
could easily be supplied to the whole population
by improved methods of agriculture (I am not speaking
of war-time). The amount of food that people
desire has natural limits, and the waste that would
be incurred would probably not be very great. As
the Anarchists point out, people at present enjoy
an unlimited water supply but very few leave the
taps running when they are not using them. And
one may assume that public opinion would be opposed
to excessive waste. We may lay it down, I think,
that the principle of unlimited supply could be
adopted in regard to all commodities for which the
demand has limits that fall short of what can be
easily produced. And this would be the case, if production
were efficiently organized, with the necessaries
of life, including not only commodities, but also
such things as education. Even if all education were
free up to the highest, young people, unless they were
radically transformed by the Anarchist regime,
would not want more than a certain amount of it.
And the same applies to plain foods, plain clothes,
and the rest of the things that supply our elementary

I think we may conclude that there is no technical
impossibility in the Anarchist plan of free

But would the necessary work be done if the individual
were assured of the general standard of comfort
even though he did no work?

Most people will answer this question unhesitatingly
in the negative. Those employers in particular
who are in the habit of denouncing their
employes as a set of lazy, drunken louts, will feel quite
certain that no work could be got out of them except
under threat of dismissal and consequent starvation.
But is this as certain as people are inclined to sup-
pose at first sight? If work were to remain what
most work is now, no doubt it would be very hard to
induce people to undertake it except from fear of
destitution. But there is no reason why work should
remain the dreary drudgery in horrible conditions
that most of it is now.[43] If men had to be tempted to
work instead of driven to it, the obvious interest of
the community would be to make work pleasant. So
long as work is not made on the whole pleasant, it
cannot be said that anything like a good state of
society has been reached. Is the painfulness of work

[43] ``Overwork is repulsive to human nature--not work. Overwork
for supplying the few with luxury--not work for the well-
being of all. Work, labor, is a physiological necessity, a necessity
of spending accumulated bodily energy, a necessity which
is health and life itself. If so many branches of useful work are
so reluctantly done now, it is merely because they mean overwork,
or they are improperly organized. But we know--old
Franklin knew it--that four hours of useful work every day
would be more than sufficient for supplying everybody with the
comfort of a moderately well-to-do middle-class house, if we all
gave ourselves to productive work, and if we did not waste our
productive powers as we do waste them now. As to the childish
question, repeated for fifty years: `Who would do disagreeable
work?' frankly I regret that none of our savants has ever been
brought to do it, be it for only one day in his life. If there is
still work which is really disagreeable in itself, it is only
because our scientific men have never cared to consider the
means of rendering it less so: they have always known that there
were plenty of starving men who would do it for a few pence
a day.'' Kropotkin, ```Anarchist Communism.''

At present, the better paid work, that of the
business and professional classes, is for the most part
enjoyable. I do not mean that every separate
moment is agreeable, but that the life of a man who
has work of this sort is on the whole happier than
that of a man who enjoys an equal income without
doing any work. A certain amount of effort, and
something in the nature of a continuous career, are
necessary to vigorous men if they are to preserve
their mental health and their zest for life. A considerable
amount of work is done without pay. People
who take a rosy view of human nature might have
supposed that the duties of a magistrate would be
among disagreeable trades, like cleaning sewers; but
a cynic might contend that the pleasures of vindictiveness
and moral superiority are so great that there is
no difficulty in finding well-to-do elderly gentlemen
who are willing, without pay, to send helpless wretches
to the torture of prison. And apart from enjoyment
of the work itself, desire for the good opinion of
neighbors and for the feeling of effectiveness is quite
sufficient to keep many men active.

But, it will be said, the sort of work that a man
would voluntarily choose must always be exceptional:
the great bulk of necessary work can never be anything
but painful. Who would choose, if an easy life
were otherwise open to him, to be a coal-miner, or a
stoker on an Atlantic liner? I think it must be conceded
that much necessary work must always remain
disagreeable or at least painfully monotonous, and
that special privileges will have to be accorded to
those who undertake it, if the Anarchist system is ever
to be made workable. It is true that the introduction
of such special privileges would somewhat mar the
rounded logic of Anarchism, but it need not,
I think, make any really vital breach in its system.
Much of the work that needs doing could be rendered
agreeable, if thought and care were given
to this object. Even now it is often only long hours
that make work irksome. If the normal hours of
work were reduced to, say, four, as they could be by
better organization and more scientific methods, a
very great deal of work which is now felt as a burden
would quite cease to be so. If, as Kropotkin suggests,
agricultural work, instead of being the lifelong
drudgery of an ignorant laborer living very
near the verge of abject poverty, were the occasional
occupation of men and women normally employed in
industry or brain-work; if, instead of being conducted
by ancient traditional methods, without any
possibility of intelligent participation by the wage-
earner, it were alive with the search for new methods
and new inventions, filled with the spirit of freedom,
and inviting the mental as well as the physical cooperation
of those who do the work, it might become
a joy instead of a weariness, and a source of health
and life to those engaged in it.

What is true of agriculture is said by Anarchists
to be equally true of industry. They maintain
that if the great economic organizations which
are now managed by capitalists, without consideration
for the lives of the wage-earners beyond
what Trade Unions are able to exact, were turned
gradually into self-governing communities, in which
the producers could decide all questions of methods,
conditions, hours of work, and so forth, there would
be an almost boundless change for the better: grime
and noise might be nearly eliminated, the hideousness
of industrial regions might be turned into beauty, the
interest in the scientific aspects of production might
become diffused among all producers with any native
intelligence, and something of the artist's joy in creation
might inspire the whole of the work. All this,
which is at present utterly remote from the reality,
might be produced by economic self-government.
We may concede that by such means a very large
proportion of the necessary work of the world could
ultimately be made sufficiently agreeable to be preferred
before idleness even by men whose bare livelihood
would be assured whether they worked or not.
As to the residue let us admit that special rewards,
whether in goods or honors or privileges, would have
to be given to those who undertook it. But this need
not cause any fundamental objection.

There would, of course, be a certain proportion
of the population who would prefer idleness. Provided
the proportion were small, this need not matter.
And among those who would be classed as idlers
might be included artists, writers of books, men
devoted to abstract intellectual pursuits--in short,
all those whom society despises while they are alive
and honors when they are dead. To such men, the
possibility of pursuing their own work regardless
of any public recognition of its utility would be
invaluable. Whoever will observe how many of our
poets have been men of private means will realize how
much poetic capacity must have remained undeveloped
through poverty; for it would be absurd to
suppose that the rich are better endowed by nature
with the capacity for poetry. Freedom for such men,
few as they are, must be set against the waste of
the mere idlers.

So far, we have set forth the arguments in favor
of the Anarchist plan. They are, to my mind, sufficient
to make it seem possible that the plan might
succeed, but not sufficient to make it so probable that
it would be wise to try it.

The question of the feasibility of the Anarchist
proposals in regard to distribution is, like so many
other questions, a quantitative one. The Anarchist
proposals consist of two parts: (1) That all the common
commodities should be supplied ad lib. to all
applicants; (2) That no obligation to work, or economic
reward for work, should be imposed on anyone.
These two proposals are not necessarily inseparable,
nor does either entail the whole system of Anarchism,
though without them Anarchism would hardly be
possible. As regards the first of these proposals, it
can be carried out even now with regard to some
commodities, and it could be carried out in no very
distant future with regard to many more. It is a
flexible plan, since this or that article of consumption
could be placed on the free list or taken of as
circumstances might dictate. Its advantages are
many and various, and the practice of the world tends
to develop in this direction. I think we may conclude
that this part of the Anarchists' system might
well be adopted bit by bit, reaching gradually the
full extension that they desire.

But as regards the second proposal, that there
should be no obligation to work, and no economic
reward for work, the matter is much more doubtful.
Anarchists always assume that if their schemes were
put into operation practically everyone would work;
but although there is very much more to be said
for this view than most people would concede at first
sight, yet it is questionable whether there is enough
to be said to make it true for practical purposes.
Perhaps, in a community where industry had become
habitual through economic pressure, public opinion
might be sufficiently powerful to compel most men
to work;[44] but it is always doubtful how far such
a state of things would be permanent. If public
opinion is to be really effective, it will be necessary
to have some method of dividing the community into
small groups, and to allow each group to consume
only the equivalent of what it produces. This will
make the economic motive operative upon the group,
which, since we are supposing it small, will feel that
its collective share is appreciably diminished by each
idle individual. Such a system might be feasible, but
it would be contrary to the whole spirit of Anarchism
and would destroy the main lines of its economic

[44] ``As to the so-often repeated objection that nobody would
labor if he were not compelled to do so by sheer necessity, we
heard enough of it before the emancipation of slaves in America,
as well as before the emancipation of serfs in Russia; and we
have had the opportunity of appreciating it at its just value.
So we shall not try to convince those who can be convinced only
by accomplished facts. As to those who reason, they ought to
know that, if it really was so with some parts of humanity at
its lowest stages--and yet, what do we know about it?--or if
it is so with some small communities, or separate individuals,
brought to sheer despair by ill-success in their struggle against
unfavorable conditions, it is not so with the bulk of the civilized
nations. With us, work is a habit, and idleness an artificial
growth.'' Kropotkin, ``Anarchist Communism,'' p. 30.

The attitude of orthodox Socialism on this question
is quite different from that of Anarchism.[45]
Among the more immediate measures advocated in the
``Communist Manifesto'' is ``equal liability of all
to labor. Establishment of industrial armies, especially
for agriculture.'' The Socialist theory is that,
in general, work alone gives the right to the enjoyment
of the produce of work. To this theory there
will, of course, be exceptions: the old and the very
young, the infirm and those whose work is temporarily
not required through no fault of their own.
But the fundamental conception of Socialism, in regard
to our present question, is that all who can
should be compelled to work, either by the threat
of starvation or by the operation of the criminal
law. And, of course, the only kind of work recognized
will be such as commends itself to the authorities.
Writing books against Socialism, or against
any theory embodied in the government of the day,
would certainly not be recognized as work. No more
would the painting of pictures in a different style
from that of the Royal Academy, or producing plays
unpleasing to the censor. Any new line of thought
would be banned, unless by influence or corruption
the thinker could crawl into the good graces of the
pundits. These results are not foreseen by Socialists,
because they imagine that the Socialist State
will be governed by men like those who now advocate
it. This is, of course, a delusion. The rulers of the
State then will bear as little resemblance to the pres-
ent Socialists as the dignitaries of the Church after
the time of Constantine bore to the Apostles. The
men who advocate an unpopular reform are exceptional
in disinterestedness and zeal for the public
good; but those who hold power after the reform
has been carried out are likely to belong, in the main,
to the ambitious executive type which has in all ages
possessed itself of the government of nations. And
this type has never shown itself tolerant of opposition
or friendly to freedom.

[45] ``While holding this synthetic view on production, the
Anarchists cannot consider, like the Collectivists, that a
remuneration which would be proportionate to the hours of labor
spent by each person in the production of riches may be an
ideal, or even an approach to an ideal, society.'' Kropotkin,
``Anarchist Communism,'' p. 20.

It would seem, then, that if the Anarchist plan
has its dangers, the Socialist plan has at least equal
dangers. It is true that the evils we have been foreseeing
under Socialism exist at present, but the purpose
of Socialists is to cure the evils of the world
as it is; they cannot be content with the argument
that they would make things no worse.

Anarchism has the advantage as regards liberty,
Socialism as regards the inducements to work. Can
we not find a method of combining these two advantages?
It seems to me that we can.

We saw that, provided most people work in
moderation, and their work is rendered as productive
as science and organization can make it, there is no
good reason why the necessaries of life should not be
supplied freely to all. Our only serious doubt was
as to whether, in an Anarchist regime, the motives for
work would be sufficiently powerful to prevent a dan-
gerously large amount of idleness. But it would be
easy to decree that, though necessaries should be free
to all, whatever went beyond necessaries should only
be given to those who were willing to work--not, as
is usual at present, only to those in work at any
moment, but also to all those who, when they happened
not to be working, were idle through no fault
of their own. We find at present that a man who
has a small income from investments, just sufficient
to keep him from actual want, almost always prefers
to find some paid work in order to be able to afford
luxuries. So it would be, presumably, in such a
community as we are imagining. At the same time, the
man who felt a vocation for some unrecognized work
of art or science or thought would be free to follow his
desire, provided he were willing to ``scorn delights
and live laborious days.'' And the comparatively
small number of men with an invincible horror of
work--the sort of men who now become tramps--
might lead a harmless existence, without any grave
danger of their becoming sufficiently numerous to be
a serious burden upon the more industrious. In this
ways the claims of freedom could be combined with
the need of some economic stimulus to work. Such
a system, it seems to me, would have a far greater
chance of success than either pure Anarchism or pure
orthodox Socialism.

Stated in more familiar terms, the plan we are
advocating amounts essentially to this: that a certain
small income, sufficient for necessaries, should be
secured to all, whether they work or not, and that a
larger income, as much larger as might be warranted
by the total amount of commodities produced, should
be given to those who are willing to engage in some
work which the community recognizes as useful. On
this basis we may build further. I do not think it
is always necessary to pay more highly work which
is more skilled or regarded as socially more useful,
since such work is more interesting and more respected
than ordinary work, and will therefore often be
preferred by those who are able to do it. But we
might, for instance, give an intermediate income to
those who are only willing to work half the usual
number of hours, and an income above that of most
workers to those who choose a specially disagreeable
trade. Such a system is perfectly compatible with
Socialism, though perhaps hardly with Anarchism.
Of its advantages we shall have more to say at a
later stage. For the present I am content to urge
that it combines freedom with justice, and avoids
those dangers to the community which we have found
to lurk both in the proposals of the Anarchists and
in those of orthodox Socialists.



GOVERNMENT and Law, in their very essence, consist
of restrictions on freedom, and freedom is the
greatest of political goods.[46] A hasty reasoner might
conclude without further ado that Law and government
are evils which must be abolished if freedom
is our goal. But this consequence, true or false, cannot
be proved so simply. In this chapter we shall
examine the arguments of Anarchists against law and
the State. We shall proceed on the assumption that
freedom is the supreme aim of a good social system;
but on this very basis we shall find the Anarchist
contentions very questionable.

[46] I do not say freedom is the greatest of ALL goods: the best
things come from within--they are such things as creative art,
and love, and thought. Such things can be helped or hindered
by political conditions, but not actually produced by them; and
freedom is, both in itself and in its relation to these other goods
the best thing that political and economic conditions can secure.

Respect for the liberty of others is not a natural
impulse with most men: envy and love of power lead
ordinary human nature to find pleasure in interferences
with the lives of others. If all men's actions
were wholly unchecked by external authority, we
should not obtain a world in which all men would be
free. The strong would oppress the weak, or the
majority would oppress the minority, or the lovers
of violence would oppress the more peaceable people.
I fear it cannot be said that these bad impulses are
WHOLLY due to a bad social system, though it must
be conceded that the present competitive organization
of society does a great deal to foster the worst
elements in human nature. The love of power is an
impulse which, though innate in very ambitious men,
is chiefly promoted as a rule by the actual experience
of power. In a world where none could acquire
much power, the desire to tyrannize would be much
less strong than it is at present. Nevertheless, I
cannot think that it would be wholly absent, and
those in whom it would exist would often be men of
unusual energy and executive capacity. Such men,
if they are not restrained by the organized will of
the community, may either succeed in establishing
a despotism, or, at any rate, make such a vigorous
attempt as can only be defeated through a period
of prolonged disturbance. And apart from the love
or political power, there is the love of power over
individuals. If threats and terrorism were not prevented
by law, it can hardly be doubted that cruelty would
be rife in the relations of men and women, and of
parents and children. It is true that the habits of
a community can make such cruelty rare, but these
habits, I fear, are only to be produced through the
prolonged reign of law. Experience of backwoods
communities, mining camps and other such places
seems to show that under new conditions men easily
revert to a more barbarous attitude and practice.
It would seem, therefore, that, while human nature
remains as it is, there will be more liberty for all in a
community where some acts of tyranny by individuals
are forbidden, than in a community where the law
leaves each individual free to follow his every impulse.
But, although the necessity of some form of government
and law must for the present be conceded, it is
important to remember that all law and government
is in itself in some degree an evil, only justifiable when
it prevents other and greater evils. Every use of the
power of the State needs, therefore, to be very closely
scrutinized, and every possibility of diminishing its
power is to be welcomed provided it does not lead to
a reign of private tyranny.

The power of the State is partly legal, partly
economic: acts of a kind which the State dislikes can
be punished by the criminal law, and individuals who
incur the displeasure of the State may find it hard
to earn a livelihood.

The views of Marx on the State are not very
clear. On the one hand he seems willing,, like the
modern State Socialists, to allow great power to the
State, but on the other hand he suggests that when
the Socialist revolution has been consummated, the
State, as we know it, will disappear. Among the
measures which are advocated in the Communist
Manifesto as immediately desirable, there are several
which would very greatly increase the power of
the existing State. For example, ``Centralization
of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a
national bank with State capital and an exclusive
monopoly;'' and again, ``Centralization of the
means of communication and transport in the hands
of the State.'' But the Manifesto goes on to say:

When, in the course of development, class distinctions
have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated
in the hands of a vast association of the whole
nation, the public power will lose its political character.
Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised
power of one class for oppressing another. If the
proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is
compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize
itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes
itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by
force the old conditions of production, then it will,
along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions
for the existence of class antagonisms, and of
classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its
own supremacy as a class.

In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes
and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in
which; the free development of each is the condition for
the free development of all.[47]

[47] Communist Manifesto, p. 22.

This attitude Marx preserved in essentials
throughout his life. Accordingly, it is not to be
wondered at that his followers, so far as regards their
immediate aims, have in the main become out-and-out
State Socialists. On the other hand, the Syndicalists,
who accept from Marx the doctrine of the class
war, which they regard as what is really vital in his
teaching, reject the State with abhorrence and wish
to abolish it wholly, in which respect they are at one
with the Anarchists. The Guild Socialists, though
some persons in this country regard them as extremists,
really represent the English love of compromise.
The Syndicalist arguments as to the dangers inherent
in the power of the State have made them dissatisfied
with the old State Socialism, but they are
unable to accept the Anarchist view that society can
dispense altogether with a central authority.
Accordingly they propose that there should be two
co-equal instruments of Government in a community,
the one geographical, representing the consumers,
and essentially the continuation of the democratic
State; the other representing the producers, organized,
not geographically, but in guilds, after the
manner of industrial unionism. These two author-
ities will deal with different classes of questions.
Guild Socialists do not regard the industrial authority
as forming part of the State, for they contend
that it is the essence of the State to be geographical;
but the industrial authority will resemble the present
State in the fact that it will have coercive powers,
and that its decrees will be enforced, when necessary.
It is to be suspected that Syndicalists also, much as
they object to the existing State, would not object
to coercion of individuals in an industry by the
Trade Union in that industry. Government within
the Trade Union would probably be quite as strict
as State government is now. In saying this we are
assuming that the theoretical Anarchism of Syndicalist
leaders would not survive accession to power,
but I am afraid experience shows that this is not a
very hazardous assumption.

Among all these different views, the one which
raises the deepest issue is the Anarchist contention
that all coercion by the community is unnecessary.
Like most of the things that Anarchists say, there
is much more to be urged in support of this view
than most people would suppose at first sight. Kropotkin,
who is its ablest exponent, points out how
much has been achieved already by the method of free
agreement. He does not wish to abolish government
in the sense of collective decisions: what he does wish
to abolish is the system by which a decision is en-
forced upon those who oppose it.[48] The whole system
of representative government and majority rule is
to him a bad thing.[49] He points to such instances
as the agreements among the different railway systems
of the Continent for the running of through
expresses and for co-operation generally. He points
out that in such cases the different companies or
authorities concerned each appoint a delegate, and that
the delegates suggest a basis of agreement, which has
to be subsequently ratified by each of the bodies ap-
pointing them. The assembly of delegates has no
coercive power whatever, and a majority can do
nothing against a recalcitrant minority. Yet this has
not prevented the conclusion of very elaborate systems
of agreements. By such methods, so Anarchists
contend, the USEFUL functions of government can be
carried out without any coercion. They maintain
that the usefulness of agreement is so patent as to
make co-operation certain if once the predatory
motives associated with the present system of private
property were removed.

[48] ``On the other hand, the STATE has also been confused with
GOVERNMENT. As there can be no State without government, it
has been sometimes said that it is the absence of government,
and not the abolition of the State, that should be the aim.

``It seems to me, however, that State and government represent
two ideas of a different kind. The State idea implies quite
another idea to that of government. It not only includes the
existence of a power placed above society, but also a territorial
concentration and a concentration of many functions of the life
of society in the hands of a few or even of all. It implies new
relations among the members of society.

``This characteristic distinction, which perhaps escapes
notice at first sight, appears clearly when the origin of the State
is studied.'' Kropotkin, ``The State.'' p. 4.

[49] Representative government has accomplished its historical
mission; it has given a mortal blow to Court-rule; and by
its debates it has awakened public interest in public questions.
But, to see in it the government of the future Socialist society,
is to commit a gross error. Each economical phase of life
implies its own political phase; and it is impossible to touch the
very basis of the present economical life--private property--
without a corresponding change in the very basis of the political
organization. Life already shows in which direction the change
will be made. Not in increasing the powers of the State, but
in resorting to free organization and free federation in all those
branches which are now considered as attributes of the State.''
Kropotkin, ``Anarchist Communism,'' pp. 28-29.

Attractive as this view is, I cannot resist the
conclusion that it results from impatience and
represents the attempt to find a short-cut toward the
ideal which all humane people desire.

Let us begin with the question of private crime.[50]
Anarchists maintain that the criminal is manufactured
by bad social conditions and would disappear
in such a world as they aim at creating.[51] No doubt
there is a great measure of truth in this view. There
would be little motive to robbery, for example, in an
Anarchist world, unless it were organized on a large
scale by a body of men bent on upsetting the Anarchist
regime. It may also be conceded that impulses
toward criminal violence could be very largely eliminated
by a better education. But all such contentions,
it seems to me, have their limitations. To take
an extreme case, we cannot suppose that there would
be no lunatics in an Anarchist community, and some
of these lunatics would, no doubt, be homicidal.
Probably no one would argue that they ought to be
left at liberty. But there are no sharp lines in nature;
from the homicidal lunatic to the sane man
of violent passions there is a continuous gradation.
Even in the most perfect community there will be
men and women, otherwise sane, who will feel an
impulse to commit murder from jealousy. These are
now usually restrained by the fear of punishment,
but if this fear were removed, such murders would
probably become much more common, as may be
seen from the present behavior of certain soldiers
on leave. Moreover, certain kinds of conduct arouse
public hostility, and would almost inevitably lead to
lynching, if no other recognized method of punishment
existed. There is in most men a certain natural
vindictiveness, not always directed against the worst
members of the community. For example, Spinoza
was very nearly murdered by the mob because he was
suspected of undue friendliness to France at a time
when Holland was at war with that country. Apart
from such cases, there would be the very real danger
of an organized attempt to destroy Anarchism
and revive ancient oppressions. Is it to be supposed,
for example, that Napoleon, if he had been born into
such a community as Kropotkin advocates, would
have acquiesced tamely in a world where his genius
could find no scope? I cannot see what should prevent
a combination of ambitious men forming themselves
into a private army, manufacturing their own
munitions, and at last enslaving the defenseless citizens,
who had relied upon the inherent attractiveness
of liberty. It would not be consistent with the principles
of Anarchism for the community to interfere
with the drilling of a private army, no matter what
its objects might be (though, of course, an opposing
private army might be formed by men with different
views). Indeed, Kropotkin instances the old volunteers
in Great Britain as an example of a movement
on Anarchist lines.[52] Even if a predatory army were
not formed from within, it might easily come from a
neighboring nation, or from races on the borderland
of civilization. So long as the love of power exists,
I do not see how it can be prevented from finding an
outlet in oppression except by means of the organized
force of the community.

[50] On this subject there is an excellent discussion in the
before-mentioned work of Monsieur Naquet.

[51] ``As to the third--the chief--objection, which maintains
the necessity of a government for punishing those who break the
law of society, there is so much to say about it that it hardly can
be touched incidentally. The more we study the question, the
more we are brought to the conclusion that society itself is
responsible for the anti-social deeds perpetrated in its midst, and
that no punishment, no prisons, and no hangmen can diminish
the numbers of such deeds; nothing short of a reorganization of
society itself. Three-quarters of all the acts which are brought
every year before our courts have their origin, either directly or
indirectly, in the present disorganized state of society with
regard to the production and distribution of wealth--not in the
perversity of human nature. As to the relatively few anti-social
deeds which result from anti-social inclinations of separate
individuals, it is not by prisons, nor even by resorting to the
hangmen, that we can diminish their numbers. By our prisons,
we merely multiply them and render them worse. By our detectives,
our `price of blood,' our executions, and our jails, we
spread in society such a terrible flow of basest passions and
habits, that he who should realize the effects of these institutions
to their full extent, would be frightened by what society is
doing under the pretext of maintaining morality. We must
search for other remedies, and the remedies have been indicated
long since.'' Kropotkin, ``Anarchist Communism,'' pp. 31-32.

[52] ``Anarchist Communism,'' p. 27.

The conclusion, which appears to be forced upon
us, is that the Anarchist ideal of a community in
which no acts are forbidden by law is not, at any
rate for the present, compatible with the stability of
such a world as the Anarchists desire. In order to
obtain and preserve a world resembling as closely
as possible that at which they aim, it will still be
necessary that some acts should be forbidden by
law. We may put the chief of these under three

1. Theft.

2. Crimes of violence.

3. The creation of organizations intended to subvert
the Anarchist regime by force.

We will briefly recapitulate what has been said
already as to the necessity of these prohibitions.

1. Theft.--It is true that in an Anarchist world
there will be no destitution, and therefore no thefts
motivated by starvation. But such thefts are at present
by no means the most considerable or the most
harmful. The system of rationing, which is to be
applied to luxuries, will leave many men with fewer
luxuries than they might desire. It will give
opportunities for peculation by those who are in control
of the public stores, and it will leave the possibility of
appropriating such valuable objects of art as would
naturally be preserved in public museums. It may
be contended that such forms of theft would be prevented
by public opinion. But public opinion is not
greatly operative upon an individual unless it is the
opinion of his own group. A group of men combined
for purposes of theft might readily defy the public
opinion of the majority unless that public opinion
made itself effective by the use of force against them.
Probably, in fact, such force would be applied
through popular indignation, but in that case we
should revive the evils of the criminal law with the
added evils of uncertainty, haste and passion, which
are inseparable from the practice of lynching. If,
as we have suggested, it were found necessary to provide
an economic stimulus to work by allowing fewer
luxuries to idlers, this would afford a new motive for
theft on their part and a new necessity for some form
of criminal law.

2. Crimes of Violence.--Cruelty to children,
crimes of jealousy, rape, and so forth, are almost
certain to occur in any society to some extent. The
prevention of such acts is essential to the existence
of freedom for the weak. If nothing were done to
hinder them, it is to be feared that the customs of a
society would gradually become rougher, and that
acts which are now rare would cease to be so. If
Anarchists are right in maintaining that the existence
of such an economic system as they desire would
prevent the commission of crimes of this kind, the
laws forbidding them would no longer come into
operation, and would do no harm to liberty. If, on
the other hand, the impulse to such actions persisted,
it would be necessary that steps should be taken to
restrain men from indulging it.

3. The third class of difficulties is much the most
serious and involves much the most drastic interference
with liberty. I do not see how a private army
could be tolerated within an Anarchist community,
and I do not see how it could be prevented except by
a general prohibition of carrying arms. If there
were no such prohibition, rival parties would organize
rival forces, and civil war would result. Yet, if there
is such a prohibition, it cannot well be carried out
without a very considerable interference with individual
liberty. No doubt, after a time, the idea of
using violence to achieve a political object might die
down, as the practice of duelling has done. But such
changes of habit and outlook are facilitated by legal
prohibition, and would hardly come about without
it. I shall not speak yet of the international aspect
of this same problem, for I propose to deal with that
in the next chapter, but it is clear that the same
considerations apply with even greater force to the
relations between nations.

If we admit, however reluctantly, that a criminal
law is necessary and that the force of the community
must be brought to bear to prevent certain kinds of
actions, a further question arises: How is crime to be
treated? What is the greatest measure of humanity
and respect for freedom that is compatible with the
recognition of such a thing as crime? The first thing
to recognize is that the whole conception of guilt or
sin should be utterly swept away. At present, the
criminal is visited with the displeasure of the community:
the sole method applied to prevent the occurrence
of crime is the infliction of pain upon the
criminal. Everything possible is done to break his
spirit and destroy his self-respect. Even those
pleasures which would be most likely to have a civilizing
effect are forbidden to him, merely on the ground
that they are pleasures, while much of the suffering
inflicted is of a kind which can only brutalize and
degrade still further. I am not speaking, of course,
of those few penal institutions which have made a
serious study of reforming the criminal. Such
institutions, especially in America, have been proved
capable of achieving the most remarkable results, but
they remain everywhere exceptional. The broad rule
is still that the criminal is made to feel the displeasure
of society. He must emerge from such a treatment
either defiant and hostile, or submissive and cringing,
with a broken spirit and a loss of self-respect.
Neither of these results is anything but evil. Nor
can any good result be achieved by a method of treatment
which embodies reprobation.

When a man is suffering from an infectious disease
he is a danger to the community, and it is necessary
to restrict his liberty of movement. But no one
associates any idea of guilt with such a situation.
On the contrary, he is an object of commiseration to
his friends. Such steps as science recommends are
taken to cure him of his disease, and he submits as
a rule without reluctance to the curtailment of liberty
involved meanwhile. The same method in spirit ought
to be shown in the treatment of what is called
``crime.'' It is supposed, of course, that the criminal
is actuated by calculations of self-interest, and
that the fear of punishment, by supplying a contrary
motive of self-interest affords the best deterrent,
The dog, to gain some private end,
Went mad and bit the man.

This is the popular view of crime; yet no dog goes
mad from choice, and probably the same is true of the
great majority of criminals, certainly in the case
of crimes of passion. Even in cases where self-interest
is the motive, the important thing is to prevent
the crime, not to make the criminal suffer. Any
suffering which may be entailed by the process of
prevention ought to be regarded as regrettable, like the
pain involved in a surgical operation. The man who
commits a crime from an impulse to violence ought
to be subjected to a scientific psychological treatment,
designed to elicit more beneficial impulses. The
man who commits a crime from calculations of self-
interest ought to be made to feel that self-interest
itself, when it is fully understood, can be better served
by a life which is useful to the community than by one
which is harmful. For this purpose it is chiefly necessary
to widen his outlook and increase the scope of his
desires. At present, when a man suffers from insufficient
love for his fellow-creatures, the method of
curing him which is commonly adopted seems scarcely
designed to succeed, being, indeed, in essentials, the
same as his attitude toward them. The object of
the prison administration is to save trouble, not to
study the individual case. He is kept in captivity in
a cell from which all sight of the earth is shut out: he
is subjected to harshness by warders, who have too
often become brutalized by their occupation.[53] He is
solemnly denounced as an enemy to society. He is
compelled to perform mechanical tasks, chosen for
their wearisomeness. He is given no education and no
incentive to self-improvement. Is it to be wondered
at if, at the end of such a course of treatment, his
feelings toward the community are no more friendly
than they were at the beginning?

[53] This was written before the author had any personal
experience of the prison system. He personally met with
nothing but kindness at the hands of the prison officials.

Severity of punishment arose through vindictiveness
and fear in an age when many criminals escaped
justice altogether, and it was hoped that savage
sentences would outweigh the chance of escape in the
mind of the criminal. At present a very large part
of the criminal law is concerned in safeguarding the
rights of property, that is to say--as things are
now--the unjust privileges of the rich. Those whose
principles lead them into conflict with government,
like Anarchists, bring a most formidable indictment
against the law and the authorities for the unjust
manner in which they support the status quo. Many
of the actions by which men have become rich are far
more harmful to the community than the obscure
crimes of poor men, yet they go unpunished because
they do not interfere with the existing order. If the
power of the community is to be brought to bear to
prevent certain classes of actions through the agency
of the criminal law, it is as necessary that these
actions should really be those which are harmful to
the community, as it is that the treatment of ``criminals''
should be freed from the conception of guilt
and inspired by the same spirit as is shown in the
treatment of disease. But, if these two conditions
were fulfilled, I cannot help thinking that a society
which preserved the existence of law would be preferable
to one conducted on the unadulterated principles
of Anarchism.

So far we have been considering the power which
the State derives from the criminal law. We have
every reason to think that this power cannot be
entirely abolished, though it can be exercised in a
wholly different spirit, without the vindictiveness and
the moral reprobation which now form its essence.

We come next to the consideration of the economic
power of the State and the influence which it
can exert through its bureaucracy. State Socialists
argue as if there would be no danger to liberty in a
State not based upon capitalism. This seems to me an
entire delusion. Given an official caste, however selected,
there are bound to be a set of men whose whole
instincts will drive them toward tyranny. Together
with the natural love of power, they will have a rooted
conviction (visible now in the higher ranks of the
Civil Service) that they alone know enough to be able
to judge what is for the good of the community. Like
all men who administer a system, they will come to
feel the system itself sacrosanct. The only changes
they will desire will be changes in the direction of
further regulations as to how the people are to
enjoy the good things kindly granted to them by their
benevolent despots. Whoever thinks this picture overdrawn
must have failed to study the influence and
methods of Civil Servants at present. On every matter
that arises, they know far more than the general
public about all the DEFINITE facts involved; the one
thing they do not know is ``where the shoe pinches.''
But those who know this are probably not skilled in
stating their case, not able to say off-hand exactly
how many shoes are pinching how many feet, or what
is the precise remedy required. The answer prepared
for Ministers by the Civil Service is accepted by the
``respectable'' public as impartial, and is regarded
as disposing of the case of malcontents except on a
first-class political question on which elections may
be won or lost. That at least is the way in which
things are managed in England. And there is every
reason to fear that under State Socialism the power
of officials would be vastly greater than it is at

Those who accept the orthodox doctrine of democracy
contend that, if ever the power of capital were
removed, representative institutions would suffice to
undo the evils threatened by bureaucracy. Against
this view, Anarchists and Syndicalists have directed
a merciless criticism. French Syndicalists especially,
living, as they do, in a highly democratized country,
have had bitter experience of the way in which the
power of the State can be employed against a
progressive minority. This experience has led them to
abandon altogether the belief in the divine right of
majorities. The Constitution that they would desire
would be one which allowed scope for vigorous minorities,
conscious of their aims and prepared to work
for them. It is undeniable that, to all who care for
progress, actual experience of democratic representative
Government is very disillusioning. Admitting--
as I think we must--that it is preferable to any
PREVIOUS form of Government, we must yet acknowledge
that much of the criticism directed against it by
Anarchists and Syndicalists is thoroughly justified.

Such criticism would have had more influence if
any clear idea of an alternative to parliamentary
democracy had been generally apprehended. But it
must be confessed that Syndicalists have not presented
their case in a way which is likely to attract
the average citizen. Much of what they say amounts
to this: that a minority, consisting of skilled workers
in vital industries, can, by a strike, make the economic
life of the whole community impossible, and can in
this way force their will upon the nation. The action
aimed at is compared to the seizure of a power
station, by which a whole vast system can be paralyzed.
Such a doctrine is an appeal to force, and
is naturally met by an appeal to force on the other
side. It is useless for the Syndicalists to protest that
they only desire power in order to promote liberty:
the world which they are seeking to establish does not,
as yet, appeal to the effective will of the community,
and cannot be stably inaugurated until it does do so.
Persuasion is a slow process, and may sometimes
be accelerated by violent methods; to this extent such
methods may be justified. But the ultimate goal of
any reformer who aims at liberty can only be reached
through persuasion. The attempt to thrust liberty
by force upon those who do not desire what we consider
liberty must always prove a failure; and Syndicalists,
like other reformers, must ultimately rely
upon persuasion for success.

But it would be a mistake to confuse aims with
methods: however little we may agree with the proposal
to force the millennium on a reluctant community
by starvation, we may yet agree that much of
what the Syndicalists desire to achieve is desirable.

Let us dismiss from our minds such criticisms of
parliamentary government as are bound up with the
present system of private property, and consider
only those which would remain true in a collectivist
community. Certain defects seem inherent in the
very nature of representative institutions. There is
a sense of self-importance, inseparable from success
in a contest for popular favor. There is an all-but
unavoidable habit of hypocrisy, since experience
shows that the democracy does not detect insincerity
in an orator, and will, on the other hand, be shocked
by things which even the most sincere men may think
necessary. Hence arises a tone of cynicism among
elected representatives, and a feeling that no man
can retain his position in politics without deceit.
This is as much the fault of the democracy as of the
representatives, but it seems unavoidable so long as
the main thing that all bodies of men demand of their
champions is flattery. However the blame may be
apportioned, the evil must be recognized as one which
is bound to occur in the existing forms of democracy.
Another evil, which is especially noticeable in large
States, is the remoteness of the seat of government
from many of the constituencies--a remoteness which
is psychological even more than geographical. The
legislators live in comfort, protected by thick walls
and innumerable policemen from the voice of the
mob; as time goes on they remember only dimly the
passions and promises of their electoral campaign;
they come to feel it an essential part of statesmanship
to consider what are called the interests of the community
as a whole, rather than those of some discontented
group; but the interests of the community as
a whole are sufficiently vague to be easily seen to
coincide with self-interest. All these causes lead
Parliaments to betray the people, consciously or
unconsciously; and it is no wonder if they have produced
a certain aloofness from democratic theory in the
more vigorous champions of labor.

Majority rule, as it exists in large States, is
subject to the fatal defect that, in a very great number
of questions, only a fraction of the nation have
any direct interest or knowledge, yet the others have
an equal voice in their settlement. When people have
no direct interest in a question they are very apt
to be influenced by irrelevant considerations; this is
shown in the extraordinary reluctance to grant autonomy
to subordinate nations or groups. For this
reason, it is very dangerous to allow the nation as a
whole to decide on matters which concern only a small
section, whether that section be geographical or
industrial or defined in any other way. The best
cure for this evil, so far as can be seen at present,
lies in allowing self-government to every important
group within a nation in all matters that affect that
group much more than they affect the rest of the
community. The government of a group, chosen by
the group, will be far more in touch with its constituents,
far more conscious of their interests, than a
remote Parliament nominally representing the whole
country. The most original idea in Syndicalism--
adopted and developed by the Guild Socialists--is the
idea of making industries self-governing units so far
as their internal affairs are concerned. By this
method, extended also to such other groups as have
clearly separable interests, the evils which have shown
themselves in representative democracy can, I believe,
be largely overcome.

Guild Socialists, as we have seen, have another
suggestion, growing naturally out of the autonomy
of industrial guilds, by which they hope to limit the
power of the State and help to preserve individual
liberty. They propose that, in addition to Parliament,
elected (as at present) on a territorial basis
and representing the community as consumers, there
shall also be a ``Guild Congress,'' a glorified successor
of the present Trade Union Congress, which
shall consist of representatives chosen by the Guilds,
and shall represent the community as producers.

This method of diminishing the excessive power
of the State has been attractively set forth by Mr.
G. D. H. Cole in his ``Self-Government in Industry.''[54]
``Where now,'' he says, ``the State passes a Factory
Act, or a Coal Mines Regulation Act, the Guild Congress
of the future will pass such Acts, and its power
of enforcing them will be the same as that of the
State'' (p. 98). His ultimate ground for advocating
this system is that, in his opinion, it will tend to preserve
individual liberty: ``The fundamental reason
for the preservation, in a democratic Society, of both
the industrial and the political forms of Social organization
is, it seems to me, that only by dividing the
vast power now wielded by industrial capitalism can
the individual hope to be free'' (p. 91).

[54] Bell, 1917.

Will the system suggested by Mr. Cole have this
result? I think it is clear that it would, in this
respect, be an improvement on the existing system.
Representative government cannot but be improved
by any method which brings the representatives into
closer touch with the interests concerned in their
legislation; and this advantage probably would be
secured by handing over questions of production to
the Guild Congress. But if, in spite of the safeguards
proposed by the Guild Socialists, the Guild Congress
became all-powerful in such questions, if resistance
to its will by a Guild which felt ill-used became practically
hopeless, I fear that the evils now connected
with the omnipotence of the State would soon reappear.
Trade Union officials, as soon as they become
part of the governing forces in the country, tend to
become autocratic and conservative; they lose touch
with their constituents and gravitate, by a psychological
sympathy, into co-operation with the powers
that be. Their formal installation in authority
through the Guilds Congress would accelerate this
process. They would soon tend to combine, in effect
if not obviously, with those who wield authority in
Parliament. Apart from occasional conflicts, comparable
to the rivalry of opposing financiers which
now sometimes disturbs the harmony of the capitalist
world, there would, at most times, be agreement
between the dominant personalities in the two
Houses. And such harmony would filch away from
the individual the liberty which he had hoped to
secure by the quarrels of his masters.

There is no method, if we are not mistaken, by
which a body representing the whole community,
whether as producers or consumers or both, can
alone be a sufficient guardian of individual liberty.
The only way of preserving sufficient liberty (and
even this will be inadequate in the case of very small
minorities) is the organization of citizens with special
interests into groups, determined to preserve autonomy
as regards their internal affairs, willing to
resist interference by a strike if necessary, and
sufficiently powerful (either in themselves or through
their power of appealing to public sympathy) to be
able to resist the organized forces of government
successfully when their cause is such as many men
think just. If this method is to be successful we
must have not only suitable organizations but also
a diffused respect for liberty, and an absence of
submissiveness to government both in theory and practice.
Some risk of disorder there must be in such a
society, but this risk is as nothing compared to the
danger of stagnation which is inseparable from an
all-powerful central authority.

We may now sum up our discussion of the powers
of Government.

The State, in spite of what Anarchists urge, seems
a necessary institution for certain purposes. Peace
and war, tariffs, regulation of sanitary conditions
and of the sale of noxious drugs, the preservation of
a just system of distribution: these, among others,
are functions which could hardly be performed in
a community in which there was no central government.
Take, for example, the liquor traffic, or
the opium traffic in China. If alcohol could be
obtained at cost price without taxation, still more
if it could be obtained for nothing, as Anarchists
presumably desire, can we believe that there would not
be a great and disastrous increase of drunkenness?
China was brought to the verge of ruin by opium,
and every patriotic Chinaman desired to see the traffic
in opium restricted. In such matters freedom is
not a panacea, and some degree of legal restriction
seems imperative for the national health.

But granting that the State, in some form, must
continue, we must also grant, I think, that its powers
ought to be very strictly limited to what is absolutely
necessary. There is no way of limiting its
powers except by means of groups which are jealous
of their privileges and determined to preserve their
autonomy, even if this should involve resistance to
laws decreed by the State, when these laws interfere in
the internal affairs of a group in ways not warranted
by the public interest. The glorification of the State,
and the doctrine that it is every citizen's duty to serve
the State, are radically against progress and against
liberty. The State, though at present a source of
much evil, is also a means to certain good things,
and will be needed so long as violent and destructive
impulses remain common. But it is MERELY a means,
and a means which needs to be very carefully and
sparingly used if it is not to do more harm than good.
It is not the State, but the community, the worldwide
community of all human beings present and
future, that we ought to serve. And a good community
does not spring from the glory of the State,
but from the unfettered development of individuals:
from happiness in daily life, from congenial work
giving opportunity for whatever constructiveness
each man or woman may possess, from free personal
relations embodying love and taking away the roots
of envy in thwarted capacity from affection, and
above all from the joy of life and its expression in
the spontaneous creations of art and science. It is
these things that make an age or a nation worthy
of existence, and these things are not to be secured
by bowing down before the State. It is the individual
in whom all that is good must be realized, and the
free growth of the individual must be the supreme end
of a political system which is to re-fashion the world.



THE main objects which should be served by international
relations may be taken to be two: First, the
avoidance of wars, and, second, the prevention of the
oppression of weak nations by strong ones. These
two objects do not by any means necessarily lead in
the same direction, since one of the easiest ways of
securing the world's peace would be by a combination
of the most powerful States for the exploitation and
oppression of the remainder. This method, however,
is not one which the lover of liberty can favor. We
must keep account of both aims and not be content
with either alone.

One of the commonplaces of both Socialism and
Anarchism is that all modern wars are due to capitalism,
and would cease if capitalism were abolished.
This view, to my mind, is only a half-truth; the half
that is true is important, but the half that is untrue
is perhaps equally important when a fundamental
reconstruction of society is being considered.

Socialist and Anarchist critics of existing society
point, with perfect truth, to certain capitalistic factors
which promote war. The first of these is the
desire of finance to find new fields of investment in
undeveloped countries. Mr. J. A. Hobson, an author
who is by no means extreme in his views, has well
stated this point in his book on ``The Evolution of
Modern Capitalism.''[55] He says:

[55] Walter Scott Publishing Company, 1906, p. 262.

The economic tap-root, the chief directing motive of
all the modern imperialistic expansion, is the pressure of
capitalist industries for markets, primarily markets for
investment, secondarily markets for surplus products of
home industry. Where the concentration of capital has
gone furthest, and where a rigorous protective system prevails,
this pressure is necessarily strongest. Not merely
do the trusts and other manufacturing trades that restrict
their output for the home market more urgently require
foreign markets, but they are also more anxious to secure
protected markets, and this can only be achieved by extending
the area of political rule. This is the essential
significance of the recent change in American foreign
policy as illustrated by the Spanish War, the Philippine
annexation, the Panama policy, and the new application
of the Monroe doctrine to the South American States.
South America is needed as a preferential market for
investment of trust ``profits'' and surplus trust products:
if in time these states can be brought within a Zollverein
under the suzerainty of the United States, the financial
area of operations receives a notable accession. China
as a field of railway enterprise and general industrial
development already begins to loom large in the eyes of
foresighted American business men; the growing trade
in American cotton and other goods in that country will
be a subordinate consideration to the expansion of the
area for American investments. Diplomatic pressure,
armed force, and, where desirable, seizure of territory for
political control, will be engineered by the financial magnates
who control the political destiny of America. The
strong and expensive American navy now beginning to
be built incidentally serves the purpose of affording
profitable contracts to the shipbuilding and metal industries:
its real meaning and use is to forward the aggressive
political policy imposed upon the nation by the economic
needs of the financial capitalists.

It should be clearly understood that this constant
pressure to extend the area of markets is not a necessary
implication of all forms of organized industry. If competition
was displaced by combinations of a genuinely
cooperative character in which the whole gain of improved
economies passed, either to the workers in wages,
or to large bodies of investors in dividends, the expansion
of demand in the home markets would be so great
as to give full employment to the productive powers of
concentrated capital, and there would be no self-accumulating
masses of profit expressing themselves in new
credit and demanding external employment. It is the
``monopoly'' profits of trusts and combines, taken either
in construction, financial operation, or industrial working,
that form a gathering fund of self-accumulating credit
whose possession by the financial class implies a contracted
demand for commodities and a correspondingly
restricted employment for capital in American industries.
Within certain limits relief can be found by stimulation
of the export trade under cover of a high protective
tariff which forbids all interference with monopoly of
the home markets. But it is extremely difficult for
trusts adapted to the requirements of a profitable tied
market at home to adjust their methods of free competition
in the world markets upon a profitable basis of
steady trading. Moreover, such a mode of expansion is
only appropriate to certain manufacturing trusts: the
owners of railroad, financial and other trusts must look
always more to foreign investments for their surplus
profits. This ever-growing need for fresh fields of investment
for their profits is the great crux of the financial
system, and threatens to dominate the future economics
and the politics of the great Republic.

The financial economy of American capitalism exhibits
in more dramatic shape a tendency common to the
finance of all developed industrial nations. The large,
easy flow of capital from Great Britain, Germany, Austria,
France, etc., into South African or Australian mines,
into Egyptian bonds, or the precarious securities of South
American republics, attests the same general pressure
which increases with every development of financial machinery
and the more profitable control of that machinery
by the class of professional financiers

The kind of way in which such conditions tend
toward war might have been illustrated, if Mr. Hobson
had been writing at a later date, by various more
recent cases. A higher rate of interest is obtainable
on enterprises in an undeveloped country than in a
developed one, provided the risks connected with an
unsettled government can be minimized. To minimize
these risks the financiers call in the assistance of the
military and naval forces of the country which they
are momentarily asserting to be theirs. In order to
have the support of public opinion in this demand
they have recourse to the power of the Press.

The Press is the second great factor to which
critics of capitalism point when they wish to prove
that capitalism is the source of modern war. Since
the running of a big newspaper requires a large capital,
the proprietors of important organs necessarily
belong to the capitalist class, and it will be a rare
and exceptional event if they do not sympathize with
their own class in opinion and outlook. They are
able to decide what news the great mass of newspaper
readers shall be allowed to have. They can
actually falsify the news, or, without going so far
as that, they can carefully select it, giving such items
as will stimulate the passions which they desire to
stimulate, and suppressing such items as would provide
the antidote. In this way the picture of the
world in the mind of the average newspaper reader
is made to be not a true picture, but in the main
that which suits the interests of capitalists. This is
true in many directions, but above all in what con-
cerns the relations between nations. The mass of the
population of a country can be led to love or hate
any other country at the will of the newspaper proprietors,
which is often, directly or indirectly, influenced
by the will of the great financiers. So long as
enmity between England and Russia was desired,
our newspapers were full of the cruel treatment meted
out to Russian political prisoners, the oppression of
Finland and Russian Poland, and other such topics.
As soon as our foreign policy changed, these items
disappeared from the more important newspapers,
and we heard instead of the misdeeds of Germany.
Most men are not sufficiently critical to be on their
guard against such influences, and until they are, the
power of the Press will remain.

Besides these two influences of capitalism in
promoting war, there is another, much less emphasized
by the critics of capitalism, but by no means less
important: I mean the pugnacity which tends to be
developed in men who have the habit of command.
So long as capitalist society persists, an undue measure
of power will be in the hands of those who have
acquired wealth and influence through a great position
in industry or finance. Such men are in the
habit, in private life, of finding their will seldom
questioned; they are surrounded by obsequious satellites
and are not infrequently engaged in conflicts
with Trade Unions. Among their friends and
acquaintances are included those who hold high positions
in government or administration, and these men
equally are liable to become autocratic through the
habit of giving orders. It used to be customary to
speak of the ``governing classes,'' but nominal democracy
has caused this phrase to go out of fashion.
Nevertheless, it still retains much truth; there are
still in any capitalist community those who command
and those who as a rule obey. The outlook of these
two classes is very different, though in a modern
society there is a continuous gradation from the extreme
of the one to the extreme of the other. The
man who is accustomed to find submission to his will
becomes indignant on the occasions when he finds
opposition. Instinctively he is convinced that opposition
is wicked and must be crushed. He is therefore
much more willing than the average citizen to resort
to war against his rivals. Accordingly we find,
though, of course, with very notable exceptions,
that in the main those who have most power are
most warlike, and those who have least power are
least disposed to hatred of foreign nations. This is
one of the evils inseparable from the concentration
of power. It will only be cured by the abolition of
capitalism if the new system is one which allows very
much less power to single individuals. It will not be
cured by a system which substitutes the power of
Ministers or officials for the power of capitalists
This is one reason, additional to those mentioned in
the preceding chapter, for desiring to see a diminution
in the authority of the State.

Not only does the concentration of power tend
to cause wars, but, equally, wars and the fear of them
bring about the necessity for the concentration of
power. So long as the community is exposed to
sudden dangers, the possibility of quick decision is
absolutely necessary to self-preservation. The cumbrous
machinery of deliberative decisions by the
people is impossible in a crisis, and therefore so long
as crises are likely to occur, it is impossible to abolish
the almost autocratic power of governments. In this
case, as in most others, each of two correlative evils
tends to perpetuate the other. The existence of men
with the habit of power increases the risk of war,
and the risk of war makes it impossible to establish
a system where no man possesses great power.

So far we have been considering what is true in
the contention that capitalism causes modern wars.
It is time now to look at the other side, and to ask
ourselves whether the abolition of capitalism would,
by itself, be sufficient to prevent war.

I do not myself believe that this is the case. The
outlook of both Socialists and Anarchists seems to
me, in this respect as in some others, to be unduly
divorced from the fundamental instincts of human
nature. There were wars before there was capital-
ism, and fighting is habitual among animals. The
power of the Press in promoting war is entirely due
to the fact that it is able to appeal to certain
instincts. Man is naturally competitive, acquisitive,
and, in a greater or less degree, pugnacious. When
the Press tells him that so-and-so is his enemy, a whole
set of instincts in him responds to the suggestion. It
is natural to most men to suppose that they have
enemies and to find a certain fulfillment of their nature
when they embark upon a contest. What a man
believes upon grossly insufficient evidence is an index
to his desires--desires of which he himself is often
unconscious. If a man is offered a fact which goes
against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and
unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to
believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something
which affords a reason for acting in accordance
with his instincts, he will accept it even on the slenderest
evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this
way, and much of what is currently believed in
international affairs is no better than myth. Although
capitalism affords in modern society the channel by
which the instinct of pugnacity finds its outlet, there
is reason to fear that, if this channel were closed,
some other would be found, unless education and
environment were so changed as enormously to diminish
the strength of the competitive instinct. If an
economic reorganization can effect this it may pro-
vide a real safeguard against war, but if not, it is
to be feared that the hopes of universal peace will
prove delusive.

The abolition of capitalism might, and very likely
would, greatly diminish the incentives to war which
are derived from the Press and from the desire of
finance to find new fields for investment in undeveloped
countries, but those which are derived from the
instinct of command and the impatience of opposition
might remain, though perhaps in a less virulent
form than at present. A democracy which has power
is almost always more bellicose than one which is
excluded from its due share in the government. The
internationalism of Marx is based upon the assumption
that the proletariat everywhere are oppressed by
the ruling classes. The last words of the Communist
Manifesto embody this idea--

Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic
revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but
their chains. They have a world to win. Working men
of all countries, unite!

So long as the proletarians have nothing to lose
but their chains, it is not likely that their enmity
will be directed against other proletarians. If the
world had developed as Marx expected, the kind of
internationalism which he foresaw might have inspired
a universal social revolution. Russia, which devel-
oped more nearly than any other country upon the
lines of his system, has had a revolution of the kind
which he expected. If the development in other countries
had been similar, it is highly probable that this
revolution would have spread throughout the civilized
world. The proletariat of all countries might have
united against the capitalists as their common
enemy, and in the bond of an identical hatred they
might for the moment have been free from hatred
toward each other. Even then, this ground of union
would have ceased with their victory, and on the morrow
of the social revolution the old national rivalries
might have revived. There is no alchemy by which
a universal harmony can be produced out of hatred.
Those who have been inspired to action by the doctrine
of the class war will have acquired the habit
of hatred, and will instinctively seek new enemies
when the old ones have been vanquished.

But in actual fact the psychology of the working
man in any of the Western democracies is totally
unlike that which is assumed in the Communist
Manifesto. He does not by any means feel that he
has nothing to lose but his chains, nor indeed is this
true. The chains which bind Asia and Africa in
subjection to Europe are partly riveted by him. He is
himself part of a great system of tyranny and
exploitation. Universal freedom would remove, not only
his own chains, which are comparatively light, but
the far heavier chains which he has helped to fasten
upon the subject races of the world.

Not only do the working men of a country like
England have a share in the benefit accruing from the
exploitation of inferior races, but many among them
also have their part in the capitalist system. The
funds of Trade Unions and Friendly Societies are
invested in ordinary undertakings, such as railways;
many of the better-paid wage-earners have put their
savings into government securities; and almost all
who are politically active feel themselves part of the
forces that determine public policy, through the
power of the Labor Party and the greater unions.
Owing to these causes their outlook on life has become
to a considerable extent impregnated with capitalism
and as their sense of power has grown, their
nationalism has increased. This must continue to
be true of any internationalism which is based upon
hatred of the capitalist and adherence to the doctrine
of the class war. Something more positive
and constructive than this is needed if governing
democracies are not to inherit the vices of governing
classes in the past.

I do not wish to be thought to deny that capitalism
does very much to promote wars, or that wars
would probably be less frequent and less destructive
if private property were abolished. On the contrary,
I believe that the abolition of private ownership of
land and capital is a necessary step toward any
world in which the nations are to live at peace with
one another. I am only arguing that this step, necessary
as it is, will not alone suffice for this end, but that
among the causes of war there are others that go
deeper into the roots of human nature than any that
orthodox Socialists are wont to acknowledge.

Let us take an instance. In Australia and California
there is an intense dislike and fear toward the
yellow races. The causes of this are complex; the
chief among them are two, labor competition and
instinctive race-hatred. It is probable that, if race-
hatred did not exist, the difficulties of labor competition
could be overcome. European immigrants also
compete, but they are not excluded. In a sparsely
populated country, industrious cheap labor could,
with a little care, be so utilized as to enrich the existing
inhabitants; it might, for example, be confined to
certain kinds of work, by custom if not by law. But
race-hatred opens men's minds to the evils of
competition and closes them against the advantages of
co-operation; it makes them regard with horror the
somewhat unfamiliar vices of the aliens, while our
own vices are viewed with mild toleration. I cannot
but think that, if Australia were completely socialized,
there would still remain the same popular objection
as at present to any large influx of Chinese or
Japanese labor. Yet if Japan also were to become a
Socialist State, the Japanese might well continue to
feel the pressure of population and the desire for an
outlet. In such circumstances, all the passions and
interests required to produce a war would exist, in
spite of the establishment of Socialism in both countries.
Ants are as completely Socialistic as any community
can possibly be, yet they put to death any
ant which strays among them by mistake from a
neighboring ant-heap. Men do not differ much from
ants, as regards their instincts in this respect, where-
ever there is a great divergence of race, as between
white men and yellow men. Of course the instinct of
race-hostility can be overcome by suitable circumstances;
but in the absence of such circumstances it
remains a formidable menace to the world's peace.

If the peace of the world is ever to become secure,
I believe there will have to be, along with other
changes, a development of the idea which inspires the
project of a League of Nations. As time goes on, the
destructiveness of war grows greater and its profits
grow less: the rational argument against war acquires
more and more force as the increasing productivity
of labor makes it possible to devote a greater
and greater proportion of the population to the work
of mutual slaughter. In quiet times, or when a great
war has just ended, men's moods are amenable to
the rational grounds in favor of peace, and it is
possible to inaugurate schemes designed to make wars
less frequent. Probably no civilized nation would
embark upon an aggressive war if it were fairly
certain in advance that the aggressor must be defeated.
This could be achieved if most great nations
came to regard the peace of the world as of such
importance that they would side against an aggressor
even in a quarrel in which they had no direct interest.
It is on this hope that the League of Nations is based.

But the League of Nations, like the abolition of
private property, will be by no means sufficient if it
is not accompanied or quickly followed by other
reforms. It is clear that such reforms, if they are
to be effective, must be international; the world must
move as a whole in these matters, if it is to move at
all. One of the most obvious necessities, if peace is to
be secure, is a measure of disarmament. So long as
the present vast armies and navies exist, no system
can prevent the risk of war. But disarmament, if it
is to serve its purpose, must be simultaneous and by
mutual agreement among all the Great Powers. And
it is not likely to be successful so long as hatred and
suspicion rule between nations, for each nation will
suspect its neighbor of not carrying out the bargain
fairly. A different mental and moral atmosphere
from that to which we are accustomed in international
affairs will be necessary if agreements between nations
are to succeed in averting catastrophes. If once such
an atmosphere existed it might be perpetuated and
strengthened by wise institutions; but it cannot be
CREATED by institutions alone. International co-operation
requires mutual good will, and good will, however
it has arisen, is only to be PRESERVED by co-operation.
The international future depends upon the possibility
of the initial creation of good will between nations.

It is in this sort of matter that revolutions are
most useful. If the Russian Revolution had been
accompanied by a revolution in Germany, the dramatic
suddenness of the change might have shaken
Europe, for the moment, out of its habits of thought:
the idea of fraternity might have seemed, in the
twinkling of an eye, to have entered the world of
practical politics; and no idea is so practical as the
idea of the brotherhood of man, if only people can be
startled into believing in it. If once the idea of
fraternity between nations were inaugurated with the
faith and vigor belonging to a new revolution, all the
difficulties surrounding it would melt away, for all
of them are due to suspicion and the tyranny of
ancient prejudice. Those who (as is common in the
English-speaking world) reject revolution as a
method, and praise the gradual piecemeal development
which (we are told) constitutes solid progress,
overlook the effect of dramatic events in changing
the mood and the beliefs of whole populations. A
simultaneous revolution in Germany and Russia
would no doubt have had such an effect, and would
have made the creation of a new world possible here
and now.

Dis aliter visum: the millennium is not for our
time. The great moment has passed, and for ourselves
it is again the distant hope that must inspire
us, not the immediate breathless looking for the
deliverance.[56] But we have seen what might have been,
and we know that great possibilities do arise in times
of crisis. In some such sense as this, it may well
be true that the Socialist revolution is the road to
universal peace, and that when it has been traversed
all the other conditions for the cessation of
wars will grow of themselves out of the changed
mental and moral atmosphere.

[56] This was written in March, 1918, almost the darkest
moment of the war.

There is a certain class of difficulties which surrounds
the sober idealist in all speculations about the
not too distant future. These are the cases where
the solution believed by most idealists to be universally
applicable is for some reason impossible, and is,
at the same time, objected to for base or interested
motives by all upholders of existing inequalities. The
case of Tropical Africa will illustrate what I mean.
It would be difficult seriously to advocate the immediate
introduction of parliamentary government for
the natives of this part of the world, even if it were
accompanied by women's suffrage and proportional
representation. So far as I know, no one supposes
the populations of these regions capable of self-
determination, except Mr. Lloyd George. There can
be no doubt that, whatever regime may be introduced
in Europe, African negroes will for a long time to
come be governed and exploited by Europeans. If
the European States became Socialistic, and refused,
under a Quixotic impulse, to enrich themselves at the
expense of the defenseless inhabitants of Africa,
those inhabitants would not thereby gain; on the
contrary, they would lose, for they would be handed
over to the tender mercies of individual traders,
operating with armies of reprobate bravos, and committing
every atrocity to which the civilized barbarian
is prone. The European governments cannot divest
themselves of responsibility in regard to Africa.
They must govern there, and the best that can be
hoped is that they should govern with a minimum
of cruelty and rapacity. From the point of view of
preserving the peace of the world, the problem is to
parcel out the advantages which white men derive
from their position in Africa in such a way that no
nation shall feel a sense of injustice. This problem
is comparatively simple, and might no doubt be solved
on the lines of the war aims of the Inter-Allied Socialists.
But it is not this problem which I wish to discuss.
What I wish to consider is, how could a Socialist
or an Anarchist community govern and administer
an African region, full of natural wealth, but
inhabited by a quite uncivilized population? Unless
great precautions were taken the white community,
under the circumstances, would acquire the
position and the instincts of a slave-owner. It
would tend to keep the negroes down to the bare level
of subsistence, while using the produce of their
country to increase the comfort and splendor of the
Communist community. It would do this with that
careful unconsciousness which now characterizes all
the worst acts of nations. Administrators would be
appointed and would be expected to keep silence as
to their methods. Busybodies who reported horrors
would be disbelieved, and would be said to be actuated
by hatred toward the existing regime and by a perverse
love for every country but their own. No doubt,
in the first generous enthusiasm accompanying the
establishment of the new regime at home, there would
be every intention of making the natives happy, but
gradually they would be forgotten, and only the
tribute coming from their country would be
remembered. I do not say that all these evils are
unavoidable; I say only that they will not be avoided
unless they are foreseen and a deliberate conscious
effort is made to prevent their realization. If the
white communities should ever reach the point of
wishing to carry out as far as possible the principles
underlying the revolt against capitalism, they will
have to find a way of establishing an absolute
disinterestedness in their dealings with subject races. It
will be necessary to avoid the faintest suggestion of
capitalistic profit in the government of Africa, and
to spend in the countries themselves whatever they
would be able to spend if they were self-governing.
Moreover, it must always be remembered that backwardness
in civilization is not necessarily incurable,
and that with time even the populations of Central
Africa may become capable of democratic self-government,
provided Europeans bend their energies to
this purpose.

The problem of Africa is, of course, a part of the
wider problems of Imperialism, but it is that part in
which the application of Socialist principles is most
difficult. In regard to Asia, and more particularly
in regard to India and Persia, the application of
principles is clear in theory though difficult in political
practice. The obstacles to self-government which
exist in Africa do not exist in the same measure in
Asia. What stands in the way of freedom of Asiatic
populations is not their lack of intelligence, but only
their lack of military prowess, which makes them an
easy prey to our lust for dominion. This lust would
probably be in temporary abeyance on the morrow of
a Socialist revolution, and at such a moment a new
departure in Asiatic policy might be taken with
permanently beneficial results. I do not mean, of
course, that we should force upon India that form
of democratic government which we have developed
for our own needs. I mean rather that we should
leave India to choose its own form of government, its
own manner of education and its own type of civilization.
India has an ancient tradition, very different
from that of Western Europe, a tradition highly
valued by educated Hindoos, but not loved by our
schools and colleges. The Hindoo Nationalist feels
that his country has a type of culture containing elements
of value that are absent, or much less marked,
in the West; he wishes to be free to preserve this,
and desires political freedom for such reasons rather
than for those that would most naturally appeal to
an Englishman in the same subject position. The
belief of the European in his own Kultur tends to be
fanatical and ruthless, and for this reason, as much as
for any other, the independence of extra-European
civilization is of real importance to the world, for it is
not by a dead uniformity that the world as a whole is
most enriched.

I have set forth strongly all the major difficulties
in the way of the preservation of the world's peace,
not because I believe these difficulties to be insuperable,
but, on the contrary, because I believe that they
can be overcome if they are recognized. A correct
diagnosis is necessarily the first step toward a cure.
The existing evils in international relations spring,
at bottom, from psychological causes, from motives
forming part of human nature as it is at present.
Among these the chief are competitiveness, love of
power, and envy, using envy in that broad sense in
which it includes the instinctive dislike of any gain
to others not accompanied by an at least equal gain
to ourselves. The evils arising from these three
causes can be removed by a better education and a
better economic and political system.

Competitiveness is by no means wholly an evil.
When it takes the form of emulation in the service
of the public, or in discovery or the production of
works of art, it may become a very useful stimulus,
urging men to profitable effort beyond what they
would otherwise make. It is only harmful when it
aims at the acquisition of goods which are limited
in amount, so that what one man possesses he holds at
the expense of another. When competitiveness takes
this form it is necessarily attended by fear, and out
of fear cruelty is almost inevitably developed. But a
social system providing for a more just distribution
of material goods might close to the instinct of
competitiveness those channels in which it is harmful,
and cause it to flow instead in channels in which it
would become a benefit to mankind. This is one great
reason why the communal ownership of land and capital
would be likely to have a beneficial effect upon
human nature, for human nature, as it exists in adult
men and women, is by no means a fixed datum, but
a product of circumstances, education and opportunity
operating upon a highly malleable native

What is true of competitiveness is equally true
of love of power. Power, in the form in which it is
now usually sought, is power of command, power of
imposing one's will upon others by force, open or
concealed. This form of power consists, in essence, in
thwarting others, for it is only displayed when others
are compelled to do what they do not wish to do.
Such power, we hope, the social system which is to
supersede capitalist will reduce to a minimum by the
methods which we outlined in the preceding chapter.
These methods can be applied in international no
less than in national affairs. In international affairs
the same formula of federalism will apply: self-
determination for every group in regard to matters which
concern it much more vitally than they concern
others, and government by a neutral authority embracing
rival groups in all matters in which conflicting
interests of groups come into play; lout always
with the fixed principle that the functions of government
are to be reduced to the bare minimum compatible
with justice and the prevention of private
violence. In such a world the present harmful outlets
for the love of power would be closed. But the
power which consists in persuasion, in teaching, in
leading men to a new wisdom or the realization of
new possibilities of happiness--this kind of power,
which may be wholly beneficial, would remain untouched,
and many vigorous men, who in the actual
world devote their energies to domination, would in
such a world find their energies directed to the creation
of new goods rather than the perpetuation of
ancient evils.

Envy, the third of the psychological causes to
which we attributed what is bad in the actual world,
depends in most natures upon that kind of fundamental
discontent which springs from a lack of
free development, from thwarted instinct, and
from the impossibility of realizing an imagined
happiness. Envy cannot be cured by preaching;
preaching, at the best, will only alter its manifestations
and lead it to adopt more subtle forms of concealment.
Except in those rare natures in which
generosity dominates in spite of circumstances, the
only cure for envy is freedom and the joy of life.
From populations largely deprived of the simple
instinctive pleasures of leisure and love, sunshine and
green fields, generosity of outlook and kindliness
of dispositions are hardly to be expected. In such
populations these qualities are not likely to be found,
even among the fortunate few, for these few are
aware, however dimly, that they are profiting by an
injustice, and that they can only continue to enjoy
their good fortune by deliberately ignoring those
with whom it is not shared. If generosity and kindliness
are to be common, there must be more care
than there is at present for the elementary wants of
human nature, and more realization that the diffusion
of happiness among all who are not the victims of
some peculiar misfortune is both possible and imperative.
A world full of happiness would not wish to
plunge into war, and would not be filled with that
grudging hostility which our cramped and narrow
existence forces upon average human nature. A world
full of happiness is not beyond human power to
create; the obstacles imposed by inanimate nature
are not insuperable. The real obstacles lie in the
heart of man, and the cure for these is a firm hope,
informed and fortified by thought.



SOCIALISM has been advocated by most of its
champions chiefly as a means of increasing the welfare
of the wage earning classes, and more particularly
their material welfare. It has seemed accordingly,
to some men whose aims are not material, as
if it has nothing to offer toward the general
advancement of civilization in the way of art and
thought. Some of its advocates, moreover--and
among these Marx must be included--have written,
no doubt not deliberately, as if with the Socialist
revolution the millennium would have arrived, and
there would be no need of further progress for the
human race. I do not know whether our age is more
restless than that which preceded it, or whether it
has merely become more impregnated with the idea
of evolution, but, for whatever reason, we have
grown incapable of believing in a state of static
perfection, and we demand, of any social system,
which is to have our approval, that it shall contain
within itself a stimulus and opportunity for progress
toward something still better. The doubts thus
raised by Socialist writers make it necessary to
inquire whether Socialism would in fact be hostile to
art and science, and whether it would be likely to
produce a stereotyped society in which progress
would become difficult and slow.

It is not enough that men and women should be
made comfortable in a material sense. Many members
of the well-to-do classes at present, in spite of
opportunity, contribute nothing of value to the life
of the world, and do not even succeed in securing for
themselves any personal happiness worthy to be so
called. The multiplication of such individuals would
be an achievement of the very minutest value; and
if Socialism were merely to bestow upon all the
kind of life and outlook which is now enjoyed by
the more apathetic among the well-to-do, it would
offer little that could inspire enthusiasm in any
generous spirit.

``The true role of collective existence,'' says M.
Naquet,[57]'' . . . is to learn, to discover, to know.
Eating, drinking, sleeping, living, in a word, is a
mere accessory. In this respect, we are not
distinguished from the brute. Knowledge is the goal.
If I were condemned to choose between a humanity
materially happy, glutted after the manner of a
flock of sheep in a field, and a humanity existing in
misery, but from which emanated, here and there,
some eternal truth, it is on the latter that my choice
would fall.''

[57] ``L'Anarchie et le Collectivisme,'' p. 114.

This statement puts the alternative in a very
extreme form in which it is somewhat unreal. It may
be said in reply that for those who have had the
leisure and the opportunity to enjoy ``eternal
truths'' it is easy to exalt their importance at the
expense of sufferings which fall on others. This is
true; but, if it is taken as disposing of the question,
it leaves out of account the importance of thought
for progress. Viewing the life of mankind as a whole,
in the future as well as in the present, there can be
no question that a society in which some men pursue
knowledge while others endure great poverty offers
more hope of ultimate good than a society in which
all are sunk in slothful comfort. It is true that
poverty is a great evil, but it is not true that material
prosperity is in itself a great good. If it is to have
any real value to society, it must be made a means to
the advancement of those higher goods that belong
to the life of the mind. But the life of the mind does
not consist of thought and knowledge alone, nor
can it be completely healthy unless it has some
instinctive contact, however deeply buried, with the
general life of the community. Divorced from the
social instinct, thought, like art, tends to become
finicky and precious. It is the position of such art
and thought as is imbued with the instinctive sense
of service to mankind that we wish to consider, for
it is this alone that makes up the life of the mind
in the sense in which it is a vital part of the life of
the community. Will the life of the mind in this
sense be helped or hindered by Socialism? And will
there still be a sufficient spur to progress to prevent
a condition of Byzantine immobility?

In considering this question we are, in a certain
sense, passing outside the atmosphere of democracy.
The general good of the community is realized only
in individuals, but it is realized much more fully in
some individuals than in others. Some men have a
comprehensive and penetrating intellect, enabling
them to appreciate and remember what has been
thought and known by their predecessors, and to
discover new regions in which they enjoy all the
high delights of the mental explorer. Others have
the power of creating beauty, giving bodily form to
impalpable visions out of which joy comes to many.
Such men are more fortunate than the mass, and also
more important for the collective life. A larger share
of the general sum of good is concentrated in them
than in the ordinary man and woman; but also their
contribution to the general good is greater. They
stand out among men and cannot be wholly fitted
into the framework of democratic equality. A social
system which would render them unproductive would
stand condemned, whatever other merits it might

The first thing to realize--though it is difficult in
a commercial age--is that what is best in creative
mental activity cannot be produced by any system
of monetary rewards. Opportunity and the stimulus
of an invigorating spiritual atmosphere are important,
but, if they are presented, no financial inducements
will be required, while if they are absent,
material compensations will be of no avail. Recognition,
even if it takes the form of money, can bring a
certain pleasure in old age to the man of science
who has battled all his life against academic
prejudice, or to the artist who has endured years of
ridicule for not painting in the manner of his
predecessors; but it is not by the remote hope of such
pleasures that their work has been inspired. All
the most important work springs from an uncalculating
impulse, and is best promoted, not by rewards
after the event, but by circumstances which keep the
impulse alive and afford scope for the activities
which it inspires. In the creation of such circumstances
our present system is much at fault. Will
Socialism be better?

I do not think this question can be answered
without specifying the kind of Socialism that is intended:
some forms of Socialism would, I believe, be
even more destructive in this respect than the present
capitalist regime, while others would be immeasurably
better. Three things which a social system can
provide or withhold are helpful to mental creation:
first, technical training; second, liberty to follow
the creative impulse; third, at least the possibility of
ultimate appreciation by some public, whether large
or small. We may leave out of our discussion both
individual genius and those intangible conditions
which make some ages great and others sterile in art
and science--not because these are unimportant, but
because they are too little understood to be taken
account of in economic or political organization.
The three conditions we have mentioned seem to cover
most of what can be SEEN to be useful or harmful
from our present point of view, and it is therefore
to them that we shall confine ourselves.

1. Technical Training.--Technical training at
present, whether in science or art, requires one or
other of two conditions. Either a boy must be the
son of well-to-do parents who can afford to keep
him while he acquires his education, or he must show
so much ability at an early age as to enable him to
subsist on scholarships until he is ready to earn his
living. The former condition is, of course, a mere
matter of luck, and could not be preserved in its
present form under any kind of Socialism or Communism.
This loss is emphasized by defenders of the
present system, and no doubt it would be, to same
extent, a real loss. But the well-to-do are a small
proportion of the population, and presumably on the
average no more talented by nature than their less
fortunate contemporaries. If the advantages which
are enjoyed now by those few among them who are
capable of good work in science or art could be
extended, even in a slightly attenuated form, to all
who are similarly gifted, the result would almost
infallibly be a gain, and much ability which is now
wasted would be rendered fruitful. But how is this
to be effected?

The system of scholarships obtained by competition,
though better than nothing, is objectionable
from many points of view. It introduces the competitive
spirit into the work of the very young; it
makes them regard knowledge from the standpoint
of what is useful in examinations rather than in the
light of its intrinsic interest or importance; it places
a premium upon that sort of ability which is displayed
precociously in glib answers to set questions
rather than upon the kind that broods on difficulties
and remains for a time rather dumb. What is perhaps
worse than any of these defects is the tendency
to cause overwork in youth, leading to lack of vigor
and interest when manhood has been reached. It
can hardly be doubted that by this cause, at present,
many fine minds have their edge blunted and their
keenness destroyed.

State Socialism might easily universalize the
system of scholarships obtained by competitive examination,
and if it did so it is to he feared that it
would be very harmful. State Socialists at present
tend to be enamored of the systems which is exactly
of the kind that every bureaucrat loves: orderly,
neat, giving a stimulus to industrious habits, and
involving no waste of a sort that could be tabulated
in statistics or accounts of public expenditure.
Such men will argue that free higher education is
expensive to the community, and only useful in the
case of those who have exceptional abilities; it
ought, therefore, they will say, not to be given to all,
but only to those who will become more useful members
of society through receiving it. Such arguments
make a great appeal to what are called ``practical''
men, and the answers to them are of a sort which it
is difficult to render widely convincing. Revolt
against the evils of competition is, however, part
of the very essence of the Socialist's protest against
the existing order, and on this ground, if on no other,
those who favor Socialism may be summoned to look
for some better solution.

Much the simplest solution, and the only really
effective one, is to make every kind of education free
up to the age of twenty-one for all boys and girls
who desire it. The majority will be tired of education
before that age, and will prefer to begin other
work sooner; this will lead to a natural selection of
those with strong interests in some pursuit requiring
a long training. Among those selected in this way
by their own inclinations, probably almost all tho
have marked abilities of the kind in question will be
included. It is true that there will also be many
who have very little ability; the desire to become a
painter, for example, is by no means confined to
those who can paint. But this degree of waste could
well be borne by the community; it would be immeasurably
less than that now entailed by the support
of the idle rich. Any system which aims at
avoiding this kind of waste must entail the far more
serious waste of rejecting or spoiling some of the
best ability in each generation. The system of free
education up to any grade for all who desire it is
the only system which is consistent with the principles
of liberty, and the only one which gives a reasonable
hope of affording full scope for talent. This system
is equally compatible with all forms of Socialism
and Anarchism. Theoretically, it is compatible with
capitalism, but practically it is so opposite in spirit
that it would hardly be feasible without a complete
economic reconstruction. The fact that Socialism
would facilitate it must be reckoned a very powerful
argument in favor of change, for the waste of talent
at present in the poorer classes of society must be

2. Liberty to follow the creative impulse.--
When a man's training has been completed, if he is
possessed of really great abilities, he will do his best
work if he is completely free to follow his bent,
creating what seems good to him, regardless of the
judgment of ``experts.'' At present this is only
possible for two classes of people: those who have
private means, and those who can earn a living by
an occupation that does not absorb their whole
energies. Under Socialism, there will be no one with
private means, and if there is to be no loss as
regards art and science, the opportunity which now
comes by accident to a few will have to be provided
deliberately for a much larger number. The men
who have used private means as an opportunity for
creative work have been few but important: one
might mention Milton, Shelley, Keats and Darwin as
examples. Probably none of these would have produced
as good work if they had had to earn their
livelihood. If Darwin had been a university teacher,
he would of course have been dismissed from his post
by the influence of the clerics on account of his
scandalous theories.

Nevertheless, the bulk of the creative work of the
world is done at present by men who subsist by
some other occupation. Science, and research generally,
are usually done in their spare time by men
who live by teaching. There is no great objection to
this in the case of science, provided the number of
hours devoted to teaching is not excessive. It is
partly because science and teaching are so easily
combined that science is vigorous in the present age.
In music, a composer who is also a performer enjoys
similar advantages, but one who is not a performer
must starve, unless he is rich or willing to pander to
the public taste. In the fine arts, as a rule, it is not
easy in the modern world either to make a living by
really good work or to find a subsidiary profession
which leaves enough leisure for creation. This is
presumably one reason, though by no means the only
one, why art is less flourishing than science.

The bureaucratic State Socialist will have a
simple solution for these difficulties. He will appoint
a body consisting of the most eminent celebrities in
an art or a science, whose business it shall be to judge
the work of young men, and to issue licenses to those
whose productions find favor in their eyes. A licensed
artist shall be considered to have performed his duty
to the community by producing works of art. But of
course he will have to prove his industry by never
failing to produce in reasonable quantities, and his
continued ability by never failing to please his
eminent judges--until, in the fulness of time, he
becomes a judge himself. In this way, the authorities
will insure that the artist shall be competent,
regular, and obedient to the best traditions of his
art. Those who fail to fulfil these conditions will be
compelled by the withdrawal of their license to seek
some less dubious mode of earning their living. Such
will be the ideal of the State Socialist.

In such a world all that makes life tolerable to
the lover of beauty would perish. Art springs from
a wild and anarchic side of human nature; between
the artist and the bureaucrat there must always be
a profound mutual antagonism, an age-long battle
in which the artist, always outwardly worsted, wins
in the end through the gratitude of mankind for the
joy that he puts into their lives. If the wild side
of human nature is to be permanently subjected to
the orderly rules of the benevolent, uncomprehending
bureaucrat, the joy of life will perish out of the
earth, and the very impulse to live will gradually
wither and die. Better a thousandfold the present
world with all its horrors than such a dead mummy
of a world. Better Anarchism, with all its risks,
than a State Socialism that subjects to rule what
must be spontaneous and free if it is to have any
value. It is this nightmare that makes artists, and
lovers of beauty generally, so often suspicious of
Socialism. But there is nothing in the essence of
Socialism to make art impossible: only certain forms
of Socialism would entail this danger. William
Morris was a Socialist, and was a Socialist very
largely because he was an artist. And in this he
was not irrational.

It is impossible for art, or any of the higher
creative activities, to flourish under any system which
requires that the artist shall prove his competence to
some body of authorities before he is allowed to follow
his impulse. Any really great artist is almost
sure to be thought incompetent by those among his
seniors who would be generally regarded as best
qualified to form an opinion. And the mere fact of
having to produce work which will please older men
is hostile to a free spirit and to bold innovation.
Apart from this difficulty, selection by older men
would lead to jealousy and intrigue and back-biting,
producing a poisonous atmosphere of underground
competition. The only effect of such a plan would be
to eliminate the few who now slip through owing to
some fortunate accident. It is not by any system,
but by freedom alone, that art can flourish.

There are two ways by which the artist could
secure freedom under Socialism of the right kind.
He might undertake regular work outside his art,
doing only a few hours' work a day and receiving
proportionately less pay than those who do a full
day's work. He ought, in that case, to be at liberty
to sell his pictures if he could find purchasers. Such
a system would have many advantages. It would
leave absolutely every man free to become an artist,
provided he were willing to suffer a certain economic
loss. This would not deter those in whom the impulse
was strong and genuine, but would tend to
exclude the dilettante. Many young artists at
present endure voluntarily much greater poverty
than need be entailed by only doing half the usual
day's work in a well-organized Socialist community;
and some degree of hardship is not objectionable,
as a test of the strength of the creative impulse, and
as an offset to the peculiar joys of the creative life.

The other possibility[58] would be that the necessaries
of life should be free, as Anarchists desire, to
all equally, regardless of whether they work or not.
Under this plan, every man could live without work:
there would be what might be called a ``vagabond's
wage,'' sufficient for existence but not for luxury.
The artist who preferred to have his whole time for
art and enjoyment might live on the ``vagabond's
wage''--traveling on foot when the humor seized him
to see foreign countries, enjoying the air and the
sun, as free as the birds, and perhaps scarcely less
happy. Such men would bring color and diversity
into the life of the community; their outlook would be
different from that of steady, stay-at-home workers,
and would keep alive a much-needed element of light-
heartedness which our sober, serious civilization tends
to kill. If they became very numerous, they might
be too great an economic burden on the workers;
but I doubt if there are many with enough capacity
for simple enjoyments to choose poverty and free-
dom in preference to the comparatively light and
pleasant work which will be usual in those days.

[58] Which we discussed in Chapter IV.

By either of these methods, freedom can be preserved
for the artist in a socialistic commonwealth--
far more complete freedom, and far more widespread,
than any that now exists except for the possessors of

But there still remain some not altogether easy
problems. Take, for example, the publishing of books.
There will not, under Socialism, be private publishers
as at present: under State Socialism, presumably the
State will be the sole publisher, while under Syndicalism
or Guild Socialism the Federation du Livre
will have the whole of the trade in its hands. Under
these circumstances, who is to decide what MSS. are
to be printed? It is clear that opportunities exist
for an Index more rigorous than that of the Inquisition.
If the State were the sole publisher, it would
doubtless refuse books opposed to State Socialism.
If the Federation du Livre were the ultimate arbiter,
what publicity could be obtained for works criticising
it? And apart from such political difficulties
we should have, as regards literature, that
very censorship by eminent officials which we agreed
to regard as disastrous when we were considering the
fine arts in general. The difficulty is serious, and a
way of meeting it must be found if literature is to
remain free.

Kropotkin, who believes that manual and intellectual
work should be combined, holds that authors
themselves should be compositors, bookbinders, etc.
He even seems to suggest that the whole of the manual
work involved in producing books should be done by
authors. It may be doubted whether there are
enough authors in the world for this to be possible,
and in any case I cannot but think that it would
be a waste of time for them to leave the work they
understand in order to do badly work which others
could do far better and more quickly. That, however,
does not touch our present point, which is the
question how the MSS. to be printed will be selected.
In Kropotkin's plan there will presumably be an
Author's Guild, with a Committee of Management,
if Anarchism allows such things. This Committee
of Management will decide which of the books submitted
to it are worthy to be printed. Among these
will be included those by the Committee and their
friends, but not those by their enemies. Authors
of rejected MSS. will hardly have the patience to
spend their time setting up the works of successful
rivals, and there will have to be an elaborate system
of log-rolling if any books are to be printed at all.
It hardly looks as if this plan would conduce to harmony
among literary men, or would lead to the publication
of any book of an unconventional tendency.
Kropotkin's own books, for example, would hardly
have found favor.

The only way of meeting these difficulties, whether
under State Socialism or Guild Socialism or Anarchism,
seems to be by making it possible for an author
to pay for the publication of his book if it is not
such as the State or the Guild is willing to print at
its own expense. I am aware that this method is contrary
to the spirit of Socialism, but I do not see what
other way there is of securing freedom. The payment
might be made by undertaking to engage for
an assigned period in some work of recognized utility
and to hand over such proportion of the earnings as
might be necessary. The work undertaken might
of course be, as Kropotkin suggests, the manual part
of the production of books, but I see no special reason
why it should be. It would have to be an absolute
rule that no book should be refused, no matter what
the nature of its contents might be, if payment for
publication were offered at the standard rate. An
author who had admirers would be able to secure their
help in payment. An unknown author might, it is
true, have to suffer a considerable loss of comfort
in order to make his payment, but that would give
an automatic means of eliminating those whose writing
was not the result of any very profound impulse
and would be by no means wholly an evil.

Probably some similar method would be desirable
as regards the publishing and performing of new

What we have been suggesting will, no doubt, be
objected to by orthodox Socialists, since they will find
something repugnant to their principles in the whole
idea of a private person paying to have certain
work done. But it is a mistake to be the slave of a
system, and every system, if it is applied rigidly, will
entail evils which could only be avoided by some
concession to the exigencies of special cases. On the
whole, a wise form of Socialism might afford infinitely
better opportunities for the artist and the man of
science than are possible in a capitalist community,
but only if the form of Socialism adopted is one
which is fitted for this end by means of provisions
such as we have been suggesting.

3. Possibility of Appreciation.--This condition
is one which is not necessary to all who do creative
work, but in the sense in which I mean it the great
majority find it very nearly indispensable. I do not
mean widespread public recognition, nor that ignorant,
half-sincere respect which is commonly accorded
to artists who have achieved success. Neither of
these serves much purpose. What I mean is rather
understanding, and a spontaneous feeling that things
of beauty are important. In a thoroughly commercialized
society, an artist is respected if he makes
money, and because he makes money, but there is no
genuine respect for the works of art by which his
money has been made. A millionaire whose fortune
has been made in button-hooks or chewing-gum is
regarded with awe, but none of this feeling is
bestowed on the articles from which his wealth is
derived. In a society which measures all things by
money the same tends to be true of the artist. If he
has become rich he is respected, though of course
less than the millionaire, but his pictures or books
or music are regarded as the chewing-gum or the button-
hooks are regarded, merely as a means to money.
In such an atmosphere it is very difficult for the artist
to preserve his creative impulse pure: either he is
contaminated by his surroundings, or he becomes
embittered through lack of appreciation for the object
of his endeavor.

It is not appreciation of the artist that is necessary
so much as appreciation of the art. It is difficult
for an artist to live in an environment in which
everything is judged by its utility, rather than by its
intrinsic quality. The whole side of life of which
art is the flower requires something which may be
called disinterestedness, a capacity for direct
enjoyment without thought of tomorrow's problems and
difficulties. When people are amused by a joke they
do not need to be persuaded that it will serve some
important purpose. The same kind of direct pleasure
is involved in any genuine appreciation of art.
The struggle for life, the serious work of a trade or
profession, is apt to make people too solemn for
jokes and too pre-occupied for art. The easing of
the struggle, the diminution in the hours of work, and
the lightening of the burden of existence, which would
result from a better economic system, could hardly
fail to increase the joy of life and the vital energy,
available for sheer delight in the world. And if this
were achieved there would inevitably be more spontaneous
pleasure in beautiful things, and more enjoyment
of the work of artists. But none of these good
results are to be expected from the mere removal
of poverty: they all require also a diffused sense of
freedom, and the absence of that feeling of oppression
by a vast machine which now weighs down the individual
spirit. I do not think State Socialism can give
this sense of freedom, but some other forms of Socialism,
which have absorbed what is true in Anarchist
teaching, can give it to a degree of which capitalism is
wholly incapable.

A general sense of progress and achievement is
an immense stimulus to all forms of creative work.
For this reason, a great deal will depend, not only
in material ways, upon the question whether methods
of production in industry and agriculture become
stereotyped or continue to change rapidly as they
have done during the last hundred years. Improved
methods of production will be much more obviously
than now to the interest of the community at large,
when what every man receives is his due share of the
total produce of labor. But there will probably not
be any individuals with the same direct and intense
interest in technical improvements as now belongs
to the capitalist in manufacture. If the natural
conservatism of the workers is not to prove stronger
than their interest in increasing production, it will
be necessary that, when better methods are introduced
by the workers in any industry, part at least
of the benefit should be allowed for a time to be
retained by them. If this is done, it may be presumed
that each Guild will be continually seeking for new
processes or inventions, and will value those technical
parts of scientific research which are useful for this
purpose. With every improvement, the question will
arise whether it is to be used to give more leisure or to
increase the dividend of commodities. Where there
is so much more leisure than there is now, there will
be many more people with a knowledge of science or
an understanding of art. The artist or scientific
investigator will be far less cut off than he is at
present from the average citizen, and this will almost
inevitably be a stimulus to his creative energy.

I think we may fairly conclude that, from the
point of view of all three requisites for art and science,
namely, training, freedom and appreciation, State
Socialism would largely fail to remove existing
evils and would introduce new evils of its own; but
Guild Socialism, or even Syndicalism, if it adopted
a liberal policy toward those who preferred to work
less than the usual number of hours at recognized
occupations, might be immeasurably preferable to
anything that is possible under the rule of capitalism.
There are dangers, but they will all vanish if the
importance of liberty is adequately acknowledged.
In this as in nearly everything else, the road to all
that is best is the road of freedom.



IN the daily lives of most men and women, fear
plays a greater part than hope: they are more
filled with the thought of the possessions that others
may take from them, than of the joy that they might
create in their own lives and in the lives with which
they come in contact.

It is not so that life should be lived.

Those whose lives are fruitful to themselves, to
their friends, or to the world are inspired by hope
and sustained by joy: they see in imagination the
things that might be and the way in which they are
to be brought into existence. In their private relations
they are not pre-occupied with anxiety lest
they should lose such affection and respect as they
receive: they are engaged in giving affection
and respect freely, and the reward comes of
itself without their seeking. In their work they
are not haunted by jealousy of competitors, but
concerned with the actual matter that has to be done.
In politics, they do not spend time and passion defending
unjust privileges of their class or nation, but
they aim at making the world as a whole happier, less
cruel, less full of conflict between rival greeds, and
more full of human beings whose growth has not
been dwarfed and stunted by oppression.

A life lived in this spirit--the spirit that aims at
creating rather than possessing--has a certain
fundamental happiness, of which it cannot be wholly
robbed by adverse circumstances. This is the way
of life recommended in the Gospels, and by all the
great teachers of the world. Those who have found
it are freed from the tyranny of fear, since what they
value most in their lives is not at the mercy of outside
power. If all men could summon up the courage
and the vision to live in this way in spite of obstacles
and discouragement, there would be no need for the
regeneration of the world to begin by political and
economic reform: all that is needed in the way of reform
would come automatically, without resistance,
owing to the moral regeneration of individuals. But
the teaching of Christ has been nominally accepted
by the world for many centuries, and yet those who
follow it are still persecuted as they were before the
time of Constantine. Experience has proved that
few are able to see through the apparent evils of an
outcast's life to the inner joy that comes of faith
and creative hope. If the domination of fear is to be
overcome, it is not enough, as regards the mass of
men, to preach courage and indifference to misfortune:
it is necessary to remove the causes of fear,
to make a good life no longer an unsuccessful one in
a worldly sense, and to diminish the harm that can
be inflicted upon those who are not wary in self-

When we consider the evils in the lives we know
of, we find that they may be roughly divided into
three classes. There are, first, those due to physical
nature: among these are death, pain and the
difficulty of making the soil yield a subsistence.
These we will call ``physical evils.'' Second, we may
put those that spring from defects in the character
or aptitudes of the sufferer: among these are ignorance,
lack of will, and violent passions. These we
will call ``evils of character.'' Third come those
that depend upon the power of one individual or
group over another: these comprise not only obvious
tyranny, but all interference with free development,
whether by force or by excessive mental influence
such as may occur in education. These we will call
``evils of power.'' A social system may be judged
by its bearing upon these three kinds of evils.

The distinction between the three kinds cannot
be sharply drawn. Purely physical evil is a limit,
which we can never be sure of having reached: we
cannot abolish death, but we can often postpone it by
science, and it may ultimately become possible to
secure that the great majority shall live till old age;
we cannot wholly prevent pain, but we can diminish
it indefinitely by securing a healthy life for all; we
cannot make the earth yield its fruits in any abundance
without labor, but we can diminish the amount
of the labor and improve its conditions until it ceases
to be an evil. Evils of character are often the result
of physical evil in the shape of illness, and still more
often the result of evils of power, since tyranny
degrades both those who exercise it and (as a rule)
those who suffer it. Evils of power are intensified
by evils of character in those who have power, and by
fear of the physical evil which is apt to be the lot of
those who have no power. For all these reasons, the
three sorts of evil are intertwined. Nevertheless,
speaking broadly, we may distinguish among our
misfortunes those which have their proximate cause in
the material world, those which are mainly due to
defects in ourselves, and those which spring from our
being subject to the control of others.

The main methods of combating these evils are: for
physical evils, science; for evils of character, education
(in the widest sense) and a free outlet for all
impulses that do not involve domination; for evils
of power, the reform of the political and economic
organization of society in such a way as to reduce
to the lowest possible point the interference of one
man with the life of another. We will begin with the
third of these kinds of evil, because it is evils of power
specially that Socialism and Anarchism have sought
to remedy. Their protest against Inequalities of
wealth has rested mainly upon their sense of the evils
arising from the power conferred by wealth. This
point has been well stated by Mr. G. D. H. Cole:--

What, I want to ask, is the fundamental evil in our
modern Society which we should set out to abolish?

There are two possible answers to that question, and
I am sure that very many well-meaning people would
make the wrong one. They would answer POVERTY,
when they ought to answer SLAVERY. Face to face
every day with the shameful contrasts of riches and
destitution, high dividends and low wages, and painfully
conscious of the futility of trying to adjust the balance
by means of charity, private or public, they would answer
unhesitatingly that they stand for the ABOLITION

Well and good! On that issue every Socialist is with
them. But their answer to my question is none the less

Poverty is the symptom: slavery the disease. The
extremes of riches and destitution follow inevitably upon
the extremes of license and bondage. The many are not
enslaved because they are poor, they are poor because
they are enslaved. Yet Socialists have all too often
fixed their eyes upon the material misery of the poor
without realizing that it rests upon the spiritual degradation
of the slave.[59]

[59] ``Self-Government in Industry,'' G. Bell & Sons, 1917, pp.

I do not think any reasonable person can doubt
that the evils of power in the present system are
vastly greater than is necessary, nor that they
might be immeasurably diminished by a suitable form
of Socialism. A few fortunate people, it is true, are
now enabled to live freely on rent or interest, and
they could hardly have more liberty under another
system. But the great bulk, not only of the very
poor, but, of all sections of wage-earners and even
of the professional classes, are the slaves of the need
for getting money. Almost all are compelled to
work so hard that they have little leisure for enjoyment
or for pursuits outside their regular occupation.
Those who are able to retire in later middle age are
bored, because they have not learned how to fill
their time when they are at liberty, and such interests
as they once had apart from work have dried up.
Yet these are the exceptionally fortunate: the majority
have to work hard till old age, with the fear of
destitution always before them, the richer ones dreading
that they will be unable to give their children
the education or the medical care that they consider
desirable, the poorer ones often not far removed from
starvation. And almost all who work have no voice
in the direction of their work; throughout the hours
of labor they are mere machines carrying out the will
of a master. Work is usually done under disagreeable
conditions, involving pain and physical hardship.
The only motive to work is wages: the very idea that
work might be a joy, like the work of the artist, is
usually scouted as utterly Utopian.

But by far the greater part of these evils are
wholly unnecessary. If the civilized portion of mankind
could be induced to desire their own happiness
more than another's pain, if they could be induced to
work constructively for improvements which they
would share with all the world rather than destructively
to prevent other classes or nations from stealing
a march on them, the whole system by which the
world's work is done might be reformed root and
branch within a generation.

From the point of view of liberty, what system
would be the best? In what direction should we wish
the forces of progress to move?

From this point of view, neglecting for the
moment all other considerations, I have no doubt that
the best system would be one not far removed from
that advocated by Kropotkin, but rendered more
practicable by the adoption of the main principles of
Guild Socialism. Since every point can be disputed,
I will set down without argument the kind of organization
of work that would seem best.

Education should be compulsory up to the age
of 16, or perhaps longer; after that, it should be continued
or not at the option of the pupil, but remain
free (for those who desire it) up to at least the age
of 21. When education is finished no one should be
COMPELLED to work, and those who choose not to work
should receive a bare livelihood, and be left completely
free; but probably it would be desirable that there
should be a strong public opinion in favor of work,
so that only comparatively few should choose idleness.
One great advantage of making idleness economically
possible is that it would afford a powerful
motive for making work not disagreeable; and no
community where most work is disagreeable can be
said to have found a solution of economic problems.
I think it is reasonable to assume that few would
choose idleness, in view of the fact that even now at
least nine out of ten of those who have (say) 100 pounds
a year from investments prefer to increase their income
by paid work.

Coming now to that great majority who will not
choose idleness, I think we may assume that, with the
help of science, and by the elimination of the vast
amount of unproductive work involved in internal and
international competition, the whole community
could be kept in comfort by means of four hours'
work a day. It is already being urged by experienced
employers that their employes can actually produce
as much in a six-hour day as they can when they
work eight hours. In a world where there is a much
higher level of technical instruction than there is now
the same tendency will be accentuated. People will
be taught not only, as at present, one trade, or one
small portion of a trade, but several trades, so that
they can vary their occupation according to the
seasons and the fluctuations of demand. Every industry
will be self-governing as regards all its internal
affairs, and even separate factories will decide for
themselves all questions that only concern those who
work in them. There will not be capitalist management,
as at present, but management by elected representatives,
as in politics. Relations between different
groups of producers will be settled by the Guild
Congress, matters concerning the community as the
inhabitants of a certain area will continue to be
decided by Parliament, while all disputes between
Parliament and the Guild Congress will be decided
by a body composed of representatives of both in
equal numbers.

Payment will not be made, as at present, only for
work actually required and performed, but for willingness
to work. This system is already adopted in
much of the better paid work: a man occupies a certain
position, and retains it even at times when there
happens to be very little to do. The dread of unemployment
and loss of livelihood will no longer haunt
men like a nightmare. Whether all who are willing
to work will be paid equally, or whether exceptional
skill will still command exceptional pay, is a matter
which may be left to each guild to decide for itself.
An opera-singer who received no more pay than a
scene-shifter might choose to be a scene-shifter until
the system was changed: if so, higher pay would
probably be found necessary. But if it were freely
voted by the Guild, it could hardly constitute a

Whatever might be done toward making work
agreeable, it is to be presumed that some trades would
always remain unpleasant. Men could be attracted
into these by higher pay or shorter hours, instead of
being driven into them by destitution. The community
would then have a strong economic motive
for finding ways of diminishing the disagreeableness
of these exceptional trades.

There would still have to be money, or something
analogous to it, in any community such as we are
imagining. The Anarchist plan of a free distribution
of the total produce of work in equal shares
does not get rid of the need for some standard of
exchange value, since one man will choose to take his
share in one form and another in another. When
the day comes for distributing luxuries, old ladies
will not want their quota of cigars, nor young men
their just proportion of lap-dog; this will make it
necessary to know how many cigars are the equivalent
of one lap-dog. Much the simplest way is to
pay an income, as at present, and allow relative
values to be adjusted according to demand. But if
actual coin were paid, a man might hoard it and in
time become a capitalist. To prevent this, it would
be best to pay notes available only during a certain
period, say one year from the date of issue. This
would enable a man to save up for his annual holiday,
but not to save indefinitely.

There is a very great deal to be said for the
Anarchist plan of allowing necessaries, and all
commodities that can easily be produced in quantities
adequate to any possible demand, to be given away
freely to all who ask for them, in any amounts they
may require. The question whether this plan should
be adopted is, to my mind, a purely technical one:
would it be, in fact, possible to adopt it without much
waste and consequent diversion of labor to the production
of necessaries when it might be more usefully
employed otherwise? I have not the means of answering
this question, but I think it exceedingly probable
that, sooner or later, with the continued
improvement in the methods of production, this
Anarchist plan will become feasible; and when it does,
it certainly ought to be adopted.

Women in domestic work, whether married or unmarried,
will receive pay as they would if they were
in industry. This will secure the complete economic
independence of wives, which is difficult to achieve
in any other way, since mothers of young children
ought not to be expected to work outside the home.

The expense of children will not fall, as at present,
on the parents. They will receive, like adults,
their share of necessaries, and their education will
be free.[60] There is no longer to be the present
competition for scholarships among the abler children:
they will not be imbued with the competitive spirit
from infancy, or forced to use their brains to an
unnatural degree with consequent listlessness and lack
of health in later life. Education will be far more
diversified than at present; greater care will be taken
to adapt it to the needs of different types of young
people. There will be more attempt to encourage
initiative young pupils, and less desire to fill their
minds with a set of beliefs and mental habits regarded
as desirable by the State, chiefly because they help
to preserve the status quo. For the great majority
of children it will probably be found desirable to
have much more outdoor education in the country.
And for older boys and girls whose interests are not
intellectual or artistic, technical education, undertaken
in a liberal spirit, is far more useful in promoting
mental activity than book-learning which they
regard (however falsely) as wholly useless except for
purposes of examination. The really useful educa-
tion is that which follows the direction of the child's
own instinctive interests, supplying knowledge for
which it is seeking, not dry, detailed information
wholly out of relation to its spontaneous desires.

[60] Some may fear that the result would be an undue increase
of population, but such fears I believe to be groundless. See
above, (Chapter IV, on ``Work and Pay.'' Also, Chapter vi of
``Principles of Social Reconstruction'' (George Allen and
Unwin, Ltd.).

Government and law will still exist in our
community, but both will be reduced to a minimum.
There will still be acts which will be forbidden--for
example, murder. But very nearly the whole of that
part of the criminal law which deals with property
will have become obsolete, and many of the motives
which now produce murders will be no longer operative.
Those who nevertheless still do commit crimes
will not be blamed or regarded as wicked; they will
be regarded as unfortunate, and kept in some kind
of mental hospital until it is thought that they are
no longer a danger. By education and freedom and
the abolition of private capital the number of crimes
can be made exceedingly small. By the method of
individual curative treatment it will generally be
possible to secure that a man's first offense shall also
be his last, except in the case of lunatics and the
feeble-minded, for whom of course a more prolonged
but not less kindly detention may be necessary.

Government may be regarded as consisting of
two parts: the one, the decisions of the community
or its recognized organs; the other, the enforcing of
those decisions upon all who resist them. The first
part is not objected to by Anarchists. The second
part, in an ordinary civilized State, may remain
entirely in the background: those who have resisted
a new law while it was being debated will, as a rule,
submit to it when it is passed, because resistance is
generally useless in a settled and orderly community.
But the possibility of governmental force remains,
and indeed is the very reason for the submission which
makes force unnecessary. If, as Anarchists desire,
there were no use of force by government, the majority
could still band themselves together and use
force against the minority. The only difference
would be that their army or their police force would
be ad hoc, instead of being permanent and professional.
The result of this would be that everyone
would have to learn how to fight, for fear a well-
drilled minority should seize power and establish an
old-fashioned oligarchic State. Thus the aim of the
Anarchists seems hardly likely to be achieved by
the methods which they advocate.

The reign of violence in human affairs, whether
within a country or in its external relations, can only
be prevented, if we have not been mistaken, by an
authority able to declare all use of force except by
itself illegal, and strong enough to be obviously
capable of making all other use of force futile, except
when it could secure the support of public opinion as
a defense of freedom or a resistance to injustice.
Such an authority exists within a country: it is the
State. But in international affairs it remains to be
created. The difficulties are stupendous, but they must
be overcome if the world is to be saved from periodical
wars, each more destructive than any of its predecessors.
Whether, after this war, a League of Nations
will be formed, and will be capable of performing this
task, it is as yet impossible to foretell. However that
may be, some method of preventing wars will have to
be established before our Utopia becomes possible.
When once men BELIEVE that the world is safe from
war, the whole difficulty will be solved: there will then
no longer be any serious resistance to the disbanding
of national armies and navies, and the substitution
for them of a small international force for protection
against uncivilized races. And when that stage has
been reached, peace will be virtually secure.

The practice of government by majorities, which
Anarchists criticise, is in fact open to most of the
objections which they urge against it. Still more
objectionable is the power of the executive in matters
vitally affecting the happiness of all, such as
peace and war. But neither can be dispensed with
suddenly. There are, however, two methods of diminishing
the harm done by them: (1) Government by
majorities can be made less oppressive by devolution,
by placing the decision of questions primarily affecting
only a section of the community in the hands of
that section, rather than of a Central Chamber. In
this way, men are no longer forced to submit to decisions
made in a hurry by people mostly ignorant of
the matter in hand and not personally interested.
Autonomy for internal affairs should be given, not
only to areas, but to all groups, such as industries or
Churches, which have important common interests
not shared by the rest of the community. (2) The
great powers vested in the executive of a modern
State are chiefly due to the frequent need of rapid
decisions, especially as regards foreign affairs. If
the danger of war were practically eliminated, more
cumbrous but less autocratic methods would be possible,
and the Legislature might recover many of the
powers which the executive has usurped. By these
two methods, the intensity of the interference with
liberty involved in government can be gradually
diminished. Some interference, and even some danger
of unwarranted and despotic interference, is of the
essence of government, and must remain so long as
government remains. But until men are less prone
to violence than they are now, a certain degree of
governmental force seems the lesser of two evils. We
may hope, however, that if once the danger of war is
at an end, men's violent impulses will gradually grow
less, the more so as, in that case, it will be possible
to diminish enormously the individual power which
now makes rulers autocratic and ready for almost
any act of tyranny in order to crush opposition. The
development of a world where even governmental
force has become unnecessary (except against lunatics)
must be gradual. But as a gradual process it
is perfectly possible; and when it has been completed
we may hope to see the principles of Anarchism
embodied in the management of communal affairs.

How will the economic and political system that
we have outlined bear on the evils of character? I
believe the effect will be quite extraordinarily

The process of leading men's thought and imagination
away from the use of force will be greatly
accelerated by the abolition of the capitalist system,
provided it is not succeeded by a form of State Socialism
in which officials have enormous power. At present,
the capitalist has more control over the lives of
others than any man ought to have; his friends have
authority in the State; his economic power is the
pattern for political power. In a world where all men
and women enjoy economic freedom, there will not be
the same habit of command, nor, consequently, the
same love of despotism; a gentler type of character
than that now prevalent will gradually grow up. Men
are formed by their circumstances, not born ready-
made. The bad effect of the present economic system
on character, and the immensely better effect to be
expected from communal ownership, are among the
strongest reasons for advocating the change.

In the world as we have been imagining fit, economic
fear and most economic hope will be alike
removed out of life. No one will be haunted by the
dread of poverty or driven into ruthlessness by the
hope of wealth. There will not be the distinction of
social classes which now plays such an immense part
in life. The unsuccessful professional man will not
live in terror lest his children should sink in the scale;
the aspiring employe will not be looking forward to
the day when he can become a sweater in his turn.
Ambitious young men will have to dream other daydreams
than that of business success and wealth
wrung out of the ruin of competitors and the degradation
of labor. In such a world, most of the nightmares
that lurk in the background of men's minds
will no longer exist; on the other hand, ambition and
the desire to excel will have to take nobler forms than
those that are encouraged by a commercial society.
All those activities that really confer benefits upon
mankind will be open, not only to the fortunate few,
but to all who have sufficient ambition and native
aptitude. Science, labor-saving inventions, technical
progress of all kinds, may be confidently expected to
flourish far more than at present, since they will be
the road to honor, and honor will have to replace
money among those of the young who desire to
achieve success. Whether art will flourish in a
Socialistic community depends upon the form of Social-
ism adopted; if the State, or any public authority,
(no matter what), insists upon controlling art, and
only licensing those whom it regards as proficient, the
result will be disaster. But if there is real freedom,
allowing every man who so desires to take up an
artist's career at the cost of some sacrifice of comfort,
it is likely that the atmosphere of hope, and
the absence of economic compulsion, will lead to a
much smaller waste of talent than is involved in our
present system, and to a much less degree of crushing
of impulse in the mills of the struggle for life.

When elementary needs have been satisfied, the
serious happiness of most men depends upon two
things: their work, and their human relations. In the
world that we have been picturing, work will be free,
not excessive, full of the interest that belongs to a
collective enterprise in which there is rapid progress,
with something of the delight of creation even for
the humblest unit. And in human relations the gain
will be just as great as in work. The only human
relations that have value are those that are rooted in
mutual freedom, where there is no domination and no
slavery, no tie except affection, no economic or
conventional necessity to preserve the external show when
the inner life is dead. One of the most horrible
things about commercialism is the way in which it
poisons the relations of men and women. The evils of
prostitution are generally recognized, but, great as
they are, the effect of economic conditions on marriage
seems to me even worse. There is not infrequently,
in marriage, a suggestion of purchase, of acquiring
a woman on condition of keeping her in a certain
standard of material comfort. Often and often, a
marriage hardly differs from prostitution except by
being harder to escape from. The whole basis of
these evils is economic. Economic causes make marriage
a matter of bargain and contract, in which
affection is quite secondary, and its absence constitutes
no recognized reason for liberation. Marriage
should be a free, spontaneous meeting of mutual
instinct, filled with happiness not unmixed with a
feeling akin to awe: it should involve that degree of
respect of each for the other that makes even the
most trifling interference with liberty an utter
impossibility, and a common life enforced by one against
the will of the other an unthinkable thing of deep
horror. It is not so that marriage is conceived by
lawyers who make settlements, or by priests who give
the name of ``sacrament'' to an institution which pretends
to find something sanctifiable in the brutal lusts
or drunken cruelties of a legal husband. It is not in
a spirit of freedom that marriage is conceived by
most men and women at present: the law makes it an
opportunity for indulgence of the desire to interfere,
where each submits to some loss of his or her own liberty,
for the pleasure of curtailing the liberty of the
other. And the atmosphere of private property
makes it more difficult than it otherwise would be for
any better ideal to take root.

It is not so that human relations will be conceived
when the evil heritage of economic slavery has ceased
to mold our instincts. Husbands and wives, parents
and children, will be only held together by affection:
where that has died, it will be recognized that nothing
worth preserving is left. Because affection will
be free, men and women will not find in private life an
outlet and stimulus to the love of domineering, but all
that is creative in their love will have the freer scope.
Reverence for whatever makes the soul in those who
are loved will be less rare than it is now: nowadays,
many men love their wives in the way in which they
love mutton, as something to devour and destroy.
But in the love that goes with reverence there is a
joy of quite another order than any to be found by
mastery, a joy which satisfies the spirit and not only
the instincts; and satisfaction of instinct and spirit
at once is necessary to a happy life, or indeed to any
existence that is to bring out the best impulses of
which a man or woman is capable.

In the world which we should wish to see, there
will be more joy of life than in the drab tragedy of
modern every-day existence. After early youth, as
things are, most men are bowed down by forethought,
no longer capable of light-hearted gaiety, but only of
a kind of solemn jollification by the clock at the
appropriate hours. The advice to ``become as little
children'' would be good for many people in many
respects, but it goes with another precept, ``take no
thought for the morrow,'' which is hard to obey in a
competitive world. There is often in men of science,
even when they are quite old, something of the
simplicity of a child: their absorption in abstract
thought has held them aloof from the world, and
respect for their work has led the world to keep them
alive in spite of their innocence. Such men have
succeeded in living as all men ought to be able to live;
but as things are, the economic struggle makes their
way of life impossible for the great majority.

What are we to say, lastly, of the effect of our
projected world upon physical evil? Will there be
less illness than there is at present? Will the produce
of a given amount of labor be greater? Or will population
press upon the limits of subsistence, as Malthus
taught in order to refute Godwin's optimism?

I think the answer to all these questions turns,
in the end, upon the degree of intellectual vigor to be
expected in a community which has done away with
the spur of economic competition. Will men in such
a world become lazy and apathetic? Will they cease
to think? Will those who do think find themselves
confronted with an even more impenetrable wall of
unreflecting conservatism than that which confronts
them at present? These are important questions; for
it is ultimately to science that mankind must look
for their success in combating physical evils.

If the other conditions that we have postulated
can be realized, it seems almost certain that there
must be less illness than there is at present. Population
will no longer be congested in slums; children will
have far more of fresh air and open country; the
hours of work will be only such as are wholesome, not
excessive and exhausting as they are at present.

As for the progress of science, that depends very
largely upon the degree of intellectual liberty existing
in the new society. If all science is organized and
supervised by the State, it will rapidly become
stereotyped and dead. Fundamental advances will not be
made, because, until they have been made, they will
seem too doubtful to warrant the expenditure of
public money upon them. Authority will be in the
hands of the old, especially of men who have achieved
scientific eminence; such men will be hostile to those
among the young who do not flatter them by agreeing
with their theories. Under a bureaucratic State
Socialism it is to be feared that science would soon
cease to be progressive and acquired a medieval respect
for authority.

But under a freer system, which would enable all
kinds of groups to employ as many men of science as
they chose, and would allow the ``vagabond's wage''
to those who desired to pursue some study so new as
to be wholly unrecognized, there is every reason to
think that science would flourish as it has never done
hitherto.[61] And, if that were the case, I do not believe
that any other obstacle would exist to the physical
possibility of our system.

[61] See the discussion of this question in the preceding chapter.

The question of the number of hours of work
necessary to produce general material comfort is
partly technical, partly one of organization. We
may assume that there would no longer be unproductive
labor spent on armaments, national defense,
advertisements, costly luxuries for the very rich, or
any of the other futilities incidental to our competitive
system. If each industrial guild secured for a term of
years the advantages, or part of the advantages, of
any new invention or methods which it introduced, it
is pretty certain that every encouragement would be
given to technical progress. The life of a discoverer
or inventor is in itself agreeable: those who adopt it,
as things are now, are seldom much actuated by economic
motives, but rather by the interest of the work
together with the hope of honor; and these motives
would operate more widely than they do now, since
fewer people would be prevented from obeying them
by economic necessities. And there is no doubt that
intellect would work more keenly and creatively in
a world where instinct was less thwarted, where the
joy of life was greater, and where consequently there
would be more vitality in men than there is at present.

There remains the population question, which,
ever since the time of Malthus, has been the last
refuge of those to whom the possibility of a better
world is disagreeable. But this question is now
a very different one from what it was a hundred
years ago. The decline of the birth-rate in all
civilized countries, which is pretty certain to continue,
whatever economic system is adopted, suggests
that, especially when the probable effects of the war
are taken into account, the population of Western
Europe is not likely to increase very much beyond
its present level, and that of America is likely only to
increase through immigration. Negroes may continue
to increase in the tropics, but are not likely to
be a serious menace to the white inhabitants of temperate
regions. There remains, of course, the Yellow
Peril; but by the time that begins to be serious
it is quite likely that the birth-rate will also have
begun to decline among the races of Asia If not,
there are other means of dealing with this question;
and in any case the whole matter is too conjectural
to be set up seriously as a bar to our hopes. I conclude
that, though no certain forecast is possible,
there is not any valid reason for regarding the possible
increase of population as a serious obstacle to

Our discussion has led us to the belief that the
communal ownership of land and capital, which constitutes
the characteristic doctrine of Socialism and
Anarchist Communism, is a necessary step toward the
removal of the evils from which the world suffers at
present and the creation of such a society as any
humane man must wish to see realized. But, though
a necessary step, Socialism alone is by no means
sufficient. There are various forms of Socialism: the
form in which the State is the employer, and all who
work receive wages from it, involves dangers of
tyranny and interference with progress which would
make it, if possible, even worse than the present
regime. On the other hand, Anarchism, which avoids
the dangers of State Socialism, has dangers and
difficulties of its own, which make it probable that,
within any reasonable period of time, it could not
last long even if it were established. Nevertheless, it
remains an ideal to which we should wish to approach
as nearly as possible, and which, in some distant age,
we hope may be reached completely. Syndicalism
shares many of the defects of Anarchism, and, like it,
would prove unstable, since the need of a central
government would make itself felt almost at once.

The system we have advocated is a form of Guild
Socialism, leaning more, perhaps, towards Anarchism
than the official Guildsman would wholly approve. It
is in the matters that politicians usually ignore--
science and art, human relations, and the joy of life
--that Anarchism is strongest, and it is chiefly for the
sake of these things that we included such more or
less Anarchist proposals as the ``vagabond's wage.''
It is by its effects outside economics and politics, at
least as much as by effects inside them, that a social
system should be judged. And if Socialism ever
comes, it is only likely to prove beneficent if non-
economic goods are valued and consciously pursued.

The world that we must seek is a world in which
the creative spirit is alive, in which life is an adventure
full of joy and hope, based rather upon the impulse
to construct than upon the desire to retain
what we possess or to seize what is possessed by
others. It must be a world in which affection has free
play, in which love is purged of the instinct for
domination, in which cruelty and envy have been
dispelled by happiness and the unfettered development
of all the instincts that build up life and fill it with
mental delights. Such a world is possible; it waits
only for men to wish to create it.

Meantime, the world in which we exist has other
aims. But it will pass away, burned up in the fire
of its own hot passions; and from its ashes will spring
a new and younger world, full of fresh hope, with
the light of morning in its eyes.


Academy, Royal, 107
Africa, 149, 165
Agriculture, 90 ff.
Alexander II, 43
Allemane, 60
America, xi, 31, 74 ff., 125, 140, 210
American Federation of
Labor, 76
Anarchism, passim--
defined, 33
and law, 33, 51, 111 ff., 198 ff.
and violence, 33, 52-4, 72, 121 ff.
and distribution, 93 ff.
and wages, 96 ff.
anti-German, 46
attitude to syndicalism, 79
congress in Amsterdam, 79
Ants, 152
Army, private, 120, 123
Art, 109, 111, 138, 166 ff., 203
and appreciation, 169, 181-6
and commercialism, 181
and freedom, 182
Artists, 103
under State Socialism, 174
Asia, 149, 158, 210
Australia, 151
Authors, Guild of, 179
Autonomy, 133, 137, 160

Backwoods, 133
Bakunin, x, 3649
biography, 3747
writings, 4749
and Marx, 38 ff., 59 n.
and Pan-Slavism, 41, 45
and Dresden insurrection, 41
imprisonments, 41
anti-German, 45
and production, 50
Bebel, 66
Benbow, William, 71 n.
Bergson, 68
Bernstein, 27-29, 56
Bevington, 53
Bismarck, 30
Books under Socialism, 178
Bornstedt, 39
Bourgeoisie, 11
Bourses du Travail, 54, 63
Boycott, 68
Briand, 72
Bright, 21
Brooks, John Graham, 75, 77n.
Brousse, Paul, 60
Bureaucracy, 128, 174
Button-hooks, 182

Cafiero, 48n.
Capital, 6, 10, 18-25
Capitalism, 2, 202
and war, 139 ff.

California, 181
Censor of plays, 107
Champion, 91
Charlton, Broughton, 19
Chewing-gum, 189
China, 137, 140
Christ, 187
Chuang Tzu, 33
Churches, 201
Civil Service, 128
Class war, xvi, 9 ff., 27, 29, 81,
66, 116 149
Clemenceau, 71
Cobden, 21
Cole, G. I). H., 89n., 63, 64n.,
73, 76, 81n., 134, 190
Communism, 10 ff.
anarchist, 1, 38ff., 60, 96n.,
100n., 106n.
Communist Manifesto, 5, 9-18,
114, 148
Competitiveness, 160
Concentration of Capital, Law
of, 8, 23-5
Confederation General du
Travail, 63-65, 71, 74
Conquest of Bread, The, 80, 87
Constantine, 108, 187
Creativeness, 186-7
Crime, 118 ff.
Cultivation, intensive, 89
Cultures maraicheres, 91

Darwin, 173
Deleon, 76
Democracy, 2, 30, 129 ff., 148, 167
Deutche Jahrbuscher, 38
Devolution, 200
Disarmament, 153
Disraeli, 30
Distribution, 99 ff.
Dubois, Felix, 62
Duelling, 123

Education, 169 ff., 189, 193, 196
Edward VI, 22
Empire Knouto-Germanique, 48
Engels, 3, 6, 17, 38
Envy, 160-169
188, 207-11
of character, 188, ~2-07
of power, 188 ff.
Evolution, 164

Fabians, 67
Fear, 186, 203
Feudalism, 10
Fields, Factories and
Workshops, 80, 87 ff.
Finance and war, 140
Finland, 144
Fourier, 4n.
Franco-Prussian War, 46, 86, 69
Franklin, 100n.
Freedom, see Liberty

George, Lloyd, 186
German Communist League, 8
German Working Men's
Association, 8
Germany, 144
Giles, Lionel, 36n.
God and the State, 48
Godwin, 207
Gompers, 76
Gospels, The, 187
Government, 111 ff., 198 ff.
representative, 117, 129 ff., 137 ff.
Guesde, Jules, 89-60
Guild Congress, 83, Cal ff.,
Guild Socialism, xi, 80 ff., 133,
192, 211
and the State, 82-4, 114,
Guillaume, James, 36n., 37

Haywood, 77
Hegel, 4
Herd instinct, xv
Heubner, 41
History, materialistic
interpretation of, 7
Hobson, J. A., 144
Hodgskin, 5n.
Hulme, T. E., 29
Hypocrisy, 132

Idleness, 103 ff.
Independent Labor Party, 87
India, 188
Individual 138
Industrial Relations, American
Commission on, 78
Industrial Workers of the
World (I.W.W.), xi, 31, 74
International alliance of socialist
democracy, 44
International fraternity, 43
International Working Men's
Association, 6, 44 ff., 69
Internationalism, 148, 150

Japan, 161
Jaures, 60
Jouhaux, 75
Joy of Life, 206

Keats, 173
Knowledge, 168
Kropotkin, 36, 46, 80-61, 87 ff.,
96n., 100n., 102, 106n.,
116 ff., 179, 192
Kultur, 159

Labor, integration of, 99
Labor Party, 57, 150
Lagardelle, 64
Law, 111 ff., 198
Levine, Louis, 69n., 60n.
Liberal Party, 28, 30
Liberty, 111 ff., 192, 201
and syndicalism, 85
and anarchism, 108
and creative impulse, 169,
and art, 182-3, 204
and human relations, 204

Liquor Traffic, 137
Livre, Federation du, 178
Lunatics, 119
Lynching, 122

Magistrates, 101
Majorities, divine right of, 130, 200
Malthus, 86 ff., 207 ff.
Manchesterism, 29
Marriage, 204
Marx, x, 1-31, 36, 60, 77, 148.
biography, 3-7
doctrines, 7-31, 113
and Bakunin, 38 ff.
and International Working
Men's Association, 44 ff.,
Marzisme, La decomposition
du, 29
Mazzini, 43
Millennium by force, 164
Millerand, 60, 61
Milton, 173
Miners, Western Federation
of, 76, 78
Money, 196
Monroe Doctrine, 140
Morning Star, 21
Morris, William, 176

Napoleon, 120
Napoleon III, 46
Naquet, Alfred, 98n., 118n, 165
National Guilds, 81n.
National Guilds League, 82
Nationalism, 17, 25, 28, 32
relations of, 139 ff.
League of, 132, 200
Necessaries, free? 109, 196
Neue Reinische Zeitung, 41
Nicholas, Tsar, 43

Opera Singers, 196
Opium Traffic, 137
Orage, 81n.
Owen, Robert, 5n.

Pellico, Silvio, 42
Pelloutier, 54, 63
Permeation, 57
Persia, 158
Plato, vii
Poets, 104
Poland, 37, 144
Population, 197n.
Possibilists, 60
Poverty, 190
Power, love of, 111, 144, 160,
Press, 143
Production, methods of, 87 ff.
Proletariat, 11 ff.
Proportional Representation,
Proudhon, 4n., 38
Pugnacity, 147
Punishment, 123 ff.

Rarachol, 53

Ravenstone, Piercy, 6n.
Reclue, Elisee, 48n.
Revisionism, 27, 66
French, 7
Russian, 18, 67, 148, 164
Social, 6, 17, 70, 113, 148, 164,
of 1848, 3, 6, 40
Ruge, 38

Sabotage, 66
Saint-Simon, 4n.
Sand, George, 38, 41
Sarajevo, 32
Scholarships, 170, 197
Science, 86, 109, 138 166 ff.,
189, 207
men of, 207
Self-interest, 125
Sharing, free, 96 ff., 195
Shelley, 173
Single Tax, 82
Slavery, 190
Socialism, passim--
defined, 1
English, 5
French, 4, 59
German, 66
evolutionary, 27
State, 67, 107, 115, 128, 170,
174, 202, 208
and distribution, 93 ff.
and art and science, 164 ff.
Guild, see Guild Socialism
Socialist Labor Party, 76
Socialist Revolutionaries, Alliance
of, 43
Socialists, Inter-Allied, 156
Sorel, 29, 67
Spinoza, 120
State, x, xi, 1, 16, 30, 48, 60,
68, 78, 82-4, 107 ff., 138, 146
Strikes, 66, 67, 70, 78 ff., 130
Syndicalism, passim--
and Marx, 28, 116
and party, 30
and liberty, 85
and political action, 30, 69
129 ff.
and anarchism, x, 66, 72,
in France, 58 ff.
in Italy, 58n.
reformist and revolutionary,
and class-war, 65, 116
and general strike, 67, 69,
and the State, 68, 116
and Guild Socialism, 81n.,
Syndicalist Railwayman, 69
Syndicates, 65

Tariffs, 137
Technical Training, 169 ff., 197
Theft, 121
Thompson, William, 5n.
Tolstoy, 32

Trade Unionism, x, 13, 62
industrial, 31, 74 ff.
craft, 73
Trusts, 75, 141

Utopias, vii, $, 200

Vagabond's wage, 177, 193,
208, 212
Villeneuves Saint Georges, 71
Violence, crimes of, 121, 122,
Violence, Reflections on, 29
Viviani, 60
Volkstimme, 27n.
Volunteers, 121

Wages, 9, 78, 9$ ff., 199
iron law of, 26
and art and science, 168 ff.
Wagner, Richard, 41
Waldeck-Rousseau, 61, 63
Walkley, Mary Anne, 90
avoidance of, 139 ff., 199
and capitalism, 139 ff.
and the Press 143 ff.
votes for, 155
economic independence of,
and wages, 93 ff., 194
hours of, 102, 193, 209
can it be made pleasant?
100, 193, 904

Yellow races, 151, 210

End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Proposed Roads To Freedom

Science and Ethics
Bertrand Russell
Those who maintain the insufficiency of science, as we have seen in the last two
chapters, appeal to the fact that science has nothing to say about "values." This I admit;
but when it is inferred that ethics contains truths which cannot be proved or disproved by
science, I disagree. The matter is one on which it is not altogether easy to think clearly,
and my own views on it are quite different from what they were thirty years ago. But it is
necessary to be clear about it if we are to appraise such arguments as those in support of
Cosmic Purpose. As there is no consensus of opinion about ethics, it must be understood
that what follows is my personal belief, not the dictum of science.
The study of ethics, traditionally, consists of two parts, one concerned with moral rules,
the other with what is good on its own account. Rules of conduct, many of which have a
ritual origin, play a great part in the lives of savages and primitive peoples. It is forbidden
to eat out of the chief's dish, or to seethe the kid in its mother's milk; it is commanded to
offer sacrifices to the gods, which, at a certain stage of development, are thought most
acceptable if they are human beings. Other moral rules, such as the prohibition of murder
and theft, have a more obvious social utility, and survive the decay of the primitive
theological systems with which they were originally associated. But as men grow more
reflective there is a tendency to lay less stress on rules and more on states of mind. This
comes from two sources - philosophy and mystical religion. We are all familiar with
passages in the prophets and the gospels, in which purity of heart is set above meticulous
observance of the Law; and St. Paul's famous praise of charity, or love, teaches the same
principle. The same thing will be found in all great mystics, Christian and non-Christian:
what they values is a state of mind, out of which, as they hold, right conduct must ensue;
rules seem to them external, and insufficiently adaptable to circumstances.
One of the ways in which the need of appealing to external rules of conduct has been
avoided has been the belief in "conscience," which has been especially important in
Protestant ethics. It has been supposed that God reveals to each human heart what is right
and what is wrong, so that, in order to avoid sin, we have only to listen to the inner voice.
There are, however, two difficulties in this theory: first, that conscience says different
things to different people; secondly, that the study of the unconscious has given us an
understanding of the mundane causes of conscientious feelings.
As to the different deliverances of conscience: George III's conscience told him that he
must not grant Catholic Emancipation, as, if he did, he would have committed perjury in
taking the Coronation Oath, but later monarchs have had no such scruples. Conscience
leads some to condemn the spoliation of the rich by the poor, as advocated by
communists; and others to condemn exploitation of the poor by the rich, as practised by
capitalists. It tells one man that he ought to defend his country in case of invasion, while
it tells another that all participation in warfare is wicked. During the War, the authorities,
few of whom had studied ethics, found conscience very puzzling, and were led to some
curious decisions, such as that a man might have conscientious scruples against fighting
himself, but not against working on the fields so as to make possible the conscription of
another man. They held also that, while conscience might disapprove of all war, it could
not, failing that extreme position, disapprove of the war then in progress. Those who, for
whatever reason, thought it wrong to fight, were compelled to state their position in terms
of this somewhat primitive and unscientific conception of "conscience."
The diversity in the deliverances of conscience is what is to be expected when its origin is
understood. In early youth, certain classes of acts meet with approval, and others with
disapproval; and by the normal process of association, pleasure and discomfort gradually
attach themselves to the acts, and not merely to the approval and disapproval respectively
produced by them. As time goes on, we may forget all about our early moral training, but
we shall still feel uncomfortable about certain kinds of actions, while others will give us a
glow of virtue. To introspection, these feelings are mysterious, since we no longer
remember the circumstances which originally caused them; and therefore it is natural to
attribute them to the voice of God in the heart. But in fact conscience is a product of
education, and can be trained to approve or disapprove, in the great majority of mankind,
as educators may see fit. While, therefore, it is right to wish to liberate ethics from
external moral rules, this can hardly be satisfactorily achieved by means of the notion of
Philosophers, by a different road, have arrived at a different position in which, also,
moral rules of conduct have a subordinate place. They have framed the concept of the
Good, by which they mean (roughly speaking) that which, in itself and apart from its
consequences, we should wish to see existing - or, if they are theists, that which is
pleasing to God. Most people would agree that happiness is preferable to unhappiness,
friendliness to unfriendliness, and so on. Moral rules, according to this view, are justified
if they promote the existence of what is good on its own account, but not otherwise. The
prohibition of murder, in the vast majority of cases, can be justified by its effects, but the
practice of burning widows on their husband's funeral pyre cannot. The former rule,
therefore, should be retained, but not the latter. Even the best moral rules, however, will
have some exceptions, since no class of actions always has bad results. We have thus
three different senses in which an act may be ethically commendable: (1) it may be in
accordance with the received moral code; (2) it may be sincerely intended to have good
effects; (3) it may in fact have good effects. The third sense, however, is generally
considered inadmissible in morals. According to orthodox theology, Judas Iscariot's act
of betrayal had good consequences, since it was necessary for the Atonement; but it was
not on this account laudable.
Different philosophers have formed different conceptions of the Good. Some hold that it
consists in the knowledge and love of God; others in universal love; others in the
enjoyment of beauty; and yet others in pleasure. The Good once defined, the rest of ethics
follows: we ought to act in the way we believe most likely to create as much good as
possible, and as little as possible of its correlative evil. The framing of moral rules, so
long as the ultimate Good is supposed known, is matter for science. For example: should
capital punishment be inflicted on theft, or only for murder, or not at all? Jeremy
Bentham, who considered pleasure to be the Good, devoted himself to working out what
criminal code would most promote pleasure, and concluded that it ought to be much less
severe than that prevailing in his day. All this, except the proposition that pleasure is the
Good, comes within the sphere of science.
But when we try to be definite as to what we mean when we say that this or that is "the
Good," we find ourselves involved in very great difficulties. Bentham's creed that
pleasure is the Good roused furious opposition, and was said to be a pig's philosophy.
Neither he nor his opponents could advance any argument. In a scientific question,
evidence can be adduced on both sides, and in the end, one side is seen to have the better
case - or, if this does not happen, the question is left undecided. But in a question as to
whether this or that is the ultimate Good, there is no evidence either way; each disputant
can only appeal to his own emotions, and employ such rhetorical devices as shall rouse
similar emotions in others.
Take, for example, a question which has come to be important in practical policies.
Bentham held that one man's pleasure has the same ethical importance as another man's,
provided the quantities are equal; and on this ground he was led to advocate democracy.
Nietzsche, on the contrary, held that only the great man can be regarded as important on
his own account, and that the bulk of mankind are only means to his well-being. He
viewed ordinary men as many people view animals: he thought it justifiable to make use
of them, not for their own good, but for that of the superman, and this view has since
been adopted to justify the abandonment of democracy, We have here a sharp
disagreement of great practical importance, but we have absolutely no means, of a
scientific or intellectual kind, by which to persuade either party that the other is in the
right. There are, it is true, ways of altering men's opinions on such subjects, but they are
all emotional, not intellectual.
Question as to "values" - that is to say, as to what is good or bad on its own account,
independently of its effects - lie outside the domain of science, as the defenders of
religion emphatically assert. I think that in this they are right, but I draw the further
conclusion, which they do not draw, that questions as to "values" lie wholly outside the
domain of knowledge. That is to say, when we assert that this or that has "value," we are
giving expression to our own emotions, not to a fact which would still be true if our
personal feelings were different. To make this clear, we must try to analyse the
conception of the Good.
It is obvious, to begin with, that the whole idea of good and bad has some connection
with desire. Prima facie, anything that we all desire is "good," and anything that we all
dread is "bad." If we all agreed in our desires, the matter could be left there, but
unfortunately our desires conflict. If I say "what I want is good," my neighbour will say
"No, what I want." Ethics is an attempt - though not, I think, a successful one - to escape
from this subjectivity. I shall naturally try to show, in my dispute with my neighbour, that
my desires have some quality which makes them more worthy of respect than his. If I
want to preserve a right of way, I shall appeal to the landless inhabitants of the district;
but he, on his side, will appeal to the landowners. I shall say: "What use is the beauty of
the countryside if no one sees it?" He will retort: "What beauty will be left if trippers are
allowed to spread devastation?" Each tries to enlist allies by showing that his own desires
harmonize with those of other people. When this is obviously impossible, as in the case
of a burglar, the man is condemned by public opinion, and his ethical status is that of a
Ethics is thus closely related to politics: it is an attempt to bring the collective desires of a
group to bear upon individuals; or, conversely, it is an attempt by an individual to cause
his desires to become those of his group. This latter is, of course, only possible if his
desires are not too obviously opposed to the general interest: the burglar will hardly
attempt to persuade people that he is doing them good, though plutocrats make similar
attempts, and often succeed. When our desires are for things which all can enjoy in
common, it seems not unreasonable to hope that others may concur; thus the philosopher
who values Truth, Goodness and Beauty seems, to himself, to be not merely expressing
his own desires, but pointing the way to the welfare of all mankind. Unlike the burglar,
he is able to believe that his desires are for something that has value in an impersonal
Ethics is an attempt to give universal, and not merely personal, importance to certain of
our desires, I say "certain" of our desires, because in regard to some of them this is
obviously impossible, as we saw in the case of the burglar. The man who makes money
on the Stock Exchange by means of some secret knowledge does not wish others to be
equally well informed: Truth (in so far as he values it) is for him a private possession, not
the general human good that it is for the philosopher. The philosopher may, it is true, sink
to the level of the stock-jobber, as when he claims priority for a discovery. But this is a
lapse: in his purely philosophic capacity, he wants only to enjoy the contemplation of
Truth, in doing which he in no way interferes with others who wish to do likewise.
To seem to give universal importance to our desires - which is the business of ethics -
may be attempted from two points of view, that of the legislator, and that of the preacher.
Let us take the legislator first.
I will assume, for the sake of argument, that the legislator is personally disinterested.
That is to say, when he recognizes one of his desired as being concerned only with his
own welfare, he does not let it influence him in framing the laws; for example, his code is
not designed to increase his personal fortune. But he has other desired which seem to him
impersonal. He may believe in an ordered hierarchy from king to peasant, or from mine-
owner to black indentured labourer. He may believe that women should be submissive to
men. He may hold that the spread of knowledge in the lower classes is dangerous. And so
o and so on. He will then, if he can, so construct his code that conduct promoting the ends
which he values shall, as far as possible, be in accordance with individual self- interest;
and he will establish a system of moral instruction which will, where it succeeds, make
men feel wicked if they pursue other purposes than his.[1] Thus "virtue" will come to be
in fact, though not in subjective estimation, subservience to the desires of the legislator,
in so far as he himself considers these desires worthy to be universalized.
The standpoint and method of the preacher are necessarily somewhat different, because
he does not control the machinery of the State, and therefore cannot produce an artificial
harmony between his desires and those of others. His only method is to try to rouse in
others the same desires that he feels himself, and for this purpose his appeal must be to
the emotions. Thus Ruskin caused people to like Gothic architecture, not by argument,
but by the moving effect of rhythmical prose. Uncle Tom's Cabin helped to make people
think slavery an evil by causing them to imagine themselves as slaves. Every attempt to
persuade people that something is good (or bad) in itself, and not merely in its effects,
depends upon the art of rousing feelings, not upon an appeal to evidence. In every case
the preacher's skill consis ts in creating in others emotions similar to his own - or
dissimilar, if he is a hypocrite. I am not saying this as a criticism of the preacher, but as
an analysis of this essential character of his activity.
When a man says "this is good in itself," he seems to be making a statement, just as much
as if he had said "this is square" or "this is sweet." I believe this to be a mistake. I think
that what the man really means is: "I wish everybody to desire this," or rather "Would
that everybody desired this." If what he ways is interpreted as a statement , it is merely an
affirmation of his own personal wish; if, on the other hand, it is interpreted in a general
way, it states nothing, but merely desires something. The wish, as an occurrence, is
personal, but what it desires is universal. It is, I think, this curious interlocking of the
particular and the universal which has caused so much confusion in ethics.
The matter may perhaps become clearer by contrasting an ethical sentence with one
which makes a statement. If I say "all Chinese are Buddhists," I can be refuted by the
production of a Chinese Christian or Mohammedan. If I say "I believe that all Chinese
are Buddhists," I cannot be refuted by any evidence from China, but only by evidence
that I do not believe what I say; for what I am asserting is only something about my own
state of mind. If, now, a philosopher says "Beauty is good," I may interpret him as
meaning either "Would that everybody loved the beautiful" (which corresponds to "all
Chinese are Buddhists") or "I wish that everybody loved the beautiful" (which
corresponds to "I believe that all Chinese are Buddhists"). The first of these makes no
assertion, but expresses a wish; since it affirms nothing, it is logically impossible that
there should be evidence for or against it, or for it to possess either truth or falsehood.
The second sentence, instead of being merely optative, does make a statement, but it is
one about the philosopher's state of mind, and it could only be refuted by evidence that he
does not have the wish that he says he has. This second sentence does not belong to
ethics, but to psychology or biography. The first sentence, which does belong to ethics,
expresses a desire for something, but asserts nothing.
Ethics, if the above analysis is correct, contains no statements, whether true or false, but
consists of desires of a certain general kind, namely such as are concerned with the
desires of mankind in general - and of gods, angels, and devils, if they exist. Science can
discuss the causes of desires, and the means for realizing them, but it cannot contain any
genuinely ethical sentences, because it is concerned with what is true or false.
The theory which I have been advocating is a form of the doctrine which is called the
"subjectivity" of values. This doctrine consists in maintaining that that, if two men differ
about values, there is not a disagreement as to any kind of truth, but a difference of taste.
If one man says "oysters are good" and another says "I think they are bad," we recognize
that there is nothing to argue about. The theory in question holds that all differences as to
values are of this sort, although we do not naturally think them so when we are dealing
with matters that seem to us more exalted than oysters. The chief ground for adopting this
view is the complete impossibility of finding any arguments to prove that this or that has
intrinsic value. If we all agreed, we might hold that we know values by intuition. We
cannot prove, to a colour-blind man, that grass is green and not red. But there are various
ways of proving to him that he lacks a power of discrimination which most men possess,
whereas in the case of values there are no such ways, and disagreements are much more
frequent than in the case of colours. Since no way can be even imagined for deciding a
difference as to values, the conclusion is forced upon us that the difference is one of
tastes, not one as to any objective truth.
The consequences of this doctrine are considerable. In the first place, there can be no
such thing as "sin" in any absolute sense; what one man calls "sin" another may call
"virtue," and though they may dislike each other on account of this difference, neither can
convict the other of intellectual error. Punishment cannot be justified on the ground that
the criminal is "wicked," but only on the ground that he has behaved in a way which
others wish to discourage. Hell, as a place of punishment for sinners, becomes quite
In the second place, it is impossible to uphold the way of speaking about values which is
common among those who believe in Cosmic Purpose. Their argument is that certain
things which have been evolved are "good," and therefore the world must have had a
purpose which was ethically admirable. In the language of subjective values, this
argument becomes: "Some things in the world are to our liking, and therefore they must
have been created by a Being with our tastes, Whom, therefore, we also like, and Who,
consequently is good." Now it seems fairly evident that, if creatures having likes and
dislikes were to exist at all, they were pretty sure to like some things in their environment,
since otherwise they would find life intolerable. Our values have been evolved along with
the rest of our constitution, and nothing as to any original purpose can be inferred from
the fact that they are what they are.
Those who believe in "objective" values often contend that the view which I have been
advocating has immoral consequences. This seems to me to be due to faulty reasoning.
There are, as has already been said, certain ethical consequences of the doctrine of
subjective values, of which the most important is the rejection of vindictive punishment
and the notion of "sin." But the more general consequences which are feared, such at the
decay of all sense of moral obligation, are not to be logically deduced. Moral obligation,
if it is to influence conduct, must consist not merely of a belief, but of a desire. The
desire, I may be told, is the desire to be "good" in a sense which I no longer allow. But
when we analyse the desire to be "good" it generally resolves itself into a desire to be
approved, or, alternatively, to act so as to bring about certain general consequences which
we desire. We have wishes which are not purely personal, and, if we had not, no amount
of ethical teaching would influence our conduct except through fear of disapproval. The
sort of life that most of us admire is one which is guided by large impersonal desires;
now such desires can no doubt be encouraged by example, education, and knowledge, but
they can hardly be created by the mere abstract belief that they are good, nor discouraged
by an analysis of what is meant by the word "good."
When we contemplate the human race, we may desire that it should be happy, or healthy,
or intelligent, or warlike, and so on. Any one of these desires, if it is strong, will produce
its own morality; but if we have no such general desires, our conduct, whatever our ethic
may be, will only serve social purposes in so far as self- interest and the interests of
society are in harmony. It is the business of wise institutions to create such harmony as
far as possible, and for the rest, whatever may be our theoretical definition of value, we
must depend upon the existence of impersonal desires. When you meet a man with whom
you have a fundamental ethical disagreement - for example, if you think that all men
count equally, while he selects a class as alone important - you will find yourself no
better to cope with him if you believe in objective values than if you do not. In either
case, you can only influence his conduct through influencing his desires: if you succeed
in that, his ethic will change, and if not, not.
Some people feel that if a general desire, say for the happiness of mankind, has not the
sanction of absolute good, it is in some way irrational. This is due to a lingering belief in
objective values. A desire cannot, in itself, be either rational or irrational. It may conflict
with other desires, and therefore lead to unhappiness; it may rouse opposition in others,
and therefore be incapable of gratification. But it cannot be considered "irrational" merely
because no reason can be given for feeling it. We may desire A because it is a means to
B, but in the end, when we have done with mere means, we must come to something
which we desire for no reason, but not on that account "irrationally." All systems of
ethics embody the desires of those who advocate them, but this fact is concealed in a mist
of words. Our desire are, in fact, more general and less purely selfish than many moralists
imagine; if it were not so, no theory of ethics would make moral improvement possible. It
is, in fact, not by ethical theory, but by the cultivation of large and generous desires
through intelligence, happiness, and freedom from fear, that men can be brought to act
more than they do at present in a manner that is consistent with the general happiness of
mankind. Whatever our definition of the "Good," and whether we believe it to be
subjective or objective, those who do not desire the happiness of mankind will not
endeavour to further it, while those who do desire it will do what they can to bring it
I conclude that, while it is true that science cannot decide questions of values, that is
because they cannot be intellectually decided at all, and lie outside the realm of truth and
falsehood. Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and
what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.
1. Compare the following advice by a contemporary of Aristotle (Chinese, not
Greek): "A ruler should not listen to those who believe in people having opinions
of their own and in the importance of the individual. Such teachings cause men to
withdraw to quiet places and hide away in caves or in mountains, there to rail at
the prevailing government, sneer at those in authority, belittle the importance of
rank and emoluments, and despise all who hold official posts." Walsey, The Way
and its Power, p. 37.






An admi r abl e st at ement of t he ai ms of t he Li br ar y of Phi l osophy

was pr ovi ded by t he f i r st edi t or , t he l at e Pr of essor J . H.

Mui r head, i n hi s descr i pt i on of t he or i gi nal pr ogr amme pr i nt ed i n

Er dmann' s Hi st or y of Phi l osophy under t he dat e 1890. Thi s was

sl i ght l y modi f i ed i n subsequent vol umes t o t ake t he f or mof t he

f ol l owi ng st at ement :

" The Mui r head Li br ar y of Phi l osophy was desi gned as a

cont r i but i on t o t he Hi st or y of Moder n Phi l osophy under t he heads:

f i r st of Di f f er ent School s of Thought - - Sensat i onal i st , Real i st ,

I deal i st , I nt ui t i vi st ; secondl y of di f f er ent

Subj ect s- - Psychol ogy, Et hi cs, Aest het i cs, Pol i t i cal Phi l osophy,

Theol ogy. Whi l e much had been done i n Engl and i n t r aci ng t he

cour se of evol ut i on i n nat ur e, hi st or y, economi cs, mor al s and

r el i gi on, l i t t l e had been done i n t r aci ng t he devel opment of

t hought on t hese subj ect s. Yet ' t he evol ut i on of opi ni on i s par t

of t he whol e evol ut i on' .

" By t he co- oper at i on of di f f er ent wr i t er s i n car r yi ng out t hi s

pl an i t was hoped t hat a t hor oughness and compl et eness of

t r eat ment , ot her wi se unat t ai nabl e, mi ght be secur ed. I t was

bel i eved al so t hat f r omwr i t er s mai nl y Br i t i sh and Amer i can

f ul l er consi der at i on of Engl i sh Phi l osophy t han i t had hi t her t o

r ecei ved mi ght be l ooked f or . I n t he ear l i er ser i es of books

cont ai ni ng, among ot her s, Bosanquet ' s " Hi st or y of Aest het i c, "

Pf l ei der er ' s " Rat i onal Theol ogy si nce Kant , " Al bee' s " Hi st or y of

Engl i sh Ut i l i t ar i ani sm, " Bonar ' s " Phi l osophy and Pol i t i cal

Economy, " Br et t ' s " Hi st or y of Psychol ogy, " Ri t chi e' s " Nat ur al

Ri ght s, " t hese obj ect s wer e t o a l ar ge ext ent ef f ect ed.

" I n t he meant i me or i gi nal wor k of a hi gh or der was bei ng pr oduced

bot h i n Engl and and Amer i ca by such wr i t er s as Br adl ey, St out ,

Ber t r and Russel l , Bal dwi n, Ur ban, Mont ague, and ot her s, and a new

i nt er est i n f or ei gn wor ks, Ger man, Fr ench and I t al i an, whi ch had

ei t her become cl assi cal or wer e at t r act i ng publ i c at t ent i on, had

devel oped. The scope of t he Li br ar y t hus became ext ended i nt o

somet hi ng mor e i nt er nat i onal , and i t i s ent er i ng on t he f i f t h

decade of i t s exi st ence i n t he hope t hat i t may cont r i but e t o

t hat mut ual under st andi ng bet ween count r i es whi ch i s so pr essi ng

a need of t he pr esent t i me. "

The need whi ch Pr of essor Mui r head st r essed i s no l ess pr essi ng

t o- day, and f ew wi l l deny t hat phi l osophy has much t o do wi t h

enabl i ng us t o meet i t , al t hough no one, l east of al l Mui r head

hi msel f , woul d r egar d t hat as t he sol e, or even t he mai n, obj ect

of phi l osophy. As Pr of essor Mui r head cont i nues t o l end t he

di st i nct i on of hi s name t o t he Li br ar y of Phi l osophy i t seemed

not i nappr opr i at e t o al l ow hi mt o r ecal l us t o t hese ai ms i n hi s

own wor ds. The emphasi s on t he hi st or y of t hought al so seemed t o

me ver y t i mel y; and t he number of i mpor t ant wor ks pr omi sed f or

t he Li br ar y i n t he ver y near f ut ur e augur wel l f or t he cont i nued

f ul f i l ment , i n t hi s and ot her ways, of t he expect at i ons of t he

or i gi nal edi t or .

H. D. Lewi s


Thi s book has gr own out of an at t empt t o har moni ze t wo di f f er ent

t endenci es, one i n psychol ogy, t he ot her i n physi cs, wi t h bot h of

whi ch I f i nd mysel f i n sympat hy, al t hough at f i r st si ght t hey

mi ght seemi nconsi st ent . On t he one hand, many psychol ogi st s,

especi al l y t hose of t he behavi our i st school , t end t o adopt what

i s essent i al l y a mat er i al i st i c posi t i on, as a mat t er of met hod i f

not of met aphysi cs. They make psychol ogy i ncr easi ngl y dependent

on physi ol ogy and ext er nal obser vat i on, and t end t o t hi nk of

mat t er as somet hi ng much mor e sol i d and i ndubi t abl e t han mi nd.

Meanwhi l e t he physi ci st s, especi al l y Ei nst ei n and ot her exponent s

of t he t heor y of r el at i vi t y, have been maki ng " mat t er " l ess and

l ess mat er i al . Thei r wor l d consi st s of " event s, " f r omwhi ch

" mat t er " i s der i ved by a l ogi cal const r uct i on. Whoever r eads, f or

exampl e, Pr of essor Eddi ngt on' s " Space, Ti me and Gr avi t at i on"

( Cambr i dge Uni ver si t y Pr ess, 1920) , wi l l see t hat an

ol d- f ashi oned mat er i al i smcan r ecei ve no suppor t f r ommoder n

physi cs. I t hi nk t hat what has per manent val ue i n t he out l ook of

t he behavi our i st s i s t he f eel i ng t hat physi cs i s t he most

f undament al sci ence at pr esent i n exi st ence. But t hi s posi t i on

cannot be cal l ed mat er i al i st i c, i f , as seems t o be t he case,

physi cs does not assume t he exi st ence of mat t er .

The vi ew t hat seems t o me t o r econci l e t he mat er i al i st i c t endency

of psychol ogy wi t h t he ant i - mat er i al i st i c t endency of physi cs i s

t he vi ew of Wi l l i amJ ames and t he Amer i can new r eal i st s,

accor di ng t o whi ch t he " st uf f " of t he wor l d i s nei t her ment al nor

mat er i al , but a " neut r al st uf f , " out of whi ch bot h ar e

const r uct ed. I have endeavour ed i n t hi s wor k t o devel op t hi s vi ew

i n some det ai l as r egar ds t he phenomena wi t h whi ch psychol ogy i s

concer ned.

My t hanks ar e due t o Pr of essor J ohn B. Wat son and t o Dr . T. P.

Nunn f or r eadi ng my MSS. at an ear l y st age and hel pi ng me wi t h

many val uabl e suggest i ons; al so t o Mr . A. Wohl gemut h f or much

ver y usef ul i nf or mat i on as r egar ds i mpor t ant l i t er at ur e. I have

al so t o acknowl edge t he hel p of t he edi t or of t hi s Li br ar y of

Phi l osophy, Pr of essor Mui r head, f or sever al suggest i ons by whi ch

I have pr of i t ed.

The wor k has been gi ven i n t he f or mof l ect ur es bot h i n London

and Peki ng, and one l ect ur e, t hat on Desi r e, has been publ i shed

i n t he At henaeum.

Ther e ar e a f ew al l usi ons t o Chi na i n t hi s book, al l of whi ch

wer e wr i t t en bef or e I had been i n Chi na, and ar e not i nt ended t o

be t aken by t he r eader as geogr aphi cal l y accur at e. I have used

" Chi na" mer el y as a synonymf or " a di st ant count r y, " when I

want ed i l l ust r at i ons of unf ami l i ar t hi ngs.

Peki ng, J anuar y 1921.


I . Recent Cr i t i ci sms of " Consci ousness" I I . I nst i nct and Habi t

I I I . Desi r e and Feel i ng I V. I nf l uence of Past Hi st or y on Pr esent

Occur r ences i n Li vi ng Or gani sms V. Psychol ogi cal and

Physi cal Causal Laws VI . I nt r ospect i on VI I . The Def i ni t i on of

Per cept i on VI I I . Sensat i ons and I mages I X. Memor y X. Wor ds and

Meani ng XI . Gener al I deas and Thought XI I . Bel i ef XI I I . Tr ut h and

Fal sehood XI V. Emot i ons and Wi l l XV. Char act er i st i cs of Ment al




Ther e ar e cer t ai n occur r ences whi ch we ar e i n t he habi t of

cal l i ng " ment al . " Among t hese we may t ake as t ypi cal BELI EVI NG

and DESI RI NG. The exact def i ni t i on of t he wor d " ment al " wi l l , I

hope, emer ge as t he l ect ur es pr oceed; f or t he pr esent , I shal l

mean by i t what ever occur r ences woul d commonl y be cal l ed ment al .

I wi sh i n t hese l ect ur es t o anal yse as f ul l y as I can what i t i s

t hat r eal l y t akes pl ace when we, e. g. bel i eve or desi r e. I n t hi s

f i r st l ect ur e I shal l be concer ned t o r ef ut e a t heor y whi ch i s

wi del y hel d, and whi ch I f or mer l y hel d mysel f : t he t heor y t hat

t he essence of ever yt hi ng ment al i s a cer t ai n qui t e pecul i ar

somet hi ng cal l ed " consci ousness, " concei ved ei t her as a r el at i on

t o obj ect s, or as a per vadi ng qual i t y of psychi cal phenomena.

The r easons whi ch I shal l gi ve agai nst t hi s t heor y wi l l be mai nl y

der i ved f r ompr evi ous aut hor s. Ther e ar e t wo sor t s of r easons,

whi ch wi l l di vi de my l ect ur e i nt o t wo par t s

( 1) Di r ect r easons, der i ved f r omanal ysi s and i t s di f f i cul t i es;

( 2) I ndi r ect r easons, der i ved f r omobser vat i on of ani mal s

( compar at i ve psychol ogy) and of t he i nsane and hyst er i cal

( psycho- anal ysi s) .

Few t hi ngs ar e mor e f i r ml y est abl i shed i n popul ar phi l osophy t han

t he di st i nct i on bet ween mi nd and mat t er . Those who ar e not

pr of essi onal met aphysi ci ans ar e wi l l i ng t o conf ess t hat t hey do

not know what mi nd act ual l y i s, or how mat t er i s const i t ut ed; but

t hey r emai n convi nced t hat t her e i s an i mpassabl e gul f bet ween

t he t wo, and t hat bot h bel ong t o what act ual l y exi st s i n t he

wor l d. Phi l osopher s, on t he ot her hand, have mai nt ai ned of t en

t hat mat t er i s a mer e f i ct i on i magi ned by mi nd, and somet i mes

t hat mi nd i s a mer e pr oper t y of a cer t ai n ki nd of mat t er . Those

who mai nt ai n t hat mi nd i s t he r eal i t y and mat t er an evi l dr eam

ar e cal l ed " i deal i st s" - - a wor d whi ch has a di f f er ent meani ng i n

phi l osophy f r omt hat whi ch i t bear s i n or di nar y l i f e. Those who

ar gue t hat mat t er i s t he r eal i t y and mi nd a mer e pr oper t y of

pr ot opl asmar e cal l ed " mat er i al i st s. " They have been r ar e among

phi l osopher s, but common, at cer t ai n per i ods, among men of

sci ence. I deal i st s, mat er i al i st s, and or di nar y mor t al s have been

i n agr eement on one poi nt : t hat t hey knew suf f i ci ent l y what t hey

meant by t he wor ds " mi nd" and " mat t er " t o be abl e t o conduct

t hei r debat e i nt el l i gent l y. Yet i t was j ust i n t hi s poi nt , as t o

whi ch t hey wer e at one, t hat t hey seemt o me t o have been al l

al i ke i n er r or .

The st uf f of whi ch t he wor l d of our exper i ence i s composed i s, i n

my bel i ef , nei t her mi nd nor mat t er , but somet hi ng mor e pr i mi t i ve

t han ei t her . Bot h mi nd and mat t er seemt o be composi t e, and t he

st uf f of whi ch t hey ar e compounded l i es i n a sense bet ween t he

t wo, i n a sense above t hembot h, l i ke a common ancest or . As

r egar ds mat t er , I have set f or t h my r easons f or t hi s vi ew on

f or mer occasi ons, * and I shal l not now r epeat t hem. But t he

quest i on of mi nd i s mor e di f f i cul t , and i t i s t hi s quest i on t hat

I pr opose t o di scuss i n t hese l ect ur es. A gr eat deal of what I

shal l have t o say i s not or i gi nal ; i ndeed, much r ecent wor k, i n

var i ous f i el ds, has t ended t o show t he necessi t y of such t heor i es

as t hose whi ch I shal l be advocat i ng. Accor di ngl y i n t hi s f i r st

l ect ur e I shal l t r y t o gi ve a br i ef descr i pt i on of t he syst ems of

i deas wi t hi n whi ch our i nvest i gat i on i s t o be car r i ed on.

* " Our Knowl edge of t he Ext er nal Wor l d" ( Al l en & Unwi n) , Chapt er s

I I I and I V. Al so " Myst i ci smand Logi c, " Essays VI I and VI I I .

I f t her e i s one t hi ng t hat may be sai d, i n t he popul ar

est i mat i on, t o char act er i ze mi nd, t hat one t hi ng i s

" consci ousness. " We say t hat we ar e " consci ous" of what we see

and hear , of what we r emember , and of our own t hought s and

f eel i ngs. Most of us bel i eve t hat t abl es and chai r s ar e not

" consci ous. " We t hi nk t hat when we si t i n a chai r , we ar e awar e

of si t t i ng i n i t , but i t i s not awar e of bei ng sat i n. I t cannot

f or a moment be doubt ed t hat we ar e r i ght i n bel i evi ng t hat t her e

i s SOME di f f er ence bet ween us and t he chai r i n t hi s r espect : so

much may be t aken as f act , and as a dat umf or our i nqui r y. But as

soon as we t r y t o say what exact l y t he di f f er ence i s, we become

i nvol ved i n per pl exi t i es. I s " consci ousness" ul t i mat e and si mpl e,

somet hi ng t o be mer el y accept ed and cont empl at ed? Or i s i t

somet hi ng compl ex, per haps consi st i ng i n our way of behavi ng i n

t he pr esence of obj ect s, or , al t er nat i vel y, i n t he exi st ence i n

us of t hi ngs cal l ed " i deas, " havi ng a cer t ai n r el at i on t o

obj ect s, t hough di f f er ent f r omt hem, and onl y symbol i cal l y

r epr esent at i ve of t hem? Such quest i ons ar e not easy t o answer ;

but unt i l t hey ar e answer ed we cannot pr of ess t o know what we

mean by sayi ng t hat we ar e possessed of " consci ousness. "

Bef or e consi der i ng moder n t heor i es, l et us l ook f i r st at

consci ousness f r omt he st andpoi nt of convent i onal psychol ogy,

si nce t hi s embodi es vi ews whi ch nat ur al l y occur when we begi n t o

r ef l ect upon t he subj ect . For t hi s pur pose, l et us as a

pr el i mi nar y consi der di f f er ent ways of bei ng consci ous.

Fi r st , t her e i s t he way of PERCEPTI ON. We " per cei ve" t abl es and

chai r s, hor ses and dogs, our f r i ends, t r af f i c passi ng i n t he

st r eet - - i n shor t , anyt hi ng whi ch we r ecogni ze t hr ough t he senses.

I l eave on one si de f or t he pr esent t he quest i on whet her pur e

sensat i on i s t o be r egar ded as a f or mof consci ousness: what I am

speaki ng of now i s per cept i on, wher e, accor di ng t o convent i onal

psychol ogy, we go beyond t he sensat i on t o t he " t hi ng" whi ch i t

r epr esent s. When you hear a donkey br ay, you not onl y hear a

noi se, but r eal i ze t hat i t comes f r oma donkey. When you see a

t abl e, you not onl y see a col our ed sur f ace, but r eal i ze t hat i t

i s har d. The addi t i on of t hese el ement s t hat go beyond cr ude

sensat i on i s sai d t o const i t ut e per cept i on. We shal l have mor e t o

say about t hi s at a l at er st age. For t he moment , I ammer el y

concer ned t o not e t hat per cept i on of obj ect s i s one of t he most

obvi ous exampl es of what i s cal l ed " consci ousness. " We ar e

" consci ous" of anyt hi ng t hat we per cei ve.

We may t ake next t he way of MEMORY. I f I set t o wor k t o r ecal l

what I di d t hi s mor ni ng, t hat i s a f or mof consci ousness

di f f er ent f r omper cept i on, si nce i t i s concer ned wi t h t he past .

Ther e ar e var i ous pr obl ems as t o how we can be consci ous now of

what no l onger exi st s. These wi l l be deal t wi t h i nci dent al l y when

we come t o t he anal ysi s of memor y.

Fr ommemor y i t i s an easy st ep t o what ar e cal l ed " i deas" - - not i n

t he Pl at oni c sense, but i n t hat of Locke, Ber kel ey and Hume, i n

whi ch t hey ar e opposed t o " i mpr essi ons. " You may be consci ous of

a f r i end ei t her by seei ng hi mor by " t hi nki ng" of hi m; and by

" t hought " you can be consci ous of obj ect s whi ch cannot be seen,