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Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio. It consisted of a lengthy bibliographical essays, editorials, and many shorter reviews of books and journal articles. There were 5 volumes and 20 issues. This issue contains a lengthy bibliographical essay by Isaac Kramnick on “English Middle Class Radicalism in the Eighteeenth Century.”
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Leonard P. Liggio
John V. Cody
John E. Bailey, III
University of Missouri
Western Maryland College
M. E. Bradford
University of Dallas
New Mexico State University
Douglas Den Uyl
Edward C. Facey
John N. Gray
Jesus College, Oxford University
M. E. Grenander
SUNY at Albany
University College, Cork, Ireland
University of California, Los Angeles
Reason Foundation, Santa Barbara
Florida Atlantic University
New York University
New York Council for the Humanities
University College, Cork, Ireland
University of Northern Kentucky
Joseph R. Peden
Baruch College, City University of New York
John T. Sanders
Rochester Institute of Technology
University of Minnesota
University of Newcastle
New South Wales
Harvard Law School
University of Florida
Rochester Institute of Technology
George Mason University
Trenton State College
Santa Barbara, California
Eighteenth-century middle-class English radicalism represented a rebirth. The earlier seventeenth-century English radicalism, achieving a full flowering during the English Revolution, became a thin intellectual connection after the Restoration. The stout advocates of the “Old Cause”—the liberty-loving Commonwealthmen—are more significant in the history of ideas than in the political movements of their time. However, with the Bill of Rights of 1689 and the Whig ascendency, English radicalism was free to reemerge. There was much for the Middle Class to be radical about.
The Whig ascendency brought both respect for individual rights from arbitrary power and the vast growth of government power and its source in taxation. To fight wars without sufficient popular support, ministers resorted to deficit financing. New public financial institutions were necessary to underwrite unpopular wartime expenditures. A Public Finance Revolution materialized. The Bank of England, with the powers of a central bank, was created by the government to underwrite loans to the government; the National Debt was organized to develop credit for the government.
The Bank of England, the National Debt, the standing army, and increased taxation were the targets of the new generation of radicals in the eighteenth century. Cato's Letters and the Independent Whig of John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon not only developed out of the same intellectual atmosphere as John Locke's writings but equally had a major impact on eighteenth-century radical though in the English-speaking world—England, Scotland, Ireland, and America. John Adams, writing in 1816, recalled that in the 1770s in America “Cato's Letters and the Independent Whig, and all the writings of Trenchard and Gordon, Mrs. Macaulay's History, Burgh's Political Disquisitions, Clarendon's History. . . all the writings relative to the revolutions in England became fashionable reading.”
Carl B. Cone, The English Jacobins, Reformers in Late 18th Century England (1968), describes the mid-eighteenth-century middle-class culture from which dissenting radicalism developed. Members were expelled from congregations because their bankruptcies were disgracing their fellow believers. From such traditions, came the organizers and leaders of the radical societies of the late eighteenth century—societies which brought together advocates of liberty from very differing cultural traditions. John Wilkes's aristocratic lack of seriousness did not deter middle-class support in his battles for freedom of the press or in the right of the freeholders of Middlesex county to elect him to Parliament despite Parliament's repeated refusal to seat him. In 1769 middle-class radicals organized the Society of the Supporters of the Bill of Rights to provide financial and political backing to Wilkes's legal and parliamentary contests.
Leaders of the merchant firms, the bar, intellectual circles, and the Anglican and dissenting churches became the spokesmen for a very active English Radicalism. Alderman John Sawbridge, M.P.; his sister, the whig historian Catherine Macaulay; the Rev. John Horne Tooke; the lawyer John Glynn, M.P.; and others fueled the Bill of Rights Society's advocacy not only of Englishmen's rights, but of the rights of Irishmen and Americans as well. Henry Grattan in the Irish Commons and Patrick Henry in the Virginia Burgesses drew inspiration and support from the English radicals. [Cf. Colin Bonwick, English Radicals and the American Revolution (1977) for the influence of American revolutionary ideas on English radicalisim.]
Historical studies were a major element in the development of a radical consciousness. The reality of the past had to be recaptured from the control of aristocratic or court historians. Thomas Brand Hollis devoted himself to the publication of the works of the seventeenth-century radicals. Mrs Catherine Macaulay's histories of seventeenth-century English revolutionary events were widely read. For the radicals, there was the strong desire “to go back to the early times of our Constitution and history in search of the principles of law and liberty” (William Hazlitt, The Spirit of the Age, 1825). The radicals had a strong commitment to the pre-Norman Conquest Anglo-Saxon constitution. The Anglo-Saxon assemblies, the local associations of Hundreds, the customary judicial systems with the ultimate powers in the jury, and regional defense organization based on the popular militia—all were central ideas for the eighteenth-century radicals. Their objective was the restoration of these institutions and the elimination of those that had arisen in their place. [Cf. Herbert Butterfield, The Englishman and His History (1945), Albert Goodwin, The Friends of Liberty (1979), Christopher Hill, Puritanism and Revolution (1968), and J. G. A. Pocock, The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law: English Historical Thought in the Seventeenth Century (1957)].
For eighteenth-century radical thought, in addition to commerce and history, there was an important role given to religion and science. Many of the leading radical clergymen were not only teachers and publicists but scientists. Unlike the Continent, England cultivated science, religion and liberty in close connections. Radical clubs, whose cores often were composed of clergymen, were the important scientific centers since the establishment universities avoided new ideas in science as they did in politics. [Cf. V. W. Crane, “The Club of Honest Whigs: Friends of Science and Liberty,” William and Mary Quarterly, 23 (1966) pp. 210–33].
The Honorable John Byng, fifth Viscount of Torrington, toured the Midlands in the spring of 1790. On the 18th of June he came to Cromford. What he saw there moved him deeply. It disturbed him, but it also filled him with awe. His was a response common to the men who governed England.
These vales have lost all their beauties; the rural cot has given place to the lofty red mill, and the grand houses of overseers; the stream perverted from its course by sluices and aqueducts, will no longer ripple and cascade. Every rural sound is sunk in the clamour of cotton works, and the simple peasant (for to be simple we must be sequestered) is changed into the impudent mechanic. . . the bold rock opposite this house [The Black Dog at Cromford] is now disfigured by a row of new houses built upon it; and the vales are everywhere blocked by mills. I saw the workers issue forth at 7. ‘o’ clock, a wonderful crowd of young people. . . a new set then goes in for the night, for the mills never leave off working. . . . These cotton mills, seven stories high, and filled with inhabitants, remind me of a first rate man of war; and when they are lighted up, on a dark night, look most luminously beautiful.
The giant man of war was Richard Arkwright's cotton works. For a much angrier William Blake it was one of the “dark, satanic mills” that forever doomed England's “green and pleasant land.”
For the artist Joseph Wright of Derby, these mills were symbolic of a new world and as such fit objects to be put on canvas. He painted two versions of Arkwright's Cromford mills. There is a matter-of-fact depiction by day and a night scene of exquisite beauty, the landscape bathed in the moonlight and in each of the hundreds of windows a naked candle ablaze. Wright was fascinated by the new England. He painted memorable pictures of technological exhibits and scientific experiments. Most significantly, however, he painted portraits and it is for these portraits that have endured for two centuries that Wright is renowned. In them he has frozen for eternity the faces of the men who were ushering in industrial civilization. There are the partners Thomas Bentley and Josiah Wedgwood, the textile magnates Arkwright, Jedediah Strutt, Samuel Crompton, and Samuel Oldknow. In this historical gallery are also the intellectual friends of these manufacturers, who gravitated to the circle around Joseph Priestley (1733–1804). There is the philosopher, poet, scientist Erasmus Darwin. There is the political radical Thomas Day.
Wright's portraits are free of mystery and awe. There is no suggestion of majesty, no theatrical evocation of grandeur or charisma. No aristocratic adornments or symbols clutter the canvas and there is no use of the classical themes or modes that so intrigued the Frenchman David. Instead there is a penetrating steady light that reveals plain men in sober and simple settings. The counting house not the manor house, the mill not the drawing room was their milieu. They mean business. Wright's subjects were not princes, statesmen, or orators. They were entrepreneurs, men of business, and the intellectual spokesmen for that class. They were not cosmopolitan public men from London or Bath. They were provincials from Derby, Manchester, and Birmingham. They were industrious men hard at work changing the face of English society and were perceived as such by their contemporaries. A writer for the Edinburgh Review noted:
In the West of England, in particular, there has been a succession. . . who seem to have fancied that they were born to effect some mighty revolution in the different departments to which they applied themselves. We need only run over the names of Darwin, Day, Beddoes. . . and Priestley. It is. . . chiefly, we believe, for want of that wholesome discipline of derision to which everything is subjected in London. . . . There is something. . . in the perpetual presence of the more permanent aristocracies of wealth, office, and rank which teaches aspiring men to measure their own importance by a more extended standard. Dr. Priestley, however, and his associates, were to all intents and purposes provincial philosophers: they took no cognizance of any sort of excellence or distinction but their own. . . They naturally fell headlong into those miscalculations, from which it is difficult to escape where self is the subject of computation.
The characterization of this written portrait is uncannily accurate, despite its sneering smugness. These were indeed aspiring men who had set themselves against the inherited world of aristocratic rank. Their concern was not the “extended standards” but the private world of self. Their own excellence, their own self was, indeed, their subject of computation. They were characteristically honest and straightforward about what they were up to. In his letters Wedgwood described how he had “fallen in love” with and “made a mistress” of his new business. Jedediah Strutt was convinced, “whatever some Divines would teach to the contrary,” that the “main business of the life of man” was the “getting of money.”
A fundamental and momentous shift in values is implicit in the works and words of the circle that Wright painted in the Midlands. A new cultural ideal was taking shape. Homo civicus was being replaced by homo oeconomicus. This, too, was apparent to contemporary observers. In her essay “True heroism,” Anna Barbauld, a member of Priestley's circle, wrote that great men were no longer “Kings, lords, generals, and prime ministers.” There were new heroes, men who instead:
invent useful arts, or discover important truths which may promote the comfort and happiness of unborn generations in the distant parts of the world. They act still an important part, and their claim to merit is generally more undoubted, than that of the former, because what they do is more certainly their own.
A pamphleteer of 1780 spelled out even more clearly who these new heroes were. They were the men whose portraits Wright painted.
Consider the gradual steps of civilization from barbarism to refinement and you will not fail to discover that the progress of society from its lowest and worst to its highest and most perfect state, has been uniformly accompanied and chiefly promoted by the happy exertions of man in the character of a mechanic or engineer!
This is no Victorian journalist waxing philosophical on the wonders of the Crystal Palace exhibition. It is an eighteenth-century pamphleteer criticising machine breakers in Lancashire. What the machine seemed to provide was a concrete basis for the emerging belief in unlimited progress and improvement. While some might react with fury to the pain and hurt, homo oeconomicus had seemingly few regrets at the corrosive and unsettling impact of the machine. Tradition, custom, all of the status quo must give way to the felicitous path of progressive change. There is an ominous foretaste of Social Darwinism in the vision of endless innovation and improvement conjured up in 1780.
Every new invention, every useful improvement must unavoidably interfere with what went before it and what is inferior and less perfect must give way and ought to give way, to what is better and more perfect. The transition indeed cannot always be made without inconvenience to some individuals, but this proceeds from the progressive nature of things, and the general order of Providence; and cannot be prevented without destroying the main springs and first elements of the moral world.
The machine is the new standard of value. In terms that speak strikingly to later themes of reification and alienation Wedgwood calmly informs a correspondent that he has “been turning models, and preparing to make such Machines of the Men as cannot err.”
Invention, useful improvement, comfort—these are the central preoccupations of the age. No surprise then that a cult of Benjamin Franklin emerged in Wright's and Priestley's circle. For Anna Barbauld he was a fit model for “true heroism.”
Few wiser men have ever existed than the late Dr. Franklin. His favorite purpose was to turn everything to use, to extract some potential advantage from his speculations. He understood common life and all that conduces to its comfort. He left treasures of domestic wisdom that were superior to any of the boasted maxims of antiquity.
Such men had no need for the teachings of the past. The Annual Register, commenting in 1800 on the accomplishment of the century past, echoes this theme. Prodigious change had occurred in England during those 100 years.
Whence this happy change? Not from the progressive effects of moral disquisitions and lectures: not even from the progressive effects of preaching, trimmed up by the artifices of composition taught by professors of rhetoric; but from the progressive intercourse of men with men, minds with minds, of navigation, commerce, arts and sciences.
Josiah Wedgwood had a better way to assess the achievements of men like himself. In 1783 he summoned his young workers to a large meeting in a field near his works in Staffordshire. Food was scarce that winter in nearby Lancashire, and what little was available bore prices too dear for most of the workers in the new factories. The workers rioted in Lancashire, breaking machines and sacking shops of bakers and grocers. Wedgwood called the meeting to warn his workers against following the lead of their mates in the cotton mills. “The late tumultuous proceedings,” he cautioned, “were contrary to their own real interests.” The workers would do well, instead, he went on, to ask their parents to compare the countryside as it now stood with what they once knew. Had not poverty been replaced by workers earning double their former wages? Had not miserable huts, poorly cultivated land, and nearly impassable roads been replaced by new and comfortable homes and “the land, roads, and everything else by pleasing and rapid improvements?” There was but one explanation for this transformation, industry, a word laden with meaning for the pious unitarian Wedgwood. “Industry has been the parent of this happy change—a well directed and long continued series of industrious exertions, both in masters and servants.” The foundation of a new England was being laid by those who saw hard work as a command of God. Wedgwood, in fact, expanded the decalogue, heaping praise on those “very good in keeping my eleventh commandment—thou shalt not be idle.”
Wedgwood's friends, who zealously obeyed this divine injunction were transforming Britain in the way that Burke saw all Europe heading. “The age of chivalry is gone,” he wrote, “that of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded. The glory of Europe is extinguished for ever.” Throughout most of his career, even in the Reflections, Burke was convinced, it should be remembered, that England was the principal evidence of this most unfortunate transition. He singled out one group as the major modernizing agent in his England—the sectarian protestant dissenters. He was right. While many strands of English life contributed to the modernity that undermined the ancient regime, even parts of the aristocracy itself, the cutting edge of change came from these dissenters, from the likes of Wedgwood. They were the boldest voices attacking the traditional order; they were the secular prophets, the vanguard, of a new social order. These talented and industrious protestant dissenters played the decisive role in transforming England into the first industrial civilization.
By the 1760s and 1770s large numbers of the English dissenters, the subdued and rather quiescent descendants of the nonconformist sects that had waged revolution under Cromwell, had already emigrated to the American colonies. Those Baptists, Presbyterians, Independents (Congregationalists), Unitarians, and Quakers who remained in England constituted only seven per cent of the population. But this seven per cent was at the heart of the progressive and innovative nexus that linked scientific, political, cultural, and industrial radicalism. The mnemonic scheme used by generations of English school children to personalize the industrial revolution, for example, the three Ws, Watt, Wilkinson, and Wedgwood, are dissenters to a man. Each of the new manufacturing industries was presided over by dissenters.
An equally strong case can be made for the central and crucial role played by these dissenters in scientific and political innovation, personified best in the career of Joseph Priestley, who more than anyone else qualifies as the pivotal intellectual figure among the bourgeois radicals. Radical in politics, laissez-faire theorist in economics, innovator in science and technology, founder of the modern Unitarian movement, Priestley schooled England's new men of business in the series of dissenting academies at which he taught, while personally serving as the critical link between virtually every aspect of the progressive and innovative bourgeois nexus. Brother-in-law to Wilkinson, friend of Price and Wollstonecraft, “guide, philosopher, and friend of Boulton, Watt, and Wedgwood at Birmingham,” he was “gunpowder Joe” to Burke and the “Church and King” mob that burned his laboratory and home in 1791 sending him to finish his days in dissenter paradise—America.
The dissenters were proud of their achievements and unafraid to note their wealth. Self-congratulation, in fact, was often paired with threats to leave, should Anglican and aristocratic England bear down too hard on dissent. According to Priestley's calculations, “one-half of the wealth of the nation has been the acquisition of dissenters.” Their secret was one that, he argued, would guarantee success for anyone. “The habits of industry and frugality which prevail among them will not fail to make any set of men rich.” Priestley echoed Tom Paine's Rights of Man by holding out the possibility that if pushed too far the dissenters and leading manufacturers would leave England, which of course he himself would do in 1794. The irony is, of course, that it was just such a sense of potential mobility and lack of identification with the soil and traditions of England that further encouraged the very hostility against them that Priestley warned against.
I shall just mention three other men now living, and all of them Dissenters, whose spirit has so much improved, they may be almost said to have created, their several manufactures, from which this country already derives the greatest honour and advantage, Mr. Wedgwood, Mr. Wilkinson and Mr. Parker. Such MEN AS THESE ARE THE MAKERS OF COUNTRIES; and yet such men as these, if not these men themselves, would the mad bigotry of this country exult in seeing depart for France, America, or Ireland.
The dissenters operated at the margins of English life, and this sense of alienation had concrete foundations in the objective world. For most of the eighteenth century it was technically illegal, for example, to carry on a unitarian service. But much more onerous than this were the Test and Corporation Acts, the most humiliating of the badges the dissenters had to wear indicating their difference. This legislation, dating from the Restoration and originally directed against Catholics, required all holders of offices under the Crown to receive the sacrament according to the rites of the Anglican church. The Acts also excluded nonsubscribers to the Anglican creed from any office in an incorporated municipality. In addition, only Anglicans could matriculate at Oxford and Cambridge. Exclusion from public jobs was the most serious impact of the Acts, however, for it meant that legions of these talented dissenters were denied one of the most important means a society has to reward its successful: public office in the military or civil establishment.
The radical and innovative role that the dissenters played in the decades after 1760 was in part related to their marginality, and the dissenters themselves sensed that their creative role in English life was related to their exclusion from its mainstream. Anna Barbauld made the connection clear in her Address to Opposers of the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts (1790). You have disqualified us, branded us, and kept us separate, she shouts at the establishment. “You have set a mark of separation upon us, and it is not in our power to take it off.” But in doing this the Anglicans had also carved out the unique mission of the dissenters, she hastens to add.
You have rendered us quick frighted to encroachment and abuses of all kinds. We have the feelings of men. We have no favours to blind us, no golden padlock to our tongues, and therefore it is probable enough that, if cause is given, we shall cry aloud and spare not. . . . It is perfectly agreeable to a jealous spirit of a free constitution that there should be some who will season the mass with the wholesome spirit of opposition.
The dissenter not blinded by establishment rewards, and not silenced by the financial advantages of mouthing orthodox truth, is uniquely capable of seeing the appeal of novelty and speaking the words of criticism. Some two decades earlier Priestley had made the same point. “We dissenters,” he wrote, “consider it as our singular privilege, that our situation, how unfavorable soever in other respects, is favorable to free inquiry; and that we have no such bias upon our minds, in favour of established opinions.” Even after his laboratory had been destroyed by the mob in 1791, Priestley proudly asserted his dissenting nature. “I bless God,” he wrote to his friends in Birmingham, “that I was born a dissenter, not manacled by the chains of so debasing a system as that of the Church of England and that I was not educated at Oxford or Cambridge.” To the minister and radical, Richard Price, it was indeed his having been spared Oxford and Cambridge that explained the dissenter's innovative and radical disposition. The ancient universities, he wrote, were “fortresses erected for the security and preservation of the Church of England and defended by Tests and Subscriptions.” Free from this training in orthodoxy, the dissenters did not believe that truth was founded 200 years ago. They were not bound to “vile dogmatism,” they were not given to “notions of sacredness in disputable doctrines and stuffing the mind with prejudices.” Dissenters, Price concluded, had a peculiar calling made easier by their exclusion; it was “to suspect our public creeds and forms.”
In his Reflections on the Revolution in France, Burke would, of course, proudly proclaim the English a people who, in fact, cherished ancient and sacred doctrines, or prejudices, as he called them. Ideas were worthy simply by dint of dogged persistence over time. Dissenters like Price had no truck with the self-evident truth of ancient ideas, however; theirs was seen as a messianic mission to, as Barbauld put it, “destroy the empire of prejudices, that empire of gigantic shadows.” Like the Hebrews, they were chosen by God for their task, and their oppression for their difference was proof of their selection.
It is to speculative people, fond of novel doctrines, and who by accustoming themselves to make the most fundamental truths the subject of discussion, have divested their minds of the reverence which is generally felt for opinions and practices long standing, that the world is ever to look for its improvement or reformation.
Self-consciously, then, the dissenters saw their mission not only as patrons of scientific and industrial modernity but as enemies of established opinions, vile dogmatism, public creeds, the reverence for opinions and the empire of prejudice. Freed from restraining golden padlocks on their tongues, they were a people “fond of novel doctrines.”
These novel doctrines, the ideology of bourgeois radicalism, are at work in the effort throughout this period to repeal the Test and Corporation Acts. This issue more than any other preoccupied the writings of the dissenters and it is here that one finds the ideological core of dissenting social thought. These Acts interfered with religious liberty, to be sure, but even more onerous to the dissenters were their invasion of civil liberty. While they violated the natural religious rights of believers, they also intruded the state into the free competitive market of careers and rewards by right due the talented and industrious. These laws violated the fundamental assumptions of the ethos of the self-made individual and of society disinterestedly rewarding people of merit and talent, people of hard and useful work. By excluding dissenters from public office, the Acts were assailed as the major buttress of an aristocratic order of received and unearned status and rank. They rewarded idle and unproductive people of leisure and lineage. In an essay attacking the Acts, Priestley ridiculed the values and the individuals they favored. They were designed to reward “the gentlemen born,” those “with family and connections respectable... of polished and engaging manners.” It is the demand for careers open to the talented and the charge that aristocratic society blocks such advances that Priestley intones in his mocking comments that “the door of preferment is so open to him [the gentleman born] that he hardly needs to knock in order to enter.” No matter how superior the dissenter was it seemed to some of them that the English would always have more respect and rewards for the old order's incompetents. Robert Bage, the dissenter and bourgeois radical novelist, wrote:
In this country it is better to be a churchman, with just as much common sense as heaven has been pleased to give on average to Esquimaux, than a dissenter with the understanding of a Priestley or a Locke. I hope, Dear Will, experience will teach thee this great truth, and convey thee to peace and orthodoxy, pudding and stability.
Priestley warned that if preferment would not come to the talented and successful dissenters than as “citizens of the world” they would get up and go to where their virtuous achievements were recognized and rewarded. This was shorthand for America and so, indeed, he went. The fiery Anna Barbauld did not leave, however, and in making her case for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts she addressed the social issue straight on. It was no favor for which she asked but “a natural and inalienable right,” which she claimed was hers and every dissenter's. It was not the religious issue that alone bothered the opponents of the Acts nor, indeed, she added, was religion the main concern of the dissenters. The issue was “power, place and influence.”
To exclude us from jobs is no more reasonable than to exclude all those above five feet high or those whose birthdays are before the summer solstice. These are arbitrary and whimsical distinctions. . . . We want civil offices. And why should citizens not aspire to civil offices? Why should not the fair field of generous competition be freely opened to every one. . . . We wish to buy every name of distinction in the common appelation of citizen.
Barbauld articulates the very core of bourgeois radical social theory. In the competitive scramble of the market place all citizens are equal in terms of their opportunity to win; no one has built-in advantages of birth or status. Freedom involves unrestrained competition and equality, an absence of built-in handicaps. In the vulgar rhetoric of the bourgeoisie, life is competition, a race for goods and offices, and in this race all have an equal opportunity to win. It is, in fact, these dissenters who popularize the metaphor of the race of life. John Aikin, brother of Anna Barbauld, for example, writes in a letter published for his son: “For what is the purpose of equal laws, equal rights, equal opportunities of profiting by natural and acquired talents, but to annul artificial distinctions, and cause the race of life to be run fairly.”
It was privilege and pride against which middle-class radicals, the useful members of the state, waged war. The fundamental sin of the privileged order was their violation of what Thomas Cooper, the dissenting industrialist, and friend of Priestley and Wedgwood, called “principle of talent.” Government required “talents and abilities,” which were not assigned at birth, but which manifested themselves in personal merit and achievement. While the privileged ruled the state,
the business of the nation is actually done by those who owe nothing to their ancestors, but have raised themselves into situations which the idleness and ignorance of the titled orders incapacitate them from filling.
Moreover, Cooper argued, the privileged who acquire their control of politics and the social order by dint of birth have no motives to industry or hard work. Everything they need or want is theirs from their station in life. “Take away these inducements by giving them in advance, and you stop the growth of abilities and knowledge and you nip wisdom and virtue in the bud.” Public virtue does not flow from the sated ranks of the privileged but from “insatiable ambition,” and as a “reward for extraordinary talents or great exertions.” The aristocracy by their monopoly of public offices blocked the virtuous citizen from the rightful fruits of his industry. Cooper's rhetoric is vintage bourgeois radicalism.
The privileged orders are not required to earn their envied distinctions. . . . They have no concomitant duties to fulfill in consideration for the privileges they enjoy, their inutility is manifest. . . they are of no avail to any useful purpose in society. . . . It is well known that where business is to be done, it is best done with competition, and always comparatively ill done, by those who are careless of public approbation, because they are independent of public opinion. The privileged orders are unjust also to men of experience and abilities who are deprived in a great measure by the due reward of meritorious attainment.
These men of “meritorious attainment” were the bearers of an ideology of equal opportunity. The bourgeois radical demanded political reform in order to destroy forever the aristocratic world of patronage and ascribed status. The demands of the reformers that the suffrage be extended to industrial and commercial wealth, that the new manufacturing centers like Manchester and Birmingham be granted parliamentary representation, that expensive aristocratic institutions be streamlined or eliminated, that dissenters be free to serve as municipal and governmental officials, all involve the vision of careers opened to the talented. A public order managed by men of merit and achievement would in turn reward others for industry and effort. Poor laws would be abolished, taxes decreased, government withdrawn from the market and the pulpit, luxury discouraged, thrift and other middle-class values encouraged. Equality of opportunity was a social ideal that assumed that given a freely competitive environment, the talented would move to the top, a victory for virtue as well as for merit.
Equal opportunity dominated the thought of the bourgeois radicals of late eighteenth-century England. William Godwin, former dissenting minister, and “the philosopher” of the English radicals during the French Revolution is one such example. In his immensely popular and influential Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793), he attacked the aristocrat as someone with “no motive to industry and exertion; no stimulus to rouse him from the lethargic, oblivious pool, out of which every human intellect originally rose.” Privilege, Godwin wrote, enables a few to monopolize the rewards “which the system of the universe left at large to all her sons,” and it “kills all liberal ambition in the rest of mankind.” Godwin's treatise, justly remembered as the first important anarchist statement, is a manifesto for the liberal individualistic world view that lashed out at the still powerful remnants of the corporate and hierarchical polity defended by Burke. Godwin proclaims:
It is this structure of aristocracy, in all its sanctuaries and fragments, against which reason and morality have declared war. . . . Mankind will never be, in an eminent degree, virtuous and happy till each man shall possess that portion of distinction and no more, to which he is entitled by his personal merits.
Godwin's plea for equality is that of the bourgeois radical. He does not demand leveling and arbitrary equalization, only equality of opportunity. He, too, invoked the metaphor of the race, the competitive symbol of self-reliant liberalism. In Political Justice (1793) Godwin anticipates and sets the pattern for later anarchist ambivalence. While much of his argument for equality expresses itself in images of communal solidarity, it is also expressed in the language of radical and competitive individualism. One dimension of his assault on inequality is couched in the language of bourgeois liberalism. The enemy is aristocratic privilege. In Political Justice some of Godwin's most vitriolic prose is directed at the feudal notions of rank and status. In their place he pleads for the liberal principles of careers and rewards open to talent, industry, and merit. He speaks directly of equality of opportunity, as he makes the classic liberal argument for a fair race, free of special advantages, and with victory assured the best runner:
Remove from me and my fellows all arbitrary hindrances; let us start fair; render all the advantages and honours of social institution accessible to every man, in proportion to his talents and exertions.
In passages such as these, Godwin echoes the progressive bourgeois ideology found in the writings of men like Priestley and articulated in the circles of industrial religious dissenters around Wilkinson and Wedgwood.
How fitting, then, that Thomas Holcroft, the dissenter and radical novelist, Godwin's closest friend, and the acquitted conspirator in Pitt's treason trial of 1794, should have been the Englishman to translate Beaumarchais' Marriage of Figaro in 1784. For in Figaro we find the pristine articulation of bourgeois radical ideology. Figaro's denunciation of Count Almaviva in Act 5 captures the spirit of the age.
Just because you're a great Lord, you think you're a genius. Nobility, fortune, rank, position—you're so proud of those things. What have you done to deserve so many rewards? You went to the trouble of being born and no more.
Bourgeois radicalism was the politics of Figaro's kinsmen in Britain. It was the political program of men and women who were convinced that they had done more, and that they more than anyone else deserved social and political rewards. Bourgeois radicalism was the ideological vision of industrialists, scientists, and their intellectual spokesmen who set out in late eighteenth-century Britain to destroy the political, social, and cultural hegemony of those who had only gone to the trouble of being born.
Long before Marx, observers assumed the interdependence of the economy and the polity. The likes of Priestley, Barbauld, Wedgwood, Price or Paine saw themselves harbingers of political as well as economic change. Contemporaries had numerous concrete symbols of this linkage within even the same family. None the least impressive were, of course, the Cartwright brothers, Edward, the inventor of the power loom, and John, the indefatigable campaigner for adult male suffrage, annual Parliaments, payment for M.P.s and equal electoral districts. Conventional wisdom, in fact, had it that economic change naturally begat political change. Hume and Smith shared Montesquieu's conviction that commercial societies had more political liberty. Economic determinism was a common feature of Scottish historical analysis and it presumed, too, the liberalizing tendencies of economic growth. Sir James Stewart wrote:
In countries where the government is vested in the hands of the great Lords, as is the case in all aristocracies, as was the case under the feudal government, and as it still is the case in many countries in Europe, where trade, however, and industry are daily gaining ground, the statesman who sets the new system of political oeconomy on foot, may depend upon it, that either his attempt will fail, or the constitution of the government will change. If he destroys all arbitrary dependence between individuals, the wealth of the industrious will share, if not totally root out the power of the grandees.
Henry Fielding was not the scholar Stewart was, but the novelist was an astute observer of his times. For him, too, it was beyond doubt that economic change would produce political change. “Trade,” he wrote, “hath given a new face to the whole nation, hath in great measure subverted the former state of affairs.” Only the ignorant and the socially blind could not see the political consequences of this transformation, according to Fielding.
To conceive that so great a change as this in the people should produce no change in the constitution is to discover, I think, as great ignorance as would appear in the physician who should assert that the whole state of the blood may be entirely altered from poor to rich, from cool to inflamed, without producing any alteration in the constitution of man.
1. The Marxian reading of British historical development is some-what different from that offered in this essay. To be sure, both Marx and Engels identify the beginnings of the bourgeois epoch with English developments. They describe it as the nation to experience the first “of the revolutions of modern times,” the first bourgeois revolution, as Marx insisted in the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and the German Ideology. England and its industrial revolution also form the basis for Marx's description of the transition from landed property to moneyed capital in his Das Kapital and Engels's similar argument in On Historical Materialism. England was, of course, the home of Marx and Engels for much of their creative lives.
The revolutionary role of the bourgeoisie, of which the British branch was the most eminent example, was an event of world historical significance, according to Marx. In the volumes of obloquy that he heaped on the bourgeoise, it is easy to overlook, however, the unabashed enthusiasm and praise with which Marx also wrote of that class. Das Kapital may portray the factory owner as the malevolent evil force in the grand morality play that pits Mr. Capitalist against Mr. Collective Worker, but there are very few appreciations of the achievements of bourgeois capitalism that compare with Marx's discussion in the Communist Manifesto. Even Josiah Wedgwood pales as a rival apologist. The bourgeois class has done much more than simply carry history to its next inevitable stage of development, it has “pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors’.” It has been “the first to show what Man's activity can bring about,” and “has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together.” Finally, of course, capitalism “has rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life.”
What is surprising, given this importance of the bourgeoisie's achievement, is that neither Marx nor Engels was that concerned with describing its historical and political dynamics. To be sure, there is The Eighteenth Brumaire, a brilliant description of the political context of bourgeois politics in Napoleon III's France. But for England, while the intricacies of bourgeois economic development is traced with painful care, the political and historical framework (and context) is seldom dealt with. When this is discussed, both Marx and Engels tend to comment on either the beginnings of the bourgeois era in seventeenth-century England or its highest stage of development (and therefore its putative imminent demise) in nineteenth-century England. This is most clearly evident in Marx's discussion of the bourgeois ideology par excellence, utilitarianism, which, according to him, subordinates all relations “to the one abstract monetary-commercial relation.” His discussion as it relates to England concentrates first on Hobbes and Locke, where Marx contends the concept of utilitarianism emerges concurrent with the English bourgeois revolution. He then turns to Bentham and Mill who enshrine it for the “ruling developed bourgeoisie.” For the intervening eighteenth-century England is not mentioned, (there is a passing reference to Hume), and the discussion centers on the French physiocrats, on Helvetius and D'Holbach.
More recent scholarship, Marxian and non-Marxian alike, persists, as we shall see, in this preoccupation with bourgeois ideology as expressed either in seventeenth- or nineteenth-century England. There is little or no discussion in either Marx or more recent scholarship of bourgeois ideology as it developed in eighteenth-century England. What makes this preoccupation with the alleged beginning and culmination of the bourgeois era in England most surprising is its indifference, therefore, to the critical early decades of the industrial revolution which more than anything else one would assume produced the clear-cut contours of a bourgeois society.
This indifference to the ideological and political developments of the early years of the industrial revolution (conventionally dated by Marx, Toynbee, and other economic historians as 1760–1800) is apparent in, and perhaps partially explained by looking at, Engels's On Historical Materialism, which contains the most extensive treatment of the development of the English bourgeoisie in the corpus of Marx's and Engels's writings. Engels suggests here that the revolution of 1640 ended with the setback of 1688. The “Glorious Revolution” represented a compromise between the classes, the reactionary aristocratic classes retaining political power and the progressive bourgeois class retaining its economic victory in the sense that the general principles of a bourgeois economy became the prevailing principles of English economic life.
The “compromise” of 1689 (economic influence and minimal entrée into the corridors of power) was surprisingly successful, according to Engels, persisting for nearly 100 years. It is this presumption which may well explain the relative indifference to the intervening years of the eighteenth century and the quick turn to the nineteenth. After a discussion of the French Revolution, Engels notes that his description of the emerging revolutionary middle class must “return to our British bourgeoisie.” Where he rejoins them is with the events of the 1830s and 1848, the agitation for the reform of Parliament and the repeal of the Corn Laws. Until these developments of the nineteenth century, the English bourgeoisie were content with the compromise, Engels suggests. Only then did they strive to seize total hegemony—political as well as economic.
Engels does, to be sure, give some credit to the Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth century. What increased the wealth and assertiveness of the bourgeoisie and, especially within it, of the manufacturers was the work in England of Watt, Arkwright, and Cartwright. But the ideological and political correlate of their achievement, the demand by a strengthened bourgeois class to take over the political control of the English state, is totally reserved for the post-Napoleonic years and the assault on the aristocracy symbolized by the Great Reform Bill and the rejection of protectionist corn tariffs.
Where were the English bourgeoisie between 1760 and 1830? The sense one gets from Marx and Engels's rather cursory treatment of these years is quite clear and in a way rather “un-Marxian.” The English bourgeoisie were preoccupied with business. They were busy building economic empires on steam and spinning jennies. If there was political conflict and assertiveness, it occurred, according to Engels, within the bourgeoisie itself, between new manufacturers and older bankers, or in the international sphere with the quest to solidify empire and profit via the wartime wresting of markets and trade supremacy from France. Only after this long period of economic preoccupation, do the bourgeoisie, according to Engels, look to national politics and seek to break the compromise of 1689 and seize “the political power still left to the aristocracy.” Then only in the heyday of nineteenth-century Manchester bourgeois hegemony, does it seek to spread its values and create a bourgeois culture and civilization.
What is suggestively “un-Marxian” here is the notion that late eighteenth-century bourgeois man in England should have been any less concerned with the political realm and the political and cultural expression of bourgeois ideology than was seventeenth-century or nineteenth-century bourgeois man. Marxism, one assumes, depicts the impact of the economic realm on the political and cultural superstructure as an ongoing continuous process, not one of fits and starts. One would expect, then, vigorous ideological activity in the formative years of the Industrial Revolution, in which bourgeois principles would be applied to the whole system, seeking to transform its values and its political structure to a closer match with economic reality.
This essay suggests that such a vigorous ideological enterprise did, in fact, occur in England between 1760 and 1800. The English bourgeoisie sought to break the compromise of 1689 long before the 1830s and 1840s. The entire span of English social and political thought and history between 1760 and 1800 can, indeed, be characterized by Engels' categories, but not his timing. These years saw the sustained effort of the English bourgeoisie to take over political power in order to replace what it considered to be the prevailing aristocratic social, economic, and cultural values with radical bourgeois values. The latter objective, the replacement of aristocratic values with bourgeois values was relatively successful. The former, the political one, nearly succeeded in the early 1790s, but for Pitt's repression, the spread of Methodism and evangelical religion, and the felicitous diversion of foreign war.
The French Revolution may, in fact, help account for the relative indifference of Marx and Engels to the assertive bourgeoisie of late eighteenth-century England. In tracing the rise of bourgeois ideology as well as of the bourgeoisie in general, both of them seem caught in a chronological set that sees the march of events in a single column. In the German Ideology, Marx describes, as we have noted, the ideology developed by Hobbes and Locke moving to France where it is picked up by the physiocrats and some of the philosophes. It then returned to England in Bentham and Mill. So, too, Engels describes first the revolution of 1640, then the compromise of 1689. He then moves the chronological description of the rise of the bourgeoisie to France and the Revolution and then also “returns” to England where the next step occurs in the 1830s. It is as if this development can not occur simultaneously in different places. More simply, perhaps, there is the obvious fact that the French Revolution commands the near total attention and interest of any student of bourgeois development in the eighteenth century. Harold Laski, too, in The Rise of European Liberalism, is preoccupied with French bourgeois thought in the late eighteenth century since it culminates in the drama of the Revolution; and he pays little attention to bourgeois ideology in England during the birth of industrialism. The primary concern with France and its revolution is by no means misplaced. Still, any comprehensive description of the development of bourgeois ideology should take into serious account the relatively unexplored years in England when the industrial revolution produced an assertive and highly articulate group of bourgeois ideologues.
The contemporary socialist historian, E.P. Thompson, is also looking elsewhere, not at the French Revolution, but at the development in England of what he calls “plebian radicalism.” In the course of his writings, he, like Marx, is relatively uninterested in describing the emergence of a bourgeois radicalism in late eighteenth-century England. Thompson tends to see England in the eighteenth century characterized by what he labels “essential polarities.” He writes of the “POOR” AND THE “great,” the “popular” and the “polite,” the “plebs” and the “politicians.” Like Fielding he sees the “high” and the “low,” the “people of fashion” and of “no fashion.” Occasionally he sees this as equivalent to the non-propertied and the propertied, or the lower class and upper class. There is little discussion in his work of a third group, a middle class of propertied who saw themselves as by no means allied with the great, the polite, or the patricians. Thompson is preoccupied with “the polarization of antagonistic interests and the corresponding dialectic of culture.” It is in light of this that his spledid resurrection of working-class and popular ideology must be read. It is here that Thompson finds “resistance to the ruling ideas and institutions of society.” The direct, turbulent actions of the popular crowd were where hegemonic control was challenged.
My contention is that there are in the last half of the eighteenth century antagonistic interests and conflicting ideologies that require more than the dichotomy of plebeian and patrician. A selfconscious third group asserted its interests as quite different from the ruling aristocracy and gentry at the same time it sought eagerly to differentiate itself from what it considered the less virtuous poor beneath it. This middle class also repudiated the ruling ideas and institutions of aristocratic England. It may well be, as Thompson argues, that, by the 1790s and Pitt's repression, middle class interests were frightened by the vogue of Paine and revolutionary sentiment among the poor (although I would argue this break was less dramatic than Thompson argues), and turned to an alliance with the gentry and aristocracy through the Napoleonic period. But this should not by any means deny the very real class antagonism that existed from 1760 on between the middle class and the aristocratic-gentry ruling class. To grant this, simply involves abandoning a polar view of English society.
In reality, the differences between Thompson's analysis and that suggested in this essay are ones of emphasis only, and very understandable at that. His sense of “gentry-pleb” relations captured in his vivid metaphor remembered from school physics, does acknowledge at least the existence of a third force.
This is very much how I see eighteenth-century society, with, for many purposes the crowd at one pole, the aristocracy and gentry at the other, and until late in the century, the professional and merchant groups bound down by lines of magnetic dependency to the rulers, or on occasion hiding their faces in common action with the crowd.
Just when is late in the century? In noting the hold of paternalist assumptions over all segments of society, Thompson insists that one cannot exclude the middle class. He rejects the view “that this parasitism was curbed, or jealously watched, by a purposive, cohesive, growing middle class of professional men and of the manufacturing middle class.” Such a class, he adds, “did not begin to discover itself until the last three decades of the century.” His picture of the middle class assumes that for most of the century it “submitted to a client relationship” with the great. Tradesmen, attorneys, and intellectuals were deferential and dependent on the great. Thompson is willing, however, to be more precise on the timing of this break. He suggests that the gentry-aristocratic hegemony was unchallenged until the “intellectual radicalism of the early 1790s.” He grants that when the ideological break from paternalism occurred “in the 1790s it came in the first place less from the plebeian culture than from the intellectual culture of the dissenting middle class.” The emphasis of Thompson's work has been on the ideology of plebeian radicalism, in this essay the concern is the rejection of paternalism and patronage by bourgeois radicalism, the “intellectual culture of the dissenting middle class.”
We differ then only on the timing and the intensity of this bourgeois ideological assault on the “ruling ideas and institutions of society,” and of course in our basic interest in it. Still, we agree on its central credo, for Thompson notes that what most infuriated this professional and merchant group about aristocratic and gentry hegemony were “its attendant humiliations and its impediments to the career open to talents.” My perspective is not unlike Thompson's. His work in articles and books (and that of his students) has provided a powerful eighteenth-century first chapter to what most have previously considered the wholly nineteenth-century story of the making of the English working class. My concern is similarly to develop an eighteenth-century first chapter in what is conventionally seen as a nineteenth-century story— the tale of the making of a “purposive, cohesive, growing middle class of professional men and of the manufacturing middle class.”
A very different version of this story is offered in Harold Perkin's The Origins of Modern English Society. His is a profoundly different reading of the bourgeoisie and its place in English political and social life. Far from seeing it as in any way cohesive, purposive or assertive in the eighteenth century, he finds it instead reluctant “to abandon paternalism and be provoked into class antagonism.” The “birth of the middle class,” occurs only in 1815 when, according to Perkin, the northern manufacturers who had hitherto been uninterested in meddling into politics and who had been “loyal and quiescent” during wartime turned against Britain's “ancien regime.” In 1815, Perkin contends, the middle class resolves to “assert its own power through its own representatives.” It turns then for the first time against the “old society compact by which the landed interest ruled on behalf of all the rest.” Proof of its “birth” is that “for the first time,” the middle class gave an appreciative audience and positions of leadership to emancipated and alienated intellectuals the likes of Bentham, Ricardo and James Mill.
That for three decades before the war and even for some time during the war important segments of the manufacturing community were politically active and often critical of the old order, and that they patronized and eagerly read the works of intellectuals like Burgh, Priestley, and Price is not part of Perkin's story. These prenatal signs of middle class vitality are ignored because they point to an assertive revolutionary class which is very far from his sense of the period. The middle class reluctantly comes into existence in 1815 only because of the Corn Law of that year, which convinced it that the landowning aristocracy governed only in its own interest. In this Tory reading of British history, there would have been no assertive middle class but for ruling class ineptitude. Historical change is produced not by rebellious classes on the make but by the mistakes of the elite and privileged classes. It was, Perkin concludes, “irresponsible use of aristocratic power [which] then provoked the middle class into existence.”
Class does not figure in British society in the eighteenth century because the bonds of patronage and dependency prevented any class feelings from emerging, or as Perkin puts it, any “vertical antagonism between a small number of horizontal groups.” The old order with its ruling principles of patronage and connection was characterized by “horizontal antagonism between vertical interest pyramids.” By this Perkin means interest politics. Not class but competing interests, the various estates, corporate, geographical, and religious interests, the connections and factions of court, country, “ins” and “outs” was the stuff of English politics until 1815. The agitation for parliamentary reform that begins in the 1760s and continues in rising crescendo into the 1790s is written off “as characteristic of the old society.” The reformers were merely an interest group of “outs,” seeking office or at best lost rights. These reformers were neither interested in nor responsible for industrializing England. It was, in fact, Britain's landed aristocracy, its “extraordinary elite” which took the initiative here and “used it to create all the preconditions of an industrial revolution,” which would ultimately radically disrupt the very traditional order over which it presided.
It is for making this case that Perkin's book is most often cited. And it is a fascinating case he makes, documenting aristocratic involvement with banking, commerce, transport, and manufacturing. Their role in the abandonment of wage fixing and apprenticeship clauses as bearers of a new laissez-faire ideology is also an argument well made. Perhaps less valuable is the suggestion that the elite deserves the credit for the industrial revolution because after all their landed policy of enclosures drove the workers into the factories. Of a similar questionable value is his suggestion that the aristocracy helped bring about the industrial revolution because their dominance in politics and the church “helped to divert the energies of the Dissenters away from politics and towards labouring in their vocations of industry and trade.”
Perkin's modernizing aristocracy is still for the most part a well-made case, and a necessary and useful corrective to accounts (like this very essay) which tend perhaps too much to the other extreme. But surely revisionism has run riot in Perkin's Tory version of a modernizing, innovative, cohesive aristocracy and an utterly irrelevant and quiescent bourgeoisie playing little if any role in “the breakdown of the old order.” To be sure, Perkin sees some place in the story for the disenchantment with patronage and dependency on the part of the “middle and lower ranks or orders.” Still, he is convinced that this itself was “indeed provoked by a rejection on the part of the higher ranks” of their paternal and protective responsibilities. Like Carlyle, Sadler, and Disraeli, Perkin is convinced that the old order was done in by “the abdication on the part of the governors.”
While they differ radically in their vision of historical change, the Tory Perkin and the Socialist Thompson share a common reading of the virtual irrelevance of the middle class in the social structure of the eighteenth century. Both tend to see it too submerged in the complex world of deference and connection to be playing any critical (in both senses of the word) role. Both are preoccupied with the polarity of gentry/aristocracy ruling class and all the rest. The one sees one pole as vital and innovative while the other sees it as regressive and the agent of hegemonic control. The one sees no class feelings in the century at all, the other sees plebeian radicalism in a culture and politics of rebellion. But both are convinced of the un-importance of a class conscious third force, a radical bourgeoisie.
It may well be that Perkin's very concern in answering Thompson, in fact, forces him to duplicate Thompson's oversight of any important middle class consciousness. Thompson was wrong, Perkin contends, in labelling Paine, Hardy, and the English Jacobins of the 1790s as class spokesmen. “Were they a class,” he asks, “were they emancipated from the system of dependency?” No, he answers, because they were self-evidently not “consciously proletarian,” and the workers clearly did not flock to their tents. But this assumes the only options are privilege or proletarian. They were, indeed, out “to apply the axe to the old society” and they were, indeed, spokesmen for a class, but for a radical middle class.
Like Thompson, Perkin tends to see class and class consciousness as meaningful issues or even concepts in the eighteenth century only in terms of working class. The bourgeoise don't count. How else does one explain a passage in which Perkin dismisses the agitation of a Cartwright and Wyvill as “highly respectable—that is, they did not assume the character of a class attack upon the aristocracy.” Can it not be both? Can a class attack on the aristocracy not be respectable? It can not be only if one's reading of class is constrained within a polarity of respectable notables and revolutionary workers. That there was a third force at work, highly respectable men and women out to destroy the world of patronage and paternalism, is the claim of this essay.
To his credit, Perkin also recognizes and brilliantly describes this ideological assault on the old order when he turns to the “entrepreneurial ideal” which he sees emerge in the nineteenth century. Its idealization of competition, hard work, talent, and frugality; its condemnation of idleness, patronage, aristocratic corruption, and jobbing are vividly depicted in the rhetoric of Brougham and James Mill. But this glorification of the middle class as the nation, “the glory of England,” the “wealth and glory of the British name,” is not new. Nor is the antagonism of that class to the ruling ideas and institutions of aristocratic England. The roots of that class and that antagonism go deep into the previous century to the Midland's factories, the provincial philosophical societies, and the dissenting schools and chapels of Warrington, Hackney, and Stoke Newington.
Perkin's interesting book does not exhaust the alternative readings of this period. A much subtler and more intriguing variant is found in the work of J.G.A. Pocock and other revisionists who in recent years have been at work reinterpreting Anglo-American eighteenth-century political thought. They emphasize continuity not discontinuity; rather than class or class ideology they concentrate on intellectual and cultural traditions which they consider more appropriate to the conceptual language of politics used in the eighteenth century. This school sees no insurgent bourgeoisie lurking behind the ideas of the late eighteenth century, they see Republicanism—a political tradition with roots deep in western history. There is a sense, indeed, in which the entire enterprise seeks to unmask ideological readings of history, to demystify, to free scholarship from the passion and errors of, as one of these revisionists has called them, “those who come to bury capitalism as well as those who come to praise it.”
In place of class ideology Pocock persuasively makes the case for the hegemony of “classical republicanism,” or “civic humanism.” Part Aristotle, part Cicero, part Machiavelli, civic humanism conceives of man as a political being, whose realization of self occurs only by participation in civic life, by active citizenship in a republic. The virtuous man is concerned primarily with the public good, res publica, or commonweal, not with private or selfish ends. Seventeenth-century writers like James Harrington and Algernon Sidney adapt this tradition, especially under the influence of Machiavelli, to a specifically English context, according to Pocock. This significantly English variant of civic humanism, “neo-Machiavellism,” or “neo-Harringtonianism,” becomes, through the writings of early eighteenth-century English Augustans like Davenant, Trenchard, Gordon, and especially Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, the ideological core of the “country” ideology as it confronted Walpole and his “court” faction. My earlier work on Bolingbroke and His Circle (1968) provided an important link in this intellectual chain, for in it Bolingbroke's preoccupation with corruption was linked to social and political themes. Corruption becomes, in fact, a critical concept in the language of eighteenth century politics. Much richer than simple venality or fraud, the concept is enveloped by the Machiavellian image of historical change. Corruption is the absence of civic virtue. Corrupt man is preoccupied with self and oblivious to the public good. Such failures of moral personality, such degeneration from the fundamental commitment to public life, fuel the decline of states and can be remedied only through periodic revitalization or returnings to the original and pristine commitment to civic virtue. Calls for such renewals, for “ridurre ai principii” (Machiavelli's phrase) are the response to corruption.
Bolingbroke's achievement was to appropriate this Republican and Machiavellian language for the social and economic tensions developing in Augustan England over the rise of government credit, public debt, and central banking, as well as for political issues such as Walpole's control of Parliament through patronage or concern over standing armies. Themes of independence and dependence, so critical to the Republican tradition (the former essential for any commitment to the public good), were deployed by Bolingbroke into a social map of independent country proprietors opposing placemen and stock jobbers and a political map of a free Parliament opposing a despotic court.
In the hands of Pocock and others, this reading of eighteenth-century politics through Bolingbroke's dichotomy of virtuous country and corrupt court does not stop with Augustan England. It becomes the organizing paradigm for the language of political though in England as well as America throughout the century. Analyses that refer to class consciousness or the conflicting class ideologies, that use concepts such as aristocracy, capitalist, feudal, or bourgeois are dismissed as simplistic and proleptic. Challenges to the “primacy” or “omnipresence” of “civic ideology,” of “Aristotelian and civic humanist values,” come not from “simple bourgeois ideology,” or visions of “economic man,” or “capitalist man,” but from a court ideology, part commercial, part elite and by no means representative of a class in any conventional sense. There is no dialectical tension between middle and upper classes, or even between patrician and pleb. These involve “much distortion of history.” But there is for Pocock a proper dialectical reading of the eighteenth century, one which sees everywhere “the dialectic of virtue and commerce.” The American Revolution and the English reform movement of the last four decades of the century involved “a continuation, larger and more irreconcilable of that Augustan debate.”
Prior to or independent of Pocock's own work, the seminal studies of Bailyn and Wood have made important contributions to this Republican revisionism. Bailyn's The Origins of American Politics and The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution directed attention to the continuity with earlier English oppositional themes in the revolutionary mind set and read the revolutionary debates in the earlier language of corruption and virtue. Gordon Wood in The Creation of the American Republic also stressed the importance of the notion of Republican virtue for the American revolutionaries. Popular government requires a virtuous “public spirited, self-sacrificing people,” ever watchful against the spread among them of the dreaded English disease of corruption. Pocock, too, sees the American revolution in these terms. The country ideology ran riot in America.” Her Revolution is a Machiavellian “rinnovazionne in a New World,” a “ridurre ai principii,” a “republican commitment to the renovation of virtue.”
But virtue/commerce revisionism has not stopped with the Revolutionary era. More vigorous of late has been Pocock's own suggestion and endorsement of the work of others which, as he notes, makes it clear that in America “to a quite remarkable degree, the great debate on his [Hamilton's] policies in the 1790's was a replay of court-country debates seventy and a hundred years earlier.” Hamilton, with his central Bank, his governmental credit system, his fondness for patronage, his advocacy of a professional army to protect commercial interests, is “a thinker in the direct court tradition.” Hamilton's views were those “Robert Walpole had been attacked for holding.” The Jeffersonians, on the other hand, “spoke the language of the country and knew that they spoke it.” In their polemics “the spirit of Bolingbroke stalked on every page.”
A host of scholars in recent years have followed the lead of Pocock (and to a certain extent of Wood and Bailyn) in recasting American politics of the 1790s in terms of the nostalgia/modernity split in Augustan England. In The Presidency of Thomas Jefferson, Forest McDonald writes that “just about everything in Jeffersonian Republicanism was to be found in Bolingbroke.” John Murin applies the seal of a latter-day Bolingbroke on the Jeffersonians with his verdict that they “idealised the past more than the future and feared significant change, especially major economic change, as corruption and degeneration.” What other historians do with this revisionist packaging of late eighteenth-century politics with Augustan labels remains to be seen, although the partisans of Jefferson as a not-warmed-over Bolingbroke are beginning to reply. I will have occasion to comment on this reading only in passing where it impinges on my main concern. One might note, for example, that by no conceivable stretch of the imagination can the Jeffersonian, Joel Barlow, who spent several years vigorously writing about and pursuing radical politics in the London of the 1790s, be painted as a nostalgic St. John. He was a bourgeois champion of the market to his fingertips. What I am concerned with directly in this essay, however, is the depiction of English reform in the late eighteenth century as also Augustan politics redivivus.
While country ideology ran riot in America, according to Pocock, actually succeeding in a renewal of republican virtue, in England it was less successful. Still it looked out at a despotic court, pitting nostalgic concern for lost rights, lost virtues, and a lost simple economy against the corruption and complexity of an unreformed and imperial government mired in national debt. Such is Pocock's reading of English reform in late eighteenth-century England. No class ideology, it was simply an expression of civic humanism and country rage. “Georgian radicals in the era of the Revolutionary war and its aftermath used a language indistinguishable from that of their American peers.” That same language of corruption and virtue were being used “against the ministries of George III,” by the foes of Bute “and the friends of Wilkes.” This was no casual flirtation with the language of civic humanism by the radicals. According to Pocock, the country ideology of republican virtue which the Americans used “had originated in England and was still very much in use there. In the minds of James Burgh, John Cartwright, or Richard Price, it was as obsessive and terrifying as in any American mind.” It was “the conceptual framework” behind “radical demands for parliamentary and franchise reform.” In Pocock's Machiavellian Moment, it is Wyvill, Price, and Cartwright who “employed a vocabulary of corruption and renovation little different from that of their American contemporaries.” In an earlier article on “Virtue and Commerce,” it is Burgh, Wilkes, the Yorkshire Movement, the Society for Constitutional Information, Cartwright, and miracula mirabilis John Thelwell who are placed in the tradition of country and civic humanism. They are “key points in the long continuous history of a political language and its concepts.” To this group has recently been added Priestley, who, along with Price, is firmly placed in the camp not of a class-conscious bourgeoisie but of those who used “the language of the ‘classical republican symbolism’ (or Old Whig, “country” or “commonwealthman”) tradition,” albeit with some Christian and republican millenialism thrown in. Gordon Wood, it should be noted, also tends to see Price, Burgh, and even Paine, in this camp of virtue-obsessed republicans.
Important in Pocock's reading of these late eighteenth-century radicals is the pessimism he senses in some of them, especially Price and his oft repeated fears over the national debt. Here is no optimistic modernizing spokesman for an insurgent bourgeoisie, according to Pocock, but an anti-market skeptic steeped in civic humanism's “Renaissance pessimism” over the direction of social change and the inevitability of degeneration and decline. Following directly the lead of Davenant and Bolingbroke, it is a mood which, of course, breaks through the writings of Hume and Smith as well. Also important in Pocock's dismissal of any innovative, ideological or discontinuous role for those in the radical camp is his endorsement of the earlier historical findings of Herbert Butterfield and Ian Christie, whose readings of radical agitation in this period emphasize its backward looking quality, its quest to break the Norman yoke and return to the Saxon constitution with its Gothic balance and its popular rights of all Englishmen.
If the spirit of Bolingbroke and country ideology dominates radical American and, more specifically for our purposes, radical English political thought in the latter part of the eighteenth century, then the conventional wisdom on Locke's intellectual influence has to be revised. And so it is that Locke and his influence is exorcised from this tale of eighteenth-century thought. He is summarily dismissed from his alleged stranglehold over American and English ideas, in what Pocock describes as “a shattering demolition of his myth.” Deemphasizing Locke involves recognition that “his greatness and authority have been wildly distorted.” The predominant language of politics for eighteenth-century radicals even when concerning “the idea of power reverting to the people,” according to Pocock, is “one of virtue, corruption and reform, which is Machiavellian, classical, and Aristotelian, and in which Locke himself did not figure.” The campaign against Locke is total. Salvoes are levelled against “the image of a monolithically Lockean eighteenth century” and against our thought “dominated by a fiction of Locke.” He is assailed as uninterested in history and, even worse, if analyzed carefully “he would rank on the Court side.” On the whole, Pocock concludes, to understand the debates of eighteenth-century politics does “not necessitate reference to Locke at all.”
The depreciation of Locke from the seminal role that writers as diverse as Leslie Stephen, Carl Becker, and Harold Laski, had given him was by no means begun by Pocock. Implicit in Bailyn's entire corpus is a vast deemphasis of Locke. He is, even more than progressive historiography, the major victim of Bailyn's preoccupation with the language of corruption and virtue in the American Revolution. John Dunn's important article, “The Politics of Locke in England and America in the Eighteenth Century,” dealing with Locke's reputation, is another landmark in the debunking of Locke, and one cited often by Pocock. Gordon Wood also suggests that “eighteenth-century English political thought perhaps owed more to Machiavelli and Montesquieu than it did to Locke.” Finally, there is Gary Wills's recent argument in Jefferson's Declaration of Independence which replaces Lockean influence on Jefferson with that of Hutcheson and others of the Scottish Enlightenment. Locke has been banished from the eighteenth century.
Adam Smith, at least as conventionally read, appears to be the next candidate for revisionist attention. Donald Winch's recent book on Adam Smith's Politics is a convenient summing up of this entire revisionist movement, for it makes quite clear its overriding anti-ideological commitment. Winch declares his debt to the “remarkable body of revisionist literature” which has the “finesse, richness and subtlety” of Pocock's work at its core. What this literature has done is rout both the Whigs and Marxians, those who “came to praise” as well as those who “came to bury capitalism.” A “major casualty” of recent work on eighteenth-century political thought, Winch contends, are those misguided ideologues who are committed “to the enterprise of constructing a genealogy of liberal or bourgeois individualism which is continuous from Locke to the nineteenth century and beyond.” Locke is, of course, “of strictly limited significance to many of the most lively as well as profound developments” in eighteenth-century, Anglo-American political thought. There are, Winch notes, a very “limited number of eighteenth-century doors of any interest that can be opened by reference to Locke's political writings alone.”
What Winch makes perfectly clear is that not only does clearing the air of Locke make way for Bolingbroke and civic humanism, but it also rids the century of ideology, specifically class-bound ideology. His book and the revisionist scholarship which informs it is the antidote to those who feel the need “for stories with heroes or evil geniuses.” Pocock's work, Winch insists, takes us beyond analysis informed “by the liberal capitalist perspective and its Whiggish tendency to search for clues as to what later opponents or defenders of liberal capitalism and Marxian socialism have considered relevant.” Such misguided scholars are convinced they know how the “progressive forces in society must be, or came to be, aligned.” They see all history and thought “from Locke to Marx” as “in the grip of some hidden historical force.” It is theorists dogmatically committed to some notion of a “tradition of liberalism or bourgeois ideology” running from Locke to Smith and into the nineteenth century that Winch most dislikes. It is against them he writes his book, to rescue Smith from their dogmatism and their simplicity.
Smith, in Winch's reading, is no liberal capitalist, no believer in acquisitive individualism. To read him as such is proleptic, to attribute nineteenth-century categories to a thinker whose concerns were “the well-established public language” of the eighteenth century. He is to be read not as a nineteenth-century liberal but as a skeptical thinker grappling with eighteenth-century themes of decline, corruption, national debt, militias, nostalgia and rapacious merchants. Winch has pulled off a revisionist coup d'état. Ideological readings of the eighteenth century are toppled, replaced forever by civic humanism and skeptical Whiggism.
It is the accusation of prolepsis at the heart of Winch's critique that this essay questions. This study rejects Winch's notion that to read Smith as bourgeois ideology is to use a public language unavailable to the last half of the eighteenth century and found only in the nineteenth century of James Mill et al. Such an ideological language was available in Smith's lifetime. Winch's Smith is a valuable corrective and reminder of the complexity of Smith's thought. It is important to be aware of continuity in Smith's preoccupation with eighteenth-century themes, but this need not sweep away all received wisdom on the role of Smith in the evolution of bourgeois thought. One can be both a bourgeois radical and a thinker concerned with themes important to the civic humanist and country tradition. A new language of public discourse can be acquired alongside the continued use of older words and concepts. To insist that the older language is the only language available produces a dogmatism which sees civic humanism and country ideology lurking behind every text and between every line. It is there, to be sure, and so are newer themes and a newer language of politics, which did not have to wait for the nineteenth century.
Informing this new language were older writers. Locke was indeed alive and well in the thought of English radicalism, and not only for Thomas Hardy who wrapped himself in Locke during his treason trials of 1794. Tucker and others attacked the Lockeanism of Price and Priestley. Burgh, Price, Priestley, Paine and countless others were less country ideologists than apologists for a radical bourgeois vision. If Aristotle was meaningful to their circle, it was less as a theorist of Republicanism than as champion of the moderate and superior mean, the theorist of a middle class polity. In fact, the major quoters of Aristotle were the Tory clergy who used him to demolish the Lockean arguments of the state of nature and social contract found in radical thought. Burgh and Price, far from nostalgic critics of a new commercial order, accepted a market ideology and the moral supremacy of a talented hardworking middle class.
Pocock is quite right to see the court/commerce connection. But in the late eighteenth century the country reform tradition came to terms with the market and, indeed, in the hands of middle-class industrial dissent turns that reform tradition into a wholehearted ideology of the market. The ideological picture is not quite as clearcut as Pocock paints it. The court, while bound to the market and commerce from Walpole on, was enmeshed in the principle of patronage which ultimately flew in the face of market notions of careers neutrally open to talent and hard work. It is here the conflict emerges. Patronage and privilege are principles which pit the court against the bourgeois reformers. Bourgeois radical inveighed against corrupt patronage, but it was a new sense of corruption, the corruption of jobs and places going to undeserving untalented men of birth. It was the privileged court which in this period responded with a nostalgic defense of the ancient constitution, hierarchy, and paternalism. Its defenders ridiculed the leveling ideas of monied men and provincial bumpkins.
A court-country reading of the later eighteenth century becomes quite strained. The principal reason for this is the emergence and eventual supremacy within the country “outs” of a class-conscious bourgeoisie which makes the court/commerce linkage obsolete. In the eyes of the bourgeois radical “outs”, the earlier equation is reversed. The “ins,” the court and all it stands for are identified not with the market and commerce but with idle, unproductive privilege. The state credit and financial revolution stood behind the court/country split of the Augustan era. Its relevance recedes with the industrial revolution when new dichotomous distinctions capture the fancy of reformers, none the least of which, indeed, is virtuous commerce versus corrupt privilege. The marriage of industrial England with dissenter reform dooms court/country politics and introduces class politics.
The virtue/republican and commerce/despotic equations were never universally accepted even earlier in the century. “Commercial Republicans,” like Montesquieu, Hume, and Smith rejected classical and Renaissance ideals of civic virtue and in their stead proposed, as Ralph Lerner notes, “a new model of political and social life.” Their vision of a commercial republic turned away from both classical ideals of citizenship and commitment to the public good and aristocratic ideals of pride, honor, and glory. In their place they saw the moral validity of pursuing economic self-interest and the enhancement of liberty in a people of temperance, industry, and frugality. This cultural and social ideal is unabashedly new.
Where the ancient polity, christianity, and the feudal aristocracy, each in its own fashion, sought to conceal, deny, or thwart most of the common passions for private gratification and physical comfort the commercial republic built on those passions. . . . the new model man of prudence followed a way of life designed to secure for himself a small but continual profit.
For Hume the self-denial and virtuous citizenship of antiquity were principles “too disinterested and too difficult to support.” Men were governed by other passions, “a spirit of avarice and industry.” In such a commercial society, liberty and a new social class flourished. Commerce and industry moved the “authority and consideration to that middling rank of men, who are the best and firmest bases of public liberty.” For Smith they increased “order and good government, and, with them, the liberty and security of individuals.” Not that Montesquieu, Hume, and Smith were unaware of the costs and “the disadvantages of a commercial spirit.” There was a price to be paid, an erosion of the community of citizens, a decline in the heroic spirit, a debasement of learning. But on the whole, like Aristotle's polity, a commercial republic while not the ideal was more realistic, more moderate, and most conducive to stability, comfort and personal liberty.
One need not emphasize this school as much as Lerner has, pulling into its folds all varieties of Anglo-American social thought from Montesquieu to Tocqueville. Still there is much merit, if only as a corrective to recent revisionism, in highlighting the praise of commerce and a commercial republic in the writings not only of Hamilton, but Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, and Adams. For our purposes, however, what is significant about “commercial republicanism” is its illustration of how diverse republican thought was in the eighteenth century. Some of the very intellectual giants of the civic humanist tradition were themselves intellectual spokesmen for ideas which in the hands of lesser thinkers would be developed into a fully articulate bourgeois ideology. To cite these republican giants is thus no sure evidence of country, anti-commercial sentiments. Most significantly, the commercial republicans were pathbreakers in the reinterpretation of virtue, which more than anything else calls into question the view that sees a dialectic of virtue and commerce dominating the social and political thought of the century.
What emerges in the course of the eighteenth century and most vividly in the writings of the bourgeois radicals is a new notion of the virtuous man, one which dramatically rejects the assumptions of civic humanism as it does also the assumptions of the other classical reading of the virtuous man, the seeker and the promoter of transcendent ideals of goodness and value, much emphasized by Leo Straus and his students.
Citizenship and the public quest for the common good are replaced by economic productivity and hard work as the criteria of virtue. It is a mistake, however, to see this as simply a withdrawal from public activity to a privatized self-centered realm. The transformation involves a changed emphasis on the nature of public behavior. The moral and virtuous man is no longer defined by his civic activity, but by his economic activity. One's duty is still to contribute to the public good, but this is seen as best done through economic activity, which in fact aims at individual gain. Economic productivity, not citizenship, becomes the badge of the virtuous man. On this score one might note that the early classics of children's literature written in England from 1760 to 1800 contain few lectures or parables extolling civic responsibility (unlike Emile), but they are full of both praise of productive hard work and lessons in economics and science.
Corruption is also a very different notion for the bourgeois radicals. A corrupt man was idle, profligate, unproductive, devoid of talent and merit. A corrupt system was one in which such drones held important public office, one where privilege, not merit, distributed the prizes in the race of life, where patronage insured the rule of unproductive corrupt men of no ability instead of the deserving men of talent. When Francis Place complained that “the whole system of our Government is essentially corrupt,” he was not invoking a court/country equation with commerce and modernity, he was using a new public language that saw government as a reserve for privileged parasites. These useless idlers presided over a system that denied careers to the talented. The real nation was outside that corrupt government, but it was not a warmed-over Augustan country. It was the virtuous hardworking and frugal middle class and artisanry. They were as uninterested in a Republican order of civic virtue as they were in an aristocratic order of deference and privilege. What they wanted was a meritocracy of talent. Only then would virtue triumph over corruption. No nostalgia or anti-modernity lurks behind their praise of virtue, no longing for a stable hierarchical ordering of the past. They are men of business who want to strip a bloated government of its idle retainers, its court and its taxes, and replace it with a streamlined, simple, and unobtrusive state run by hardworking, talented men who understood that government must be kept from intruding itself into the natural competition that is the race of life, a competition, which, if truly fair, would perpetuate the victory of virtue.
This is not to dismiss out of hand the existence of lingering country content in radicals like Wilkes, Burgh, Cartwright or Sawbridge. It had been, after all, the ideological reflex of the excluded for a century. Calls for frequent elections, attacks on placemen, and a reformed suffrage were often still uttered in the Machiavellian language of corruption, resotration of first principles, and historical analogies from Roman history. But John Brewer is quite right in his contention that beneath the familiar surface of the new radicalism emerging in and after the 1760s was, as he put it, “a considerable advance on country-party ideology.” The new radicalism goes beyond the praise of wise and virtuous landed M.P.s independent of crown and independent of constituent pressure. It goes beyond the Rockingham Whigs' sense that all was well with the political system and that only a change of leadership in which men of virtue replaced wicked men was needed to end “the present discontents.” In the new radicalism, there is a new dimension, the conviction that those now excluded, the urban and commercial interests, want in, want to be represented in Parliament and want their M.P .s to be their spokesmen, serving their interests, not serving as wise men independent of both the court and those who elected them. Thus, in their anger the new radicals turn on both the landed classes and the court/government.
My contention is that much of this shift is linked to the emergence of the industrial revolution. Brewer's explanation is somewhat different but quite compatible with my own. He sees as critical in moving the radicals beyond country ideology the historical experience of the 1760s in which English radicalism took up the great debate over property and taxation, prompted in the colonies by the reaction to the Stamp Act. It threw into a whole new cast discussions over representation. Taxation was the curse of all, yet few were enfranchised. Emphasizing taxation flew in the face of ideas of virtual representation and expanded the notion of property beyond landed wealth or freehold. What this emphasis on moveable property did was enable radicals like Burgh and Cartwright to extend “the debate about parliamentary reform far beyond its previous confines.” It transcended the paradigms of country ideology to more radical, more class-based categories. Brewer's analysis concludes with an assessment quite congenial to my thesis.
Prior to the 1760s parliamentary reform had meant, in effect, country-party measures designed, either by the removal of placemen or by holding more frequent general elections, to obtain an independent, politically pure lower House. The American debate, however, gave those urban and mercantile interests which had begun to resent the difference between their financial power and their political importance both the opportunity and the arguments with which to present a case for their greater participation in the political process.
These urban and mercantile interests spoke a new public language. Josiah Wedgwood approached civic life as a specialist in industry and commerce. “Sunk again I find into politicks,” is how he describes himself, reluctantly having to leave his business for citizenship. Not “fame” but “money getting” is his concern. When his friend the great engineer Brindley dies, Wedgwood notes that it is talents like his that truly benefit mankind. The public good done by such men of genius, the contribution to the commonweal by such men of “ingenuity and industry,” far surpasses the contribution of political men, of “many noble lords.” The economic benefactors “will be remembered with gratitude and respect” when the others “are totally forgotten.” For Thomas Cooper, the industrialist and scientist, who like Priestley would settle eventually in America, virtue and privilege were incompatible, as we've already noted. Only those with “insatiable ambition” could be able, wise, or virtuous.
The middle class wrapped itself in the cloak of virtue. They were “not adorn'd, it's true with coats of arms and a long Parchment Pedigree of useless members of society, but deck'd with virtue and frugality.” When Jedediah Strutt in composing his own epitaph wrote of himself “he led a life of honesty and virtue,” thoughts of country purity and citizenship could not have been further from his mind. His life was virtuous compared to the corruption of the idle nobility and the wretched poor, for he worked hard and contributed with his talent, ingenuity, and industry to the increased productivity and wealth of his nation. He was prototypical of a new species of virtuous men, much like those seen in Birmingham by an eighteenth-century chronicler of the middle class.
I was surprised at the place, but more so at the people: they were a species I had never seen: they possessed a vivacity I had never beheld: I had been among dreamers, but now I saw men awake: their very step along the street showed alacrity: Everyman seemed to know and prosecute his own affairs: the town was large, and full of inhabitants and those inhabitants full of industry.
When such middle-class men of alacrity, vivacity and industry addressed themselves to public issues, they did so less and less in terms of the paradigms and language of civic humanism or classical republicanism and more and more with the conceptual framework they know best, the market. Thus Joel Barlow, financial speculator, international entrepreneur, friend of Jefferson, Paine, Price, Wollstonecraft, Godwin, and Priestley, when writing of the French Revolution in his Advice to the Privileged Orders in the Several States of Europe in London in 1792, begins: “It must be of vast importance to all classes of society. . . to calculate before hand what they are to gain or to lose by the approaching change; that like prudent stock jobbers, they may buy in or sell out, according as this great event shall effect them.”
Pocock and the perspective his important work has given to eighteenth-century studies by no means exhausts interpretations which run counter to this essay's emphasis on discontinuity between old and new, on sharp breaks from the past, on such new species of non-dreamers who inhabit such places as eighteenth-century Birmingham. Albert Hirschman's argument in The Passions and the Interests, for example, is important for my purposes as a vivid account of the moral acceptability of the private acquisitive drive and of commerce, banking, and industry as virtuous enterprises. Indeed, his discussion of Montesquieu, Hume, Millar, Stewart, and Smith, of “man as he really is” complements Lerner's in developing the notion of “commercial republicanism,” which is so critical in questioning the universality of a corruption/commerce connection. But Hirschman is also outspoken in his insistence that the abandonment of anti-money making, anti-commercial ideals or the decline of the heroic ethos of honor and glory were neither sudden nor unanticipated in the past. The most important divergence of his book from my approach, however, lies in his conviction that “this enormous change did not result from any single victory of one fully armed ideology over another.” Those who destroyed the traditional values were not offering new ones that “corresponded to the interests or needs of a new class.” They were not advocates “of a new bourgeois ethos.” The intellectual promoters of an expanded commerce and industry in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were, according to Hirschman, not spokesmen for “marginal social groups,” or “an insurgent ideology.” Their ideas emerged at the centers of power as notables and intellectuals grappled with affairs of state, and sought new principles to curb chaos and constrain passion.
Hirschman's argument is most appealing, expecially in his suggestive critique of Weber by linking the rise of capitalism to intended consequences. It is also a position not that seriously at odds with the argument of this essay. Even if one grants that the intellectuals he cites were not class spokesmen, what they articulated were the intellectual antecedents, the moral and theoretical arsenal that later armed ideologists could and would call upon. When men of industry in Birmingham, Sheffield, and Manchester used the legitimization of avarice and commercialism in their efforts to redistribute power in late eighteenth-century English society, it had become an insurgent ideology. When dissenters opposed the Test and Corporation Acts for the redistributive goal of opening careers to the talented and morally superior virtuous men of commercial success, the arsenal was being used by a restless and assertive marginal social group.
One can grant the nonbourgeois origin of these ideas, grant their genesis in “the industrial, managerial and administrative elite” without denying that their political impact became essentially ideological in the eighteenth-century hands of an insurgent group that used them to justify a new ideal of middle class consciousness and solidarity and to claim a new distribution of political power in society.
A final reading of this period that differs from my interpretation is R.S. Neale's. Like Perkin, he sees landed and aristocratic wealth and power as much more the key to the modernization of Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries “than any activity by a bourgeoisie.” There was no effort by the big bourgeoisie to question the political power of the landed aristocracy during the period of industrialization, Neale argues, and he offers the familiar reading of the reform movements as nondistributive in intent but simply fueled “by a sense of loss of liberties and political rights.” Neale does provide an extremely important and useful documentation of the role of landowners and the aristocracy in making possible eighteenth-century industrialization through his depiction of how their changing needs led to significant adaptations in property and business law, all of which were essential preconditions for both capitalism and industrialism. But like Perkin, Neale goes beyond redressing historiographic imbalance to writing off the bourgeoisie entirely. All traces of the middle class, of a bourgeoisie playing “a most revolutionary part”, are removed from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries “during the crucial period of industrialization.”
As a class for itself it certainly did not exist. English industrial capitalists or entrepreneurs (we must call them something) were either too busy making their economic fortunes, or spending them to gain entrée to the landowning and aristocratic class, to be conscious of themselves as a class in opposition to their rulers. As a class in itself it is also unlikely that it existed.
Like much of the anti-class revisionism at work in the scholarship on this period, Neale has taken a useful and significant contribution and applied it with a vengeance. The bourgeoisie did, indeed, exist and they played “a most revolutionary part.” In this its formative period, the bourgeoisie were very much “conscious of themselves as a class in opposition to their rulers.”
The seedbed for this radical middle-class ideology and culture in the late eighteenth century were the provincial societies, scientific, philosophical, literary, and constitutional, which sprang up all over England in Manchester, Derby, Birmingham, Sheffield, Norwich, and London. Here and in the dissenting academies, and in the burgeoning associations of manufacturers could be found the “wealth of interacting social relations” that produced family inter-marriage as well as solidarity and class consciousness. Here came together the capitalist and the intellectual, the bourgeois businessman, the political activist, and the religious dissenter. Here men articulated the ideology's sense of itself as representing “the common interest of all members of society.” Here were conceived the formulas that sought “to give its ideas the form of universally valid ones.” These classes sought, as James Mill saw all classes sought, “to get up a system of morality for themselves, that is comfortable to their own interests, and to urge it upon other men.” These efforts would ultimately prove successful and they would fulfill John Stuart Mill's similar prediction that “wherever there is an ascendant class, a large portion of the morality of the country emanates from its class interest and its feelings of class superiority.” But that sense of moral superiority would emerge not in the nineteenth century but in the crucial early years of political struggle in the late eighteenth century.
The writings of the bourgeois radicals represent a vivid consciousness of the mission of the middle class in English society. Decades before James Mill and legions of Victorian apologists for the bourgeoisie, radicals of the 1770s, 1780s, and 1790s made the case for the superiority of men and women from the virtuous and industrious middle ranks. And who was more middle class than the protestant dissenters? John Aikin wrote of his radical associates: “Your natural connections are not with kings and nobles. You belong to the most virtuous, the most enlightened, the most independent part of the community, the middle class.” His sister, Anna Barbauld, was equally as insistent that the dissenters were fortunate to be “in that middle rank of life where industry and virtue most abound.” Mary Wollstonecraft lamented that women were not more like middle-class men. “The middle rank,” she wrote, “contains most virtue and abilities.” It is where “talents thrive best.” Indeed, her Vindication fo the Rights of Woman was written specifically, as she put it, for “those in the middle class, because they appear to be in the most natural state.”
Not only was the middle class more virtuous and more industrious, it was also the happiest. There are interesting echoes of Jefferson's pursuit of happiness in Richard Price's observations on the good fortune of the Americans. America is lucky, he wrote in 1784, because the “happiest state of man is in the middle state between the savage and the refined, or between the wild and the luxurious state.” Priestley, too, was convinced that middle-class existence was the most felicitous. For several years in the late 1770s he lived in the great house of Lord Shelburne as librarian to this aristocratic patron of bourgeois radicalism. Richard Price had held the job before Priestley, and later Shelburne would champion Jeremy Bentham. Looking back in his Memoirs on his years as resident intellectual for the great, Priestley noted that he was above temptation.
I was not at all fascinated with that mode of life. . . . These people are generally unhappy from the want of necessary employment on which accounts chiefly there appears to be much more happiness in the middle classes of life, who are above the fear of want, and yet have a sufficient motive for constant exertion of their faculties, and who have always some other object besides amusement. I used to make no scruple of maintaining that there is not only the most virtue and most happiness, but even most true politeness in the middle classes of life.
In these years there emerged a unique bourgeois pride that would later be expressed as its special mission as agents of regeneration and rebirth to fill the void between “an ignorant labouring population and a needy and profligate nobility.” The special trait of the middle class was its usefulness, its abhorrence of vice or idleness. The bourgeoisie saw themselves as a people set apart adrift in a sea of the great and the poor. Their chapels, their clothes, their hard work, and their provincialism set them apart as much as the Test and Corporations Acts did. They responded with a conviction of unabashed superiority, cloaked in a vigorous embrace of modernity and their critical role in its onset. They ushered in new notions of time and discipline, and several among them even sought to restructure the English language to rid it of its aristocratic and feudal qualities.
Central to this transformation and to the shaping of middle-class solidarity and its new consciousness was education. One of the most effective weapons in the assault on the old order were the schools which provided a preparation uniquely appropriate for the new age. The leaders of bourgeois England did not come from Oxford and Cambridge where classical and clerical education still dominated the preparation of gentlemen. Adam Smith noted their irrelevance. They were “sanctuaries in which exploded systems and obsolete prejudices found shelter and protection, after they had been hunted out of every other corner of the world.” Where learning flourished in the eighteenth century was in Edinburgh and the dissenting academies set up by the sects in response to their exclusion from Oxford and Cambridge. And it was a particular kind of learning that flowered there, perfectly matching the needs of an emerging bourgeois civilization. These academies provided the middle class with a practical education.
The central figure in the development of this bourgeois education was Joseph Priestley, both through his writings and in the example of his many years as teacher in dissenting academies. Priestley's goal was a worldly education in the affairs of society—economic, political, and scientific. “Why,” he wrote, “should youths be trained to be ministers, lawyers, and doctors, and not be trained to be merchants, clerks, and tradesmen?” His educational reforms, which soon spread to all the academies, not only produced businessmen and ministers who themselves preached to businessmen, but, as one might suspect, middle-class radicals in politics, restless with the restrictions they faced in a political and social order which they felt to be still very much dominated by the aristocracy and aristocratic principles.
Priestley's radical vision in a speech he delivered at Hackney contained the new economics of bourgeois radicalism, as well. Part of the “new light” and “rising gale” is a minimal and non-interfering state. This flowed quite easily from Priestley's commitment to religious freedom, for there was a close relationship in the dissenting world view between religious dogma and the political and economic concerns of the bourgeoisie. In addition to the often noted importance in nonconformist doctrine of worldly success and its relationship to thrift, simplicity, frugality, and industry, there was a near unanimity among the dissenting sects in demanding the disestablishment of the church and the complete separation of church and state. Matters of religion and of conscience were held to be totally beyond the competence of the magistrate. The state, it was argued, ought not to interfere in religious matters, its concerns were purely civic. In a constant restatement of Locke's doctrine of toleration, dissenting clergy and political writers insisted that the power of government be limited strictly to preserving the peace and protecting property. What happened in this period is that this constant invocation of the principle of religious laissez-faire, the withdrawal of the state from the realm of belief, became appropriated by secular arguments for economic laissez-faire. The centuries-old restrictions on economic activity inherited from medieval Christian dogma, guild-dominated feudalism, and Tudor paternalism were under attack by the entrepreneurs of industrializing England. Their arguments were reinforced by their religious brethren in the pulpit.
Joseph Priestley here, too, speaks for his age, for his religious brethren, and for his class. In his religious and political tracts, Priestley invokes the doctrinal notion of freedom of conscience, and in his economic writings he wrote of the need for the state to withdraw, the necessity of its being “as little expensive and burden-some as possible.” But, more importantly, Priestley also articulated the new bourgeois demand that government give up its traditional involvement in the economic process. Individualism was as crucial here as in the religious realm, he insisted. Man should be “left to himself.” All the restrictions on individuals should be undone so that they could “revert to that natural condition of man from which we have departed.”
Full citations for works listed in the Footnotes may be found in the following Bibliography.
Aiken, John. Letters from a Father to His Son on Various Topics Relative to Literature and the Conduct of Life. Philadelphia, 1794.
——. Address to the Dissenters of England on Their Late Defeat. London, 1790.
Andrews, C. Bruyn (ed.). Torrington Diaries Containing the Tours Through England and Wales of the Honorable John Byng Between the Years 1781–1794. London, 1935.
Appleby, Joyce. “The Social Origins of American Revolutionary Ideology.” The Journal of American History 64(March 1978):935–958.
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The following summaries survey a variety of social and political topics, ranging from theoretical analyses of community, bureaucracy, and Kantian political reason to historical studies of the social-political thought of Rousseau, the Utilitarians, Samuel Gompers, Bergson, and Oakeshott. In addition, the studies of Hunt (et al.), Knox, and Boyle offer detailed case studies of the “political history” of ambiguous phases of “liberalism.” From the perspective of individual freedom, we can approach these diverse themes by seeing the several attempts to reconcile a sense of community with the protection of individual rights.
“Toward a Philosophy of Community.” Philosophy Forum 16, Nos. 1/2(1979):101–125.
Leslie Armour observed in “Value, Community, and Freedom” that “the question of a ‘real community’ is. . . the most pressing issue of our time.” Prof. Drengson concurs and adds that developing a philosophy of community will do much to resolve the social and environmental problems which plague the modern world. In large part, these problems derive from a failure to appreciate the complex interconnections which comprise both the natural and human processes of community.
Since sustaining a community requires regular contacts, locale figures prominently in communal life. To distinguish whether a given group functions as a community, Drengson postulates four basic axioms of community life: (1) locals respect one another in word and deed (Mutual respect and trust); (2) locals look after locals when help is needed (Interdependence); (3)locals work to maintain the integrity of their locale (Physical plant and ecology); (4) locals accept diversity (Tolerance).
Throughout his article, the author stresses the analogy between living in human communities and existence within natural ecosystems. On a purely practical level, a cherishing of the land helps to assure a group's very survival, since poisoned earth and sky will not nurture children who must carry on community traditions. At a deeper level, the same attitudes of reverence, interdependence, maintenance, and tolerance of diversity required for a society are also needed to sustain coexistence on the purely natural level.
Drengson discerns four major themes which underlie life in most human communities. They are: the affective (or aesthetic), productive, rational, and spiritual. To a great extent, they also parallel quite similar themes in the lives of individuals. From individual to individual, from community to community, these themes will receive varying emphasis. Nevertheless, harkening back to Plato's arguments in the Republic, Drengson asserts that, both for the individual and the community, harmonizing these four elements looms as a primary task. It is crucial that the person and the group achieve a skillful blending in order to avoid disharmony, suffering, alienation, and other ills.
In connection with these four motifs, Toennies's distinction between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft relationships becomes particularly fruitful. Gemeinschaft ties result from the interaction of natural wills (spontaneity, emotion, attraction, sharing, caring, etc.), while Gesellschaft relations arise from contact among rational wills (associations of special interest groups, contracts, corporations, etc.) This distinction captures some of the paradoxes between our need for both individuality and belonging in society. “We are both social and antisocial, wanting both the public and the private, wanting to plan but to live spontaneously.” Much of the drama of social life is the struggle to achieve balance in individuality and community without either oppressively inflexible or insensitively mechanistic forms of human interaction.
“Order and Disorder in Rousseau's Social Though.” Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 94 (March 1979):247–260.
We might reconcile the various antinomies found in Rousseau's social thought by a dialectical process reminiscent of Hegel's logic. Thus, the natural order of God's creation which is fractured by man's experience and. . . experiment, of discovering the moral realm” is recaptured by the imposition of the organically ordered state. By this artifice the natural order is realized in a synthesis of rational nature and human construction. Without the imposition of the moral constraints of the organic state, untutored instinct would lead to societal chaos of competing selfish desires. However, the state, by allegedly unifying and embodying the disparate wills of its constituents, reconciles their differences and by tyrannical means imposes the moral order that cannot prevail outside of the organic body politic. Therefore, according to Rousseau, “no voluntary cooperative utopia could ever exist. Men had to be coerced into becoming citizens. . .” Men had to be divested of their natural selfish impulses through the tutelage of the state in order to realize a higher, moral nature—one unconcerned with the automistic self.
“Utilitarians Revisited,” American Journal of Sociology 85(November 1979):516–550.
Camic challenges the predominant sociological view of utilitarian social theory, as well as the “presentist” orientation of the profession that enables it to avoid looking at the utilitarians directly. We need to study works of Hume, Smith, Bentham, and J.S. Mill, for their sociological ideas, because if sociologists are to account for how social theories arise, change, and grow, they must engage in a sociological history of sociology. Such an account will clarify the process by which different accounts of social reality evolve, partly as a result of different individuals occupying different social posts in intellectual communities. When a new discipline comes along it must respond to the given intellectual community and justify its existence; as we shall later see, this helps to explain the distortion of utilitarian theory by sociologists.
The sociological myth about utilitarianism stems from Parsons's The Structure of Social Action. He argued that: (1) the utilitarians' model of action was composed of atomistic, egoistically motivated actors who employ only means of expedience to achieve material ends; (2) utilitarianism declined because it was unstable and was unable to provide correct interpretations of the fact; (3) utilitarianism contained an inner dilemma; and (4) it could not explain how social order was possible, given (1). The inner dilemma refers to the alleged fact that the utilitarians say nothing about the content of ends in the action process, thus rendering them random. The only escape from this alleged utilitarian dilemma is to modify the concept of ends (accommodating them into the “situation”) or to drop the idea that actors imply rational means. But both of these alternatives deny the notion of voluntary action; hence the dilemma.
The utilitarians were not Hobbesian egoists; sympathy and other passions played a large role in utilitarian explanation. Passions were seen as social in their genesis and in their function. Further-more, one of the main concerns was to show how social norms helped to produce order by counteracting and meshing with egoistic motivation. The utilitarians rejected the idea that man could live in a state of nature, using force and fraud at will. Indeed, they believed that man was a social being. These statements apply to all of the utilitarians, though in somewhat diminished form for Bentham, since his main focus was social reform rather than social science. The concern of the utilitarians with social science, that is, their attempt to find general and universally valid law and principles governing action in society should put to rest any notion that the utilitarians saw action as random.
If Parsons's view of the utilitarians is totally wrong, his explanation for their demise must be rejected. Such a demise was caused, says Osterman, by the rise of historicism and its view of inexorable law of social and cultural development, which the utilitarians rejected with their emphasis on permanent features of human nature. Utilitarianism's appeal was also diminished since it came to be identified with the Philosophical Radicals' pamphlets, phlets, which pushed for social reforms deriving from a few simplified axioms about human nature. The liassez-faire climate of the 1840s also helped to blunt the utilitarians more progovernment appeal.
Ironically, Spencer's evolutionism and his laissez-faire principles came to be known in America as Social Darwinism (which was a simplified Spencer plus a little Darwin) and Social Darwinians dominated the universities. Sociologists who were emerging at this time, identified Social Darwinians with utilitarians and vigorously attacked the entrenched ideology. Their attacks on utilitarianism can be seen both as a way of giving the new discipline an identity as well as their particular attempt to solve the Hobbesian problem.
Sociologists can learn a great deal from the utilitarians. They can see that the path pioneered by Parsons, and almost all later sociologists is not inevitable. Parsons's path wrongly sought order by the fusing of sociological or normative factors together with the self-interested means/ends reasoning. The utilitarians, by contrast, emphasized the interplay between motivation, norms, markets, and political and social arrangements; means/ends reasoning is only part of a large utilitarian whole.
“The Spencerian and Comtian Nexus in Gompers's Labor Philosophy: The Impact of Non-Marxian Evolutionary Thought.” Labor History 20(Fall 1979): 510–523.
Cotkin disputes the two claims that labor leader Samuel Gompers's (1850–1924) early development was influenced by Marxism or that he was a pragmatist. Though Gompers's class society analysis and the support for a working class organization was Marxian-inspired, historians have neglected the influence of Henry McGregor and Frank Foster on Gompers's development in the late nineteenth century. McGregor was a Comtian; Foster was a Spencerian who flirted with anarchism. Despite their differences, both espoused non-Marxian evolutionary views which disparaged politics. Gompers derived theoretical guidance from his close intellectual contact with both men.
To see Foster's and McGregor's influence, we can examine their views in relation to Gompers's on the role of the state and legislation and on the possibility of progress through the trade unions.
Foster's theory of trade unionism stressed the individual and rejected the state. In 1894 he opposed a bill limiting working hours, though he did favor child labor laws and child compulsory education because children were unable to protect themselves. Gompers held similar positions but both he and Foster denounced state charity in Spencerian language. Gompers was particularly incensed at the idea of the state setting a “fair” wage; he also thought state compulsory arbitration would weaken strong unions and make the weak unions accept poor agreements.
Foster believed that state interference retarded progress. He saw progress growing out of the trade union movement, for it emerged organically from the people who had to sell their labor to survive. Gompers used very similar language to oppose a compulsory arbitration law in New Zealand: the government, said Gompers, was trying to stem a natural phenomenon—struggle. Gompers did turn to the government before World War I, but (he wrote to Foster) it was under the pressure by the left wing of the movement.
As for McGregor, he frequently lectured on how history progressed through oppressed classes using different and more potent weapons than those of the class it was revolting against. On this view, the working class could only fail in the political realm. Gompers undoubtedly attended these lectures, since he was very familiar with their site, the New York City Positivist community of Comtians. McGregor believed that the labor organizations would triumph in the (Comtian) industrial stage of human development but to do so required unity and slow change. Gompers led his American Federation of Labor by these two principles (minus the Comtian rhetoric). Gompers's basic philosophy was that the labor union was a progressive force but only if it moved slowly and stayed out of politics.
“Weber and Kafka on Bureaucracy: A Question of Perspective.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 78 (Summer 1979):361–375.
Western civilization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has witnessed an unprecedented growth of bureaucratic institutions. Both Max Weber and Franz Kafka, two seminal German thinkers of the early twentieth century, noted the growth of bureaucracy in the West. Yet, they drew quite different conclusions concerning the significance of this development.
Max Weber championed bureaucratic administration as the most efficient and equitable method of social organization. Characterized by a “rational-legal” form of authority, the bureaucratic order replaces the traditional “charismatic” (or personal) exercise of power. In a bureaucracy, relationships among officials and relations between officials and the public are categorical rather than individual, rule-governed rather than idiosyncratic. Like the modern assembly-line, this friction-free, self-regulating machine with standardized interchangeable parts serves humanity to the extent that it is “dehumanized.”
Methodologically, Weber, the social scientist, understood that we cannot unravel the skein of objective and subjective elements in culture as efficiently as we can problems in the physical sciences. In order to attain greater “cleanliness” in the study of human problems, Weber devised the method of “ideal types.” With this technique, Weber theorized about individual social structures conceived in a hypothetically “pure” state—unhampered by peripheral influences and social ills. Later sociologists, like Talcott Parsons, rejected this methodology in favor of more empirical techniques. They repudiated theories based on ideal types which were unrelated to the larger social system in the “real” world or detached from the often determining influences of individual psychology.
For Franz Kafka, administration by functionaries represented the most inefficient and irrational social organization imaginable. His critique of the bureaucratic order parallels in many regards the denunciations proffered by modern-day “dysfunctionalists.”
In his novel The Castle, Kafka presents the frightening portrait of an individual confronting the baffling vagaries of a thoroughly bureaucratic society. Seeking validation for his status as land-surveyor in a small village, K, the hero of the novel, explores every avenue of appeal, diplomacy and alliance to gain audience with the elusive Kramm, the head of a mammoth establishment of unaccountable procedures and inaccessible documents. The faceless, humorless officials he encounters are mere fragments of an ever-rising pyramid of authority which has no discernable summit. Bereft of even a human name, K nonetheless symbolizes the valid human being who seeks meaning in a mechanized world which runs for no reason except its own perpetuation.
Prof. McDaniel counsels social researchers to consider the insights into human problems which literature provides. In this regard, he cites Jules Langsner: “Science interprets the phenomenal world with reference to the coherence of structure and behavior. Art transforms the phenomenal world into poetic metaphors with reference to experience unique to man. Both are indispensable to the enrichment of life in our civilization, and each can only benefit from a mature reciprocity with the other.”
“Bergson's Philosophy and French Political Doctrines: Sorel, Maurras, Péguy, and de Gaulle.” Government and Opposition 15(Winter 1980):75–91.
Having pondered the trauma of the First World War, Henri Bergson expressed his mature thought on moral and political issues in Les Deux sources de la morale et de la réligion. Significantly, however, Bergson's political doctrines have exerted a minor influence on social activists in comparison with his more purely philosophical teachings developed before the war. These philosophical hypotheses have exercised a varied and at times contradictory influence on four political figures in France.
Georges Sorel, spearhead of France's anarcho-syndicalist movement at the beginning of the century, made the explicit claim that he was applying Bergson's ideas to political action. Sorel's ideas in Réflexions sur la violence were immediately compared with Bergson's theories of life and vitality. In other writings, Sorel embraced Bergson's epistemological arguments. Nonetheless, Bergson himself recognized the many major points that separated him from Sorel. The latter's dogged insistence on elimination of the supposedly decadent middle class and his praise of violence as a moral and social tonic for France were but two of these major disagreements.
For Charles Maurras, leader of the fiercely nationalistic Action Française, Bergson represented an alien Romantic tradition which had undermined the rationality of French classicism and set France into woeful decline. Bergson's emphasis upon intuition and sentiment in the search for truth proved him a purveyor of “German pantheistic evolutionism.” The Action Francaise viewed Bergson as an intellectual débaucher who was not and never could be French. For Maurras, therefore, Bergson's philosophy abetted France's decay while for Sorel it presaged and nurtured the nation's rebirth.
Discontent with the dessicated postivism which France had inherited from the nineteenth century caused many French intellectuals to look upon religion and mystical idealism in a quite favorable light. A Catholic Renaissance ensued around 1910, and its most illustrious spokesman was the republican Charles Péguy. His poetic appeal to Frenchmen of differing political allegiances approximates Bergson's idea of creative politics through an intuitive synthesis of disparate views. An admirer of Bergson, Péguy concurred in the philosopher's firm rejection of the anti-Semitism which Daudet, Bernanos, and Drumont had made respectable among French conservatives.
Charles de Gaulle explicitly stated that his view of the grandeur of war was derived from Bergson. The philosopher had described the extreme difficulty the mind experiences when confronted by a fluid, unstable situation, which describes war in its purest state. The greatness of war stems from the heroic efforts which must be expended to comprehend and cope with a supremely unstable situation.
None of these persons or movements “applied” Bergson's philosophy definitively to political life. Bergson's diverse appeal derives from his “sometimes incongruous blend of political ideas. He combines individual freedom with criticism of social divisions and classes; he affirms the value of community and tradition, but encourages change and innovation in society. Finally, Bergson tries to reconcile man's need for religious and spiritual values with his achievements in technology and science.” It is not surprising that such a wealth of diverse ideas should give birth to a diverse breed of disciples.
“Oakeshott on Politics.” The Journal of Politics 41 (February 1979):150–168.
Archer examines the foundational concepts developed in Oakeshott's works in order to define the character of this conservative political theory. These concepts are the following: experience, rationalism, empiricism, tradition, human conduct, and ideal character.
The basis of Oakeshott's understanding of experience is his philosophical idealism which holds that there is no reality apart from ideas. Philosophy, then, is the whole or totality of experience which seems to imply that there can be no theoretical as opposed to empirical understanding of society. This leads Archer to a consideration of Oakeshott's indictment of rationalism for its misguided attempts to theoretically grasp the mechanics of society and organize our lives rigidly. The paradigm of rationalism is the planned society. Its proponents, Stalin, Hitler, and R.A. Butler, are indicted along with all those like Hayek, whom Oakeshott believes to be just as doctrinaire in their antipathy to planning as its proponents are in their enthusiasm for it. But in his zeal to stigmatize his opponents for excessive rationalism, Archer contends that Oakeshott has developed his own “theory” and, hence, stands exposed to this same charge of theoretical excess.
Oakeshott was suspicious of empiricism which he caricatures as the view that present observation is the source of all knowledge. In its place Oakeshott hopes to restore the status of tradition as the principal guidepost to political action. Tradition for Oakeshott is narrowly identified with the British legal tradition and, therefore, seems unjustifiably narrow in definition. His selectivity is indicative of his own rationalism, Archer argues, as it seems to presuppose a theory of what constitutes the genuine British tradition.
The tradition of Roman conduct to which we are referred by Oakeshott can be grasped through the process of idealization. By identifying the ideal typical features of human conduct, we disclose the tradition of any society.
Given this background, it is not surprising that Oakeshott's politics have neither “rationalist” nor “empiricist” foundations. It is traditionalist in as much as it takes the prevailing political arrangements as given and attempts to sustain them. These arrangements for Britain consist of a government which functions as an umpire and strives to maintain the traditional British concept of freedom. Collectivism in all its forms is rejected.
“Review Article: The Political Philosophy of Michael Oakeshott.” British Journal of Political Science 9 (October 1979):481–506.
The author evaluates Michael Oakeshott's conception of philosophy, especially his political philosophy. Oakeshott's conception of philosophy falls within the idealist tradition. For him experience—the unity of subject and object—is the only reality, and philosophy's task is to offer an absolute understanding of experience as a whole. Any limited standpoint distorts experience; in order fully to understand something within the whole of experience, one must understand its relation to other experiences or entitites, its conditions of existence or its postulates. Philosophy is able to understand the totality of experience by putting together all these defined and interrelated concepts into a coherent whole.
Oakeshott's conception of political philosophy follows from his conception of philosophy, although at different points in his career he has stressed more the critical or the constructive aspect.
There are two types of “practices”: prudential and moral. Prudential practices are instrumental, designed to achieve a specific substantive purpose. Moral practices have no extrinsic purpose, are accepted as authoritative or binding, and are not instrumental. Human associations are, similarly, either enterprise (or purposive) associations or moral (or practicebased) associations. “Enterprise associations” contain members united by pursuit of a common purpose; whatever authority there is derived from the common purpose and is meant to help achieve the purpose. A “moral association,” however, accepts the authority of common practices and procedures and it is only this which binds its members together, who may pursue any self-chosen substantive purpose they wish.
A civil association cannot be an “enterprise” (or purposive) association: says Oakeshott. For a purposive association is voluntary, but a civil association is not voluntary in that people can't leave it when they no longer share its purposes. A compulsory enterprise association forces men to subscribe to purposes they may not believe in, and thus violates their freedom and autonomy.
Civil associations are constituted by the recognition of the authority of respublica, that is, the system of interrelated rules which specify civil obligations. Citizens need not share any other purposes, nor do they need to approve of the rules.
Oakeshott calls the process by which citizens influence the legislative authority “politics.” He believes you cannot discuss political principles in terms of abstract ideals and principles, for they are too broad and indeterminate to be integrated into the life of the community. Politics tries not to pursue perfection, and political proposals should be understood in terms of how well they fit within the prevailing civil discourse. Politics need not occur in civil life, for Oakeshott doesn't see its great significance. Civil association exists to provide civil freedom, that is, freedom to pursue one's purposes and be restrained by nothing except general and formal norms to respect each other's civility.
Parekh thinks Oakeshott may be the only thinker in the history of political philosophy to have noticed the problematic nature of political philosophy; in order to truly analyze the grounds of politics, a philosopher must go far beyond it, but in order to be political philosophy, the philosopher must treat politics as an autonomous realm.
Parekh's criticisms of Oakeshott are as follows. Oakeshott's account of theorizing is dubious, since it is hard to see how, for example, a historian relates events to the postulates underlying the disciplines; nor are scientific laws the conditions or postulates of the events explained by them. Furthermore, although Oakeshott says theorizing entails no recommendations, Oakeshott's own work is full of implicit and explicit recommendations. Thus, in his account of the civil association, Oakeshott can claim that it is not an enterprise by identifying freedom with the ability to choose one's substantive purposes and by believing that such freedom is desirable. How else could he maintain that enterprise must be voluntary? There is nothing in the nature of an enterprise that makes this so; it is because Oakeshott thinks a compulsory enterprise would violate autonomy and this ought not to be done that he thinks compulsion should be limited to a civil association where this compulsion is more indirect.
Oakeshott's definition of a moral purpose as one with no extrinsic purpose is open to serious dispute. There are nonpurposive practices (e.g. good table manners) and there are authoritative practices that aren't moral (e.g. apartheid, caste system). Indeed, it is difficult to see how practices can be defined independently of the context of human purposes and satisfactions. This is particularly so for civil society, for many of the rules are made for specific purposes (e.g. tax laws). Though civil society may be constituted by authority, the legislative conduct is surely purposive.
Oakeshott's attempt to combine freedom in his interpretation with a civil association is also fragile. If the citizens must recognize the authority of the laws, why does this not violate their freedom to some extent?
“The Failure of the Liberal Republic in France, 1795–1799: The Road to Brumaire.” Journal of Modern History 51(December 1979):734–759.
Marxian historians of Napoleon's coup, his eighteenth Brumaire, have heretofore failed to take account of the “political history” of the period between 1795 and 1799. Consequently, unlike Marx's analysis of Louis Napoleon's ascension to power, these historians have failed to observe the parliamentary conflicts that led to the downfall of the Directory and the end of representative government. In the light of such a “political history,” we note that the success of the Brumaire coup resulted from a fundamental contradiction within the dominant, middle-class, propertied faction in the Councils. This republican faction established a representative government based on electoral politics, yet it limited direct participation by the masses to the first stage of the electoral process, reserving the final selection of delegates to some 30,000 French male property owners. These republicans of the majority faction endorsed the principles of political participation, yet they were unwilling to accept the growth of organized political parties, viewing such attempts by the Jacobin left and the constitutional-monarchist right as threats to the cohesiveness of the Revolution. Being the beneficiaries of the Revolution, landowning, professional, and commercial bourgeoisie, wanted to preserve the Revolution by establishing an anti-aristocratic government, but they were equally unwilling to tolerate a genuinely popular government of the people.
This unwillingness to organize themselves as a party led to the eventual undoing of these “centrists,” and as their own ranks of “regicides,” were replaced by new men, less committed to republican ideology, they were ripe for the anti-party rhetoric of Napoleon. Their lack of appetite for the consequences of elections is evident both in their purges of Jacobin and right wing deputies during this period, and in their opposition against annual elections.
The failure of the French liberal republic of the Directory was not the result of an unduly apathetic electorate of an overly autonomous military. Its demise was precipitated by the policy of the Council moderates who denounced parties. Thus, by 1799, a substantial number of these moderates endorsed the technocratic, authoritarian vision of government which Napoleon's coup would bring to fruition, and they endorsed his coup. Under Bonaparte as “ultimate Director,” the legislature was reduced to impotence, parties lost their function, and the executive ruled supreme—thus, the Directorial regime succumbed because it failed to rest upon the imperative of representative government, i.e. the formation of a party organization.
“Popular Politics and Provincial Radicalism: Newcastle Upon Tyne, 1769–1785.” Albion (1979):224–241.
This article discusses the electoral results in Newcastle upon Tyne in the years 1769–1785 to discover the true strength of Wilkite radicalism. The author claims that other historians have overemphasized electoral results and have, consequently, failed to accurately assess the impact of popular radicalism upon the parliamentary politics of the town. By examining previously neglected archival sources, newspapers, a Wilkite petition of 1769 and the poll books, John Brewer gives a dissenting assessment, which emphasizes and confirms the strength of Wilkite radicalism.
Nonelectoral evidence confirms Brewer's thesis as it directly validates the existence of a popular political consciousness grounded in the Wilkite perception of the role of representatives as the delegates of the people. This doctrine had previously not been found in Newcastle earlier in the century. When we analyze the electoral returns for the period, it is seen that the defeat of radical candidates was primarily caused by the votes of nonresident electors, and that radicals received much support from the local retailers and craftsmen. Finally electoral and non-electoral evidence creates a strong presumption that radical opinion transcending local issues accounted for the uncharacteristically divisive political struggles in Newcastle.
“The Liberal Imperialists, 1892–1906.” “The Institute of Historical Research of London University. 52(May 1979):49–82.
Gladstonian Liberalism manifested a decidedly anti-imperialist bent since at least the 1870s, but in the 1890s the Liberal party divided over the issue with a growing faction embracing the previously despised imperialism associated with the Tory party. Precipitated by such issues as the Boer War (1899–1902), the imminent division of China by European powers, and the Spanish-American War, Liberals of an imperialist stripe enjoyed considerable electoral success under the leadership of Lord Rosebery and the guidance of his Liberal Club. From a mere 13.6 percent of the Liberal party in 1892, the imperialists, managed to secure 35.7 percent of the Liberal seats before the 1906 elections.
The Liberal party in parliament during the period from 1892 to 1906 was over-whelmingly middle class, with a smattering of aristocrats and working-class labor leaders. The Liberal Imperialists, however, departed markedly from the occupational and class backgrounds of their anti-imperialist colleagues. Not a single working-class member professed imperialistic leanings, and the strength of Rosebery's faction came from the landowning classes and the wealthier section of industrialists. Curiously, of those Liberal peers who were active in political discussions only two adhered to the imperialist line. Imperialists, in addition to their lofty social backgrounds which set them apart from their antagonists, tended to be younger because of attrition as those adherents of the older laissez-faire liberalism died out and younger more statist liberals succeeded then. Finally, the imperialists tended to adhere to the Anglican and Wesleyan faiths, with the nonconformist seats being represented among the anti-imperialists.
Imperialism as a force within the Liberal party met its demise after the election of 1906, when other issues, of tariff reform and educational policy, took precedence over foreign affairs, and England turned to continental affairs rather than colonial adventurism. The era of Liberal imperialism concluded in 1910 when the Liberal League was quietly disbanded.
“Kant's View of Reason in Politics.” Philosophy 54 (January 1979):19–33.
Kant and Hegel's respective theories of politics are a study in contrasts. Whereas, Hegel is extraordinarily insightful in his discussion of the political relationships operating within a state, Kant's remarks are unduly abstract and unrealistic. On the other hand, Hegel's excessively pessimistic belief that inter-state relationships required the stern hand of a world state to dispel the possibility of international discord is the antithesis of Kant's optimistic estimate of the possibilities of international peace and accord.
These contrasts between the political writings of Kant and Hegel may be explained by referring to their opposed analyses of reason. For Hegel, reason is the tendency present in all action to realize the logical potentialities which present themselves in nature in the form of the concrete universal. The achievements of the state which seem so impressive as they manifest themselves in intrastate affairs, then are attributed to the potentiality for such achievement imminent in the state according to Hegel. Little wonder, then, that Hegel is led to assert the requirement of a supra-national state in order to resolve international differences.
By contrast, for Kant the Practical Reason is the faculty for understanding these principles which describe the necessary conditions of all social intercourse. It, therefore, grasps the reciprocity of rights and claims which make peaceful coexistence and personal moral achievement possible. Moreover, this account of the Practical Reason is consistent with and supported by Burt's philosophy of history as presented in the Idea for a Universal History. Here it is affirmed that nature's appointed role for Reason is to disclose to mankind the need for harmony between its members. This, according to Kant is “Nature's secret plan.” Thus, in contrast to the Hegelian conception of human interaction as necessarily discordant, Kant attributes to human beings the capacity in the form of the Practical Reason to resolve their differences rationally and internationally by the use of international law.
Since Plato's Republic, Philosophers, educators, and politicians have understood the importance of education to the “political socialization process,” that is, to the formation of new generations of citizens schooled or indoctrinated in the beliefs of the politically dominant class. The following summaries deal with the interaction of educational policies with political power and ideology. In addition, we see in Boller's and Vandenberg's summaries the relationship between individualism and different educational philosophies.
“The American School in the Political Socialization Process.” Review of Educational Research 50(Spring 1980) 99–119.
The most recent assessment of the political knowledge, attitudes and participation rates of American students found significant declines in each of these areas compared to previous studies. Since one of the major arguments for public education is that it is necessary to provide the educated citizenry supposedly required for the survival of a democratic society, these declines pose the question of what impact schools have on political knowledge and attitudes.
Available research studies support the following conclusions:
“The ABC's of Imperial Unity.” Canadian Journal of History 14(April 1979):49–64.
Historians of early twentieth century efforts at unifying the British Empire, have focused their attention on constitutional issues. This emphasis is misplaced, since imperial unity was never universally equated with formal political ties. With government encouragement, extensive private programs were undertaken to stimulate emotional and ideological cohesion between Great Britain and her colonies. Prof. Greenlee's article chronicles the work of one of the pioneering organizations in this field: the League of Empire, which sought to promote imperial solidarity through school programs.
In 1901, when the charter members of the League first met at Caxton Hall (London), wrangling over constitutional, economic, and political federation had largely frustrated the movement for greater unity between Great Britain and her self-governing colonies. The Colonial Conferences had faltered, tariff reform roused bitter controversy, while the war in South Africa stirred dissension throughout the Empire. In this atmosphere, the League of Empire was at pains to avoid injuring the sensibilities of colonial nationalists—emphasizing the private nature of the organization and shunning controversy at all costs.
The early leaders of the League concluded that any future unity of the Empire would be linked directly to education, particularly to the study of imperial history. “The only sound and permanent basis for an Empire lies in an instructed people,” declared A.F. Pollard, chairman of the League's history section.
In 1903, Joseph Chamberlain, Colonial Secretary, dispatched a letter to school boards throughout the Empire, warmly recommending the goals of the League. This support encouraged the group to develop a spate of programs aimed at fostering imperial unity and pride: the Comrades' Correspondence Club (a pen pal organization); Empire Day celebrations; patriotic plays for drama clubs; song sheets featuring melodies such as “The Maple Leaf Forever” and “Song of Australia”; Union Jack postcards; patriotic badges and shoulder insignia, etc.
Branches of the League soon sprang up throughout the Empire, and these far-flung bodies quickly organized to compose a reference book on imperial history: The British Empire: Its Past, Present, and Future. Evidently, joint action was proving both possible and popular when tactfully approached.
Early successes, however, emboldened the League to invite colonial school boards throughout the Empire to attend a Federal Conference on Education. The conference was obviously intended to promote the cause of educational federation. The move proved too direct. At the 1907 convention, the plan for forging an educational union met rejection from both British and colonial school boards. The boards would brook no infringement of their autonomy or the individuality of their systems.
It was agreed to continue holding these meetings every four years under the new title of the Imperial Educational Conference. Nonetheless, the drive toward educational federation quickly dissipated. At the time of the 1927 conference, all discussion of union was formally excluded. The meeting dwelt primarily on educational methods and theory.
Despite its seeming failure, Prof. Greenlee concludes, the League did, in fact, do much to stimulate imperial sentiment, even going so far as to produce patriotic films widely distributed in the Empire. Without the League and similar organizations, the splendid dominion response to Britain's call to arms against Hitler would have been, in Greenlee's view, simply inconceivable.
“The Political Economy of Education in Metropolitan Areas: Dilemmas of Reform and Public Choice.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 2 (January-February 1980): 53–60.
The reformers of the early twentieth century believed that the “public interest” should override that of individuals. They argued that individualist fragmentation produced chaos, whereas political centralization would produce substantial economies of scale and government should provide relatively uniform services to large areas. Subsequent experience has shown that although government service rarely exhibits major economies of scale, diseconomies of scale are quite common. The public interest has largely come to mean what is efficient in some narrow, technical sense for a bureaucracy to administer within the constraints of the bureaucracy's need to maximize its budget.
A competing point of view has grown up derived from the work of the public choice school of economists. This polycentric approach looks for benefits from relatively small governmental units. They postulate that the ability of residents to vote with their feet can introduce an important element of competition into the system. This competition can result in more effective responsive governments. A serious problem with this point of view is the ability of elite groups to gain control of their local communities. Having control they can prevent outsiders, especially those of different social and racial groups from gaining entry. These non-market approaches pose a serious trade-off. Polycentric approaches can achieve a certain responsiveness to local constituencies at the expense of injustice. Reformist centrist approaches have equality with inefficiency and arrogance.
The existing mixture of localism and centralism has produced some curious consequences combining the worst features of both systems. A so-called “lazy monopoly” system exists in many metropolitan areas. The most discontented parents tend to leave, either for non-public schools or the suburbs. While this has a long-term negative impact on the viability of the metropolitan area, it provides, in the short-term a measure of peace to the urban school bureaucracy. Recent aid programs for these same metropolitan areas have the effect of rewarding the bureaucrats for this behavior and further insulating them from the consequences of their actions. Empirical studies have shown that educational bureaucracies in areas with growing populations and tax bases tend to be relatively responsive to local political interests. In the districts where stagnation or decline is the rule, district staffs orient to federal and state aid programs. The problems are most evident at lower levels. While board members and superintendents may evidence some concern, lower level staff and building level personnel have almost no incentive to do so.
In the end the author returns to the market, in the form of vouchers, for a solution.
“The Educational Arena.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (January-February 1980): 27–36.
The American public education system is characterized by numerous participants, decentralized decision-making and factionalism, fragmentation, and conflict. Public education is difficult to improve and lacks a national policy. This lack of a national educational policy opens up the question of the federal role in educational policy.
Federal educational policy has a number of characteristics.
The federal role has shifted often during the last twenty years. The most notable shift has been toward an activist role. All branches have engaged in this shift, prodded by outside interest groups. These initiatives are generally short-sighted with little consideration of the total educational picture. Frequent changes in policy makers aggravate this situation and tend to transfer power to those, especially in the middle management ranks who retain their positions. Education has not been the focus of partisan controversy although the Democrats have tended to be more activist and reliant on the middle ranks of the bureaucracy, while the Republicans have tended to adopt a top-down approach to policy initiatives. Research and evaluation inputs have been very limited as policy discussions are primarily financially oriented and revolved around expanding various programs.
“Improving the Federal Administration of Educational Programs.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 2(January-February 1980):61–70.
The administration of federal educational programs is a challenging problem. The program objectives tend to focus on objectives about which little is known. Frequent conflicts erupt between the personnel of the federal agencies and the multitudinous groups with which they work. The federal agencies themselves are plagued by significant internal problems, specifically with their staff-line relations. The federal programs are characterized by a pervasive distrust of the people and agencies, with which they deal. Finally the federal agencies tend to be insufficiently aware of how their acts affect people.
The author is generally aware in his discussion of the problems of the incentive structure under which these problems have developed, but suggests only isolated remedies.
“William James as an Educator: Individualism and Democracy.” Teachers College Record 80(February 1979):587–601.
In his portrait of William James as both theoretical and practical educator, Prof. Boller depicts the American psychologist and philosopher as a “confirmed individualist” whose outlook reflected both aristocratic and democratic ideals. Four basic elements comprise the essence of James' teaching: pluralism, radical empiricism, indeterminism, and pragmatism. All four provided a basic foundation for the individual autonomy and creativity that James cherished and regarded as the aim of the educational process.
First of all, as a pluralist, James rejected a closed, deterministic “block universe” in favor of an “open universe”—an evolutionary world that is continually changing, growing, and developing and whose future is to a large extent unpredictable. For James, therefore, the world was constantly producing novelty and surprise.
Adopting a radical empiricist stance, James held that we must view reality as identical with our experience rather than allowing ourselves to be guided by neat, abstract categories which, while often useful, may mislead us into seeing much more order in the universe than there actually is. In his view, there may be sufficient connection among things to allow for useful generalizations, yet there is also enough looseness to allow for individual freedom.
As a result of his empiricism, James opposed the universal determinism espoused by many scientific scholars of his day. As an indeterminist, James viewed free will as a special effort of attention which an individual gives to one concern rather than to another. That focusing of attention results in an unpredictable and individually shaped choice. In this respect, free will is identical with the act of creation by which an individual generates unforeseen novelties in himself, objectifies them, and thus contributes to intellectual and social change.
Finally, James the pragmatist held that ideas were useful only in so far as they reflected the stream of experience and made a positive contribution to it. Here, as elsewhere, his emphasis was individualistic, stressing “the right to believe,” that is, the right to adopt any idea or belief that had fruitful consequences for one's own life, so long as it did not clash with other vital pragmatic beliefs or produce social harm.
Observing American education, William James deplored the growing emphasis upon degrees, which he felt transferred “accredited value from essential manhood to an outward badge.” While holding that education provided America with a vital elite, he believed with Emerson that each individual knows some part of the world which others fail to see and has some “single specialized vocation of his own.” Education was involved in developing a sensitivity to this “depth of worth that lies around you, hid in alien lives,” which may be found in the blacksmith, as well as in the philosopher.
In the final analysis, James felt that no individual has a final truth or unassailable insight. It is only by sharing our individual experiences and pooling our knowledge that is possible to gain a better grasp of things, devise better ways of living, and move toward a more democratic, tolerant, and humane world.
“Existential and Phenomenological Influences in Educational Philosophy.” Teachers College Record 81(winter 1979):166–191.
Existentialism and phenomenology have both exercised a potent influence over the development of American educational philosophy in the latter half of the twentieth century. Prof. Vandenberg outlines the relevance of these philosophical positions to the educational process.
The essence of existentialism has been concisely captured in Kierkegaard's 1846 dictum: “Subjectivity is truth.” The existentialists have repeatedly stressed the cultivation of inwardness—the individual's awareness of his authentic feelings, thoughts, moods, desires, and goals. Self-conscious awareness is never given, but must be achieved by an often heroic effort. Existentialism's relevance to education is obvious, since education attempts to facilitate the unfolding of an authentic personality.
While phenomenology also concerns itself with the task and process of self-awareness, it differs from existentialism in its objective rigor and outward emphasis. Phenomenology has striven to develop public methods to describe the elements of awareness, removing from its description as many idiosyncratic elements as possible. Its analysis of consciousness thus yields intersubjectively valid results.
The complementary subjective and objective approaches to awareness developed by existentialists and phenomenologists provide effective techniques for understanding the complex personal and more broadly human factors involved in education. Some theorists object, however, that the existentialist view of the world unduly stresses negativity—forever dwelling on homelessness, powerlessness, facelessness, and even nothingness. For Prof. Vandenberg, this is but half the story. In his view, existentialists explore the negative aspects of life in order to transcend them. Thus, they examine homelessness to prepare for homecoming, meaninglessness to discover personal significance. This balance of optimism and pessimism provides a much needed corrective to the almost unquestioned faith in progress which pervaded American educational theory until the end of the 1950s.
Vandenberg goes on to discuss several of phenomenology's specific contributions to educational understanding. For example, he examines phenomenological insights into the conditions required for a student's free acceptance of teacher authority. He also explores “codisclosure” into the possibilities of being, education's promotion of a child's “fuller presence in the world,” methods for fostering wide-awakeness as a student's characteristic cognitive state, as well as the notion of landscape as a formative environmental matrix.
Prof. Vandenberg couples his analysis with an encyclopedic review of relevant scholarly literature. Four pages of bibliography complement this detailed overview.
Recognizing the value of existentialist and phenomenological contributions to educational theory, Vandenberg nonetheless warns against the dangers of falling into entrenched ideological positions which could hinder understanding as much as facilitate it. He advises future educational theorists to assert their autonomy from other disciplines as well as from pseudophilosophical prejudices in order better to formulate a theory which would clarify the phenomena of education.
“The Missing Link: New England Influence on Early National Educational Policies.” The New England Quarterly 52(June 1979):219–233.
On July 13, 1787, the Continental Congress in New York City passed the North-west Ordinance. Two months later the Federal Convention in Philadelphia adopted a draft of the United States Constitution. The texts of the documents they drafted seem to reflect discrepant attitudes concerning the importance of education. While the Northwest Ordinance contains a ground-breaking clause on the establishment of public schools, the Constitution makes absolutely no mention of the subject of education. What were the reasons for this radical difference between two such fundamental documents of the Republic?
The background of the Northwest Ordinance was that the federal government under the Articles of Confederation possessed millions of acres of unsettled territory resulting from the colonies' cession of their western lands and from the settlement of Indian claims. How was this land to be allocated and what governmental structures and policies should be created? A major source of conflict involved the method to be used in surveying and distributing the land. Historian Edmund Burnett characterized the dispute as a choice between “a New England system of compact settlements or sale by townships and a Southern system of indiscriminate or individual locations.” The township system won out in the 1787 ordinance, largely because of a strong New England lobby and the Congress' desperate need for money.
During the winter of 1785–1786, the Rev. Cutler and a group of New England Revolutionary War veterans formed the “Ohio Company of Associates” to secure large holdings of western territory. One year later, Cutler made overtures to Congress to purchase land, while promoting the adoption of a New England form of governmental structure for the whole area. Anxious to please its prospective New England buyers, Congress in 1787 divided the territory into townships and appointed “lot number 16” in each township for the establishment of public schools. A fundamental precedent in the history of American education had been set.
By contrast, the Federal Constitution's silence on education seems to reflect the Founding Fathers' conviction that schools were properly the function of churches or local and state governments. Beyond this commitment to local autonomy, it seems quite possible that the question of schools was shelved to avoid fueling already inflammatory sectional animosities.
The Northwest Ordinance, however, was sufficient to have a determining impact on future educational development in the United States. As a result of its salutary influence, the settlers of the Northwest Territory established better schools at a faster rate than the inhabitants of any other new region in the history of the country.
“Education and Labor Markets at the Turn of the Century.” Politics and Society 9, no. 1(1979):103–122.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, what accounts for the interrelationships between an expanding, industrial economy and the establishment of the modern state educational structure, especially the high school? Prior to 1900, most youth left school to enter the labor market before their mid-teens. From 1900 to 1930, however, child labor sharply declined and the years of school attendance rose. Much of the move to the school system was not voluntary and the compulsory attendance laws provoked much discussion. Two factors explain the decline in child labor. (1) Technological innovation reduced the demand for unskilled and young labor. (2) The shift of labor from the farms and immigration during this time also reduced demand for youth labor, although it increased the supply of unskilled labor available for other jobs.
Young people did not choose to stay in school because the labor market was drying up; this is suggested by the need for a coercive school attendance law. Advocates of compulsory schooling and opponents of child labor had their greatest triumph during this period because business withdrew its previous opposition to these measures. An exception to this was the South where immigrant labor was still scarce and firms desired child labor.
Why did business prefer immigrants to children? Several reasons for the preference were: the immigrants were more mobile (mostly young adult single males); they would accept lower wages; new technologies made complex, sophisticated machinery more common and children were unsuitable for handling such machinery; and finally, immigrants were more docile and uncomplaining.
We can speculate why reformers pushed for a change. Besides simple good intentions, an economic inducement was the fact that high schools taught skills for white collar occupations. Many reformers were from the middle class and the parents may have wanted their children in these positions. The middle class, feeling threatened from “below” (with the influx of immigrants) and from “above” (with the rise of the corporation and the decline of self-employment opportunities), may have used the schools as a mechanism for creating jobs within the modern economy.
This explanation for the economic and educational changes during the period seems an improvement over the “Human Capital” and Marxian explanations. The “Human Capital” theory argues that the increased years in school was a rational response to changing economic conditions; but this does not explain why so much coercion was needed. The Marxian explanations argue that monopoly capitalism required new modes of control—within the work process (job hierarchies) and outside of it (the schools). This theory operates on too grand a level by ignoring local changes, and it also ignores the motivation of reformers who were mostly middle class, not capitalists.
“Universities and Government: The Comparative Politics of Higher Education.” Comparative Politics 12(October 1979):99–121.
This review article discusses the extent and determinants of government control over the universities. Levy draws on material from six recent books: John H. Van de Graff et. al., Academic Power: Patterns of Authority in Seven National Systems of Higher Education (1978); Jerry Harr, The Politics of Higher Education in Brazil (1977); L.E. Gladieux and T.R. Wolanin, Congress and The Colleges: The National Politics of Higher Education (1976); Galo Gómez O., Chile de hoy: educación, cultura y ciencia (1976).
There are three determinants of increased government control: systemwide, intrauniversity, and extrauniversity. As to the systemwide determinants, expanding enrollment, and a declining private sector were key factors. (Shrinking or stagnating enrollments were also used as an argument for greater government control.) Expanding enrollments led to institutional proliferation which also increased governmental control, both because newer institutions lacked the entrenched power to resist control and because of the call for government coordination.
Systemwide expansion also affected intrauniversity structures. Expansion promoted demands for democratization, which helped to break down old power centers, creating a vacuum which government helped to fill. Also, government control increased because of student disorders.
Extrauniversity factors included the growing belief that university performance should be judged by how well it achieved political, economic ends. Unfortunately we lack a cross-national determinant of increased governmental control.
As for the extent of increased governmental control, it would help if one had a measurement of degrees of university autonomy. Still, the following results seem clear. The more decentralized political systems have less control over the universities. It also seems that government control over universities has been increasing due to the growing power of coordinating boards, which are supposed to help coordinate university policies with government programs in mind. Academic freedom and institutional autonomy over academic policy seem correlated positively.
Finally, four cross-national hypotheses can be drawn from the books under review. First, government exerts stronger control over important administrative appointments than over ongoing academic policy. Second, governments insist on direct control over appointment or ongoing governance. Third, strong university administrations were inversely related to strong ministerial rule. Fourth, government funding has dramatically increased, and while funding does imply control, there is not a one-to-one correlation.
Levy ends his survey by suggesting that the next step is to examine limits to the growth of governmental power and control over universities.
This set of summaries discloses the intimate connection between economic theory or history and political, moral, and religious values. The Keller study of business and legal history in America shows shifting legal and moral values interacting with business and economic growth. The closing O'Driscoll summary reveals the weaknesses of a wertfrei economic approach to law. The studies of Menger, Schumpeter, and Saint-Simon point out evaluations given to market and nonmarket economic approaches. Bauer's and Novak's summaries examine “the market in the dock,” or the alleged case against the free market.
“Business History and Legal History.” Business History Review 53(Autumn 1979):294–303.
The two winners of the 1978 Bancroft Prize in American History, Alfred D. Chandler's The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business and Morton J. Horwitz's The Transformation of American Law 1780–1860, are prime examples of important scholarly work currently being done in the fields of business and legal history. Each is a notable and worthy contribution to its own area of research; yet, while each deals with his subject in a broad institutional manner, neither author fully relates the impact of his own subject area to the other's field. Business and law, it would seem, developed institutionally independent of each other.
A duality governing the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in America was that of growth versus order. Following in the tradition of James Willard Hurst, Horwitz demonstrates how the law was fashioned and interpreted early in the nineteenth century to “release energy” and to create the nationwide conditions for economic growth. Later in the century the law was used, at least in part, to regulate the economic environment. The history of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been described as a balance between “release” and “control.” Yet Horwitz sees the period as one of rigid formalism that continued mainly to serve business interests. Chandler, however, sees the institutional growth and development of nineteenth century business to be a function of its own inner dynamic, remaining largely unaffected by changes in the law. Neither author takes into consideration the sheer scale of the American legal system. In the 1930s, for example, fifteen million legal actions per year were recorded in the United States. Surely many of these litigations had a great impact on business conduct and institutions, and, these changes in turn had their effect on the law itself.
The three authors of the articles which constitute this issue of Business History Review approach their task by studying legal development within the context of economic and business history and vice versa. Tony Freyer studies the struggle during the late nineteenth century between the federal courts and local interests and its subsequent effect on the rise of a national economy. It was a struggle in which the federal judiciary resolved most of the issues along nationalist lines but one whose results nevertheless still maintained a considerable residue of local diversity. Gary Libecap examines the interplay between Western mining, the law, and its consequent legal and public policy effects. Freyer and Libecap show that the American economy developed within a considerable panoply of regulation long before the generally acknowledged rise of the Administrative State.
Charles McCardy discusses the development of corporate law in relation to the antitrust question. He concludes that the Supreme Court's action in the United States versus E.C. Knight Company case—which made the distinction between commerce and manufacturing—was a well established legal distinction and not a contrivance to enervate the Sherman Act.
These three articles show that the courts played an important and assertive role in the development of the United States economy both on the “macro” and the “micro” level. The interplay of business and law is a clear reality, and much more interdisciplinary work needs to be done to capture the results of this important interrelationship.
“Joseph Alois Schumpeter.” Journal of Economic Issues 13(March 1979):141–157.
Joseph Schumpeter (1883–1950) studied economics under the Austrian economists Wieser, Philipovich, and Bohm-Bawerk at the University of Vienna where Bohm-Bawerk took a special interest in the brilliant young economist. Among his classmates were the later leader of the Austrian economists, Ludwig von Mises, and the Austro-Marxists Otto Bauer, Rudolph Hilferding, and Email Lederer. The twin perspectives of Marxian and the Austrian school of economics were to influence Schumpeter's view of the social process throughout his career. After receiving his doctorate in 1906, Schumpeter traveled to England to continue his research and to follow up on his growing interest in mathematical economics, an interest that can be clearly seen in his first major publication, Das Wesen und der Haupinhalt der theoretischen Nationalökonomie.
It is, however, with his second publication, The Theory of Economic Development (1912), that Schumpeter first advanced what was to be his most important contribution to economic theory and what was to remain a constant theme in his work throughout the rest of his life. In this work (unlike his first work where he had “solved” to his own satisfaction the allocation problem in a static setting) Schumpeter turns his attention to the real world of dynamic change. It is here that he unveils the driving force of the market economy—the innovator-entrepreneur. It is the entrepreneur who bursts onto the static scene and, armed with unusual insight, innovation, and perseverance, disturbs the static equilibrium and throws the whole economic system into a frenzy of change, growth, and development.
Schumpeter's scholarly interests were both wide ranging and deep. His knowledge of the theoretical economic literature was astounding, yet his interests were far broader than economics narrowly defined. In his well known essay, Imperialism (1918), Schumpeter sets forth his contention that imperialism is not due to modern capitalist forces but rather to feudal atavisms that remain in the not yet totally modern socio-economic system—an obvious challenge to the theories of Lenin and Hilferding. According to Schumpeter, the purely economic forces are self-equilibrating. It is, therefore, within the political realm that one must look for the causes of market failure and social breakdown.
For years Schumpeter continued work on his theory of innovation and change, and in 1939 he published the fruits of his life-long research: Business Cycles—A Theoretical, Historical and Statistical Analysis of the Capitalist Process. The reception from the profession was disappointing, but, undeterred, he pushed on. In 1942 he published the remarkably successful Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. This work, addressed to the educated layman, set forth Schumpeter's unique analysis of the capitalist system, a system whose very successes would cause its downfall.
Joseph Schumpeter died in 1950 while at work on yet another and perhaps his most erudite work: History of Economic Analysis. Two years later his wife Elizabeth Boody Schumpeter published the manuscript which detailed two thousand years of economic thought in well over one thousand pages of rich and stimulating prose.
Perception, Opportunity and Profit: Studies in the Theory of Entrepreneurship. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.
What contribution to entrepreneurial theory can we find in the writings of the founder of the Austrian School of economics, Carl Menger? Frank Knight claimed that Menger, his contemporaries, and even his successors in the Austrian School were of little help to later economists in the subject of entrepreneurship. Eric Streissler, on the other hand, contends that no less an entrepreneurial theorist than that of Joseph Schumpeter built his own theory of innovative entrepreneurship on Mengerian foundations. W. Jaffe, too, stresses the entrepreneurial element in Menger's work. Schumpeter, however, dismissed Menger's work on entrepreneurship as practically non-existant. Streissler's focus on Menger's preoccupation with the information problem in economics, nevertheless, may give the investigator a promising lead with which to discover Menger's own position of entrepreneurship, if one is to be found.
Menger, it is true, specifically mentions entrepreneurship only briefly in his Grundsatze. Perhaps, however, it is possible to find an implicit understanding of the entrepreneurial function. If so, it will depend on how he treats the following: knowledge, error, and uncertainty.
Knowledge is the constant theme found throughout the Grundsatze—especially knowledge in relation to the activity of economizing. The individual must first perceive that his needs are greater than his means. Second, he must gain specific knowledge about his given circumstances and knowledge of the means to improve his condition.
Knowledge is of course necessary to overcome ignorance, and the market process can be seen as a vehicle for the modification of error over time. W. Jaffe argues that Menger does see the market as such and that therefore Menger's perception of the market was an entrepreneurial one. In reading Chapter Five of the Grundsatze, however, one finds that Menger has completely eliminated error from any role in the determination of prices. The truth is that Menger's price theory was entirely an equilibrium theory in which error and the consequent entrepreneurially driven learning processes were considered an abnormality.
How is this apparent inconsistency to be cleared up? By understanding Menger's differentiation between “economic prices” and “uneconomic prices” one can understand how Menger could place such an emphasis on information, change, and knowledge and at the same time set forth a static equilibrium notion of price determination. For Menger economic prices are those that would obtain under conditions of complete knowledge on the part of all relevant market participants. Uneconomic prices are those found in the real world. It is these prices which ignite the spontaneous development of market institutions which improve the environment within which prices are set and which, over time, modify the “uneconomic” character of these very same prices.
Although Menger posits a theory which is infused with the dynamics of the real world, he never specifically points to the precise element in the process that tends to push the system from uneconomic or distorted prices to economic prices or to prices which correctly reflect the underlying valuations of market participants. As such he never did develop an entrepreneurial theory. Nonetheless, economists as diverse as Schumpeter and Mises working at least in part on the foundation laid by Menger did see the central role of the entrepreneur and did much to develop and clarify the theory of the entrepreneurial market process.
“The Saint-Simonians in Industry and Economic Development.” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 38(January 1979):83–96.
Ideas as well as narrowly defined economic interests often serve as causal forces in the flow of economic history. To understand economic history the historian must delve into and come to grips with the history of ideas. This article is a study of the relationships between the utopian ideas of the Saint-Simonians and the real world of investment banking and European industrialization, and as such it can serve as a useful methodological lesson for current cliometricians.
The followers of Henri de Saint-Simon (1760–1825) such as Enfantin, Chevalier and especially the Pereire brothers, Emile and Isaac, foresaw and labored to achieve a world of industrialism, peace, and harmony, a world united by railways and fueled by a mammoth credit institution.
The problem with laissez-faire as stated in The Doctrine of Saint Simon, is that “the accident of birth blindly distributes the instruments of production.” Fortunately, however, the capitalist system has within itself the seeds of the correct answer to the problem—the banking system itself. The banks serve as intermediaries between those with capital and those who have none. The banks perform the crucial function of directing the tools of production into the hands of those who most need them. It is the banking sector which will be expanded, strengthened, and centralized to carry out the function of determining and guiding the direction of the future industrialized economy. A central bank will organize and direct secondary banks which will in turn serve as feed back centers, sending information to the central bank concerning local conditions. Each industry is to have its own specialized bank designed to meet its own particular needs.
The success of these Saint-Simonian ideas can be measured by the magnitude of their implementation. Friedrich Hayek has pointed out that the Saint-Simonians, especially Enfantin, were forerunners of the Suez Canal Company in Egypt. Enfantin then went on to create the merger of the Paris-Lyon-Mediterranean Railroad. Michel Chevalier, coauthored the Anglo-French Treaty of 1860 which greatly expanded trade and industrialization throughout France. But by far the most significant implementation of Saint-Simonian ideas appears in the economic activities of Emile and Isaac Pereire who founded the Paris-St. Germain railroad and then were instrumental in creating the famous Credit Mobilier. The Credit Mobilier pioneered in numerous investment and central banking functions, including discounting, advances of long term credit, industry-wide rationalization and reorganizations.
Imitators of the Credit Mobilier sprang up all over Europe during the last half of the nineteenth century, often under the direction of the Pereire brothers: the Darmstadter Banks in Germany, Credito Mobiliario Espanol in Spain, Credito Mobiliare Italiano in Italy and the Credit-Anstalt in Austria. An indication of the perceived worthiness of the Saint-Simonian ideas can be seen in the fact that when the Rothchilds moved to block the Credit Mobilier, they were moved to adopt the same method of organization and operation as the institution they replaced.
“The Market in the Dock.” Policy Review (Fall 1979):101–121.
The Third World's political and economic discourse maintains a consistent hostility to the free market. Prof. Bauer traces the origins of this opposition and chronicles the progress of anti-market ideas throughout the twentieth century.
During the hundred years before the Second World War, the market system regulated domestic and foreign trade in much of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. During the period, impressive material progress was achieved over much of this area—notably in the Far East, Southeast Asia, and West Africa. Since the war, however, the Third World has raised a loud outcry against the market. Criticisms range from the liberal economy's “failure” to assure public or private happiness to its inability to provide uniform material progress to all strata of society at the same time. Currently, the anti-market, centralized planning approach to economics is axiomatic in underdeveloped countries.
Although this hostility emanates from the Third World, it originates in the West. For example, developmental economics in Western universities propound a strong centralist position. Third World students trained in those schools return home to spread the message of market failures and state planning successes.
In addition, United Nations agencies and national aid organizations, such as the U. S. agency for International Development, explicitly exclude from economic consultant positions all those who do not espouse the planning model. Finally, international reporting, documentary films, and even the visual arts and entertainment propagate the centralist approach among intellectuals not versed in economics and among the masses in general. As a result, economic debate in the Third World revolves mainly upon the choice of the Soviet or Chinese model of development. The options have thus grown excruciatingly narrow. In Third World economic discussion, protocol discourages citing examples of free market development such as Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore—areas which have advanced farther and more rapidly than their centrally planned counterparts.
It must be stated, however, that, if Third World socialism originated in the West, Third World conditions allowed it to flourish. The authoritarian tradition of most underdeveloped nations readily accommodates the coercive style of the centralized planners. In addition, Third World politicians, as politicians elsewhere, can rarely resist opportunities to extend their influence. With increased licensing of economic activities, control of foreign trade, and establishment of state trading monopolies, politicians can considerably enhance their power. Also, many intellectuals in poor countries cannot resist the lure of preferment as government consultants or the opportunity to lord it over an unlettered populace. Few such avenues to privilege would exist in a free market society.
“Productivity and Social Justice” in Will Capitalism Survive? ed. Ernest W. Lefever. Ethics and Public Policy Center: Georgetown University, Washington D.C. 1979.
Novak attacks the conventional theological condemnation of democratic capitalism. Such criticism usually exaggerates the evils of capitalism, blames it for imaginary faults, and refrains from offering us a superior social system. In this anti-capitalism, modern theologians are unfortunately following a long tradition. Contrary to Weber, Calvinist theologians always resisted capitalism; furthermore, Bonhoffer, Barth, Tillich, and the early Niebuhr were socialists.
Theologians are thus quite traditional in their nonmarket economics. First, their view of social justice contrasts modern alienation to a mythical simple community of togetherness where no one uses anyone as a means. Second, their view of social justice centers on distribution, thus ignoring Adam Smith's economic revolution which demonstrated that new wealth could be created and thus pointed to an ethic of productivity.
Theologians need to learn economics, need to make some empirical comparisons with socialism, and also need to devise a new theological account to match economic reality. Democratic capitalism consists of an economic market, a democratic polity, and a pluralistic culture. A theological analysis of it would go as follows. The aim of this social system is to improve the well-being of all mankind by creating wealth and thus liberating people by giving them more leisure, mobility, and opportunity. Second, the democratic capitalist system is highly fraternal since it requires associations and cooperation. Third, this system depends on a sense of sin, for in order to bend human nature successfully to produce social benefits, an awareness of the weakness of human nature is necessary.
Two Reviews of A. Allan Schmid's Property, Power and Public Choice: An Inquiry Into Law and Economics. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1978. Journal of Economic Issues 13(September 1979):743–749.
These two reviews of A. Allan Schmid's book are generally complementary. Schmid identifies the way institutions shape interactions through property rights. Property rights create the opportunities, costs, and constraints of transactions and economic distributions. Schmid combines the positive analysis of such institutions with a normative analysis. He criticizes the predominant Pareto efficiency criterion and other criteria for welfare economics as being disguised value judgments. He also believes that economist's contributions ought to be limited to providing information about the source and consequences of conflicts over interests. This role of the economist is not, however, value free, since it assumes informed choices are better than uninformed choices.
The two reviewers' criticism is that Schmid fails to provide a convincing value criterion for economic analysis, given that he has criticized welfare economists for their disguised value judgments. Furthermore, Schmid does not discuss the fact that institutional “constraints” depend in part on people's perceptions concerning whether they are indeed constraints or liberating devices.
“Justice, Efficiency and the Economic Analysis of Law: A Comment on Fried.” Journal of Legal Studies 9(March 1980):355–366.
O'Driscoll here criticizes Richard Posner's economic analysis of law, partly by commenting on a paper by Charles Fried on the same subject entitled “The Laws of Change”.
The economic analysis of law exhibits both a positive and a normative aspect. First, the positive analysis claims that common law has been efficient. This is so only in the trivial sense that any application of means to ends is rational and thus “efficient.” If we narrow the notion of efficiency, such as to economic efficiency, then common law could not be efficient. The economic variables are subjective and involve expectations, so ex post outcomes must involve disrupted expectations for at least one party and thus are not typically efficient. Similarly, ex post judicial decisions would not be efficient for both parties since one party's expectations have to be foiled. Nor is it possible for judges to assign rights and liabilities solely on efficiency grounds because utility or wealth maximization requires some set of rights and rules to govern the choice process.
Posner also errs in believing that where there are prohibitively high “transactions costs,” judges can mimic markets. But as the debates with the socialists of the 1920s and 1930s show, where information is lacking a market is impossible, and it is only where information is lacking that a need to “mimic” markets would arise.
Posner also claims that economic analysis will tell us why laws change, and that judges conceal their true (economic) reasons for their opinions. Fried correctly countered that the reasons laws change is due to moral reasoning, since law is a branch of morality. However, Fried goes too far in assuming moral arguments are the whole motivational story. Economic motivation plays some role. Nor should Fried chide economists for saying nothing about the content of preferences. All preferences are, for economist qua economist, equal with regard to allocational choices, and the economist has no business saying moral distinctions can or cannot be made within these preferences. In fact, when persons' changing preferences and their deliberations about such preferences are essential to the analysis, we are beyond pure economics. A theory for prescribing legal changes is not a pure economic theory.
Finally, O'Driscoll argues that both Fried and Posner (as well as John Rawls) share the same faulty view that law can be deduced from simple principles (moral principles and wealth maximization, respectively). Law evolves and grows and it is not just constructed. Hence it cannot really be deduced from axioms or principles.
What accounts for the appeal of war, militarism, and imperialism? The following summaries analyze facets of the personal motivations and abstract ideology that justify war and international violation of individual rights. Stromberg's study of the reasons behind many intellectuals' enthusiasm for World War I confirms Robert Nisbet's earlier dissection of “The Lure of Military Society” in The Twilight of Authority (1975). These summaries show that one's vision of the value of all human life affects one's judgment of just and unjust wars, the morality of imperialism, war critics, and national “enemies.” An earlier issue of Literature of Liberty (October/December 1979, p.56–67) stressed Sir Herbert Read's linking of irresponsibility or forgetfulness of the preciousness of every individual human life with political power and the spirit of militarism.
“Redemption by War: The Intellectuals and 1914.” Midwest Quarterly Vol 20(Spring 1979):211–227.
With few exceptions, such as Bertrand Russell, the overwhelming number of European intellectuals in the various countries welcomed the coming of the First World War. Only a tiny handful were conscientious objectors. It is difficult for historians today to understand the outlook of those who glorified the coming of the war, and numerous recent biographies of such intellectuals are embarrassed by this attitude.
Why did war have such appeal to the intellectuals? It offered a sense of purpose for the intellectuals, a “spiritual awakening” which transcended the “narrowness and pettiness” of everyday life, offering “new perspectives on greatness.” War promised a growing opportunity for community and fraternity for intellectuals unhappy with the growing materialism and individualism. For the youth there was talk of “self-discovery” through violence and the solidarity of struggle.
There was a remarkable similarity between the youth of that generation and those today, which included such things as “communalism, getting back to nature, unconventional sexual morality, mistrust of the older generation, and protests against false education.” A worship of the irrational encompassed the occult, the mystical and the spiritual. Culture implied soul, while civilization meant intellect.
There was a certain paradox and illogic in rebelling against a sterile culture which impinged upon the individual, while asserting that individual affirmation could best be achieved through the re-creation of a primitive community where reason was subordinated to instinct. The overriding hope that a better world would arise from the ashes was closely linked to the “prevailing ‘historicism,’ at once optimistic and irrational.” Nowhere is this attitude better observed than in the work of Max Scheler, a pioneer in phenomenology, who argued in 1915 in The Genius of War and the German War that war would destroy the mechanical, bureaucratic organization of society and encourage freedom, love, and the creative spirit.
“Walzer's Theory of Morality in International Relations.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 8(Fall 1978): 3–26.
In Just and Unjust Wars, a major concern of Michael Walzer is to develop a theory of international aggression by means of a “legalist paradigm” within which states have rights and duties. Walzer is aware of certain problems, for the rights of states are difficult to determine, and in justifying the use of (or resistence to) force, what are the rights of individuals? In his view, for example, state sovereignty exists independently of the form of its political institutions. Foreign intervention can be justified, however, in three cases: humanitarian, to prevent a massacre or resettlement of the population; counterintervention, in which some other state has already intervened in the situation; and, secession, in which one political community coercively attempts to prevent the peaceful secession of another political community nearby.
The paradox inherent in Walzer's view leads to two questions. Why should unfree states be treated as possessing moral rights of political sovereignty; and “In what conceivable sense do such rights ‘derive ultimately from the rights of individuals?’” Walzer argues that a majority is not justified in asking for outside help in a despotism where that might improve the chance of success against the better armed forces of the regime. Doppelt suggests that this error stems from attempting to equate state sovereignty with individual rights.
For Walzer an established political community's right to self-determination is based upon consent, community, and collective rights. Thus, the citizens should defend this government to which they have given their consent and which protects their community and common life. But this notion of consent is very close to that argued by Thomas Hobbes. And what if the government is tyrannical though it does maintain a degree of order?
The term “community” raises question about just what constitutes this evasive entity. In the liberal tradition this has meant an essential equality under law, but Walzer does not devote much attention to such matters, nor does he clarify what he means by “free.” The major thrust of Walzer's whole argument reveals a conservative bias toward “de facto governments as the cornerstone of international morality.”
Consent is difficult to define because of the ambiguities of most social orders, and the attitude of many may be neither loyalty on the one hand, or outright opposition on the other. Unless there is respect for the rights of individuals, the term “consent” loses any real meaning.
“A Revisionist Looks at Imperialism: Eduard Bernstein's Critique of Imperialism and Kolonialpolitik, 1900–14.” Central European History 12(September 1979):237–271.
It is difficult to categorize Eduard Bernstein among the various writers who dealt with imperialism and foreign policy in the years prior to the First World War. He was neither indifferent to the importance of foreign policy, nor can he be described as one of those attracted to ideas of social imperialism. His views can best be understood within the context of party faction in the German Social Democratic Party.
The center of the Party was challenged not so much by radicals on the left as from those on the right. Prior to 1914, little writing among party leaders was given over to foreign policy matters. On the question of imperialism, the major influence was that of Karl Kautsky. While his views changed over time, by 1911 Kautsky, along with most centrists had come to believe “that imperialism itself was not a necessary feature of mature capitalism but rather an ephemeral aberration foisted upon capitalism by preindustrial social groups.” Imperialist rivalries would be superceded by a cartelization of world markets. For radicals of the left, such as Rosa Luxemburg and others, imperialism demanded a uniting of the masses for revolution, and many thought its collapse was imminent.
Although Bernstein did not systematize his views on imperialism, he did differentiate between ancient and modern imperialism, and rejected the idea that imperialism was the final stage of some sort of “moribund monopolistic capitalism.” He saw each particular type of imperialism as significant. That of the British, for example, was often defensive, progressive to the colonial peoples, and of a “strongly democratic, libertarian” type. On the other hand, he was very negative about German imperialism, based as it was on an intellectual climate of “super-patriotism,” often anti-British or anti-Russian. It was Germany which disturbed world peace and whose foreign policy was badly in need of some democratic counterforces.
At the same time Bernstein's view of imperialism was linked to notions of Social Darwinism. Colonialism, he believed, involved territorial expansion, permanent settlement, and the transference of a higher civilization, though he conceded it might well lead to certain excesses, such as mistreatment of the natives or retarding economic growth. Bernstein felt that colonies were not a necessity, but might even be an economic burden. He argued that Social Democracy should throw its weight behind German colonial policy in order to improve and upgrade it. While he had many insights into the nature of colonialism and imperialism, taken as a comprehensive whole, his views were not free of inconsistencies and even contradictions.
“Franklin D. Roosevelt and His Foreign Policy Critics.” Political Science Quarterly 94(Spring 1979): 15–32.
After the beginning of World War Two in 1939, the Roosevelt Administration faced widespread cynicism about the war's origins and considerable well-organized resistance to American involvement. Silencing or discrediting these critics became an important part of the overall effort to change the public's attitude. The persistence of the President's attempts gives some insight into his attitudes about free expression and the limits of presidential authority. Fed by spurious data from British intelligence, the Administration sought to demonstrate that the critics had links with the Nazis.
As early as 1934, Roosevelt had asked the FBI to investigate the Nazi movement in the U.S. This was almost at once expanded to include all dissidents, politically inspired, and “only remotely related to the commission of a crime or ‘subversion.’” By 1940 J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI Director, commented privately that the Administration and the Bureau would be seriously embarrassed if the nature and breadth of these investigations were made public.
Roosevelt tended to take a conspiratorialist view of the isolationists, seeing them as selfish opportunists or disloyal. After 1940 he attempted to portray them as members of a Nazi “fifth column,” to the American public, while Hoover confidentially discounted any such threat. The President moved against his critics as if allegations were facts.
To design a program to deal with his critics, the President chose Harold Ickes, a man like Roosevelt, whose civil libertarianism extended only to his friends. Both Solicitor General Francis Biddle and Attorney General Robert Jackson were concerned about the constitutional implications of such political harassment of critics. A secret investigative group later attempted to gain evidence against the anti-war America First Committee, and one advisor urged using the IRS against dissidents.
Roosevelt's campaign also extended to a manipulation of the press, and even after the war was underway, the Administration continued its harassment of critics, despite the lack of evidence of any “fifth column.” The President attempted to inculcate into Americans his own view that dissent was subversion.
“The Outbreak and Termination of the Pacific War: A Juxtaposition of American Preconceptions.” Journal of Peace Research 15(No. 1, 1978):33–49
After Pearl Harbor two divergent interpretations emerged. Revisionists argued that Roosevelt pushed Japan toward war in order to involve the U.S. in the larger conflagration in Europe. On the other side, writers “praised the administration for being realistic, consistent, and prescient.” The end of the war, focusing around the use of the atomic bomb against Japan, also developed two schools of thought. The revisionists suggested that the U.S. used the bomb primarily as a political act to demonstrate American power to the Soviet Union. The traditionalists have argued that the bomb was used intelligently to hasten the end of the war.
If the revisionists have not fully proved their cases with respect to 1941 and 1945, it “should by no means imply that all facets of these issues have been fully dealt with or are fully explained.” “This study examines the extent to which U.S. policy makers were predisposed, in 1945, to evaluate events in the Pacific in the light of the recent past,” and to explore any “link between the outbreak and termination of the Pacific War.” Methodologically, it is apparent that decision makers act “in accordance with their perception of reality, not in response to reality itself,” and that the “image of the opponent” is fundamental for understanding behavior in crisis situations.
So-called “global-realists” such as Henry Stimson, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., and Stanley K. Hornbeck were dominant in policy decisions prior to 1941. Failing to see the “dangers of war inherent in their strategy of coercive diplomacy,” they believed the Japanese would yield to a firm, strong pressure. They persisted in this belief in spite of Japanese messages and the warnings of other policy makers such as Joseph Crew, General Lee Gerow, and John Emmerson. The former group consistently, for example, underestimated the Japanese and their military equipment.
When war did come, these men came to regard the Japanese as mad men and fanatics for having gone to war. Ironically, it was this new perception which dominated their thinking as the end of the war approached. Thus, they were often oblivious to a growing amount of evidence that Japan was exhausted, and would not continue a fanatical fight to the finish. But given this new perception of the Japanese as irrational, the use of the bomb to end the war became more logical in their thinking.
From the standpoint of making policy, it is not only important to have different points of view presented, but that an atmosphere be maintained so that those, in effect, playing “the devil's advocate,” feel their views are being taken seriously, rather than being simply ignored.
“The Marshall Non-Plan, Congress and the Soviet Union.” The Western Political Quarterly 32(December 1979):422–443.
This study examines U.S. policy planning with respect to the issue of Soviet and Eastern European participation in the Marshall Plan in order to ascertain whether the U.S. pursued a strategy excluding Russia, as suggested by several revisionist historians.
An early paper by George Kennan acknowledged that “we have no plan,” and Secretary of State George Marshall sought to disassociate any U.S. recovery policy from the anti-communist rhetoric which had characterized the Truman Doctrine. The Policy Planning Staff stressed that any formal plan for recovery should be initiated by the Europeans. On the other hand Undersecretary of State William L. Clayton argued that “the U.S. must run the show.” Marshall's Harvard speech, drafted by Charles Bohlen, drew upon both above sources, but it does appear that at this point the U.S. had no plan. In later talks with the British what is clear is that its leaders sought to secure maximum aid, though the question of Soviet participation drew little attention.
The major consideration by the Americans was to secure domestic acceptance of any plan by the Congress. Marshall wished to avoid any debate and before his own thoughts had developed and before any European response was forthcoming. Ironically, the European approach pressed by the Administration against the British was not anti-Soviet, whereas the British separate national position was similar to the idea later pushed by the Russians.
Kennan and others sought to keep the aid issue out of the conflict between the U.S. and Russia, but policy makers like Clayton thought in terms of Western Europe. In talking with the British about any program, the French especially were anxious to avoid the impression of taking organizational initiatives without the Russians, but both agreed to proceed without the Soviets if necessary. The Russians certainly were suspicious in the meetings held by the three nations, where the British, in effect, denied the talks with Clayton had been official. The Russians refused to go along with a plan that would have required revealing more data about their situation than they felt necessary.
It would appear that, despite the offer, policy makers were not enthusiastic about the idea of Soviet participation in any recovery plan. On the other hand the devolving strategy which placed initiative and conditions on the Europeans, and which caused the Soviets to back away, was not intended for that reason but rather to gain domestic support and passage by the Congress.
The debated conceptions of what constitutes the individual's true self account for the sometimes warring political notions of individualism and collectivism, autonomy and dependence. The relevance, then, of the knowledge of the self or “self-knowledge” to political liberty is intimate and inescapable. Our optimistic or pessimistic judgments of human nature, our confidence or disillusionment in our ability as individuals to cooperate socially, economically, and politically, in short, our natural capacity to be both free individuals and social beings—all depend on our self-knowledge. Psychological issues are, therefore, central to the debates on the relationship between the individual and the community. Peter McCormick's lead summary highlights the relevance of self-knowledge to political liberty by tracing the historical evolution or rival notion of the self in political thought. The remaining summaries delve into related themes of egoism (pro and con), social psychology, free will, responsibility, and autonomy.
“The Concept of the Self in Political Thought.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 12(December 1979): 689–725.
The concept of the individual is a central characteristic of modernity, separating our times from the Middle Ages as clearly as the concepts of God, sin, and salvation separate the Middle Ages from antiquity. What elements comprise this pivotal component of modern political and social thought?
The concern for human individuality emerges as the typical consequence of the breakdown of a highly integrated society in which each person receives his identity from his assigned place in the social hierarchy. The Middle Ages offers the historian a fine example of such an organically structured society. Once the mystique of this kind of civilization begins to wane, however, an awareness of the autonomous, differentiated, self-starting individual emerges.
McCormick examines five conceptions of the individual as they have existed at various times in Western history: the agonal self, the liberal ideal, the hidden self, the essential self, and the manufactured self. He does not claim that his typology exhausts the possibilities of individuality, but it does serve to point out that the concept is not a simple one and that its complexity deserves close examination.
The notion of the individual first arose in ancient Greece (especially in Athens) after the decline of the earlier Greek city which based itself on religion and tribalism. The view of the self which evolved to fill this vacuum differs radically from modern conceptions. Instead of beginning with an inner self which gradually reveals itself in actions, the Greek “agonal” (“competitive”) self becomes an individuality by the utterance of great words and the performance of admirable deeds. The Greek individual is thus created from without rather than from within. More than all other types, the agonal self requires an audience for its gestation, birth, and maturation.
The final vestiges of medieval civilization took many centuries to disappear. As a result, the Enlightenment stands as the formative period of modern individualism. The first type which it produced was the “nonproblematical” or “liberal” self. This directly comprehensible child of the social contract thinker needs no genesis, since it arises spontaneously from simple human motivations such as self-preservation (Hobbes) or pleasure versus pain (Utilitarianism). No unconscious desires or unfelt appetites cloud the liberal self's confident understanding of its motivations. In addition, while it may cooperate with others to establish varying forms of social existence, the self of liberalism remains impervious to social conditioning.
The reductionist naiveté of the liberal conception gradually gave way to subtler insights. Among the utilitarians, for example, J.S. Mill postulated a hierarchy of higher and lower pleasures, while Jeremy Bentham observed that, since no individual can know directly the appetites of another, all men are inscrutable to their fellows. This growing awareness of difficulties and ambivalences gave rise to the anguished and problematical “hidden” self. Here, as in Max Stirner and Friederich Nietzsche, the individual must engage himself in a painfully heroic quest for his authentic individuality. Society, so necessary to the realization of the agonal self, usually obstructs the discovery of the hidden self through its rules and hypocrisies.
To put an end to the eternal question mark and ambiguity of the hidden self, some thinkers resorted to choosing artificially one of the formulated elements of individuality and calling it the “essential” self—as in Hegel's Geist or Marx's laboring self. In this new form of reductionism, development of one particular quality becomes the goal of the wise man and the just society.
Finally, in the twentieth century, a new view emerges which completes the circle and brings the individual to the verge of extinction: the “manufactured” self. Both the Fascist “new man” (created through the activity of an inspired and willful elite) and the Skinnerian “conditioned man” (produced by appropriate rewards and punishments) undermine the elements of uniqueness and inner-inspired motivation so crucial to modern notions of the individual.
Prof. McCormick concludes his study with the observation that the scope of his paper does not allow him to answer two questions relevant to his theme: (1) Does the five-item typology presented here exhaust the potentialities of a philosophy of the self? and (2) Is it possible to look forward to a finalresolution to the problem of the individual?
“Autonomy and the ‘Inner Self.’” American Philosophical Quarterly 17(January 1980):35–43.
In philosophical writings as diverse as those of Aristotle, Kant, Nozick, and Sartre, the notion of autonomy is closely linked with the concept of a person as a moral entity. Prof. Young examines one aspect of the moral dimension of autonomy: “What does it mean,” he asks, “to exercise one's freedom in such a way as to order one's life according to a plan or conception which fully expresses one's choices?”
Self-direction, for Young and Dworkin, includes such cognitivist factors as conscious choice of first-order motivations (convictions, desires, principles, etc.), reflective evaluation of motivations received second-hand, freedom from undue environmental manipulation, and authenticity. However, two elements complicate this cognitive picture. Self-deception may delude us insofar as our real desires are concerned, while chronic weak will in accomplishing those desires may cast doubt upon the depth of our conviction. Nevertheless, Young feels that, even in the face of repeated failures to accomplish one's goals, a recurring remorse is probably sufficient indication of a person's real preferences.
The deeply rooted pattern of self defeating behavior known as neurosis represents another threat to the task of unifying one's life according to an integrated hierarchy of self-chosen values. Autonomy, is founded upon sophisticated self-awareness. Neurosis, on the other hand, results from a fear and repression of knowledge. Psychology can aid the neurotic's painful search for autonomy by uncovering his neurotic pattern of evasion.
The remainder of Young's article deals with a neglected aspect of failed autonomy: weakness of will.
As stated above, repeated failure to achieve one's goals does not necessarily indicate a failure of autonomy. However, where such failures relate to a person's broad conception of his life's direction, there will almost certainly be a dimunition in global autonomy. Yet, as common as this nonattainment may be, some philosophers of note have argued that there can be no gap between belief and action for a free agent. Such a position leaves no room for the common sense notion of weakness of the will—the state in which a person has the desire and ability to accomplish his goals, yet does not do so.
Young reiterates that remorse following failures generally indicates that values are authentic. To what then can one ascribe the failures? Here weakness of will offers an explanation. For reasons of expediency, self-indulgence, lack of sufficient effort, etc., the self-appointed task has not been accomplished. The will to do was evidently lacking. In the course of this discussion, Young replies to Gary Watson's recent objections to the common sense position concerning weakness of the will.
Prof. Young reasserts that selfawareness is a significant factor in any victory over one's “worst self.” Nonetheless, in going beyond theory to winning the victory in actuality, it is the will, he declares, that holds the key.
Discovering the Mind: Goethe, Kant, and Hegel. Volume I of a Trilogy. McGraw-Hill: New York 1980.
How has the discovery of the mind been furthered or impeded by major modern intellectuals? Goethe and Kant can be seen as symbolic alternatives in the modern quest towards greater self-knowledge. Hegel, in turn, represents an attempt to reconcile Geothe and Kant, and fails to be either clear or convincing to the degree he follows Kant rather than Goethe. This suggests that Kant's influence on some subsequent thinkers is largely “a disaster,” while Goethe is a continuing source for a deeper grasp of human consciousness.
Goethe's major contributions to our greater self-knowledge include: (1) a new model of “autonomy”—the creative and independent use of all human passions; (2) the view that a man's mind has no essence apart from his deeds; (3) the need for the mind to be understood through all its stages of development; and (4) the view that a proper scientific method can require multiple hypotheses founded on a rich sensory experience (a “poetic science”). In addition, the force of Goethe's own character and living example inspired others to discover their own minds.
In contrast to Goethe, Kant fallaciously assumed that: (1) “autonomy” means acting in accordance with rules or “laws” we have given ourselves, (which could be obsessive rather than creative or independent); (2) man has an essentially unknowable self behind the realm of his speech and arts; (3) the mind does not develop but has the same necessary structures everywhere; and (4) philosophy can prosper from merely examining the necessary presuppositions of scientific certainties, without the need of rich sensory experience, multiple hypotheses, or unceasing questioning of assumptions. In addition, Kant's character was no model of courage of rich experience; his prejudices and obscure writing style kept him and hers from discovering their own minds.
Hegel had a conception for a phenomenology of the spirit (or “mind”) that echoed and fruitfully developed Goethe's four contributions. Unfortunately, he also accepted Kant's insistence on certainty, completeness, and necessity. Hegel's contributions can be summarized by five points: (1) that views and positions have to be seen as a whole; (2) that each view must be seen in relation to the person holding it; (3) that each position should be seen as a stage in the development of mind or spirit; (4) that a position needs to be seen in relation to fundamentally opposing views; and (5) that men's creativity in art, religion, and philosophy are illuminated by these methods. Unfortunately Hegel's feigned rigor hid these contributions behind a vague Kantian writing style, but this makes the subservient contributions of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard understandable—if not strictly “necessary.”
“Ethical Egoism and Psychological Dispositions.” American Philosophical Quarterly 17(January 1980):73–78.
Moral philosophers have argued against ethical egoism as an internally inconsistent theory, as a solipsism, and as a system which cannot be properly termed a moral theory. However, these arguments have not proved particularly persuasive. As a result, Prof. Thomas presents a new argument which seeks to refute egoism on psychological grounds.
Thomas defines ethical egoism as “the view that a person morally ought to maximize the satisfaction of his or her own long-range interests”—which involves taking advantage of others whenever the egoist does not run undue risk physically, financially, or psychologically. Thomas labels his definition the E (exploitation) principle.
In schematic form, the Thomas argument against egoism runs as follows:
“P1 A true friend could never, as a matter of course, be disposed to harm or to exploit anyone with whom he is a friend (from theion of a friend).
P2 An egoist could never be a true friend to anyone (from P1 and E principle).
P3 Only someone with an unhealthy personality could never be a true friend to anyone (definition of a healthy personality).
P4 Ethical egoism requires that we have a kind of disposition which is incompatible with our having a healthy personality (from P1-P3).
P5 Therefore, from the standpoint of our psychological makeup, ethical egoism is unacceptable as a moral theory.”
To avoid the charge of circularity in this argument, Thomas examines at length the psychological grounds for statements P1 and P3.
To begin, he states that all human beings receive their initial sense of selfworth from others—usually in the form of parental love. As we mature, this need for positive assessment from those around us declines. Nonetheless, no human being can maintain psychological health without occasional approval from at least one person whose judgment he respects and trusts. The psychological principle of reciprocity also makes it likely that we will regard favorably someone who esteems us. However, the egoist must even be prepared to take advantage of a person who values him whenever his interests are at stake. Since the egoist treats those whom he trusts and (probably) likes as if they were enemies, he cannot act as a true friend.
Furthermore, psychologists agree that stability of character is one of the essential dimensions of a healthy personality—that is, a conjunction of positive personal traits which endures through a wide variety of circumstances. Anyone who feels well-disposed towards a person and is yet capable of exploiting that person at an opportune moment manifests clear instability of character. He thus lacks a basic element of psychological health. In fact, the behavior described may not only be termed unhealthy but psychopathic. In Prof. Thomas's view, the true egoist would merit the diagnostic label of psychopath.
Thomas acknowledges that several philosophical approaches might serve to question and perhaps refute ethical egoism. He also emphasizes, however, that a close examination of our human psychological make-up will yield significant material contributing to an ultimate invalidation of the egoist position.
“Contemporary Social Psychology in Historical Perspective.” Social Psychology Quarterly 42, 1(1979): 82–93.
The history of social psychology as a field of empirical research covers only some eighty years. Despite this brief period of activity, social psychology has grown prodigiously in complexity and influence. As a social psychologist for the past forty years, Prof. Cartwright assesses the current state of the field in the light of its historical and social context.
Historically, the 1930s and 1940s witnessed the most rapid growth in the number of social psychologists and in the sophistication of their research. This development may be attributed to two factors. First of all, the rise of Hitler provoked a massive exodus of intellectual talent out of Germany. Men of the calibre of Lewin, Heider, Köhler, Wertheimer, Katona, Lazarsfeld, and the Brunswicks decided to settle and work in the United States. These emigrés brought to American social psychology a much needed freshness and originality, while they exerted a direct personal influence on students who would play a crucial role in the field's subsequent development: Asch, Krech, Festinger, Schachter, etc.
In addition, the problems generated by World War II induced the U.S. government to seek solutions by massively subsidizing social research. Investigations of topics ranging from building civilian morale to coping with the psychological problems of a wartime economy produced a tremendous mass of new information, although very little in the area of theory. This need for research also gave rise to ambitious training programs which continued operating even after the war. Their success may be measured by the fact that 90% of all social psychologists who have ever lived are alive at the present time.
While Prof. Cartwright expresses a basically positive view concerning the present state of his field, he nonetheless points to several areas where social psychology is experiencing difficulties. He characterizes these as maturation problems in a quite young science.
He regards, for example, the preponderantly white, American, middle-class status of most social psychologists as a hinderance to examining questions of importance to other classes and ethnic groups. He also feels that fascination with technical virtuosity has too often supplanted a concern for substance in research projects. Even more importantly, the lack of a general theory and the plethora of smaller ones has tended to fragment the field into discrete specialties with little or no relationship to one another. The most damaging of these divisions is that which exists between researchers who stress the psychological and those who emphasize the sociological aspects of life in society. Any developed general theory would have to integrate these two separate and often hostile approaches.
“Psychological Research and its Significance for Modern Man.” Universitas (English edition):21(No. 3, 1979).
In the past fifty years psychology has succeeded in developing objective methods for studying human behavior. These research techniques have led to general statements on the probability of particular human responses under specified conditions. According to Prof. Mitscherlich, however, these advances have been achieved at the cost of a considerable impoverishment of outlook. Academic psychology's elimination of such crucial human factors as individual subjectivity and self-reflection has reduced this science to a kind of “human engineering.” Instead of cultivating and deepening human awareness, it relies to a large extent upon lack of awareness for its success in the “prediction and control” of behavior.
Pre-experimental psychologists, by contrast, viewed their function in almost Socratic terms. They sought to provide individuals with reliable help in the task of self-understanding. They assumed that each person was unique in his responses to the physical and social environment which he encountered. Because he was a decision-making being, the individual was not governed by species-specific behavioral patterns.
The hypothesis that man's psyche can be studied like any other natural object gave rise to laboratory techniques which effectively eliminated any examination of the inner, decision-making man. Experimental psychology's focus upon exterior behavior turned it into a “psychology without a soul,” cut off from actual life-situations and thus meriting the ridicule it has received.
Sigmund Freud, while admitting the necessity of isolating natural laws of behavior, recognized the folly of eliminating so crucial a human dimension. He, therefore, tailored his method to the object of his research. Depth psychology relied on a more cumbersome, long-term observation of emotional processes within the dynamics of a true two-person relationship. A perceptive and trained observer derived general statements concerning human behavior based on the unfolding of this dynamic process.
In Prof. Mitscherlich's view, the results of such human-oriented study have been both fruitful and far-reaching. Developmental and social psychologists as well as researchers in other fields of applied psychology have long accepted notions of the unconscious process and the role it plays in generating conflict and decision. These psychologists have also made extensive use of the theory of defense mechanisms which serve to attenuate a conflict in impulses.
Nevertheless, the split between depth psychology and experimental psychology remains. According to Mitscherlich, academic psychology consciously or unconsciously encourages regressive social processes by its manipulation (in conditioning) of low-level motivation, such as the need for social approval. By relying upon immature emotional functions to exercise scientific control and by excluding critical self-perception, modern experimental psychology actually works against the assertion of individuality and augments already heavy social pressure at the level of “archaic psychic responses.”
Looking toward the future, Mitscherlich finds hope in the possibility that psychoanalysis may extend its curative influence beyond the level of the two-person relationship to the level of society as a whole. The insights of psychoanalysis into the sublimation of human instinct, emotional deformation, rational hypertrophy, and the formative pressure of social conditions might well help alleviate many pathogenic social conflicts and encourage the development of higher ego functions on a mass scale.
The Determinants of Free Will: A Psychological Analysis of Responsible, Adjustive Behavior. (New York: Academic Press, 1978.
The author describes freely willed behavior as occurring “whenever an individual has planfully created preferred changes in his environment.” Free will is conceptually linked with competence in striving to meet personal standards and with taking personal responsibility for one's actions. Such competence and responsibility depends upon a predictably responsive environment. Failure of will is associated with ineffective action, powerlessness, and neurosis.
An implicit theory of responsibility is presented in which a person's imputation of responsibility is described as a function of two factors: (a) intentional vs. unintentional, and (b) chosen vs. imposed. Responsibility exists in circumstances where people understand themselves to be in control of their actions, i.e., where their behavior appears intentional and chosen. In those instances where there are no inducing or impelling external influences evident, the causes of behavior are presumed to be internal. Responsibility is not imputed when behavior is generated either impulsively or in response to strong external pressures, even when the behavior is intentional.
Responsibility for behavior is associated with “proactive” (anticipatory) information processing and problem solving, rather than mere “reaction.” High drive states are associated with greater reactivity and, hence, less freedom of choice. In the process of learning methods to achieve drive reduction, the range of freedom is expanded.
The author also explores the relationship of responsibility to Rotter's concepts of internal and external locus of control of reinforcement. Individuals are shown to differ in the extent to which they perceive themselves to have freedom of will. Those claiming greater sense of choice report themselves as more satisfied, confident, and self-disciplined. They also scored higher on tests of information and intelligence.
Research connections between freedom of will and numerous psychological phenomena are discussed. These include achievement motivation, persuasion, conformity, social cooperation, and moral reasoning. The research on the antecedents of personal freedom indicates that individuals with a strong sense of internal control recall their parents as providing predictable, consistent discipline and informative, loving support for attempts to achieve independence. The social structures which promote freedom of choice and personal responsibility are identified as involving the extensive flow of information and trade. The more fluid a society, the greater value is placed on education and the greater is the likelihood of social cooperation.
Discovering Free Will and Personal Responsibility. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979).
Psychology, as a result of its emulation of the physical sciences, has created a language and methodology in which human freedom cannot be properly expressed or studied. “To be free is to be without constraint, open to alternatives, and not bound by a fixed course” (p. 10). Since there are always limitations on behavior, freedom is relative, not absolute. Free will and personal responsibility need to be understood in terms of the nature of causation. The author introduces Aristotle's description of four conceptions of causation (material causes, efficient causes, formal causes, and final causes). Psychological science, with its exclusive concern with constitutional and antecedent variables, has restricted itself to a discussion of material and efficient causes. This precludes the consideration of purpose in human behavior. This view is expressed in its classical form in the behaviorist school of psychology. In contrast, psychoanalysis, while adopting the language of determinism, has incorporated the concept of final causation. Human behavior is seen as purposive, although these purposes are seen as operating on an unconscious level.
The author discusses the importance of the differences between demonstrative-and dialectical-meaning relations. Where science has restricted itself to demonstrative meaning, humans also think in dialectical terms. This is a crucial fact which psychologists must incorporate into their theories. It is through dialectical thinking that humans can function in the realm of free thought and can transcend the established categories of understanding. Dialectical though is also involved in self-reflexive thinking, i.e., thought about one's own thinking.
The model of behavior offered by the author involves an analysis of human responses as a function of antecedent conditions and “telosponses” toward future goals (final causes). Human behavior becomes more predictable when consideration is given to the outcomes a person is trying to achieve. The results of psychological research are presented to support the model. Various forms of psychotherapy, including psychoanalysis, behavior therapy, and existential-phenomenological therapy, are shown to incorporate a purposeful image of human activity. Each involves a self-determination process both in its view of the development of emotional difficulties and in their cure. Other areas discussed in terms of “telosponsive” behavior include eastern philosophy, brain research, and the popular “how-to” psychologies.
“Identifying Victims of Groupthink from Public Statements of Decision Makers.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: 37(1979):1314–1324.
Irving Janis has hypothesized that decision makers are influenced by social pressures toward uniformity in a group and by a felt need for loyalty to the group. The results may be the suppression of potentially unpopular opinions within the groups and a consequent loss of cognitive efficiency and moral judgment. “Groupthink” is said to exist when these pressures outweigh an independent critical analysis of the problems at hand.
In previous research it was found that groupthink policy-makers generally did not“(a) adequately survey the full range of policy alternatives; (b) consider the full spectrum of objectives that might be affected by the chosen policy; (c) obtain adequate information for evaluating the alternative policies; (d) weigh the costs and benefits of each alternative carefully; (e) take proper account of information that contradicted prior beliefs and preferences; (f) reexamine evaluations of all known alternatives, including those previously regarded as unacceptable; (g) develop sufficiently detailed plans for implementing the chosen policy, with special reference to contingency plans in the event known risks materialized.”
The author conducted an evaluation of Janis's groupthink hypothesis using a standardized content analysis procedure on statements of key decision-makers. Archival records were analyzed for five American foreign policy crises, three reflecting groupthinking (the invasion of North Korea, the Bay of Pigs, and the Vietnam war escalations) and two reflecting non-groupthink processes (the Marshall Plan and the Cuban missile crisis). The research focused on: (a) the tendency to process policy-relevant information in simplistic and biased ways, and (b) the tendency to evaluate one's own group very positively and to evaluate one's opponents very negatively.
The results indicated that decision makers in groupthink crises showed less complex reasoning in their statements than decision makers in non-groupthink crises. Further, in the groupthink crises, political groups with which the decision makers identified were more positively evaluated than was the case in the nongroupthink crises. The expected effect for differences in the evaluation of opponent groups was not obtained. Overall, the results provided strong support for Janis's groupthink hypothesis. It is suggested that content analysis can be used to monitor the quality of the decision making of governmental leaders.
“A Libertarian Psychology: Self-ownership—A Condition for Happiness.” The Humanist 39(May 1979):28–31.
The author provides an outline for a libertarian psychology: “An analysis of human conduct consistent with the principles of maximum personal freedom.” The concept of voluntary exchange is fundamental to such a psychological system. Successful personal relationships must be freely chosen, honest, and non-manipulative.
Two principles of libertarian psychology are personal sovereignty and personal freedom. Personal sovereignty involves subjective freedom, the right to think, feel, and choose as one pleases. It carries the obligation to respect the sovereignty of others. Personal freedom is the right to be free of restraints within the external world. There is a right to self-defense to protect both personal sovereignty and personal freedom.
If emotions such as guilt, shame, or anxiety contribute to determining how a person acts within a relationship, it cannot be said to be voluntary. Such emotions constitute a form of self-intimidation. Aside from responsibilities to children, an individual is free to leave any personal relationship for any subjective reason which is sufficiently compelling.
The author maintains that “a loving attitude toward people is essential to personal happiness” and that love can only be maintained in relationships that are voluntary. Love should not be equated with an unfree relationship. The greatest challenge in a close personal relationship is to grant the partner total freedom. “Friends and lovers are people. . . whose self interests are mutual, even at times identical.”