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Social Statics : Method And Elements

( Originally Published 1913 )

IN Sociology, as in Biology, scientific investigation em-ploys conjointly the three methods of the general Art of Observation : that is to say, Observation, Experiment, and Comparison. We must here therefore consider the relative position and peculiar character of these successive modes of procedure.

In every order of phenomena, even the most simple, real Observation is only possible in as far as it is primarily directed and finally interpreted by some Theory. Such a logical necessity becomes irresistible when complicated phenomena are in question; without the luminous indication of a previous theory, the observer would not know what he was to examine in the fact passing under his eyes. It is therefore evident that social observations, even more than all others, require the continuous use of theories destined to connect the present with the past.

Facts are not wanting ; for, in this order of phenomena more than in any other, the most obvious are necessarily the most important, notwithstanding the puerile pre tensions of collectors of secret anecdotes; but they remain profoundly sterile, and even unperceived, for want of the intellectual dispositions and speculative indications indispensable to their real scientific examination. Thus, examined according to rational views of solidarity or succession, social phenomena doubtless offer far more varied and extensive means of observation than the other less complicated phenomena. It is thus that not only the immediate inspection or direct description of any events whatever, but also the consideration of apparently the most insignificant customs, the interpretation of various sorts of monuments, the analysis and comparison of languages, etc., may offer to sociology useful means of positive examination : in a word, everyone may succeed in converting into precious sociological indications the impressions received from almost all the facts of social existence.

The second art of observing, or Experiment, properly so called, is here only exercised in an indirect manner, by applying it to pathological cases, which constitute, in biological studies, the real scientific equivalent of pure Experiment, since the natural experiences they offer us are eminently appropriated to the study of the complex phenomena of organization. Here, this pathological analysis consists in the examination of cases, unfortunately too frequent, in which the social laws suffer the perturbations seen in revolutionary periods, especially in the present day.

These perturbations are, in the social organization, exactly analogous to individual diseases. In both cases, it is making a noble use of reason to apply it to the better unfolding of the real laws of our nature, by the scientific analysis of the serious disorders by which its development is accompanied. It is true-that cases of social disturbance are considered unfit to unfold the laws of political organism, which are then supposed to be destroyed, or at least suspended. But these pathological cases cannot constitute any real violation. As the laws always exist in some state of the social organism, we can deduce with proper precautions, from the scientific analysis of perturbations, the positive theory of normal existence.

The third mode of observation, or Comparison, necessarily predominates in all studies of which living bodies are the subject. The chief point of this method consists in bringing together the co-existent states of society in different parts of the globe, considered eve-. cially among those populations most independent of one another. Nothing is so proper as such a method for distinctly characterizing the various essential phases of human evolution, thenceforth susceptible of being simultaneously explored, so as to show their principal attributes in an unequivocal manner. In the first place this comparative method has the advantage of being equally applicable to the two essential orders of sociologic speculations, Static and Dynamic, so as to verify both the laws of existence and those of movement, sometimes furnishing valuable indications with regard to each.

In the second place, it extends in the present day to all possible degrees of social evolution, of which the characteristic features can thus be effectually submitted to our immediate observation : from the unfortunate inhabitants of Terra del Fuego to the most advanced people of Western Europe, it is impossible to imagine any form of social existence which is not actually realized in certain parts of the globe, and even, almost always, oil several perfectly separate localities. But we must repeat, with regard to this application of the comparative method to sociology, what has been said already of Observation and Experiment, viz.., the impossibility of using such a plan usefully, without constantly directing its original application and final interpretation by a rational conception of the development of Humanity.

After completing the preliminary examination of the general spirit which must characterize Sociology, and the various modes of exploration peculiar to it, we must now proceed to the elaboration of that great subject. The plan to be followed consists in examining successively the three principal orders of sociological considerations, more and more complex and special, by taking into consideration the general conditions of social existence : first with relation to the Individual, then to the Family, and finally to Society, which, having attained its entire scientific extension, tends to embrace the totality of the human species.

As to what concerns the Individual, Gall has scientifically established the irresistible social tendency of human nature. The sociability of the human species, by virtue of an instinctive tendency to live in common, independently of all personal calculation, and often even in spite of the most energetic individual interests, cannot be contested. It is necessary to signalise the influence of our most important attributes in order to give Society the character which always belongs to it, and which its subsequent develop. ment can never alter.

For this we must first consider the energetic pre-dominance of the emotional or affective over the intellectual faculties, which is less marked in man than in other animals. The intellectual faculties being the least energetic, their activity, if prolonged in one direction beyond a certain point, induces in most men an almost insupportable fatigue. So that by an un-fortunate coincidence, in order to ameliorate his primitive situation, man needs precisely the very kind of activity for which he is least fitted. Instead of vainly deploring this discordance we must note it as a first essential fact which must have a radical influence on the general character of human societies.

There is a second character which we must take into consideration : besides the general ascendant of emotional over intellectual life, our least elevated in stincts, those most specially egotistical, have an undoubted predominance over those nobler tendencies directly relative to sociology.

If it were possible to destroy the preponderance of our personal instincts, our moral nature would be radically destroyed, not ameliorated; since the social affections, henceforth deprived of an indispensable direction, would soon tend to degenerate into a vague and useless charity, devoid of all great practical utility. When the most advanced morality prescribed to us the strict obligation of loving our neighbours as our-selves, it expressed the fundamental principle, with that degree of exaggeration which the indication of a type demands, because the reality is only too sure to fall below it !

Such are the two natural conditions of which the combination determines the character of our social existence. We must now proceed to a similar survey of the second order of elementary considerations of social statics, i. e. those which concern the Family.

As every system must be composed of elements homogeneous to it, scientific artifice does not allow Society to be considered as made up of individuals. The true social unity consists in the Family alone, at least reduced to the elementary Couple, which constitutes its principal basis. No society can be so intimate as that admirable primitive combination by which two natures become almost fused into one. This perfect intimacy could only be established in the Family by the energetic spontaneity of a common object, combined with the no less natural institution of an indispensable sub-ordination.

In spite of the vague notions formed in the present day about social Equality, all society, even the most limited, presupposes not only diversities but also in-equalities. For there can be no real society without permanent cooperation in one general operation, by distinct means, properly subordinate to one another. Now the most complete realization possible of those elementary conditions belongs to the Family alone.

The attacks made on this fundamental institution in the present day must be considered as the most fearful symptom of our tendency to social disorganization. But such attacks are only dangerous because of the decrepitude of the creeds on which the Family, as well as all other social notions, are still exclusively based.

In the course of social evolution, the organization of the Family progressively receives extensive modifications, the ensemble of which gives us, at each great epoch of development, the exact measure of the real importance of the social change then effected. The sociological theory of the Family may be reduced to the examination of two orders of necessary relations : first, the subordination of sex ; and second, that of age; one of which institutes the Family, the other maintains it.

Doubtless the institution of marriage suffers some modifications in' the gradual course of human evolution ; but however radical these changes may be considered, they will be in conformity with the invariable spirit of the institution, which is here our principal object. Now this spirit always consists in a natural subordination of woman ; all ages of civilization reproduce this ineffaceable character under various forms. A just biological philosophy is beginning to discredit those chimerical revolutionary declamations on the pretended equality of the two sexes, by directly demonstrating, either by anatomical investigation or physiological observation, the radical differences, both physical and moral, which, in all the animal species and the human race more especially, so distinctly demarcate them, notwithstanding the preponderance of the specific type.

After completing this scientific examination, Sociology will first prove the radical incompatibility of all social existence with that chimerical " equality of the sexes," by characterising the special and permanent functions which each must fulfil in the natural economy of the Family. Of the two general attributes which divide Humanity from Animality,-intellect and affection,—one demonstrates the necessary and invariable preponderance of the male sex, whilst the other directly characterizes the indispensable moderating function devolving on woman independently even of maternal cares, which evidently constitute her sweetest and most important special destination. This invariable economy of the human family never can be really altered unless we suppose a transformation of our cerebral organism.

Let us now consider the other element, that is to say, the co-relation between children and parents. Nothing deserves more admiration than that happy subordination which, after constituting the Family, afterwards becomes the necessary type of all social co-ordination. It is impossible that in more extended and less intimate relations the discipline of society' can ever fully realize those admirable characteristics of domestic discipline ; submission can be neither so coinplete nor so spontaneous, protection neither so touch ing nor so devoted. But the life of the family will nevertheless remain, in this respect, the school of social life, whether for obedience or command, which must in in every case approach as nearly as possible to this elementary model.

To complete the sociological considerations on domestic subordination, it is needful to remark its characteristics of spontaneously establishing the first notion of social perpetuity by connecting the future with the past. Whatever degree social progress may attain, it will always be of capital importance that man should not think himself born yesterday; and that the whole of his institutions and manners should constantly toed to connect, by a proper system of intellectual and material signs, his memories of a past with his hopes of a future.

A philosophy which represents men of all times and places as being in every respect so many indispensahle co-operators in a fundamental evolution, whether intellectual or material, moral or political, must certainly in the present day be considered as more suited than any other to develope the sentiment of social continuity, without incurring the danger of that servile and irrational admiration of the past, which formerly, under the empire of the theological philosophy, hindered progress.

Having thus established the fact of the Family being not only the effective element of society, but as offering in every respect the first natural type of its radical constitution, we have now to consider society as composed of families and not of individuals.

Simplicity is not the principal measure of real perfection; biological studies show, on the contrary, that the increasing perfection of the animal organism consists in the increasing speciality of the various functions accomplished by organs more and more distinct, yet nevertheless always interdependent. Now such is eminently the proper characteristic of our social organism. Is it possible to conceive anything more wonderful than that regular and continuous convergence of an immensity of individuals, each endowed with an existence distinct and to a certain degree independent, and nevertheless all ceaselessly disposed, notwithstanding the differences of their talents and characters, to concur by a multitude of various means in one general development, without having in the least concerted together, and most frequently in active unconsciousness—all fancying they are only following their personal impulses ?

This invariable conciliation of the division of labour with the co-operation of efforts, becoming more decided and admirable the more complicated and extended society becomes, constitutes the fundamental characteristic of human operations, when we rise from the simply domestic to the social point of view.

The division of labour, which constitutes the elementary principle of society, cannot be that of the family. Although an habitual co-ordination between distinct branches of labour must to a certain degree be established therein, its influence is so secondary, that when unfortunately it remains the only connecting tie, domestic union tends to degenerate into a mere association, and often becomes -'dissolved. In social combinations elementary economy presents an inverse character; -the feeling of co-operation, until then only an accessory, becomes in its turn predominant, and the sympathetic instinct no longer forms the principal link.

Properly to judge this co-operation and division of labour as constituting the essential condition of our social existence, domestic life alone excepted, it must be conceived in its philosophical extent; that is to say, applying it to all our various operations, instead of con-fining it to simple material habits. It then leads us to regard, not only individuals and classes, but also different peoples, as participating in an immense common labour, of which the gradual development connects the actual operators with their predecessors, as well as with their successors.

It is, therefore, division of the various occupations which principally constitutes social solidarity, causing the increasing complication of the social organism, which is then conceived as embracing the whole of our species. The habit of partial co-operation is eminently fitted to develope the social instinct by means of intellectual reaction, by inspiring each family with a constant sentiment of its close dependence upon every other, and at the same time, of its own personal importance; each being enabled to consider itself as fulfilling in a certain degree a real public function indispensable to the general economy, and inseparable from the entire system.

Thus considered, social organisation tends to repose-on an appreciation of individual differences, by distributing employments in such a manner as to place each in the position he can best fill, not only in accordance with his own vocation, but also with his education and actual position. Such is, at least, the ideal type to be henceforth conceived as the fundamental limit of Order. To complete the indispensable sociologic appreciation of this distributive and special co-operation, we must examine the obligations imposed its inconveniences. In this examination will be found the real scientific germ of the co-relation necessary between the idea of society and the idea of government.

The increasing speciality of ideas and daily relations must tend to narrow the intellect, although sharpening it incessantly in one direction, and still more to isolate particular interest from a common interest ; whereas the social affections, gradually concentrated between individuals of the same profession, become more and more estranged from all other classes for want of sufficient community of manners and ideas. It is thus that the same principle which has alone permitted the development and extension of general society, in another aspect menaces to decompose it into a multitude of corporations, which seem hardly to belong to the same species.

The social distinction of government appears especially to consist in restraining and preventing as much as possible that fatal tendency to dispersion of ideas, sentiments, and interests. It is clear, that the only means of preventing such a dispersion consists in converting this indispensable reaction into a new and special function, susceptible of interfering in the habitual accomplishment of all the various particular functions of social economy, to bring back constantly the feeling of common solidarity. It is thus that the participation of government should be understood in the fundamental development of social life, independently of the commoner attributes of material order, to Lich many writers endeavour to reduce its general destination in the present day.

The gradual subdivision of employments- must establish an ever-increasing subordination which tends more and more to the growth of government out of the very heart of society itself. The various special operations naturally become placed under the direction of those which rank immediately above them in the scale of generality. This subordination is not only material, as is usually supposed; it is also moral and intellectual; that is to say, it demands, beyond practical submission, a certain corresponding degree of real confidence, either in the capacity or probity of the special organs, to which a hitherto universal function is thus entrusted.

It is necessary to remark that moral and intellectual forces do not in themselves constitute a real entire composition, in the simple manner of the physical forces : thus, although eminently susceptible of social co-operation, they are less fitted for direct co-operation ; whence results a fresh cause of the more radical inequality which they tend to establish among men.

If the thing to be done is a struggle of strength or wealth, whatever may be the superiority of an individual or of a family, a numerous coalition of the meanest social individualities will easily surpass it. But on the contrary, if the undertaking depend on high intellectual power, such as a vast scientific or poetical conception, there is no collection of ordinary minds, however extensive, which could in any way compete with a Descartes or a Shakespeare. It is on account of this eminent privilege that intellectual and moral forces necessarily have tended more and more to rule the social world, ever since a proper division of human employments has permitted their development.

Such is, therefore, the tendency of all society towards government. This tendency harmonizes in our individual nature with a corresponding system of special tendencies, some towards command, some towards obedience. If men were naturally as ungovernable as is often supposed, how could they ever have been disciplined ? It is evident, on the contrary, that we are all more or less inclined to respect involuntarily in our fellow creatures any superiority whatever, but especially a moral or intellectual superiority, exclusively of all personal desire to see it exercised for our advantage. Thus the spontaneity of the various individual dispositions is in harmony with the course necessary for establishing that political subordination.

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