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Social Dynamics

( Originally Published 1913 )

IN the preceding static considerations, we have seen individual life characterized by direct predominance of personal instincts, domestic life by the continuous operation of sympathetic instincts,—and social life by the special development of intellectual influences. This scientific connection presents the practical advantage of preparing the rational coordination of universal morality, at first personal, then domestic, and finally social; the first subjecting the preservation of the individual to a wise discipline ; the second trying to secure the predominance of sympathy over egotism; and the last, directing more and more our various inclinations according to the luminous indications of Reason, always occupied by the consideration of the general economy so as to make all the faculties of our nature concur in one common object, in accordance with the laws proper to each.

After this preliminary indication of the elementary theories of sociologic Statics, we now proceed to the study of Social Dynamics, first making an examination of human evolution considered as a whole.

We must place intellectual evolution as the necessarily predominating principle of the complete evolution of Humanity. Although our feeble intelligence doubtless needs the first awakening and continuous stimulus of appetites, passions, and sentiments, it is under intellectual direction that human progress has always been accomplished. It is only thus, and by the increasing influence of intelligence over the conduct of man and of society, that the gradual advance has been able to acquire those characteristics of consistent regularity and persevering continuity which distinguish it from the vague and incoherent efforts of the higher animals.

It is therefore an appreciation of the system of human opinions, in a word, the general history of Philosophy, theological, metaphysical, and positive, which must necessarily preside over a rational coordination of our historical analysis. Now the true scientific principle consists in the great philosophic law on the constant and indispensable succession of three general states, primarily theological, transitorily metaphysical, and finally positive, through which our intelligence passes in all speculations.

In order that this law may properly fulfil its scientific destination, it only now remains to establish as a principle, that material development must follow a course not only analogous, but even perfectly corresponding to that of intellectual development.

All the various general methods of investigation applied to political researches have shown the primitive tendency of man to a military life, and his final destination to an essentially industrial existence.

Thus, no one will refuse to acknowledge the continual decrease of the Military spirit, and the gradual ascendancy of the Industrial, to be a twofold consequence of our progressive evolution. The antipathy of primitive races for all regular labour evidently leaves man no sustained exercise of activity but that of military life, the only one for which he is then fitted, and which, moreover, constitutes the most simple means of procuring his subsistence.

It is easy to conceive that whatever may be now the social preponderance of the industrial spirit, our material evolution long demanded an exclusive ascendancy- of the military spirit, under the empire of which alone could human industry be properly developed. The social and above all the political properties of military life are in conformity with the high civilizing function which they have to fulfil, and Carlyle's one model Institution, his one example of successful government, is " The Soldier."

These attributes are admirably adapted to the nature and wants of primitive society, which doubtless could not have learnt Order in any other school but War, as may be inferred even in the present day, from those exceptional individuals whom industrial discipline cannot sufficiently mollify, and who in that respect represent as nearly as possible the original human type.

To say the truth, the military régime must every-where have had, as an indispensable political basis, the individual slavery of the producers, in order to permit the warriors the free and full development of their characteristic activity. The institution of ancient slavery was therefore destined to organize a gradual preparation of industrial existence. However unexceptionable the political necessity of a long preponderating exercise of military activity, it is impossible to be blind to the essentially provisional nature of such a social destination, the importance of which must have constantly decreased as industrial existence was able gradually to develope itself.

It is impossible not to be struck by the analogy of this progression with Comte's law of mental evolution, i. e. the necessary succession of the three principal states of human intelligence, and also with the embryological Law of provisional organs I have adduced in illustration (see Part I. Sect. III.)

But besides this similarity, it is important to re-cognize the connexion of the two evolutions, by characterising the natural affinity which must always have existed, at first between the theological and the military spirit, then between the scientific and the industrial spirit, and consequently also, between the two transitory functions of metaphysicians and lawyers. The fundamental bond which spontaneously unites theological to military power has always been keenly felt and highly respected, in spite of political rivalries, by all men who have shared in either one or the other.

It may easily be conceived that no military regime could be established without first resting on a theological consecration, without which the requisite subordination would be neither complete enough nor enduring enough. A profound examination will in the same way show the necessary efficaciousness of the military regime in consolidating and extending theological authority, thus developed by a continual political application, as the priestly instinct has always felt.

It may be observed that the religious spirit is as anti-pathetic as the military spirit to a preponderance of the industrial spirit. According to the barbarous but rigorous logic of uncultivated peoples, all active intervention on the part of man to ameliorate the economy of nature for his own benefit is an outrage upon Providential government ! For what , is industry but the subjugation of Nature by man ? what is it but man creating for himself, instead of accepting what the gods vouchsafe ?

It is certain that too absolute a preponderance of the religious spirit necessarily tends of itself to check the industrial tendency of Humanity, by an exaggerated sentiment of foolish optimism.* It is impossible to deny the high political influence by which industry must aid the progressive ascendancy of the scientific spirit in its antagonism to the religious spirit.

We here terminate the rapid analysis of Comte's principal views with respect to the dogmatic bases of Sociology. When the reader reflects that in the foregoing pages a volume of upwards of seven hundred pages has been compressed, he will appreciate the necessity for a more careful and detailed examination of the original if he wish for satisfaction on any of the topics here so briefly indicated. He must take these pages as a sort of extended syllabus of a course of Lectures—a preparatory bird's eye view, enabling him to study the details with a full consciousness of their bearing.

We now pass to Comte's Philosophy of History, wherein we shall see his sociological law applied to the whole past evolution of Humanity.

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