AN ANATOMY

OF CULTURAL
BY J. E. CHAMBERLIN

MELANCHOLY

One of the persistent features of what Frederic Harrison called “the very silliest cant of the day, the cant about culture”’ in the latter half of the nineteenth century in England was that it increasingly turned upon some argument not as to what constituted but rather as to what afflicted culture. Social diseases of all sorts were not, of course, a monopoly of the Victorian period, but even as Coleridge sat on the brow of Highgate Hill the terms according to which they would be discussed by the coming generations were taking distinct form. Carlyle, lamenting in Past and Present (1843) that even the incorruptiblest Bobus Higgins, sausage-maker, could only at best elect some Bobissimus to provide wise leadership, and prophesying that “the eternal stars shine out again, as soon as it is dark enough,” gave a certain cue to the chorus of those who would over the next half century bother about what impeded the development or hastened the disintegration of culture, understood in a multitude of senses. Other formidable cultural evangelists, such as Matthew Arnold, celebrated the one great passion of culture for sweetness and light, but like most evangelists Arnold in particular spent much of his time lamenting the conditions of degeneracy and darkness which he enthusiastically discovered all around. The instinct which prompted this kind of discussion, the instinct to turn to what is wrong in order to clarify, if not to define, what ought to be right, is still very much with us. In our concern about the quality of education, say, or the quality of the environment, we establish standards of purity for the air and the water according to the percentage of contaminants they contain, and we gauge the character of our school systems by the number of our children who cannot read, write, or count. In like fashion, cultural health during the last decades of the nineteenth century was most often measured by its evidence of disease. Quite naturally, this evidence was marshalled along lines supplied by the sciences, for science in general was beginning to take a particular interest in abnormal or pathological states, from the perturbations of the planets to the palpitations of the heart2 A critical evolutionary debate during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries centered on whether the major structures (however complex) of the
l From an essay entitled bbOurVenetian Constitution” which appeared in the
Fortnightly (March 1867);reprinted as “Parliament before Reform” in Order and Progress (London, 1873, 150. The remark was quoted by Matthew Arnold in his “Introduction” to Culture and Anarchy (London, 1869).

2 The broad debate about the state of the national health continued into the nineteenth century after it developed during the 1780sand 1790s and included the application of models supplied by the newly discovered social sciencesfollowing from the premisesof Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, ThomasMalthus, and the like. But, ironically, the questionswhich generally applied to culture (rather than to such issuesas crime or capital accumulation) tended to be sui generis and to separate themselvesfrom the powerful conservative argumentsof Coleridge, for example. He 691

so long aswe are ignorant of the nature of thesenormal activities” (Science and Culture and Other Essays [London.332-33). distribution. H. and aetiology were of critical con- took extreme exception to the use of certain kinds of scientific analogies when applied to social phenomena and had set out some fairly compelling reasons when he argued against the laissez-faire model of society as a self-regulating machine in which all things find their level. the barnacle). White. and must remain. R. such as Darwin’s favorite. or which gave indications of being in a state of developmental decline . an ob vious connection between the scientific doctrine of d isease. CHAMBERLIN .692 J. biology during this period displayed an obsessive interest in phenomena which appeared abnormal. and the legitimate uses of analogy). 3 More generally. and it is. though T. notions of change. in the original meaning of the word. their morphology. debate. While the second (or epigenetic) theory became orthodox during the nineteenth century. and how they were to be explained constituted another. and often fierce.6. an “evolution”) or whether the complex form that the adult individual displays develops as a res ult of some external force working upon the egg which has of. over and above these and other complications. classificati . Yet. E. 3 As Huxley noted in a lecture delivered in London in August. types of po tentiality . with the objection that “Persons are not Things-Man does not find his level” (Lay Sermons. 206). Both structures and processes which went beyond the expectation s of the normal organization and life of biologic . normal development. or pathology. the potential for. as distinct from the inevitability The difference in the two views is profound. and discussion about culture in the nineteenth century continued to be plagued by this difficulty. Huxley felt that the medical profession still needed reminding of this until quite late in the century.a1phenomena had a specific interest for scientists who were C oming to terms with the notion of “descent with modification’ ’ that Darw in had popu larized and with the theory of “natural selection” that he had affirmed. 18811. the prescriptions which were applied to cultural phenomena often depended in a. however. and anal ysis of aberrant (or otherwise exceptional) conditions and for morbid states. Whether variations of form and modifications of function were to be perceived as ultimately beneficial or harmful depended upon a wide range of considerations. Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge [London. influenced in a complicated way the analysis of all scientific data. There was. classification. Anyhow. and ordinary biology. ed. 1881on “The Connection of the Biological Scienceswith Medicine. some of the issues in the debate (concern ing perceptions of development. J. categories of cause and effect. Philosophy had. unintelligible. . in any event. ” “diseaseis a perturbation of the normal activities of a living body. of course. including those which formed the bases of the new social sciences. which literally defied description (that is to say. because they were of such general implication. quite direct way on the descriptions which the sciences deve loped for the i dentification .on. always found it difficult to ennoblemanand to explain nature at the sametime. 19721. adult individual are preformed in the original cell (in which case the life history is simply an unfolding or. as well as for the patterns of normal development against which these were measured.

and the most terrible. and Robert Owen) led to such idiosyncratic single-minded environmental determinists as the English historian H.” Complete Works (London. and those who saw this state as degenerate reinforced this model by a psychological analogy that was of wide appeal. others insisted that cultural degeneration was the product of the degeneracy of its leading individuals. there was the dilemma (which during the nineteenth century at least had the slightly less entangled counterpart. T.. that any cultural psychosis is at the very least preceded. The latter reached its literary overload in Emile Zola’s “natural and social history of a family under the Second Empire. Whatever the scheme. When Oscar Wilde spoke (in 1890) of “the scientific principle of Heredity” as “Nemesis without her mask . the last of the Fates. (A . viz. the analogies often became somewhat clouded by the need to decide on a couple of central issues. which has since become the subject of much dispute: the relative importance to be assigned. but there was still a fine line between viewing the decline of civilization as embodied in a falling away from accepted canons of good language and seeing this decline as a consequence of the shoddy habits of language use into which the many were being enticed by the few.5 down (in every sense) to the quite unnerving Max Nordau in the 1890s6 and up again to Freud’s 4 “The Critic as Artist. As discussion moved to the character of society and the state of culture. Carter. in establishing the causes of social change. by an individual or collective neurosis. VI.“4 he was reflecting a common conviction. Buckle who was widely read and whose grand design was hotly debated during the early years of the Darwinian controversy. some sort of causal relationship between the state of the culture and either its institutions or its individuals was generally accepted. E. 5 A. . in the natural sciences) over whether the environment (nurture) or heredity (nature) were to be given responsibility for determining conditions. and included the criminal behavior studies of Cesare Lombroso as well as the eugenics of Francis Galton and Karl Pearson. 1908). 179.AN ANATOMY OF CULTURAL MELANCHOLY 693 tern. There was a second issue. pertaining to the discussions regarding cultural development. .titles the chapter in which he discusses the psychopathology of decadence“Nerve-storms and Bad Heredity” and remarks on the pervasive identification of insanity. First.” as the Rougon-Macquart novels were subtitled. 6 The English translationof the secondedition of Max Nordau’sEntartung (Berlin. to social structures on the one hand and to individual patterns of belief and action (often embodied in what were conceived as typical personalities) on the other. neuroses. and Huxley’s principle that “whatever change of structure or function is hurtful belongs to pathology” gave analysis its cue. While some saw the culture disintegrating as its representative forms or institutions crumbled. And neuroses were the special province of the apostles of decadence. 1892-93)appeared in London early in 1895 under the title Degeneration.genius. The former (in a distinguished tradition including Hartley. referred to above. Godwin. 1958). and degenerateconditions. in his fine book on The Idea of Decadence in French Literature 1830-1900 (Toronto. The uses and abuses of language brought these perspectives closer together. from the French d&dents of the mid-nineteenth century. if not caused.

reproduction. perhaps. to be cured by a physician rather than punishedby a judge (The Letters of Oscar Wilde. In more recent times. and then structuralism. the opposite of evolution became (for some anthropologists. E. 19081) and A. Nervousness. of course. after all. E. in fact. One may. CHAMBERLIN Totem and Taboo (1913). Dkgk?rescence. 1863). 1896. the most notable being G. was published in Paris in 1894.* The notion of survivals. It was exceptionally popular. There were several “replies” to Nordau. religious. in many ways. Tylor espoused this definition. scientific. 1830-33) establishedthe basis for this use.7 The question of degeneration is. and with regard to broadly cultural issues. and so forth) to which the nervous system was essential. for it was used both by those who structured their cultural arguments along lines which gave priority to cultural progress and general advance. and artistic agitation-further encouraged this kind of association. . 1895and was reprinted as The Sanity ofArt [London. ed.Wilde himself.” a concept taken in large measure from the use made of the geological record by nineteenth-century biology. 1895). as he contradicted the view (which had been given prominence by Cuvier.arguedby reference to Nordau and Lombroso that his “crime” shouldrather be considereda disease. indeed.)Nordau had dedicated the book to CesareLombroso. in a letter to the Home Secretary written from ReadingGaol on July 2. be forgiven a certain nostalgia at such open-mindedness. Shaw’s “A Degenerate’sView of Nordau” (which first appearedin the American Anarchist periodical Liberty in July. generated a special kind of confusion. and there was during this time much relatively uninformed but intensediscussion of the relationship of consciousness to the nervous system.402). 7There was wide interest in the nervous systemin the nineteenth century.The interrelationshipsof the sciences during this period were extensive. amongothers) of history as essentially catastrophic. 19621. 8 Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology (London. In a very generalized form. is logically associated with nerves and neuroses. Hake’s anonymously publishedRegeneration: A Reply to Max Nordau (London. Lyell. the theory of degeneration defined itself as the opposite of the theory of the progressive’ evolution of cultures. B. in part becauseOscar Wilde’s trials had drawn public attention to the subject of decadentart and its decadentpurveyors. and Darwin’s enlightenment on reading Malthus’ “Essay on Population” in 1838 was only the best known of a numberof similar incidentsin which one branch of science illuminated another. had difficulty accepting Darwin’s own view and only did so in his Antiquity of Man (London. Cuvier’s system of animal classification was based in part on what he called the “animal function” (as distinct from the “vegetative function” which includes growth. subtitled “some points of agreement between the mental life of savages and neurotics. Rupert Hart-Davis [New York. B. however. The idea that the so-called savage races represented a French translation. at the heart of the matter. This shift in the nature of anthropological argument has tended to obliterate the importance which was attached in Tylor’s time to the concept of “survivals.” The generally nervous unease of the period-the political. and by the advocates of theories of cultural degeneration. at least) functionalism. with Huxley’s work in the 1870s that this interest becamemost prominent.694 J. and anthropologists beginning with E.It was.

a development of the heterogeneous and specific from the homogeneous and general. lo This principle is dealt with in some detail in Stephen Jay Gould’s Ontogeny and Phylogeny (Cambridge. much of this opinion was the result of crude ethnocentricity. These ideas together constituted a powerful analytic framework. must by definition display a progression from less to more complex. which in turn is the animal half of biology. during the life of an individual. Mass. one might g There was an acknowledged scheme according to which ethnology was seen as a branch of anthropology. continued throughout the century. there developed a recognition of some axioms in the study of biological phenomena derived from direct observation: that there are “higher” and “lower” species. Undoubtedly. was at one time widely held. still gave the discussion a firm basis. and of what kind of a progress or decline. However. however enviable or idyllic their way of life might appear..lO One of the most formidable. 1977)which presentsthe basesof biological understanding in the nineteenth century with exemplary judgment and clarity. Furthermore. and that there is an increase of complexity. as degenerate descendants of the higher races whose civilized state was congenital to man. Though it appearedafter this paper was essentiallycompleted. itself a division of zoology. But. drawing strength from the more general philosophical tenets of Goethe and Herder.” discussed below. It was a simple tautology to identify more complex societies and more advanced cultures in the context of social organisms which were less elaborate. that the progression from lower to higher corresponds to a progression from less to more complex. within which any discussion of development that employed any analogy with biological processes had to fit. biology supplied a consistent principle which. though often unrecognized or disguised. given the commitment (of many of those who spoke on such matters) to the general principles of biological form and development (whether Darwinian or not made absolutely no difference). but a residual confusion about exactly what could be said to be a survival.g Most explicitly in the work of the Naturphilosophen. and recently most derided. I have usedGould to confirm or in someinstancescorrect my interpretation relating to the “law of recapitulation. nineteenthcentury assumptions (usually associated with the ideas of progress that were a legacy of the enlightenment) was that the white races of Europe were higher or more advanced in the evolutionary scheme than the primitive or savage races. Or. much also the consequence of an ignorant belief in a particular creed of progress. it was inevitable that their perception of organized societies would reflect their understanding that the life of particular forms. a fixed warp and woof. if a single direction to organic development is acknowledged and if this development is admitted not to confound the general set of laws which govern natural processes. as Walter Pater did in his review of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. it was certainly demolished during the 1860s particularly by John Lubbock. and the history of their collectivity. . then the stages in the life of an individual (or what is called ontogeny) will necessarily not only parallel but directly recapitulate the (usually adult) stages in the history of a lineage or species (phylogeny).AN ANATOMY OF CULTURAL MELANCHOLY 695 degraded type.

namely these: to keep it in statu quo. whereas they are more properly classified. As an example. in the light of the phylogenetic evidence which they display in ontogeny. Fixity or immobility. to increase the complexity of its structure. Lankester. the way forward. Lankester adds. CHAMBERLIN apply the argument to more specific considerations: “To lose the moral sense therefore. of course. to pass from a higher to a lower degree of development. or Degeneration. Lankester is to someextent indebted. 1. a distinguished disciple of Darwin and an original thinker on his own ground. Wilde’s heroes are bent on doing as speedily. Lankester suggests that “we may sum up the immediate antecedents of degenerative evolution as. Cuvier classified barnacles as Molluscs. 1880). Vegetative nutrition. the current form of any species may possibly be the result of degeneration and yet offer no evidence of that degeneration in its immediate patterns of growth and development. or Elaboration. which is to say to a diminishing of the complexity of biological structure. in Darwinism (London. or lastly. to drive home his point. that “the vertebrate character of the Ascidians and the history of their Degeneration would never have been suspected . or lower. certainly no way in which a practicing natural scientist could ignore its imperatives.” l2 Degeneration: A Chapter The Bookman (November 1891). The only reliable way of ensuring that the process and result of degeneration are recognized is by attending to those “habits of l1 “A Novel by Mr. as he acknowledgedin his article on “Zoology” in the ninth (1890)edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (XXIV. as Mr. 81l). No one in the nineteenth century needed to be told that the alternative direction was backward. Oscar Wilde. Discussing the conditions which lead in this direction. gave a lecture (published as a book) on Degeneration. Parasitism. 3. . Excessive reduction of size” (52). taken place. to become less complex.28-29. Therefore. for instance. R. and in many lines certainly has. the sense of sin and righteousness.” l1 There was no avoiding this mode of thought.696 J. to diminish the complexity of its structure. Lankester then emphasizes the difficulties involved in identifying certain species as degenerate if the development of the individual happens not fully to recapitulate the development of the species. So when E. . We have as possibilities either Balance. l2 Elaboration constituted. E. is to lose.” . as completely as they can. he set up his argument as follows: It is clearly enough possible for a set of forces such as we sum up under the head ‘natural selection’ to so act on the structure of an organism as to produce one of three results. 4. 2. as well as a man of wide general acwaintance with the artistic and social world of London. had the Ascidian tadpoles ceased to appear in the course of Ascidian development at a geological period anterior to the present epoch” (55). to the work of Anton Dohrn who pointed out in 1875the limitations of the standard post-Darwinian assumption “that all the changeof structure through which the successive generations of animals have passedhas been one of progressive elaboration” and proposed instead “that degenerationor progressivesimplification of structure may have. as degenerate Crustaceans. organization.

and just how “unhealthy” each state could be said to be in relation to the norm. Thompson’s On Growth avid Form (Cambridge. it was natural that much attention would be paid to the stages and. and there was always a residual ethnocentric provincialism modified. . there were two interrelated themes here. Cousin. And although Lankester. 1917)includes an extended and intelligent discussionof final and efficient causes. he suggests that “possibly we are all drifting. it is abundantly clear that degenerative evolution is by no means limited in its application to the field of zoology. or might even be regressing.” according to some (however unknown or unknowable) purpose or design. for it bore directly on religious and philosophical as well as scientific and cultural commitments. but it is also there because the builders have laid one stone upon another. along a course determined only by antecedent conditions. degeneration plays an important part. In other fields. l3 D’Arcy W. Lankester’s contemporaries attended with enthusiasm to the latter. Whether such processes moved “from some beginning. tending to the condition of intellectual Barnacles or Ascidians” (60). the lesson implied in his work was clear from a wide variety of scientific commentary. or not far enough. to the direction of development (or decline). the house is there that men may live in it. The first involved one of several models of normalcy. by implication. the issue was whether particular phenomena had proceeded in their development too far. wherever in fact the great principle of evolution has been recognized. In the cultural domain. was as contentious an issue as surfaced during this period. Furthermore. As Aristotle suggested. and presumably always will be.13 In descriptions of cultural pathologies that followed scientific analogies. in general under the guise of the “ages of man” . Since it was. held no monopoly on thinking with reference to such issues. ’ ’ as it were. and the influence of such commentary on the shape and character of discussions about cultural development (and degeneration) was pervasive. (57-58) Lankester concludes his essay with a consideration of the real possibility of degeneration with regard to the European races. it is not easy to categorize the ways in which cultural degeneration in particular was described. The advantage which modern man has is the ability to ascertain the conditions conducive to higher development and the related conditions or “habits” which would favor degeneration. and Comte. and displayed itself in an endemic confusion during the period between teleological (or vitalistic) and morphological (or mechanistic) explanations of all living processes. difficult to reach agreement on these former conditions. Despite the pattern which such analogies established and the general influence of scientific speculation on cultural debate. One of the major impediments was inherent in the speculation itself. among others. though we may establish the hypothesis most satisfactorily by the study of animal organization and development. as an example. versions were provided by Vito. or whether they moved “to some end. Crudely speaking.AN ANATOMY OF CULTURAL MELANCHOLY 697 Lan- life” (50) likely to lead to degeneration kester insisted: outlined above.

that children represent the thinking of their prehistoric ancestors and that savages think like children. W. belongs with this sort of analysis. It is worth noting that the function of memory (whether Lamarckian. cultural tradition (especially l4 See Gould. He formulated his “biogenetic law” in the catchy phrase “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” . comparative anatomy (comparison between anatomical structures. ed. for example. the life history of the individual exists only inasmuch as it constitutes a recapitulation of the history of the race. J. or in broader terms taken to include cultural inheritance and a kind of collective unconscious) can be argued to supply a key to the development of individual or social organisms if any analogy between memory and heredity is accepted. There was a particular class of descriptions of cultural change and decay which followed directly from recapitulatory theory. A second theme made possible the recognition of these stages in both societies and individuals. E. for example. The argument for recapitulation depended upon parallels among paleontology (the geological record). and for the managementof which one needs a corps of professionalcustodiansor brokers. to reinforce whatever norms were proposed. In other words. Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock (London. as propounded by Haeckel and Samuel Butler. Haeckel’s view of the matter was resolutely mechanistic: phylogeny was the mechanical cause of ontogeny. 122-25. and his championing of the fairly ubiquitous notion that (to take the way it was applied to the higher forms of life) every animal in the course of its individual development recapitulates the history of the race assured for this theme a central place in nineteenth-century natural science. See. 1879). Clifford’s notion of a “tribal self. . A complicated confusion of phylogenesis and history also developed from this habit of mind (and tied it to a more general genetic mode of explanation) according to which an explanation of what something is is to be supplied by a delineation of how it came to be. which is acquired and inherited. K. for the addition of new aspects to the end of ontogeny and the deletion of others (by condensation) to make room for these new features are phylogenetic processes. add to it a Lamarckian belief in the inheritability of acquired characteristics. a belief shared by Haeckel and at times by Darwin.693. published in Lectures and Essays. Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was the chief apostle of recapitulation in the nineteenth century (Lankester was one of the first to translate his work into English). especially adult forms). l4 Analogies in specifically human terms might be history. and ontogeny (individual development).” which he posited as informing ethical behavior. his essay on “The Scientific Basis of Morals” (1875).Paul Valery supplieda variation on this somewhatlater in the 1930s (in essayssuchas“La Liberte de l’esprit”) with his imageof culture ascapital. and it is not hard to understand why many felt that close attention must be paid to identifying whatever was degenerate in society and to ensuring that characteristics which might encourage degeneration were not acquired by the culture. The elements of a ruthless biological determinism with application to human affairs are easily identifiable here. CHAMBERLIN perhaps by fascination with one or more “classical” periods. and depended upon an idea from the biological sciences to which reference has already been made. this idea was used to affirm.

the theory of recapitulation was employed in a disguised form to castigate cultures which appeared to have lost part of their motivation. as recapitulation theory affirmed. . . if an animal passes through stages which represent the forms of animals lower on the developmental scale. with particular attention to explanations of abnormalities as arrests of development. . and feelings of myriad generations. or genocide. no emotional impulse obscure?15 wealth of the world. To know anything about oneself one must know all about others. but. to analyses of cultural phenomena and of individuals within a culture (which is to say. the true critic embodies the complete recapitulation of the culture: For he to whom the present is the only thing that is present. the basic premises of recapitulation. . one must realise every century that has preceded it and that has contributed to its making. then malformations may arise as a result of a partial arrest of development during early structural stages. especially a wide application of the theory of developmental arrests. are forms of arrested development. and related accounts throughout other areas of the social sciences of cultures fixated by their primitive values and beliefs were used by Freud to support his theory of neuroses. and insanity in general. so that the part in question does not pass through the stages it must in order to achieve normal growth appropriate to the adult form. Other explanations of what were perceived as cultural handicaps included widely different. but equally repulsive. following a belief that since one must assume a force of some sort informing development. arguments for racism. This theory of developmental arrests was of great influence. often supporting imperial domination. parts of the social organism).” Works (London. depended on this kind of approach and had considerable influence on attitudes towards treatment of the criminal and the insane. and indeed may be said to be one with it. and to whom no form of thought is alien. Furthermore. .AN ANATOMY OF CULTURAL MELANCHOLY 699 European -an “adult” form. To realise the nineteenth century. Do you think that it is the imagination that enables us to live these countless lives? Yes: it is the imagination. 178-81.VI. That is. The interest in criminal anthropology. any failure in the developmental program must indicate a corresponding deficiency of the informing force. and ideas. in this vein. 1908). as Ruskin asked in ? The theory of recapitulation also had an interest in pathological conditions and turned to the study of abnormal development or teratology. for evidence. Henry Maudsley had proposed in Body and Mind (1873) that idiocy in particular. The culture that this transmission of racial experience makes possible can be made perfect bv the critical spirit alone. what about its ‘ ‘illth” So much for the cultural l5 Oscar Wilde. To this whole scheme of evolutionary recapitulation there was an imporUnto this Last (1862). knows nothing of the age in which he lives. as it were). Around the same period. “The Critic as Artist . and the imagination is the result of heredity. . and personality. far beyond the study of fetal monstrosities where it arose. For who is the true critic but he who bears within himself the dreams. . slavery. It is simply concentrated race-experience. established by Cesare Lombroso and popularized in English by Havelock Ellis.

1882). and embodied in his most famous work. 1872) and in Die iikonomische Natur der physikalischen Forschung (Vienna. and gathered together all things in Himself. 16. first explicated theory of the recapitulatio: by Saint Irenaeus (ca. Sect. and. 13 of Collected Works (New York. Bk. K. ed. and Newman (Oxford. I. There is an analogy between those (from John Henry Newman to Gerard Manley Hopkins) who in their different ways attempted to realize the immanent character of the divine presence by means of a kind of imaginative structure derived from Irenaeus and those (such as Ernst Mach and Karl Pearson) who in the sciences were trying to get rid of metaphysical obscurities in the apprehension of the reality with which science is concerned by insisting on the nature of science as an economy of thought. 6. thus summing up all things in Himself: so that as in super-celestial. Clifford’s posthumously published The Common Sense of the Exact Sciences [London. Die Mechanik in ihrer Entwicklung (Leipzig. 1892). This translation is from the latter edition and is quoted in James Finn Cotter’s The Christology and Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Pittsburgh. He is man. New York. was first presented in Die Gestalten der Fliissigheit (Prague. He might draw all things to Himself at the proper time? In paraphrase. Mach was later attacked for his “idealist” tendencies by V. as well as constituting Himself Head of the Church. E. (He also edited W. especially in a section entitled “Science and Metaphysics. 1883). and The Ante-Nicene Fathers. 3. Keble. . which was translated into English as The Science of Mechanics and published in London in 1893. the incomprehensible being made comprehensible. too. Lenin in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism which was written following a visit by Lenin to London in 1908 for extensive studies of philosophical literature. and thus He took up man into Himself. But in every respect. l7 They come together. and invisible things.) Mach’s best known doctrine. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Edinburgh. There was another type of explanation of cultural pathologies which also followed an essentially mechanistic or morphological interpretation of l6 Adversus Haereses. this amounts to a view of history (including creation) as recapitulated in Christ who exists at the effective center of time and sums up in himself the beginning and end of the world in one oikonomia or household of God. that science essentially has the purpose of saving mental effort. the invisible becoming visible. in the polemic of the great cultural materialists of the time who saw all processes and all structures converging in social phenomena which in their development recapitulate the often grim history of human societies. CHAMBERLIN tant patristic analogue. 18851. taking to Himself the pre-eminence. Nineteenth-century translations of the Church Fathers included the Library of the Fathers. It is translated as Vol. so also in things visible and corporeal He might possess the supremacy. who came by means of the whole dispensational arrangements connected with Him. and one Christ Jesus. Pusey. ironically. 183888). 1927). ed. 1972). Chap. the formation of God. and the Word being made man. 125202) in his There is one God the Father. 102.700 J. The paraphrase which follows the quotation is indebted to Cotter’s discussion. 1866-72. the impassible becoming capable of suffering. spiritual. the Word of God is supreme. l7 Pearson argued the case in The Grammar of Sciences (London.” 18-23. 1884-86).

subtitled “thoughts on the application of the principles of ‘natural selection’ and ‘inheritance’ to political society” (1872). Cell-theory had assumed particular importance with the acceptance (following the work of Max Schultze) of protoplasm as the physical basisof life. as indeed each habit and belief. and of heredity.” One of the nicest ironies in this connection is that Spencer’s views were quoted by Peter Kropotkin exclusively in support of what he called “the scientific bases of anarchy” and of his demonstration (in Mutual Aid [ 19021) of how group cooperation and the deliberate setting aside of competition had been important facts in ensuring the survival of the fittest species. in Views and Reviews. that “the smallest substantive organism of which society is composed is the family.AN ANATOMY OF CULTURAL MELANCHOLY 701 phenomena. and in an effort to put on a solid basis his positivistic science of humanity. be tested against reality or the circumstances that were taken to constitute the evolutionary environment. . There were those such as Frederic Harrison who insisted in an essay on J. Other explanations of cultural phenomena depended more directly upon fashionable notions of evolutionary “struggle. it was easy to view all of this in a teleological perspective and to speak of the proper subordination not of parts to the whole but of means to ends.” In addition. and was reiterated later by Karl Pearson who insisted (in an essay on “Socialism and Natural Selection” [ 18941) that “without natural selection degeneration must set in. making a distinction between degeneration of grammatical form and degeneration of language as an instrument of thought. as Herbert Spencer insisted. A similar law governs the development and decadence of that other organism which we call language? And as Lankester affirmed. 1932). the survival of only the fittest ensured the evolutionary progress of the race. The social organism does not escape this law and enters into decadence as soon as the individual life becomes exaggerated beneath the influence of acquired wellbeing. S. then it was necessary to ensure that each individual. not the individual. he drew attention to this analogy: If the energy of the cells becomes independent. for example. the lesser organisms will likewise cease to subordinate their energy to the total energy and the anarchy which is established constitutes the d&cadence of the whole. in social terms. If.e open air. 51-52. This necessity was argued by Walter Bagehot. however. this translated into the relationship between the individual and the society. It developed from a scientific analogy with the normal federation of cells in a healthy organism and the proper subordination within the organism of the part to the whole.” and often took the form of a deduction that under certain circumstances the processes of normal evolut ionary conflict became suspended and certain phenomena developed in the hot hot Ise that might never (and should never) survive in th . as the l8 “A Note on Paul Bourget” (1889). 1 (London. When Havelock Ellis gave an account of the theory of decadence which Paul Bourget had outlined. Even this general scheme was not without its confusions. Mill. “true Degeneration of language is only found as part and parcel of a more general degeneration of mental activity” (75). in Physics and Politics. rpt. the end being the flourishing of the society or the growth and dominance of the culture.

vested in living organisms a unique vitalism that implied purpose. was supplied by a residual Leibnizian faith that this world is (in a phrase from his Theodicy) “the best of all possible worlds. perhaps related to the fact that Hamlet was a lg Cf. while the ideologies of ‘ ‘ imperium’ ’ and “dominium” depended in large measure on the acceptance of a sense of purpose. of manifest destiny. Where things went wrong. of grand design. CHAMBERLIN need to struggle merged with the need for solidarity. What if this sense of purpose seems lost.” and the philosophical issues were muffled by the Epicurean conviction that nature finds a use for everything. For some curious reason. is Ernst Haeckel claimed. and rehabilitated it. or this vitality is no longer present? The analogies from science again provided a model. many of which were inherited from the previous century. especially however it was conceived-was lost or remained 802). was where the bees were not allowed to swarm. Organic evolution (of institutions as well as of other more natural species) tended to be likened more often to the design of a temple or cathedral than to the growth of a tree. represented by Huxley and Lankester. H. XXIV. who instructed a generation how to read the older literary and the newer scientific classics through Hegelian bifocals. reformed. This was of special importance because of the influence of the Oxford Hegelians of the 1870s such as T. if it were needed. This inclination was strongly reinforced by doctrines of utilitarian and liberal political development. spent much of their polemical force describing how evolutionary theory.” .lg Claude Bernard (1813-1878). reflecting on how “the calculating exactness of practical life resulting from a money economy corresponds exactly to the idea of natural science. Further support. and many in the second half of the nineteenth century discovered a teleological bias in Hegel. then the evolutionary processes were either suspended or misunderstood. one of the most important physiologists of the era. of Lankester’s article on “Zoology” in the ninth (1890) edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (Vol. 799-820. The difficulty was that one of the more arcane but also impassioned debates which centered around Darwinian evolution depended on the interpretation of the status of teleological explanations of natural phenomena. Georg Simmel in 1903. far from having contradicted teleology. Green and William Wallace. Two generations of proponents of Darwin. according to this collectivist view. for example. This was the burden. had essentially refounded. that of converting the world into a problem of arithmetic and of transforming each of its parts into a mathematical formula. E. The Naturphilosophen were committed to the notion of design. and this energy in the higher forms of life was associated with a particular kind of deliberate vitality and sense of purpose. The notion of a “final cause” came to the nineteenth century from a strong Aristotelian tradition which appeared in eighteenth-century physics and was hard even for the mechanists to shake. for their ideal was the reduction of all phenomena to the laws of chemistry and physics.702 J. When the “telos”undiscovered. In the nineteenth century the health of an organism was routinely judged (in an Aristotelian manner) by the energy it displayed. but in a somewhat complicated form. both of which became excruciatingly evangelical in their claim to have the end in sight.

wrote in NieIs Lyhne (1880) about the modern (cultural) spirit of the time. writing in the preface to Das Kapital that “in bourgeois society the commodity-form of the product of labour. as they did on other social aberrations and anomalies when Ibsen and Strindberg established their formidable presence. Friedrich Engels (London. a disease of the material organism.295. psychological. by SamuelMoore and Edward Aveling. about a vague purposelessness.” conceived historical dialectics as analogous to evolutionary biology.“20 Others wrote about being (in the words of the title of a novel by Jacobsen’s fellow countryman and contemporary Sophus Schandorph: Uden Midpunkt) without a center and W. 99: “There was in Niels Lyhne’s nature a lame reflectiveness. was really little more than his version of Leibniz’s entelechy whereby the process has as its “telos” the completing of itself? 2oTrans Hanna Astrup Larsen (New York. a “lame reflectiveness.” 21From’ the Preface to the first German edition (1867).included in The MarxEngels Reader. and progress. ed. and however he looked upon it. 1978). the utilitarian inclinations of Karl Marx. of the bourgeois system. which (in a phrase he used about Adam Smith) “penetrated to the inner relations. he hated it as a secret infirmity. But whatever he made of it. economic.or the value-form of the commodity-is the economic cell-form. the center cannot hold anyhow. social. design. Marx’s tendency to see the disease as mortal and to prophesy economic catastrophe and social revolution. 22 . He wasalways struggling against this reflectiveness. grandchild of a subconscious sense that he lacked personality. Robert C. and historical experience were abstracted in a way that emphasized elements of purpose. when the times are thus confused and purposeless. 22As Huxley insistedin an essayon “Science and Culture” (first delivered as a lecture at the opening of Sir Joshua Mason’s Science College in Birmingham in October ISSO). trans. 1967). The transposition of scientific analogies to social and historical processes was reinforced by the wide interest in methodologies of comparative analysis whereby the structures of linguistic. ’ ’ 21 and arguing throughout that the surplus value of labor upon which capitalism feeds represents an aberration in the organically conceived social system. there is an arbiter whosedecisionsexecute themselves. Yeats and lesser poets from the nineties underlined how. no social arrangementscan be permanent unlessthey harmonize with the requirementsof socialstaticsand dynamics. the physiology as it were. sometimesgoading himself by calling it vile names. in the nature of things.then againdecking it out asa virtue that was a part of his inmost self and was bound up with all his possibilities and powers. or their notable absence. In addition. B.“social phenomena are asmuch the expressionof natural lawsas any others. child of an instjnctive shrinking from decisive action. implying as they did a loss of energy as well as of purpose.” (Publishedin Science and Culture and Other Essays. though it dismayed and disappointed some of his colleagues. 1887). The great Danish novelist Jens Peter Jacobsen.AN ANATOMY OF CULTURAL MELANCHOLY 703 Dane. Tucker (New York. Idleness and indolence were obvious gestures to reflect this state of affairs.) . ed. a naturalist by training and the first major translator of Darwin into his native language. it was the Scandinavian writers of the period who especially focused their attention on this pathology. He developed his theory of surplus value using quite ostentatiously scientific analogues.

was derived from the natural sciences. Renan. incoherent homogeneity to a definite. for example. not to mention prevail.y to its well-bei ng-only thoroughgoing pedants seem to h. A. Chap. a system which is (in social terms) able to absorb errors and crimes into itself or expel them normally while still remaining healthy. it became fairly easy to isolate unhealthy cultures as either failing in a sense of purpose. it was not published until 1890. acknowledged or not. as soon as the characteristic function or distinct identity of an organism ceased to be demonstrable. entitled “The Law of Evolution (Continued). 24 First Principles (London. these analogies were not simply instructive. some demonstration of its defining characteristics was an essential component of its defense as a viable entity.the part of that essay which was included in First Principles ended with a rather lesscomplete definition: “That in which Evolution essentially consists. It was not that everything in a healthy culture must be strictly compatible and contribute direct1 . E. the organism ceased its progressive evolution. certainly. is the transformation of the homogeneous into the heterogeneous” (174).1894) explained how the dividing line for late nineteenth23Written in 1848-49. 1862). But the more urgent question still related to the definition and perception of cultural purpose. but with reference to a culture. The key di sti nction between these forms was provided by the idea of consciousness. would inevitably lack the vital energy. There is a final point here: although analogies with lower forms of life were suggested. coherent heterogeneity. J. in a world that was constantly changing and continuously testing.” originally published in the Westminster Review (April 1857). a display of energy. and here the function of leadership and the recognition of the characteristic features of a culture became crucial. a clearly identifiable pattern of functions and interrelationships among the co nstituent parts of the organic whole. a culture was ultimate1 . 1891). The scheme.704 J.ave believed that. This definition appearsin Part 11. It was translated into English and published as The Future of Science: Ideas of 1848 (London. culture that displayed neither motive nor motif. From Ernest Renan to Friedrich Nietzsche.” Chap. Of course. “The Law of Evolution. .” is nearly identical with the first half of an essayon “Progress: its Law and Cause. CHAMBERLIN For the apostles of culture. neither purpose nor design. 3. Romanes (1848. If perceived in teleological terms. or as not fitting into a pattern of use and order that is ac commodated to the perceived and accepted purposes of society. especially in the conte xt of ’ Spencer’ s particu lar formulation of the general principle of evo lution as “ a change from an ind efinite. the creative force necessary to survive. although material from it appeared earlier in other works by Renan.” 24 The progressive differentiation which thereby constitutes the increased complexity of the higher forms was assumed to be embodied in a coherent cha racterization. and scientists such as G. they were compelling. 2.y expected to function accord ing to models supplied by the higher forms.216.. had a stock image (which he used in his book L’Avenir de la Sciencez3) of a digestive system in which waste is inevitable. the question of demonstrability was always an open one. European thinkers instructed English readers in this logic from a position closer to an understanding of the variety of cultural forms than their island audience could achieve. a recognition of design.

Star-fish and Sea-urchins. Whyte (London. L. This failure could then be attributed to an aberration or obstruction in the process of its development.25 Jacob von Uexkiill (1864. “The Role of Gestalt Perception in Animal and Human Behaviour. had a trope that “when a dog runs. that is. L.“26 For our nineteenth-century chroniclers any culture that allowed itself to become like the sea-urchin might move quite quickly but certainly was headed in the wrong (evolutionary) direction. on the other. on an ability to establish and maintain a balance between an organic determinism (or mechanism) that would confirm the prerogatives of evolutionary process and a creative freedom (or teleology) that would allow for independent definition of those cultural characteristics which should be retained and reinforced. the dog is moving his legs. Lorenz. 25 See Jelly-fish. know what it is about. a zoologist of the early twentieth century who had considerable influence on the thinkers of the German Bauhaus. Whether this growth itself is properly conceived as a force or as a process was accepted as an open question. And the paradoxical lesson in this was that the healthy growth of a culture must ultimately depend on the ability of its informing conditions to determine its structure without overwhelming its self-conscious identity. it is only prudent to acquire those which suit the perceived purposes of the cultural organism. on the one hand. University College.AN ANATOMY OF CULTURAL MELANCHOLY 705 century natural science was almost straddled by the sea-urchin. After all. Romanes’ broad argument. 1883). 26Quoted by Konrad 2. It must.” Aspects of Form. .traced the relationship of consciousness to the elaborationof nerve-centersthroughout the animalkingdom.1944). which he developed in works such as Mental Evolution in Animals (London. so that its growth and development may conform to internal as well as external imperatives. 1968). University of Toronto. though an important one. the legs are moving the sea-urchin. being A Research on Primitive Nerv- ous Systems (London. when a sea-urchin runs. as soon as a culture ceased to grow it began to fail.159. if characteristics are to be acquired and inherited. or to an atrophy of its vital force. for according to the dynamic model that prevailed. 1885). like the dog. ed.