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Title: Why Men Fight - A method of abolishing the international duel
Author: Russell, Bertrand
Language: English
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  Sometime Fellow and Lecturer in Trinity
  College, Cambridge



  Copyright, 1916, by

  _Published, January, 1917_

Le souffle, le rhythme, la vraie force populaire manqua à la réaction.
Elle eut les rois, les trésors, les armées; elle écrasa les peuples,
mais elle resta muette. Elle tua en silence; elle ne put parler qu’avec
le canon sur ses horribles champs de bataille.... Tuer quinze millions
d’hommes par la faim et l’épée, à la bonne heure, cela se peut.
Mais faire un petit chant, un air aimé de tous, voilà ce que nulle
machination ne donnera.... Don réservé, béni.... Ce chant peut-être à
l’aube jaillira d’un cœur simple, ou l’alouette le trouvera en montant
au soleil, de son sillon d’avril.



  CHAPTER                                         PAGE
     I  THE PRINCIPLE OF GROWTH                      3

    II  THE STATE                                   42

   III  WAR AS AN INSTITUTION                       79

    IV  PROPERTY                                   117

     V  EDUCATION                                  153


   VII  RELIGION AND THE CHURCHES                  215

  VIII  WHAT WE CAN DO                             245




To all who are capable of new impressions and fresh thought, some
modification of former beliefs and hopes has been brought by the
war. What the modification has been has depended, in each case, upon
character and circumstance; but in one form or another it has been
almost universal. To me, the chief thing to be learnt through the war
has been a certain view of the springs of human action, what they are,
and what we may legitimately hope that they will become. This view,
if it is true, seems to afford a basis for political philosophy more
capable of standing erect in a time of crisis than the philosophy of
traditional Liberalism has shown itself to be. The following lectures,
though only one of them will deal with war, all are inspired by a view
of the springs of action which has been suggested by the war. And all
of them are informed by the hope of seeing such political institutions
established in Europe as shall make men averse to war—a hope which
I firmly believe to be realizable, though not without a great and
fundamental reconstruction of economic and social life.

To one who stands outside the cycle of beliefs and passions which
make the war seem necessary, an isolation, an almost unbearable
separation from the general activity, becomes unavoidable. At the
very moment when the universal disaster raises compassion in the
highest degree, compassion itself compels aloofness from the impulse
to self-destruction which has swept over Europe. The helpless longing
to save men from the ruin towards which they are hastening makes it
necessary to oppose the stream, to incur hostility, to be thought
unfeeling, to lose for the moment the power of winning belief. It is
impossible to prevent others from feeling hostile, but it is possible
to avoid any reciprocal hostility on one’s own part, by imaginative
understanding and the sympathy which grows out of it. And without
understanding and sympathy it is impossible to find a cure for the evil
from which the world is suffering.

There are two views of the war neither of which seems to me adequate.
The usual view in this country is that it is due to the wickedness
of the Germans; the view of most pacifists is that it is due to
the diplomatic tangle and to the ambitions of Governments. I think
both these views fail to realize the extent to which war grows out
of ordinary human nature. Germans, and also the men who compose
Governments, are on the whole average human beings, actuated by the
same passions that actuate others, not differing much from the rest of
the world except in their circumstances. War is accepted by men who
are neither Germans nor diplomatists with a readiness, an acquiescence
in untrue and inadequate reasons, which would not be possible if any
deep repugnance to war were widespread in other nations or classes.
The untrue things which men believe, and the true things which
they disbelieve, are an index to their impulses—not necessarily to
individual impulses in each case (since beliefs are contagious), but to
the general impulses of the community. We all believe many things which
we have no good ground for believing, because, subconsciously, our
nature craves certain kinds of action which these beliefs would render
reasonable if they were true. Unfounded beliefs are the homage which
impulse pays to reason; and thus it is with the beliefs which, opposite
but similar, make men here and in Germany believe it their duty to
prosecute the war.

The first thought which naturally occurs to one who accepts this view
is that it would be well if men were more under the dominion of reason.
War, to those who see that it must necessarily do untold harm to all
the combatants, seems a mere madness, a collective insanity in which
all that has been known in time of peace is forgotten. If impulses
were more controlled, if thought were less dominated by passion, men
would guard their minds against the approaches of war fever, and
disputes would be adjusted amicably. This is true, but it is not by
itself sufficient. It is only those in whom the desire to think truly
is itself a passion who will find this desire adequate to control the
passions of war. Only passion can control passion, and only a contrary
impulse or desire can check impulse. Reason, as it is preached by
traditional moralists, is too negative, too little living, to make a
good life. It is not by reason alone that wars can be prevented, but by
a positive life of impulses and passions antagonistic to those that
lead to war. It is the life of impulse that needs to be changed, not
only the life of conscious thought.

All human activity springs from two sources: impulse and desire. The
part played by desire has always been sufficiently recognized. When men
find themselves not fully contented, and not able instantly to procure
what will cause content, imagination brings before their minds the
thought of things which they believe would make them happy. All desire
involves an interval of time between the consciousness of a need and
the opportunity for satisfying it. The acts inspired by desire may be
in themselves painful, the time before satisfaction can be achieved
may be very long, the object desired may be something outside our
own lives, and even after our own death. Will, as a directing force,
consists mainly in following desires for more or less distant objects,
in spite of the painfulness of the acts involved and the solicitations
of incompatible but more immediate desires and impulses. All this is
familiar, and political philosophy hitherto has been almost entirely
based upon desire as the source of human actions.

But desire governs no more than a part of human activity, and that not
the most important but only the more conscious, explicit, and civilized

In all the more instinctive part of our nature we are dominated by
impulses to certain kinds of activity, not by desires for certain ends.
Children run and shout, not because of any good which they expect to
realize, but because of a direct impulse to running and shouting. Dogs
bay the moon, not because they consider that it is to their advantage
to do so, but because they feel an impulse to bark. It is not any
purpose, but merely an impulse, that prompts such actions as eating,
drinking, love-making, quarreling, boasting. Those who believe that
man is a rational animal will say that people boast in order that
others may have a good opinion of them; but most of us can recall
occasions when we have boasted in spite of knowing that we should
be despised for it. Instinctive acts normally achieve some result
which is agreeable to the natural man, but they are not performed
from desire for this result. They are performed from direct impulse,
and the impulse is often strong even in cases in which the normal
desirable result cannot follow. Grown men like to imagine themselves
more rational than children and dogs, and unconsciously conceal
from themselves how great a part impulse plays in their lives. This
unconscious concealment always follows a certain general plan. When an
impulse is not indulged in the moment in which it arises, there grows
up a desire for the expected consequences of indulging the impulse.
If some of the consequences which are reasonably to be expected are
clearly disagreeable, a conflict between foresight and impulse arises.
If the impulse is weak, foresight may conquer; this is what is called
acting on reason. If the impulse is strong, either foresight will be
falsified, and the disagreeable consequences will be forgotten, or, in
men of a heroic mold, the consequences may be recklessly accepted. When
Macbeth realizes that he is doomed to defeat, he does not shrink from
the fight; he exclaims:—

                        Lay on, Macduff,
    And damned be him that first cries, Hold, enough!

But such strength and recklessness of impulse is rare. Most men, when
their impulse is strong, succeed in persuading themselves, usually by
a subconscious selectiveness of attention, that agreeable consequences
will follow from the indulgence of their impulse. Whole philosophies,
whole systems of ethical valuation, spring up in this way: they are
the embodiment of a kind of thought which is subservient to impulse,
which aims at providing a quasi-rational ground for the indulgence of
impulse. The only thought which is genuine is that which springs out
of the intellectual impulse of curiosity, leading to the desire to
know and understand. But most of what passes for thought is inspired
by some non-intellectual impulse, and is merely a means of persuading
ourselves that we shall not be disappointed or do harm if we indulge
this impulse.[1]

When an impulse is restrained, we feel discomfort or even violent pain.
We may indulge the impulse in order to escape from this pain, and
our action is then one which has a purpose. But the pain only exists
because of the impulse, and the impulse itself is directed to an act,
not to escaping from the pain of restraining the impulse. The impulse
itself remains without a purpose, and the purpose of escaping from pain
only arises when the impulse has been momentarily restrained.

Impulse is at the basis of our activity, much more than desire. Desire
has its place, but not so large a place as it seemed to have. Impulses
bring with them a whole train of subservient fictitious desires: they
make men feel that they desire the results which will follow from
indulging the impulses, and that they are acting for the sake of these
results, when in fact their action has no motive outside itself. A man
may write a book or paint a picture under the belief that he desires
the praise which it will bring him; but as soon as it is finished,
if his creative impulse is not exhausted, what he has done grows
uninteresting to him, and he begins a new piece of work. What applies
to artistic creation applies equally to all that is most vital in our
lives: direct impulse is what moves us, and the desires which we think
we have are a mere garment for the impulse.

Desire, as opposed to impulse, has, it is true, a large and increasing
share in the regulation of men’s lives. Impulse is erratic and
anarchical, not easily fitted into a well-regulated system; it may be
tolerated in children and artists, but it is not thought proper to
men who hope to be taken seriously. Almost all paid work is done from
desire, not from impulse: the work itself is more or less irksome,
but the payment for it is desired. The serious activities that fill
a man’s working hours are, except in a few fortunate individuals,
governed mainly by purposes, not by impulses towards those activities.
In this hardly any one sees an evil, because the place of impulse in a
satisfactory existence is not recognized.

An impulse, to one who does not share it actually or imaginatively,
will always seem to be mad. All impulse is essentially blind, in the
sense that it does not spring from any prevision of consequences. The
man who does not share the impulse will form a different estimate as
to what the consequences will be, and as to whether those that must
ensue are desirable. This difference of opinion will seem to be ethical
or intellectual, whereas its real basis is a difference of impulse.
No genuine agreement will be reached, in such a case, so long as the
difference of impulse persists. In all men who have any vigorous life,
there are strong impulses such as may seem utterly unreasonable to
others. Blind impulses sometimes lead to destruction and death, but
at other times they lead to the best things the world contains. Blind
impulse is the source of war, but it is also the source of science,
and art, and love. It is not the weakening of impulse that is to be
desired, but the direction of impulse towards life and growth rather
than towards death and decay.

The complete control of impulse by will, which is sometimes preached
by moralists, and often enforced by economic necessity, is not really
desirable. A life governed by purposes and desires, to the exclusion
of impulse, is a tiring life; it exhausts vitality, and leaves a man,
in the end, indifferent to the very purposes which he has been trying
to achieve. When a whole nation lives in this way, the whole nation
tends to become feeble, without enough grasp to recognize and overcome
the obstacles to its desires. Industrialism and organization are
constantly forcing civilized nations to live more and more by purpose
rather than impulse. In the long run such a mode of existence, if it
does not dry up the springs of life, produces new impulses, not of
the kind which the will has been in the habit of controlling or of
which thought is conscious. These new impulses are apt to be worse in
their effects than those that have been checked. Excessive discipline,
especially when it is imposed from without, often issues in impulses
of cruelty and destruction; this is one reason why militarism has a
bad effect on national character. Either lack of vitality, or impulses
which are oppressive and against life, will almost always result if the
spontaneous impulses are not able to find an outlet. A man’s impulses
are not fixed from the beginning by his native disposition: within
certain wide limits, they are profoundly modified by his circumstances
and his way of life. The nature of these modifications ought to be
studied, and the results of such study ought to be taken account of
in judging the good or harm that is done by political and social

The war has grown, in the main, out of the life of impulse, not out of
reason or desire. There is an impulse of aggression, and an impulse of
resistance to aggression. Either may, on occasion, be in accordance
with reason, but both are operative in many cases in which they are
quite contrary to reason. Each impulse produces a whole harvest of
attendant beliefs. The beliefs appropriate to the impulse of aggression
may be seen in Bernhardi, or in the early Mohammedan conquerors, or,
in full perfection, in the Book of Joshua. There is first of all a
conviction of the superior excellence of one’s own group, a certainty
that they are in some sense the chosen people. This justifies the
feeling that only the good and evil of one’s own group is of real
importance, and that the rest of the world is to be regarded merely as
material for the triumph or salvation of the higher race. In modern
politics this attitude is embodied in imperialism. Europe as a whole
has this attitude towards Asia and Africa, and many Germans have this
attitude towards the rest of Europe.

Correlative to the impulse of aggression is the impulse of resistance
to aggression. This impulse is exemplified in the attitude of the
Israelites to the Philistines or of medieval Europe to the Mohammedans.
The beliefs which it produces are beliefs in the peculiar wickedness of
those whose aggression is feared, and in the immense value of national
customs which they might suppress if they were victorious. When the war
broke out, all the reactionaries in England and France began to speak
of the danger to democracy, although until that moment they had opposed
democracy with all their strength. They were not insincere in so
speaking: the impulse of resistance to Germany made them value whatever
was endangered by the German attack. They loved democracy because they
hated Germany; but they thought they hated Germany because they loved

The correlative impulses of aggression and resistance to aggression
have both been operative in all the countries engaged in the war.
Those who have not been dominated by one or other of these impulses
may be roughly divided into three classes. There are, first, men whose
national sentiment is antagonistic to the State to which they are
subject. This class includes some Irish, Poles, Finns, Jews, and other
members of oppressed nations. From our point of view, these men may
be omitted from our consideration, since they have the same impulsive
nature as those who fight, and differ merely in external circumstances.

The second class of men who have not been part of the force supporting
the war have been those whose impulsive nature is more or less
atrophied. Opponents of pacifism suppose that all pacifists belong to
this class, except when they are in German pay. It is thought that
pacifists are bloodless, men without passions, men who can look on and
reason with cold detachment while their brothers are giving their lives
for their country. Among those who are merely passively pacifist, and
do no more than abstain from actively taking part in the war, there may
be a certain proportion of whom this is true. I think the supporters
of war would be right in decrying such men. In spite of all the
destruction which is wrought by the impulses that lead to war, there is
more hope for a nation which has these impulses than for a nation in
which all impulse is dead. Impulse is the expression of life, and while
it exists there is hope of its turning towards life instead of towards
death; but lack of impulse is death, and out of death no new life will

The active pacifists, however, are not of this class: they are not men
without impulsive force but men in whom some impulse to which war is
hostile is strong enough to overcome the impulses that lead to war. It
is not the act of a passionless man to throw himself athwart the whole
movement of the national life, to urge an outwardly hopeless cause,
to incur obloquy and to resist the contagion of collective emotion.
The impulse to avoid the hostility of public opinion is one of the
strongest in human nature, and can only be overcome by an unusual force
of direct and uncalculating impulse; it is not cold reason alone that
can prompt such an act.

Impulses may be divided into those that make for life and those that
make for death. The impulses embodied in the war are among those that
make for death. Any one of the impulses that make for life, if it is
strong enough, will lead a man to stand out against the war. Some of
these impulses are only strong in highly civilized men; some are part
of common humanity. The impulses towards art and science are among the
more civilized of those that make for life. Many artists have remained
wholly untouched by the passions of the war, not from feebleness of
feeling, but because the creative instinct, the pursuit of a vision,
makes them critical of the assaults of national passion, and not
responsive to the myth in which the impulse of pugnacity clothes
itself. And the few men in whom the scientific impulse is dominant have
noticed the rival myths of warring groups, and have been led through
understanding to neutrality. But it is not out of such refined impulses
that a popular force can be generated which shall be sufficient to
transform the world.

There are three forces on the side of life which require no exceptional
mental endowment, which are not very rare at present, and might be very
common under better social institutions. They are love, the instinct
of constructiveness, and the joy of life. All three are checked and
enfeebled at present by the conditions under which men live—not only
the less outwardly fortunate, but also the majority of the well-to-do.
Our institutions rest upon injustice and authority: it is only by
closing our hearts against sympathy and our minds against truth that
we can endure the oppressions and unfairnesses by which we profit. The
conventional conception of what constitutes success leads most men to
live a life in which their most vital impulses are sacrificed, and the
joy of life is lost in listless weariness. Our economic system compels
almost all men to carry out the purposes of others rather than their
own, making them feel impotent in action and only able to secure a
certain modicum of passive pleasure. All these things destroy the vigor
of the community, the expansive affections of individuals, and the
power of viewing the world generously. All these things are unnecessary
and can be ended by wisdom and courage. If they were ended, the
impulsive life of men would become wholly different, and the human race
might travel towards a new happiness and a new vigor. To urge this hope
is the purpose of these lectures.

The impulses and desires of men and women, in so far as they are of
real importance in their lives, are not detached one from another, but
proceed from a central principle of growth, an instinctive urgency
leading them in a certain direction, as trees seek the light. So long
as this instinctive movement is not thwarted, whatever misfortunes
may occur are not fundamental disasters, and do not produce those
distortions which result from interference with natural growth. This
intimate center in each human being is what imagination must apprehend
if we are to understand him intuitively. It differs from man to man,
and determines for each man the type of excellence of which he is
capable. The utmost that social institutions can do for a man is to
make his own growth free and vigorous: they cannot force him to grow
according to the pattern of another man. There are in men some impulses
and desires—for example, those towards drugs—which do not grow out of
the central principle; such impulses, when they become strong enough
to be harmful, have to be checked by self-discipline. Other impulses,
though they may grow out of the central principle in the individual,
may be injurious to the growth of others, and they need to be checked
in the interest of others. But in the main, the impulses which are
injurious to others tend to result from thwarted growth, and to be
least in those who have been unimpeded in their instinctive development.

Men, like trees, require for their growth the right soil and a
sufficient freedom from oppression. These can be helped or hindered
by political institutions. But the soil and the freedom required for
a man’s growth are immeasurably more difficult to discover and to
obtain than the soil and the freedom required for the growth of a
tree. And the full growth which may be hoped for cannot be defined
or demonstrated; it is subtle and complex, it can only be felt by a
delicate intuition and dimly apprehended by imagination and respect.
It depends not only or chiefly upon the physical environment, but
upon beliefs and affections, upon opportunities for action, and upon
the whole life of the community. The more developed and civilized the
type of man the more elaborate are the conditions of his growth, and
the more dependent they become upon the general state of the society
in which he lives. A man’s needs and desires are not confined to his
own life. If his mind is comprehensive and his imagination vivid, the
failures of the community to which he belongs are his failures, and its
successes are his successes: according as his community succeeds or
fails, his own growth is nourished or impeded.

In the modern world, the principle of growth in most men and women
is hampered by institutions inherited from a simpler age. By the
progress of thought and knowledge, and by the increase in command over
the forces of the physical world, new possibilities of growth have
come into existence, and have given rise to new claims which must be
satisfied if those who make them are not to be thwarted. There is less
acquiescence in limitations which are no longer unavoidable, and less
possibility of a good life while those limitations remain. Institutions
which give much greater opportunities to some classes than to others
are no longer recognized as just by the less fortunate, though the
more fortunate still defend them vehemently. Hence arises a universal
strife, in which tradition and authority are arrayed against liberty
and justice. Our professed morality, being traditional, loses its hold
upon those who are in revolt. Coöperation between the defenders of the
old and the champions of the new has become almost impossible. An
intimate disunion has entered into almost all the relations of life
in continually increasing measure. In the fight for freedom, men and
women become increasingly unable to break down the walls of the Ego and
achieve the growth which comes from a real and vital union.

All our institutions have their historic basis in Authority. The
unquestioned authority of the Oriental despot found its religious
expression in the omnipotent Creator, whose glory was the sole end of
man, and against whom man had no rights. This authority descended to
the Emperor and Pope, to the kings of the Middle Ages, to the nobles
in the feudal hierarchy, and even to every husband and father in
his dealings with his wife and children. The Church was the direct
embodiment of the Divine authority, the State and the law were
constituted by the authority of the King, private property in land grew
out of the authority of conquering barons, and the family was governed
by the authority of the pater-familias.

The institutions of the Middle Ages permitted only a fortunate few
to develop freely: the vast majority of mankind existed to minister
to the few. But so long as authority was genuinely respected and
acknowledged even by its least fortunate subjects, medieval society
remained organic and not fundamentally hostile to life, since outward
submission was compatible with inward freedom because it was voluntary.
The institutions of Western Christendom embodied a theory which was
really believed, as no theory by which our present institutions can be
defended is now believed.

The medieval theory of life broke down through its failure to satisfy
men’s demands for justice and liberty. Under the stress of oppression,
when rulers exceeded their theoretical powers, the victims were forced
to realize that they themselves also had rights, and need not live
merely to increase the glory of the few. Gradually it came to be seen
that if men have power, they are likely to abuse it, and that authority
in practice means tyranny. Because the claim to justice was resisted
by the holders of power, men became more and more separate units, each
fighting for his own rights, not a genuine community bound together
by an organic common purpose. This absence of a common purpose has
become a source of unhappiness. One of the reasons which led many men
to welcome the outbreak of the present war was that it made each
nation again a whole community with a single purpose. It did this by
destroying, for the present, the beginnings of a single purpose in the
civilized world as a whole; but these beginnings were as yet so feeble
that few were much affected by their destruction. Men rejoiced in the
new sense of unity with their compatriots more than they minded the
increased separation from their enemies.

The hardening and separation of the individual in the course of the
fight for freedom has been inevitable, and is not likely ever to be
wholly undone. What is necessary, if an organic society is to grow
up, is that our institutions should be so fundamentally changed as
to embody that new respect for the individual and his rights which
modern feeling demands. The medieval Empire and Church swept away the
individual. There were heretics, but they were massacred relentlessly,
without any of the qualms aroused by later persecutions. And they, like
their persecutors, were persuaded that there ought to be one universal
Church: they differed only as to what its creed should be. Among a
few men of art and letters, the Renaissance undermined the medieval
theory, without, however, replacing it by anything but skepticism
and confusion. The first serious breach in this medieval theory was
caused by Luther’s assertion of the right of private judgment and the
fallibility of General Councils. Out of this assertion grew inevitably,
with time, the belief that a man’s religion could not be determined
for him by authority, but must be left to the free choice of each
individual. It was in matters of religion that the battle for liberty
began, and it is in matters of religion that it has come nearest to a
complete victory.[2]

The development through extreme individualism to strife, and thence,
one hopes, to a new reintegration, is to be seen in almost every
department of life. Claims are advanced in the name of justice, and
resisted in the name of tradition and prescriptive right. Each side
honestly believes that it deserves to triumph, because two theories
of society exist side by side in our thought, and men choose,
unconsciously, the theory which fits their case. Because the battle is
long and arduous all general theory is gradually forgotten; in the end,
nothing remains but self-assertion, and when the oppressed win freedom
they are as oppressive as their former masters.

This is seen most crudely in the case of what is called nationalism.
Nationalism, in theory, is the doctrine that men, by their sympathies
and traditions, form natural groups, called “nations,” each of which
ought to be united under one central Government. In the main this
doctrine may be conceded. But in practice the doctrine takes a more
personal form. “I belong,” the oppressed nationalist argues, “by
sympathy and tradition to nation A, but I am subject to a government
which is in the hands of nation B. This is an injustice, not only
because of the general principle of nationalism, but because nation A
is generous, progressive, and civilized, while nation B is oppressive,
retrograde, and barbarous. Because this is so, nation A deserves to
prosper, while nation B deserves to be abased.” The inhabitants of
nation B are naturally deaf to the claims of abstract justice, when
they are accompanied by personal hostility and contempt. Presently,
however, in the course of war, nation A acquires its freedom. The
energy and pride which have achieved freedom generates a momentum which
leads on, almost infallibly, to the attempt at foreign conquest, or
to the refusal of liberty to some smaller nation. “What? You say that
nation C, which forms part of our State, has the same rights against
us as we had against nation A? But that is absurd. Nation C is swinish
and turbulent, incapable of good government, needing a strong hand if
it is not to be a menace and a disturbance to all its neighbors.” So
the English used to speak of the Irish, so the Germans and Russians
speak of the Poles, so the Galician Poles speak of the Ruthenes, so
the Austrians used to speak of the Magyars, so the Magyars speak of
the South Slav sympathizers with Serbia, so the Serbs speak of the
Macedonian Bulgars. In this way nationalism, unobjectionable in theory,
leads by a natural movement to oppression and wars of conquest. No
sooner was France free from the English, in the fifteenth century,
than it embarked upon the conquest of Italy; no sooner was Spain freed
from the Moors than it entered into more than a century of conflict
with France for the supremacy in Europe. The case of Germany is very
interesting in this respect. At the beginning of the eighteenth century
German culture was French: French was the language of the Courts,
the language in which Leibnitz wrote his philosophy, the universal
language of polite letters and learning. National consciousness hardly
existed. Then a series of great men created a self-respect in Germany
by their achievements in poetry, music, philosophy, and science.
But politically German nationalism was only created by Napoleon’s
oppression and the uprising of 1813. After centuries during which every
disturbance of the peace of Europe began with a French or Swedish or
Russian invasion of Germany, the Germans discovered that by sufficient
effort and union they could keep foreign armies off their territory.
But the effort required had been too great to cease when its purely
defensive purpose had been achieved by the defeat of Napoleon. Now, a
hundred years later, they are still engaged in the same movement, which
has become one of aggression and conquest. Whether we are now seeing
the end of the movement it is not yet possible to guess.

If men had any strong sense of a community of nations, nationalism
would serve to define the boundaries of the various nations. But
because men only feel community within their own nation, nothing but
force is able to make them respect the rights of other nations, even
when they are asserting exactly similar rights on their own behalf.

Analogous development is to be expected, with the course of time, in
the conflict between capital and labor which has existed since the
growth of the industrial system, and in the conflict between men and
women, which is still in its infancy.

What is wanted, in these various conflicts, is some principle,
genuinely believed, which will have justice for its outcome. The tug
of war of mutual self-assertion can only result in justice through an
accidental equality of force. It is no use to attempt any bolstering
up of institutions based on authority, since all such institutions
involve injustice, and injustice once realized cannot be perpetuated
without fundamental damage both to those who uphold it and to those who
resist it. The damage consists in the hardening of the walls of the
Ego, making them a prison instead of a window. Unimpeded growth in the
individual depends upon many contacts with other people, which must
be of the nature of free coöperation, not of enforced service. While
the belief in authority was alive, free coöperation was compatible
with inequality and subjection, but now equality and mutual freedom
are necessary. All institutions, if they are not to hamper individual
growth, must be based as far as possible upon voluntary combination,
rather than the force of the law or the traditional authority of the
holders of power. None of our institutions can survive the application
of this principle without great and fundamental changes; but these
changes are imperatively necessary if the world is to be withheld from
dissolving into hard separate units each at war with all the others.

The two chief sources of good relations between individuals are
instinctive liking and a common purpose. Of these two, a common purpose
might seem more important politically, but, in fact, it is often
the outcome, not the cause, of instinctive liking, or of a common
instinctive aversion. Biological groups, from the family to the nation,
are constituted by a greater or less degree of instinctive liking, and
build their common purposes on this foundation.

Instinctive liking is the feeling which makes us take pleasure in
another person’s company, find an exhilaration in his presence, wish to
talk with him, work with him, play with him. The extreme form of it is
being in love, but its fainter forms, and even the very faintest, have
political importance. The presence of a person who is instinctively
disliked tends to make any other person more likable. An anti-Semite
will love any fellow-Christian when a Jew is present. In China, or the
wilds of Africa, any white man would be welcomed with joy. A common
aversion is one of the most frequent causes of mild instinctive liking.

Men differ enormously in the frequency and intensity of their
instinctive likings, and the same man will differ greatly at different
times. One may take Carlyle and Walt Whitman as opposite poles in this
respect. To Carlyle, at any rate in later life, most men and women were
repulsive; they inspired an instinctive aversion which made him find
pleasure in imagining them under the guillotine or perishing in battle.
This led him to belittle most men, finding satisfaction only in those
who had been notably destructive of human life—Frederick the Great,
Dr. Francia, and Governor Eyre. It led him to love war and violence,
and to despise the weak and the oppressed—for example, the “thirty
thousand distressed needlewomen,” on whom he was never weary of venting
his scorn. His morals and his politics, in later life, were inspired
through and through by repugnance to almost the whole human race.

Walt Whitman, on the contrary, had a warm, expansive feeling towards
the vast majority of men and women. His queer catalogues seemed to him
interesting because each item came before his imagination as an object
of delight. The sort of joy which most people feel only in those who
are exceptionally beautiful or splendid Walt Whitman felt in almost
everybody. Out of this universal liking grew optimism, a belief in
democracy, and a conviction that it is easy for men to live together
in peace and amity. His philosophy and politics, like Carlyle’s, were
based upon his instinctive attitude towards ordinary men and women.

There is no objective reason to be given to show that one of these
attitudes is essentially more rational than the other. If a man finds
people repulsive, no argument can prove to him that they are not so.
But both his own desires and other people’s are much more likely to
find satisfaction if he resembles Walt Whitman than if he resembles
Carlyle. A world of Walt Whitmans would be happier and more capable of
realizing its purposes than a world of Carlyles. For this reason, we
shall desire, if we can, to increase the amount of instinctive liking
in the world and diminish the amount of instinctive aversion. This
is perhaps the most important of all the effects by which political
institutions ought to be judged.

The other source of good relations between individuals is a common
purpose, especially where that purpose cannot be achieved without
knowing its cause. Economic organizations, such as unions and political
parties are constituted almost wholly by a common purpose; whatever
instinctive liking may come to be associated with them is the result
of the common purpose, not its cause. Economic organizations, such as
railway companies, subsist for a purpose, but this purpose need only
actually exist in those who direct the organization: the ordinary
wage-earner need have no purpose beyond earning his wages. This is a
defect in economic organizations, and ought to be remedied. One of the
objects of syndicalism is to remedy this defect.

Marriage is (or should be) based on instinctive liking, but as soon
as there are children, or the wish for children, it acquires the
additional strength of a common purpose. It is this chiefly which
distinguishes it from an irregular connection not intended to lead to
children. Often, in fact, the common purpose survives, and remains a
strong tie, after the instinctive liking has faded.

A nation, when it is real and not artificial, is founded upon a faint
degree of instinctive liking for compatriots and a common instinctive
aversion from foreigners. When an Englishman returns to Dover or
Folkestone after being on the Continent, he feels something friendly
in the familiar ways: the casual porters, the shouting paper boys, the
women serving bad tea, all warm his heart, and seem more “natural,”
more what human beings ought to be, than the foreigners with their
strange habits of behavior. He is ready to believe that all English
people are good souls, while many foreigners are full of designing
wickedness. It is such feelings that make it easy to organize a nation
into a governmental unit. And when that has happened, a common purpose
is added, as in marriage. Foreigners would like to invade our country
and lay it waste, to kill us in battle, to humble our pride. Those
who coöperate with us in preventing this disaster are our friends,
and their coöperation intensifies our instinctive liking. But common
purposes do not constitute the whole source of our love of country:
allies, even of long standing, do not call out the same feelings
as are called out by our compatriots. Instinctive liking, resulting
largely from similar habits and customs, is an essential element in
patriotism, and, indeed, the foundation upon which the whole feeling

If men’s natural growth is to be promoted and not hindered by the
environment, if as many as possible of their desires and needs are to
be satisfied, political institutions must, as far as possible, embody
common purposes and foster instinctive liking. These two objects are
interconnected, for nothing is so destructive of instinctive liking
as thwarted purposes and unsatisfied needs, and nothing facilitates
coöperation for common purposes so much as instinctive liking. When a
man’s growth is unimpeded, his self-respect remains intact, and he is
not inclined to regard others as his enemies. But when, for whatever
reason, his growth is impeded, or he is compelled to grow into some
twisted and unnatural shape, his instinct presents the environment as
his enemy, and he becomes filled with hatred. The joy of life abandons
him, and malevolence takes the place of friendliness. The malevolence
of hunchbacks and cripples is proverbial; and a similar malevolence
is to be found in those who have been crippled in less obvious ways.
Real freedom, if it could be brought about, would go a long way towards
destroying hatred.

There is a not uncommon belief that what is instinctive in us
cannot be changed, but must be simply accepted and made the best
of. This is by no means the case. No doubt we have a certain native
disposition, different in different people, which coöperates with
outside circumstances in producing a certain character. But even the
instinctive part of our character is very malleable. It may be changed
by beliefs, by material circumstances, by social circumstances, and by
institutions. A Dutchman has probably much the same native disposition
as a German, but his instincts in adult life are very different owing
to the absence of militarism and of the pride of a Great Power. It is
obvious that the instincts of celibates become profoundly different
from those of other men and women. Almost any instinct is capable of
many different forms according to the nature of the outlets which
it finds. The same instinct which leads to artistic or intellectual
creativeness may, under other circumstances, lead to love of war. The
fact that an activity or belief is an outcome of instinct is therefore
no reason for regarding it as unalterable.

This applies to people’s instinctive likes and dislikes as well as
to their other instincts. It is natural to men, as to other animals,
to like some of their species and dislike others; but the proportion
of like and dislike depends on circumstances, often on quite trivial
circumstances. Most of Carlyle’s misanthropy is attributable to
dyspepsia; probably a suitable medical regimen would have given him a
completely different outlook on the world. The defect of punishment,
as a means of dealing with impulses which the community wishes to
discourage, is that it does nothing to prevent the existence of
the impulses, but merely endeavors to check their indulgence by an
appeal to self-interest. This method, since it does not eradicate the
impulses, probably only drives them to find other outlets even when it
is successful in its immediate object; and if the impulses are strong,
mere self-interest is not likely to curb them effectually, since it is
not a very powerful motive except with unusually reasonable and rather
passionless people. It is thought to be a stronger motive than it is,
because our moods make us deceive ourselves as to our interest, and
lead us to believe that it is consistent with the actions to which we
are prompted by desire or impulse.

Thus the commonplace that human nature cannot be changed is untrue.
We all know that our own characters and those of our acquaintance are
greatly affected by circumstances; and what is true of individuals
is true also of nations. The root causes of changes in average human
nature are generally either purely material changes—for instance, of
climate—or changes in the degree of man’s control over the material
world. We may ignore the purely material changes, since these do not
much concern the politician. But the changes due to man’s increased
control over the material world, by inventions and science, are of
profound present importance. Through the industrial revolution, they
have radically altered the daily lives of men; and by creating huge
economic organizations, they have altered the whole structure of
society. The general beliefs of men, which are, in the main, a product
of instinct and circumstance, have become very different from what
they were in the eighteenth century. But our institutions are not yet
suited either to the instincts developed by our new circumstances, or
to our real beliefs. Institutions have a life of their own, and often
outlast the circumstances which made them a fit garment for instinct.
This applies, in varying degrees, to almost all the institutions which
we have inherited from the past: the State, private property, the
patriarchal family, the Churches, armies and navies. All of these have
become in some degree oppressive, in some measures hostile to life.

In any serious attempt at political reconstruction, it is necessary
to realize what are the vital needs of ordinary men and women. It
is customary, in political thought, to assume that the only needs
with which politics is concerned are economic needs. This view is
quite inadequate to account for such an event as the present war,
since any economic motives that may be assigned for it are to a great
extent mythical, and its true causes must be sought for outside the
economic sphere. Needs which are normally satisfied without conscious
effort remain unrecognized, and this results in a working theory of
human needs which is far too simple. Owing chiefly to industrialism,
many needs which were formerly satisfied without effort now remain
unsatisfied in most men and women. But the old unduly simple theory of
human needs survives, making men overlook the source of the new lack
of satisfaction, and invent quite false theories as to why they are
dissatisfied. Socialism as a panacea seems to me to be mistaken in this
way, since it is too ready to suppose that better economic conditions
will of themselves make men happy. It is not only more material goods
that men need, but more freedom, more self-direction, more outlet for
creativeness, more opportunity for the joy of life, more voluntary
coöperation, and less involuntary subservience to purposes not their
own. All these things the institutions of the future must help to
produce, if our increase of knowledge and power over Nature is to bear
its full fruit in bringing about a good life.



Under the influence of socialism, most liberal thought in recent years
has been in favor of increasing the power of the State, but more or
less hostile to the power of private property. On the other hand,
syndicalism has been hostile both to the State and to private property.
I believe that syndicalism is more nearly right than socialism in this
respect, that both private property and the State, which are the two
most powerful institutions of the modern world, have become harmful
to life through excess of power, and that both are hastening the loss
of vitality from which the civilized world increasingly suffers.
The two institutions are closely connected, but for the present I
wish to consider only the State. I shall try to show how great, how
unnecessary, how harmful, many of its powers are, and how enormously
they might be diminished without loss of what is useful in its
activity. But I shall admit that in certain directions its functions
ought to be extended rather than curtailed.

Some of the functions of the State, such as the Post Office and
elementary education, might be performed by private agencies, and are
only undertaken by the State from motives of convenience. But other
matters, such as the law, the police, the Army, and the Navy, belong
more essentially to the State: so long as there is a State at all it is
difficult to imagine these matters in private hands. The distinction
between socialism and individualism turns on the nonessential
functions of the State, which the socialist wishes to extend and
the individualist to restrict. It is the essential functions, which
are admitted by individualists and socialists alike, that I wish
to criticize, since the others do not appear to me in themselves

The essence of the State is that it is the repository of the collective
force of its citizens. This force takes two forms, one internal and one
external. The internal form is the law and the police; the external
form is the power of waging war, as embodied in the Army and Navy. The
State is constituted by the combination of all the inhabitants in a
certain area using their united force in accordance with the commands
of a Government. In a civilized State force is only employed against
its own citizens in accordance with rules previously laid down, which
constitute the criminal law. But the employment of force against
foreigners is not regulated by any code of rules, and proceeds, with
few exceptions, according to some real or fancied national interest.

There can be no doubt that force employed according to law is less
pernicious than force employed capriciously. If international law could
acquire sufficient hold on men’s allegiance to regulate the relations
of States, a very great advance on our present condition would have
been made. The primitive anarchy which precedes law is worse than law.
But I believe there is a possibility of a stage to some extent above
law, where the advantages now secured by the law are secured without
loss of freedom, and without the disadvantages which the law and the
police render inevitable. Probably some repository of force in the
background will remain necessary, but the actual employment of force
may become very rare, and the degree of force required very small.
The anarchy which precedes law gives freedom only to the strong; the
condition to be aimed at will give freedom as nearly as possible to
every one. It will do this, not by preventing altogether the existence
of organized force, but by limiting the occasions for its employment to
the greatest possible extent.

The power of the State is only limited internally by the fear of
rebellion and externally by the fear of defeat in war. Subject to these
restrictions, it is absolute. In practice, it can seize men’s property
through taxation, determine the law of marriage and inheritance, punish
the expression of opinions which it dislikes, put men to death for
wishing the region they inhabit to belong to a different State, and
order all able-bodied males to risk their lives in battle whenever it
considers war desirable. On many matters disagreement with the purposes
and opinions of the State is criminal. Probably the freest States in
the world, before the war, were America and England; yet in America no
immigrant may land until he has professed disbelief in anarchism and
polygamy, while in England men were sent to prison in recent years for
expressing disagreement with the Christian religion[3] or agreement
with the teaching of Christ.[4] In time of war, all criticism of
the external policy of the State is criminal. Certain objects having
appeared desirable to the majority, or to the effective holders of
power, those who do not consider these objects desirable are exposed
to pains and penalties not unlike those suffered by heretics in the
past. The extent of the tyranny thus exercised is concealed by its very
success: few men consider it worth while to incur a persecution which
is almost certain to be thorough and effective.

Universal military service is perhaps the extreme example of the power
of the State, and the supreme illustration of the difference between
its attitude to its own citizens and its attitude to the citizens of
other States. The State punishes, with impartial rigor, both those who
kill their compatriots and those who refuse to kill foreigners. On
the whole, the latter is considered the graver crime. The phenomenon
of war is familiar, and men fail to realize its strangeness; to those
who stand inside the cycle of instincts which lead to war it all seems
natural and reasonable. But to those who stand outside the strangeness
of it grows with familiarity. It is amazing that the vast majority of
men should tolerate a system which compels them to submit to all the
horrors of the battlefield at any moment when their Government commands
them to do so. A French artist, indifferent to politics, attentive only
to his painting, suddenly finds himself called upon to shoot Germans,
who, his friends assure him, are a disgrace to the human race. A German
musician, equally unknowing, is called upon to shoot the perfidious
Frenchman. Why cannot the two men declare a mutual neutrality? Why not
leave war to those who like it and bring it on? Yet if the two men
declared a mutual neutrality they would be shot by their compatriots.
To avoid this fate they try to shoot each other. If the world loses
the artist, not the musician, Germany rejoices; if the world loses the
musician, not the artist, France rejoices. No one remembers the loss to
civilization, which is equal whichever is killed.

This is the politics of Bedlam. If the artist and the musician had been
allowed to stand aside from the war, nothing but unmitigated good to
mankind would have resulted. The power of the State, which makes this
impossible, is a wholly evil thing, quite as evil as the power of the
Church which in former days put men to death for unorthodox thought.
Yet if, even in time of peace, an international league were founded to
consist of Frenchmen and Germans in equal numbers, all pledged not to
take part in war, the French State and the German State would persecute
it with equal ferocity. Blind obedience, unlimited willingness to kill
and die are exacted of the modern citizens of a democracy as much as
of the Janizaries of medieval sultans or the secret agents of Oriental

The power of the State may be brought to bear, as it often is in
England, through public opinion rather than through the laws. By
oratory and the influence of the Press, public opinion is largely
created by the State, and a tyrannous public opinion is as great an
enemy to liberty as tyrannous laws. If the young man who will not
fight finds that he is dismissed from his employment, insulted in the
streets, cold-shouldered by his friends, and thrown over with scorn by
any woman who may formerly have liked him, he will feel the penalty
quite as hard to bear as a death sentence.[6] A free community requires
not only legal freedom, but a tolerant public opinion, an absence of
that instinctive inquisition into our neighbors’ affairs which, under
the guise of upholding a high moral standard, enables good people
to indulge unconsciously a disposition to cruelty and persecution.
Thinking ill of others is not in itself a good reason for thinking well
of ourselves. But so long as this is not recognized, and so long as the
State can manufacture public opinion, except in the rare cases where it
is revolutionary, public opinion must be reckoned as a definite part of
the power of the State.

The power of the State outside its own borders is in the main derived
from war or the threat of war. Some power is derived from the ability
to persuade its citizens to lend money or not to lend it, but this
is unimportant in comparison with the power derived from armies and
navies. The external activity of the State—with exceptions so rare
as to be negligible—is selfish. Sometimes selfishness is mitigated
by the need of retaining the goodwill of other States, but this only
modifies the methods employed, not the ends pursued. The ends pursued,
apart from mere defense against other States, are, on the one hand,
opportunities for successful exploitation of weak or uncivilized
countries, on the other hand, power and prestige, which are considered
more glorious and less material than money. In pursuit of these
objects, no State hesitates to put to death innumerable foreigners
whose happiness is not compatible with exploitation or subjection, or
to devastate territories into which it is thought necessary to strike
terror. Apart from the present war, such acts have been performed
within the last twenty years by many minor States and by all the
Great Powers[7] except Austria; and in the case of Austria only the
opportunity, not the will, was lacking.

Why do men acquiesce in the power of the State? There are many reasons,
some traditional, some very present and pressing.

The traditional reason for obedience to the State is personal loyalty
to the sovereign. European States grew up under the feudal system,
and were originally the several territories owned by feudal chiefs.
But this source of obedience has decayed, and probably now counts for
little except in Japan, and to a lesser extent in Russia.

Tribal feeling, which always underlay loyalty to the sovereign, has
remained as strong as it ever was, and is now the chief support for
the power of the State. Almost every man finds it essential to his
happiness to feel himself a member of a group, animated by common
friendships and enmities and banded together for defense and attack.
But such groups are of two kinds: there are those which are essentially
enlargements of the family, and there are those which are based upon a
conscious common purpose. Nations belong to the first kind, Churches to
the second. At times when men are profoundly swayed by creeds national
divisions tend to break down, as they did in the wars of religion
after the Reformation. At such times a common creed is a stronger bond
than a common nationality. To a much slighter extent, the same thing
has occurred in the modern world with the rise of socialism. Men who
disbelieve in private property, and feel the capitalist the real enemy,
have a bond which transcends national divisions. It has not been found
strong enough to resist the passions aroused by the present war, but
it has made them less bitter among socialists than among others, and
has kept alive the hope of a European community to be reconstructed
when the war is over. In the main, however, the universal disbelief in
creeds has left tribal feeling triumphant, and has made nationalism
stronger than at any previous period of the world’s history. A few
sincere Christians, a few sincere socialists, have found in their creed
a force capable of resisting the assaults of national passion, but they
have been too few to influence the course of events or even to cause
serious anxiety to the Governments.

It is chiefly tribal feeling that generates the unity of a national
State, but it is not only tribal feeling that generates its strength.
Its strength results principally from two fears, neither of which is
unreasonable: the fear of crime and anarchy within, and the fear of
aggression from without.

The internal orderliness of a civilized community is a great
achievement, chiefly brought about by the increased authority of the
State. It would be inconvenient if peaceable citizens were constantly
in imminent risk of being robbed and murdered. Civilized life would
become almost impossible if adventurous people could organize private
armies for purposes of plunder. These conditions existed in the Middle
Ages, and have not passed away without a great struggle. It is thought
by many—especially by the rich, who derive the greatest advantage from
law and order—that any diminution in the power of the State might
bring back a condition of universal anarchy. They regard strikes as
portents of dissolution. They are terrified by such organizations as
the Confédération Générale du Travail and the International Workers
of the World. They remember the French Revolution, and feel a not
unnatural desire to keep their heads on their shoulders. They dread
particularly any political theory which seems to excuse private crimes,
such as sabotage and political assassination. Against these dangers
they see no protection except the maintenance of the authority of the
State, and the belief that all resistance to the State is wicked.

Fear of the danger within is enhanced by fear of the danger without.
Every State is exposed at all times to the risk of foreign invasion.
No means has hitherto been devised for minimizing this risk except the
increase of armaments. But the armaments which are nominally intended
to repel invasion may also be used to invade. And so the means adopted
to diminish the external fear have the effect of increasing it, and
of enormously enhancing the destructiveness of war when it does break
out. In this way a reign of terror becomes universal, and the State
acquires everywhere something of the character of the Comité du Salut

The tribal feeling out of which the State develops is natural, and the
fear by which the State is strengthened is reasonable under present
circumstances. And in addition to these two, there is a third source of
strength in a national State, namely patriotism in its religious aspect.

Patriotism is a very complex feeling, built up out of primitive
instincts and highly intellectual convictions. There is love of home
and family and friends, making us peculiarly anxious to preserve our
own country from invasion. There is the mild instinctive liking for
compatriots as against foreigners. There is pride, which is bound up
with the success of the community to which we feel that we belong.
There is a belief, suggested by pride but reinforced by history, that
one’s own nation represents a great tradition and stands for ideals
that are important to the human race. But besides all these, there is
another element, at once nobler and more open to attack, an element of
worship, of willing sacrifice, of joyful merging of the individual life
in the life of the nation. This religious element in patriotism is
essential to the strength of the State, since it enlists the best that
is in most men on the side of national sacrifice.

The religious element in patriotism is reinforced by education,
especially by a knowledge of the history and literature of one’s own
country, provided it is not accompanied by much knowledge of the
history and literature of other countries. In every civilized country
all instruction of the young emphasizes the merits of their own nation
and the faults of other nations. It comes to be universally believed
that one’s own nation, because of its superiority, deserves support in
a quarrel, however the quarrel may have originated. This belief is so
genuine and deep that it makes men endure patiently, almost gladly, the
losses and hardships and sufferings entailed by war. Like all sincerely
believed religions, it gives an outlook on life, based upon instinct
but sublimating it, causing a devotion to an end greater than any
personal end, but containing many personal ends as it were in solution.

Patriotism as a religion is unsatisfactory because of its lack of
universality. The good at which it aims is a good for one’s own
nation only, not for all mankind. The desires which it inspires in
an Englishman are not the same as the desires which it inspires in
a German. A world full of patriots may be a world full of strife.
The more intensely a nation believes in its patriotism, the more
fanatically indifferent it will become to the damage suffered by other
nations. When once men have learnt to subordinate their own good to the
good of a larger whole, there can be no valid reason for stopping short
of the human race. It is the admixture of national pride that makes
it so easy in practice for men’s impulses towards sacrifice to stop
short at the frontiers of their own country. It is this admixture that
poisons patriotism, and makes it inferior, as a religion, to beliefs
which aim at the salvation of all mankind. We cannot avoid having more
love for our own country than for other countries, and there is no
reason why we should wish to avoid it, any more than we should wish to
love all individual men and women equally. But any adequate religion
will lead us to temper inequality of affection by love of justice, and
to universalize our aims by realizing the common needs of man. This
change was effected by Christianity in Judaism, and must be effected in
any merely national religion before it can be purged of evil.

In practice, patriotism has many other enemies to contend with.
Cosmopolitanism cannot fail to grow as men acquire more knowledge of
foreign countries by education and travel. There is also a kind of
individualism which is continually increasing, a realization that every
man ought to be as nearly free as possible to choose his own ends, not
compelled by a geographical accident to pursue ends forced upon him by
the community. Socialism, syndicalism, and anti-capitalist movements
generally, are against patriotism in their tendency, since they make
men aware that the present State is largely concerned in defending the
privileges of the rich, and that many of the conflicts between States
have their origin in the financial interests of a few plutocrats.
This kind of opposition is perhaps temporary, a mere incident in the
struggle of labor to acquire power. Australia, where labor feels its
triumph secure, is full of patriotism and militarism, based upon
determination to prevent foreign labor from sharing the benefits of a
privileged position. It is not unlikely that England might develop a
similar nationalism if it became a socialist State. But it is probable
that such nationalism would be purely defensive. Schemes of foreign
aggression, entailing great loss of life and wealth in the nation which
adopts them, would hardly be initiated except by those whose instincts
of dominion have been sharpened through the power derived from private
property and the institutions of the capitalist State.

The evil wrought in the modern world by the excessive power of the
State is very great, and very little recognized.

The chief harm wrought by the State is promotion of efficiency in
war. If all States increase their strength, the balance of power is
unchanged, and no one State has a better chance of victory than before.
And when the means of offense exist, even though their original purpose
may have been defensive, the temptation to use them is likely, sooner
or later, to prove overwhelming. In this way the very measures which
promoted security within the borders of the State promote insecurity
elsewhere. It is of the essence of the State to suppress violence
within and to facilitate it without. The State makes an entirely
artificial division of mankind and of our duties toward them: towards
one group we are bound by the law, towards the other only by the
prudence of highwaymen. The State is rendered evil by its exclusions,
and by the fact that, whenever it embarks upon aggressive war, it
becomes a combination of men for murder and robbery. The present system
is irrational, since external and internal anarchy must be both right
or both wrong. It is supported because, so long as others adopt it,
it is thought the only road to safety, and because it secures the
pleasures of triumph and dominion, which cannot be obtained in a good
community. If these pleasures were no longer sought, or no longer
possible to obtain, the problem of securing safety from invasion would
not be difficult.

Apart from war, the modern great State is harmful from its vastness
and the resulting sense of individual helplessness. The citizen who is
out of sympathy with the aims of the State, unless he is a man of very
rare gifts, cannot hope to persuade the State to adopt purposes which
seem to him better. Even in a democracy, all questions except a very
few are decided by a small number of officials and eminent men; and
even the few questions which are left to the popular vote are decided
by a diffused mass-psychology, not by individual initiative. This is
especially noticeable in a country like the United States, where, in
spite of democracy, most men have a sense of almost complete impotence
in regard to all large issues. In so vast a country the popular will
is like one of the forces of Nature, and seems nearly as much outside
the control of any one man. This state of things leads, not only in
America but in all large States, to something of the weariness and
discouragement that we associate with the Roman Empire. Modern States,
as opposed to the small city States of ancient Greece or medieval
Italy, leave little room for initiative, and fail to develop in most
men any sense of ability to control their political destinies. The
few men who achieve power in such States are men of abnormal ambition
and thirst for dominion, combined with skill in cajolery and subtlety
in negotiation. All the rest are dwarfed by knowledge of their own

A curious survival from the old monarchical idea of the State is the
belief that there is some peculiar wickedness in a wish to secede
on the part of any section of the population. If Ireland or Poland
desires independence, it is thought obvious that this desire must be
strenuously resisted, and any attempt to secure it is condemned as
“high treason.” The only instance to the contrary that I can remember
is the separation of Norway and Sweden, which was commended but not
imitated. In other cases, nothing but defeat in war has induced States
to part with territory: although this attitude is taken for granted, it
is not one which would be adopted if the State had better ends in view.
The reason for its adoption is that the chief end of almost all great
States is power, especially power in war. And power in war is often
increased by the inclusion of unwilling citizens. If the well-being
of the citizens were the end in view, the question whether a certain
area should be included, or should form a separate State, would be left
freely to the decision of that area. If this principle were adopted,
one of the main reasons for war would be obviated, and one of the most
tyrannical elements in the State would be removed.

The principal source of the harm done by the State is the fact that
power is its chief end. This is not the case in America, because
America is safe against aggression;[8] but in all other great nations
the chief aim of the State is to possess the greatest possible
amount of external force. To this end, the liberty of the citizens
is curtailed, and anti-militarist propaganda is severely punished.
This attitude is rooted in pride and fear: pride, which refuses to
be conciliatory, and fear, which dreads the results of foreign pride
conflicting with our own pride. It seems something of a historical
accident that these two passions, which by no means exhaust the
political passions of the ordinary man, should so completely determine
the external policy of the State. Without pride, there would be no
occasion for fear: fear on the part of one nation is due to the
supposed pride of another nation. Pride of dominion, unwillingness to
decide disputes otherwise than by force or the threat of force, is a
habit of mind greatly encouraged by the possession of power. Those
who have long been in the habit of exercising power become autocratic
and quarrelsome, incapable of regarding an equal otherwise than as a
rival. It is notorious that head masters’ conferences are more liable
to violent disagreements than most similar bodies: each head master
tries to treat the others as he treats his own boys; they resent such
treatment, and he resents their resentment. Men who have the habit
of authority are peculiarly unfit for friendly negotiation; but the
official relations of States are mainly in the hands of men with a
great deal of authority in their own country. This is, of course, more
particularly the case where there is a monarch who actually governs.
If is less true where there is a governing oligarchy, and still less
true where there is some approach to real democracy. But it is true to
a considerable extent in all countries, because Prime Ministers and
Foreign Secretaries are necessarily men in authority. The first step
towards remedying this state of things is a genuine interest in foreign
affairs on the part of the ordinary citizen, and an insistence that
national pride shall not be allowed to jeopardize his other interests.
During war, when he is roused, he is willing to sacrifice everything
to pride; but in quiet times he will be far more ready than men in
authority to realize that foreign affairs, like private concerns, ought
to be settled amicably according to principles, not brutally by force
or the threat of force.

The effect of personal bias in the men who actually compose the
Government may be seen very clearly in labor disputes. French
syndicalists affirm that the State is simply a product of capitalism, a
part of the weapons which capital employs in its conflict with labor.
Even in democratic States there is much to bear out this view. In
strikes it is common to order out the soldiers to coerce the strikers;
although the employers are much fewer, and much easier to coerce,
the soldiers are never employed against them. When labor troubles
paralyze the industry of a country, it is the men who are thought to be
unpatriotic, not the masters, though clearly the responsibility belongs
to both sides. The chief reason for this attitude on the part of
Governments is that the men composing them belong, by their success if
not by their origin, to the same class as the great employers of labor.
Their bias and their associates combine to make them view strikes
and lockouts from the standpoint of the rich. In a democracy public
opinion and the need of conciliating political supporters partially
correct these plutocratic influences, but the correction is always only
partial. And the same influences which warp the views of Governments
on labor questions also warp their views on foreign affairs, with the
added disadvantage that the ordinary citizen has much fewer means of
arriving at an independent judgment.

The excessive power of the State, partly through internal oppression,
but principally through war and the fear of war, is one of the chief
causes of misery in the modern world, and one of the main reasons for
the discouragement which prevents men from growing to their full mental
stature. Some means of curing this excessive power must be found if men
are not to be organized into despair, as they were in the Roman Empire.

The State has one purpose which is on the whole good, namely, the
substitution of law for force in the relations of men. But this
purpose can only be fully achieved by a world-State, without which
international relations cannot be made subject to law. And although
law is better than force, law is still not the best way of settling
disputes. Law is too static, too much on the side of what is decaying,
too little on the side of what is growing. So long as law is in theory
supreme, it will have to be tempered, from time to time, by internal
revolution and external war. These can only be prevented by perpetual
readiness to alter the law in accordance with the present balance of
forces. If this is not done, the motives for appealing to force will
sooner or later become irresistible. A world-State or federation of
States, if it is to be successful, will have to decide questions, not
by the legal maxims which would be applied by the Hague tribunal, but
as far as possible in the same sense in which they would be decided by
war. The function of authority should be to render the appeal to force
unnecessary, not to give decisions contrary to those which would be
reached by force.

This view may be thought by some to be immoral. It may be said that the
object of civilization should be to secure justice, not to give the
victory to the strong. But when this antithesis is allowed to pass,
it is forgotten that love of justice may itself set force in motion.
A Legislature which wishes to decide an issue in the same way as it
would be decided if there were an appeal to force will necessarily take
account of justice, provided justice is so flagrantly on one side that
disinterested parties are willing to take up the quarrel. If a strong
man assaults a weak man in the streets of London, the balance of force
is on the side of the weak man, because, even if the police did not
appear, casual passers-by would step in to defend him. It is sheer cant
to speak of a contest of might against right, and at the same time to
hope for a victory of the right. If the contest is really between might
and right, that _means_ that right will be beaten. What is obscurely
intended, when this phrase is used, is that the stronger side is only
rendered stronger by men’s sense of right. But men’s sense of right is
very subjective, and is only one factor in deciding the preponderance
of force. What is desirable in a Legislature is, not that it should
decide by its personal sense of right, but that it should decide in a
way which is felt to make an appeal to force unnecessary.

Having considered what the State ought not to do, I come now to what it
ought to do.

Apart from war and the preservation of internal order, there are
certain more positive functions which the State performs, and certain
others which it ought to perform.

We may lay down two principles as regards these positive functions.

First: there are matters in which the welfare of the whole community
depends upon the practically universal attainment of a certain minimum;
in such cases the State has the right to insist upon this minimum being

Secondly: there are ways in which, by insisting upon the maintenance of
law, the State, if it does nothing further, renders possible various
forms of injustice which would otherwise be prevented by the anger
of their victims. Such injustices ought, as far as possible, to be
prevented by the State.

The most obvious example of a matter where the general welfare
depends upon a universal minimum is sanitation and the prevention of
infectious diseases. A single case of plague, if it is neglected, may
cause disaster to a whole community. No one can reasonably maintain,
on general grounds of liberty, that a man suffering from plague ought
to be left free to spread infection far and wide. Exactly similar
considerations apply to drainage, notification of fevers, and kindred
matters. The interference with liberty remains an evil, but in some
cases it is clearly a smaller evil than the spread of disease which
liberty would produce. The stamping out of malaria and yellow fever by
destroying mosquitoes is perhaps the most striking example of the good
which can be done in this way. But when the good is small or doubtful,
and the interference with liberty is great, it becomes better to endure
a certain amount of preventable disease rather than suffer a scientific

Compulsory education comes under the same head as sanitation. The
existence of ignorant masses in a population is a danger to the
community; when a considerable percentage are illiterate, the whole
machinery of government has to take account of the fact. Democracy in
its modern form would be quite impossible in a nation where many men
cannot read. But in this case there is not the same need of absolute
universality as in the case of sanitary measures. The gipsies, whose
mode of life has been rendered almost impossible by the education
authorities, might well have been allowed to remain a picturesque
exception. But apart from such rather unimportant exceptions, the
argument for compulsory education is irresistible.

What the State does for the care of children at present is less than
what ought to be done, not more. Children are not capable of looking
after their own interests, and parental responsibility is in many
ways inadequate. It is clear that the State alone can insist upon the
children being provided with the minimum of knowledge and health which,
for the time being, satisfies the conscience of the community.

The encouragement of scientific research is another matter which
comes rightly within the powers of the State, because the benefits of
discoveries accrue to the community, while the investigations are
expensive and never individually certain of achieving any result. In
this matter, Great Britain lags behind all other civilized countries.

The second kind of powers which the State ought to possess are those
that aim at diminishing economic injustice. It is this kind that
has been emphasized by socialists. The law creates or facilitates
monopolies, and monopolies are able to exact a toll from the community.
The most glaring example is the private ownership of land. Railways
are at present controlled by the State, since rates are fixed by law;
and it is clear that if they were uncontrolled, they would acquire a
dangerous degree of power.[9] Such considerations, if they stood alone,
would justify complete socialism. But I think justice, by itself, is,
like law, too static to be made a supreme political principle: it does
not, when it has been achieved, contain any seeds of new life or any
impetus to development. For this reason, when we wish to remedy an
injustice, it is important to consider whether, in so doing, we shall
be destroying the incentive to some form of vigorous action which is
on the whole useful to the community. No such form of action, so far as
I can see, is associated with private ownership of land or of any other
source of economic rent; if this is the case, it follows that the State
ought to be the primary recipient of rent.

If all these powers are allowed to the State, what becomes of the
attempt to rescue individual liberty from its tyranny?

This is part of the general problem which confronts all those who still
care for the ideals which inspired liberalism, namely the problem of
combining liberty and personal initiative with organization. Politics
and economics are more and more dominated by vast organizations, in
face of which the individual is in danger of becoming powerless. The
State is the greatest of these organizations, and the most serious
menace to liberty. And yet it seems that many of its functions must be
extended rather than curtailed.

There is one way by which organization and liberty can be combined, and
that is, by securing power for voluntary organizations, consisting of
men who have chosen to belong to them because they embody some purpose
which all their members consider important, not a purpose imposed by
accident or outside force. The State, being geographical, cannot be a
wholly voluntary association, but for that very reason there is need
of a strong public opinion to restrain it from a tyrannical use of its
powers. This public opinion, in most matters, can only be secured by
combinations of those who have certain interests or desires in common.

The positive purposes of the State, over and above the preservation
of order, ought as far as possible to be carried out, not by the
State itself, but by independent organizations, which should be left
completely free so long as they satisfied the State that they were
not falling below a necessary minimum. This occurs to a certain
limited extent at present in regard to elementary education. The
universities, also, may be regarded as acting for the State in the
matter of higher education and research, except that in their case no
minimum of achievement is exacted. In the economic sphere, the State
ought to exercise control, but ought to leave initiative to others.
There is every reason to multiply opportunities of initiative, and to
give the greatest possible share of initiative to each individual,
for if this is not done there will be a general sense of impotence
and discouragement. There ought to be a constant endeavor to leave
the more positive aspects of government in the hands of voluntary
organizations, the purpose of the State being merely to exact
efficiency and to secure an amicable settlement of disputes, whether
within or without its own borders. And with this ought to be combined
the greatest possible toleration of exceptions and the least possible
insistence upon uniform system.

A good deal may be achieved through local government by trades as
well as by areas. This is the most original idea in syndicalism, and
it is valuable as a check upon the tyranny which the community may be
tempted to exercise over certain classes of its members. All strong
organizations which embody a sectional public opinion, such as trade
unions, coöperative societies, professions, and universities, are to be
welcomed as safeguards of liberty and opportunities for initiative. And
there is need of a strong public opinion in favor of liberty itself.
The old battles for freedom of thought and freedom of speech, which it
was thought had been definitively won, will have to be fought all over
again, since most men are only willing to accord freedom to opinions
which happen to be popular. Institutions cannot preserve liberty
unless men realize that liberty is precious and are willing to exert
themselves to keep it alive.

There is a traditional objection to every _imperium in imperio_, but
this is only the jealousy of the tyrant. In actual fact, the modern
State contains many organizations which it cannot defeat, except
perhaps on rare occasions when public opinion is roused against them.
Mr. Lloyd George’s long fight with the medical profession over the
Insurance Act was full of Homeric fluctuations of fortune. The Welsh
miners recently routed the whole power of the State, backed by an
excited nation. As for the financiers, no Government would dream
of a conflict with them. When all other classes are exhorted to
patriotism, they are allowed their 4½ per cent. and an increase of
interest on their consols. It is well understood on all sides that an
appeal to _their_ patriotism would show gross ignorance of the world.
It is against the traditions of the State to extort their money by
threatening to withdraw police protection. This is not due to the
difficulty of such a measure, but only to the fact that great wealth
wins genuine admiration from us all, and we cannot bear to think of a
very rich man being treated with disrespect.

The existence of strong organizations within the State, such as
trade unions, is not undesirable except from the point of view of
the official who wishes to wield unlimited power, or of the rival
organizations, such as federations of employers, which would prefer a
disorganized adversary. In view of the vastness of the State, most men
can find little political outlet for initiative except in subordinate
organizations formed for specific purposes. Without an outlet for
political initiative, men lose their social vigor and their interest
in public affairs: they become a prey to corrupt wire-pullers, or to
sensation-mongers who have the art of capturing a tired and vagrant
attention. The cure for this is to increase rather than diminish the
powers of voluntary organizations, to give every man a sphere of
political activity small enough for his interest and his capacity,
and to confine the functions of the State, as far as possible, to the
maintenance of peace among rival interests. The essential merit of
the State is that it prevents the internal use of force by private
persons. Its essential demerits are, that it promotes the external
use of force, and that, by its great size, it makes each individual
feel impotent even in a democracy. I shall return in a later lecture
to the question of preventing war. The prevention of the sense of
individual impotence cannot be achieved by a return to the small City
State, which would be as reactionary as a return to the days before
machinery. It must be achieved by a method which is in the direction of
present tendencies. Such a method would be the increasing devolution of
positive political initiative to bodies formed voluntarily for specific
purposes, leaving the State rather in the position of a federal
authority or a court of arbitration. The State will then confine itself
to insisting upon _some_ settlement of rival interests: its only
principle in deciding what is the right settlement will be an attempt
to find the measure most acceptable, on the whole, to all the parties
concerned. This is the direction in which democratic States naturally
tend, except in so far as they are turned aside by war or the fear of
war. So long as war remains a daily imminent danger, the State will
remain a Moloch, sacrificing sometimes the life of the individual, and
always his unfettered development, to the barren struggle for mastery
in the competition with other States. In internal as in external
affairs, the worst enemy of freedom is war.



In spite of the fact that most nations at most times, are at peace, war
is one of the permanent institutions of all free communities, just as
Parliament is one of our permanent institutions in spite of the fact
that it is not always sitting. It is war as a permanent institution
that I wish to consider: why men tolerate it; why they ought not to
tolerate it; what hope there is of their coming not to tolerate it; and
how they could abolish it if they wished to do so.

War is a conflict between two groups, each of which attempts to kill
and maim as many as possible of the other group in order to achieve
some object which it desires. The object is generally either power or
wealth. It is a pleasure to exercise authority over other men, and it
is a pleasure to live on the produce of other men’s labor. The victor
in war can enjoy more of these delights than the vanquished. But war,
like all other natural activities, is not so much prompted by the end
which it has in view as by an impulse to the activity itself. Very
often men desire an end, not on its own account, but because their
nature demands the actions which will lead to the end. And so it is
in this case: the ends to be achieved by war appear in prospect far
more important than they will appear when they are realized, because
war itself is a fulfilment of one side of our nature. If men’s actions
sprang from desires for what would in fact bring happiness, the purely
rational arguments against war would have long ago put an end to
it. What makes war difficult to suppress is that it springs from an
impulse, rather than from a calculation of the advantages to be derived
from war.

War differs from the employment of force by the police through the fact
that the actions of the police are ordered by a neutral authority,
whereas in war it is the parties to the dispute themselves who set
force in motion. This distinction is not absolute, since the State is
not always wholly neutral in internal disturbances. When strikers are
shot down, the State is taking the side of the rich. When opinions
adverse to the existing State are punished, the State is obviously one
of the parties to the dispute. And from the suppression of individual
opinion up to civil war all gradations are possible. But broadly
speaking, force employed according to laws previously laid down by
the community as a whole may be distinguished from force employed by
one community against another on occasions of which the one community
is the sole judge. I have dwelt upon this difference because I do not
think the use of force by the police can be wholly eliminated, and I
think a similar use of force in international affairs is the best hope
of permanent peace. At present, international affairs are regulated by
the principle that a nation must not intervene unless its interests
are involved: diplomatic usage forbids intervention for the mere
maintenance of international law. America may protest when American
citizens are drowned by German submarines, but must not protest when no
American citizens are involved. The case would be analogous in internal
affairs if the police would only interfere with murder when it happened
that a policeman had been killed. So long as this principle prevails in
the relations of States, the power of neutrals cannot be effectively
employed to prevent war.

In every civilized country two forces coöperate to produce war.
In ordinary times some men—usually a small proportion of the
population—are bellicose: they predict war, and obviously are not
unhappy in the prospect. So long as war is not imminent, the bulk of
the population pay little attention to these men, and do not actively
either support or oppose them. But when war begins to seem very near, a
war fever seizes hold of people, and those who were already bellicose
find themselves enthusiastically supported by all but an insignificant
minority. The impulses which inspire war fever are rather different
from those which make some men bellicose in ordinary times. Only
educated men are likely to be warlike at ordinary times, since they
alone are vividly aware of other countries or of the part which their
own nation might play in the affairs of the world. But it is only their
knowledge, not their nature, that distinguishes them from their more
ignorant compatriots.

To take the most obvious example, German policy, in recent years before
the war, was not averse from war, and not friendly to England. It is
worth while to try to understand the state of mind from which this
policy sprang.

The men who direct German policy are, to begin with, patriotic to an
extent which is almost unknown in France and England. The interests of
Germany appear to them unquestionably the only interests they need take
into account. What injury may, in pursuing those interests, be done to
other nations, what destruction may be brought upon populations and
cities, what irreparable damage may result to civilization, it is not
for them to consider. If they can confer what they regard as benefits
upon Germany, everything else is of no account.

The second noteworthy point about German policy is that its conception
of national welfare is mainly competitive. It is not the _intrinsic_
wealth of Germany, whether materially or mentally, that the rulers
of Germany consider important: it is the _comparative_ wealth in
the competition with other civilized countries. For this reason the
destruction of good things abroad appears to them almost as desirable
as the creation of good things in Germany. In most parts of the world
the French are regarded as the most civilized of nations: their art
and their literature and their way of life have an attraction for
foreigners which those of Germany do not have. The English have
developed political liberty, and the art of maintaining an Empire with
a minimum of coercion, in a way for which Germany, hitherto, has shown
no aptitude. These are grounds for envy, and envy wishes to destroy
what is good in other countries. German militarists, quite rightly,
judged that what was best in France and England would probably be
destroyed by a great war, even if France and England were not in the
end defeated in the actual fighting. I have seen a list of young French
writers killed on the battlefield; probably the German authorities have
also seen it, and have reflected with joy that another year of such
losses will destroy French literature for a generation—perhaps, through
loss of tradition, for ever. Every outburst against liberty in our more
bellicose newspapers, every incitement to persecution of defenseless
Germans, every mark of growing ferocity in our attitude, must be read
with delight by German patriots, as proving their success in robbing us
of our best, and in forcing us to imitate whatever is worst in Prussia.

But what the rulers of Germany have envied us most was power and
wealth—the power derived from command of the seas and the straits,
the wealth derived from a century of industrial supremacy. In both
these respects they feel that their deserts are higher than ours. They
have devoted far more thought and skill to military and industrial
organization. Their average of intelligence and knowledge is far
superior; their capacity for pursuing an attainable end, unitedly and
with forethought, is infinitely greater. Yet we, merely (as they think)
because we had a start in the race, have achieved a vastly larger
Empire than they have, and an enormously greater control of capital.
All this is unbearable; yet nothing but a great war can alter it.

Besides all these feelings, there is in many Germans, especially in
those who know us best, a hot hatred of us on account of our pride.
Farinata degli Uberti surveyed Hell “_come avesse lo Inferno in gran
dispitto_.” Just so, by German accounts, English officer prisoners
look round them among their captors—holding aloof, as though the enemy
were noxious, unclean creatures, toads or slugs or centipedes, which
a man does not touch willingly, and shakes off with loathing if he
is forced to touch them for a moment. It is easy to imagine how the
devils hated Farinata, and inflicted greater pains upon him than upon
his neighbors, hoping to win recognition by some slight wincing on his
part, driven to frenzy by his continuing to behave as if they did not
exist. In just the same way the Germans are maddened by our spiritual
immobility. At bottom we have regarded the Germans as one regards flies
on a hot day: they are a nuisance, one has to brush them off, but it
would not occur to one to be turned aside by them. Now that the initial
certainty of victory has faded, we begin to be affected inwardly by the
Germans. In time, if we continue to fail in our military enterprises,
we shall realize that they are human beings, not just a tiresome
circumstance. Then perhaps we shall hate them with a hatred which they
will have no reason to resent. And from such a hatred it will be only a
short journey to a genuine _rapprochement_.

The problem which must be solved, if the future of the world is to be
less terrible than its present, is the problem of preventing nations
from getting into the moods of England and Germany at the outbreak of
the war. These two nations as they were at that moment might be taken
as almost mythical representatives of pride and envy—cold pride and
hot envy. Germany declaimed passionately: “You, England, swollen and
decrepit, you overshadow my whole growth—your rotting branches keep
the sun from shining upon me and the rain from nourishing me. Your
spreading foliage must be lopped, your symmetrical beauty must be
destroyed, that I too may have freedom to grow, that my young vigor may
no longer be impeded by your decaying mass.” England, bored and aloof,
unconscious of the claims of outside forces, attempted absent-mindedly
to sweep away the upstart disturber of meditation; but the upstart was
not swept away, and remains so far with every prospect of making good
his claim. The claim and the resistance to it are alike folly. Germany
had no good ground for envy; we had no good ground for resisting
whatever in Germany’s demands was compatible with our continued
existence. Is there any method of averting such reciprocal folly in the

I think if either the English or the Germans were capable of thinking
in terms of individual welfare rather than national pride, they would
have seen that, at every moment during the war the wisest course would
have been to conclude peace at once, on the best terms that could have
been obtained. This course, I am convinced, would have been the wisest
for each separate nation, as well as for civilization in general. The
utmost evil that the enemy could inflict through an unfavorable peace
would be a trifle compared to the evil which all the nations inflict
upon themselves by continuing to fight. What blinds us to this obvious
fact is pride, the pride which makes the acknowledgment of defeat
intolerable, and clothes itself in the garb of reason by suggesting
all kinds of evils which are supposed to result from admitting defeat.
But the only real evil of defeat is humiliation, and humiliation is
subjective; we shall not feel humiliated if we become persuaded that
it was a mistake to engage in the war, and that it is better to pursue
other tasks not dependent upon world-dominion. If either the English or
the Germans could admit this inwardly, any peace which did not destroy
national independence could be accepted without real loss in the
self-respect which is essential to a good life.

The mood in which Germany embarked upon the war was abominable, but it
was a mood fostered by the habitual mood of England. We have prided
ourselves upon our territory and our wealth; we have been ready at all
times to defend by force of arms what we have conquered in India and
Africa. If we had realized the futility of empire, and had shown a
willingness to yield colonies to Germany without waiting for the threat
of force, we might have been in a position to persuade the Germans
that their ambitions were foolish, and that the respect of the world
was not to be won by an imperialist policy. But by our resistance we
showed that we shared their standards. We, being in possession, became
enamored of the _status quo_. The Germans were willing to make war to
upset the _status quo_; we were willing to make war to prevent its
being upset in Germany’s favor. So convinced were we of the sacredness
of the _status quo_ that we never realized how advantageous it was to
us, or how, by insisting upon it, we shared the responsibility for the
war. In a world where nations grow and decay, where forces change and
populations become cramped, it is not possible or desirable to maintain
the _status quo_ for ever. If peace is to be preserved, nations must
learn to accept unfavorable alterations of the map without feeling that
they must first be defeated in war, or that in yielding they incur a

It is the insistence of legalists and friends of peace upon the
maintenance of the _status quo_ that has driven Germany into
militarism. Germany had as good a right to an Empire as any other Great
Power, but could only acquire an Empire through war. Love of peace has
been too much associated with a static conception of international
relations. In economic disputes we all know that whatever is vigorous
in the wage-earning classes is opposed to “industrial peace,” because
the existing distribution of wealth is felt to be unfair. Those who
enjoy a privileged position endeavor to bolster up their claims by
appealing to the desire for peace, and decrying those who promote
strife between the classes. It never occurs to them that by opposing
changes without considering whether they are just, the capitalists
share the responsibility for the class war. And in exactly the same
way England shares the responsibility for Germany’s war. If actual war
is ever to cease there will have to be political methods of achieving
the results which now can only be achieved by successful fighting, and
nations will have voluntarily to admit adverse claims which appear just
in the judgment of neutrals.

It is only by some such admission, embodying itself in a Parliament
of the nations with full power to alter the distribution of territory,
that militarism can be permanently overcome. It may be that the present
war will bring, in the Western nations, a change of mood and outlook
sufficient to make such an institution possible. It may be that more
wars and more destruction will be necessary before the majority of
civilized men rebel against the brutality and futile destruction of
modern war. But unless our standards of civilization and our powers
of constructive thought are to be permanently lowered, I cannot doubt
that, sooner or later, reason will conquer the blind impulses which now
lead nations into war. And if a large majority of the Great Powers had
a firm determination that peace should be preserved, there would be
no difficulty in devising diplomatic machinery for the settlement of
disputes, and in establishing educational systems which would implant
in the minds of the young an ineradicable horror of the slaughter which
they are now taught to admire.

Besides the conscious and deliberate forces leading to war, there are
the inarticulate feelings of common men, which, in most civilized
countries, are always ready to burst into war fever at the bidding of
statesmen. If peace is to be secure, the readiness to catch war fever
must be somehow diminished. Whoever wishes to succeed in this must
first understand what war fever is and why it arises.

The men who have an important influence in the world, whether for
good or evil, are dominated as a rule by a threefold desire: they
desire, first, an activity which calls fully into play the faculties in
which they feel that they excel; secondly, the sense of successfully
overcoming resistance; thirdly, the respect of others on account of
their success. The third of these desires is sometimes absent: some
men who have been great have been without the “last infirmity,” and
have been content with their own sense of success, or merely with the
joy of difficult effort. But as a rule all three are present. Some
men’s talents are specialized, so that their choice of activities is
circumscribed by the nature of their faculties; other men have, in
youth, such a wide range of possible aptitudes that their choice is
chiefly determined by the varying degrees of respect which public
opinion gives to different kinds of success.

The same desires, usually in a less marked degree, exist in men who
have no exceptional talents. But such men cannot achieve anything
very difficult by their individual efforts; for them, as units, it is
impossible to acquire the sense of greatness or the triumph of strong
resistance overcome. Their separate lives are unadventurous and dull.
In the morning they go to the office or the plow, in the evening they
return tired and silent, to the sober monotony of wife and children.
Believing that security is the supreme good, they have insured against
sickness and death, and have found an employment where they have little
fear of dismissal and no hope of any great rise. But security, once
achieved, brings a Nemesis of ennui. Adventure, imagination, risk,
also have their claims; but how can these claims be satisfied by the
ordinary wage-earner? Even if it were possible to satisfy them, the
claims of wife and children have priority and must not be neglected.

To this victim of order and good organization the realization comes,
in some moment of sudden crisis, that he belongs to a nation, that his
nation may take risks, may engage in difficult enterprises, enjoy the
hot passion of doubtful combat, stimulate adventure and imagination
by military expeditions to Mount Sinai and the Garden of Eden. What
his nation does, in some sense, he does; what his nation suffers, he
suffers. The long years of private caution are avenged by a wild plunge
into public madness. All the horrid duties of thrift and order and
care which he has learnt to fulfil in private are thought not to apply
to public affairs: it is patriotic and noble to be reckless for the
nation, though it would be wicked to be reckless for oneself. The old
primitive passions, which civilization has denied, surge up all the
stronger for repression. In a moment imagination and instinct travel
back through the centuries, and the wild man of the woods emerges from
the mental prison in which he has been confined. This is the deeper
part of the psychology of the war fever.

But besides the irrational and instinctive element in the war
fever, there is always also, if only as a liberator of primitive
impulse, a certain amount of quasi-rational calculation and what is
euphemistically called “thought.” The war fever very seldom seizes a
nation unless it believes that it will be victorious. Undoubtedly,
under the influence of excitement, men over-estimate their chances
of success; but there is some proportion between what is hoped and
what a rational man would expect. Holland, though quite as humane as
England, had no impulse to go to war on behalf of Belgium, because
the likelihood of disaster was so obviously overwhelming. The London
populace, if they had known how the war was going to develop, would
not have rejoiced as they did on that August Bank Holiday long ago.
A nation which has had a recent experience of war, and has come to
know that a war is almost always more painful than it is expected
to be at the outset, becomes much less liable to war fever until a
new generation grows up. The element of rationality in war fever is
recognized by Governments and journalists who desire war, as may be
seen by their invariably minimizing the perils of a war which they
wish to provoke. At the beginning of the South African War Sir William
Butler was dismissed, apparently for suggesting that sixty thousand men
and three months might not suffice to subdue the Boer Republics. And
when the war proved long and difficult, the nation turned against those
who had made it. We may assume, I think, without attributing too great
a share to reason in human affairs, that a nation would not suffer from
war fever in a case where every sane man could see that defeat was
very probable.

The importance of this lies in the fact that it would make aggressive
war very unlikely if its chances of success were very small. If the
peace-loving nations were sufficiently strong to be obviously capable
of defeating the nations which were willing to wage aggressive war,
the peace-loving nations might form an alliance and agree to fight
jointly against any nation which refused to submit its claims to an
International Council. Before the present war we might have reasonably
hoped to secure the peace of the world in some such way; but the
military strength of Germany has shown that such a scheme has no great
chance of success at present. Perhaps at some not far distant date it
may be made more feasible by developments of policy in America.

The economic and political forces which make for war could be easily
curbed if the will to peace existed strongly in all civilized nations.
But so long as the populations are liable to war fever, all work for
peace must be precarious; and if war fever could not be aroused,
political and economic forces would be powerless to produce any long
or very destructive war. The fundamental problem for the pacifist is
to prevent the impulse towards war which seizes whole communities from
time to time. And this can only be done by far-reaching changes in
education, in the economic structure of society, and in the moral code
by which public opinion controls the lives of men and women.[10]

A great many of the impulses which now lead nations to go to war are
in themselves essential to any vigorous or progressive life. Without
imagination and love of adventure a society soon becomes stagnant and
begins to decay. Conflict, provided it is not destructive and brutal,
is necessary in order to stimulate men’s activities, and to secure the
victory of what is living over what is dead or merely traditional. The
wish for the triumph of one’s cause, the sense of solidarity with large
bodies of men, are not things which a wise man will wish to destroy. It
is only the outcome in death and destruction and hatred that is evil.
The problem is, to keep these impulses, without making war the outlet
for them.

All Utopias that have hitherto been constructed are intolerably dull.
Any man with any force in him would rather live in this world, with
all its ghastly horrors, than in Plato’s Republic or among Swift’s
Houyhnhnms. The men who make Utopias proceed upon a radically false
assumption as to what constitutes a good life. They conceive that it
is possible to imagine a certain state of society and a certain way of
life which should be once for all recognized as good, and should then
continue for ever and ever. They do not realize that much the greater
part of a man’s happiness depends upon activity, and only a very small
remnant consists in passive enjoyment. Even the pleasures which do
consist in enjoyment are only satisfactory, to most men, when they
come in the intervals of activity. Social reformers, like inventors of
Utopias, are apt to forget this very obvious fact of human nature. They
aim rather at securing more leisure, and more opportunity for enjoying
it, than at making work itself more satisfactory, more consonant with
impulse, and a better outlet for creativeness and the desire to employ
one’s faculties. Work, in the modern world, is, to almost all who
depend on earnings, mere work, not an embodiment of the desire for
activity. Probably this is to a considerable extent inevitable. But in
so far as it can be prevented something will be done to give a peaceful
outlet to some of the impulses which lead to war.

It would, of course, be easy to bring about peace if there were no
vigor in the world. The Roman Empire was pacific and unproductive; the
Athens of Pericles was the most productive and almost the most warlike
community known to history. The only form of production in which our
own age excels is science, and in science Germany, the most warlike
of Great Powers, is supreme. It is useless to multiply examples; but
it is plain that the very same vital energy which produces all that
is best also produces war and the love of war. This is the basis of
the opposition to pacifism felt by many men whose aims and activities
are by no means brutal. Pacifism, in practice, too often expresses
merely lack of force, not the refusal to use force in thwarting others.
Pacifism, if it is to be both victorious and beneficent, must find an
outlet, compatible with humane feeling, for the vigor which now leads
nations into war and destruction.

This problem was considered by William James in an admirable address on
“The Moral Equivalent of War,” delivered to a congress of pacifists
during the Spanish-American War of 1898. His statement of the problem
could not be bettered; and so far as I know, he is the only writer who
has faced the problem adequately. But his solution is not adequate;
perhaps no adequate solution is possible. The problem, however, is
one of degree: every additional peaceful outlet for men’s energies
diminishes the force which urges nations towards war, and makes war
less frequent and less fierce. And as a question of degree, it is
capable of more or less partial solutions.[11]

Every vigorous man needs some kind of contest, some sense of resistance
overcome, in order to feel that he is exercising his faculties. Under
the influence of economics, a theory has grown up that what men desire
is wealth; this theory has tended to verify itself, because people’s
actions are more often determined by what they think they desire than
by what they really desire. The less active members of a community
often do in fact desire wealth, since it enables them to gratify a
taste for passive enjoyment, and to secure respect without exertion.
But the energetic men who make great fortunes seldom desire the actual
money: they desire the sense of power through a contest, and the joy of
successful activity. For this reason, those who are the most ruthless
in making money are often the most willing to give it away; there are
many notorious examples of this among American millionaires. The only
element of truth in the economic theory that these men are actuated
by desire for money is this: owing to the fact that money is what is
_believed_ to be desirable, the making of money is recognized as the
test of success. What is desired is visible and indubitable success;
but this can only be achieved by being one of the few who reach a goal
which many men would wish to reach. For this reason, public opinion
has a great influence in directing the activities of vigorous men. In
America a millionaire is more respected than a great artist; this leads
men who might become either the one or the other to choose to become
millionaires. In Renaissance Italy great artists were more respected
than millionaires, and the result was the opposite of what it is in

Some pacifists and all militarists deprecate social and political
conflicts. In this the militarists are in the right, from their point
of view; but the pacifists seem to me mistaken. Conflicts of party
politics, conflicts between capital and labor, and generally all
those conflicts of principle which do not involve war, serve many
useful purposes, and do very little harm. They increase men’s interest
in public affairs, they afford a comparatively innocent outlet for
the love of contest, and they help to alter laws and institutions,
when changing conditions or greater knowledge create the wish for an
alteration. Everything that intensifies political life tends to bring
about a peaceful interest of the same kind as the interest which leads
to desire for war. And in a democratic community political questions
give every voter a sense of initiative and power and responsibility
which relieves his life of something of its narrow unadventurousness.
The object of the pacifist should be to give men more and more
political control over their own lives, and in particular to introduce
democracy into the management of industry, as the syndicalists advise.

The problem for the reflective pacifist is two-fold: how to keep his
own country at peace, and how to preserve the peace of the world. It
is impossible that the peace of the world should be preserved while
nations are liable to the mood in which Germany entered upon the
war—unless, indeed, one nation were so obviously stronger than all
others combined as to make war unnecessary for that one and hopeless
for all the others. As this war has dragged on its weary length,
many people must have asked themselves whether national independence
is worth the price that has to be paid for it. Would it not perhaps
be better to secure universal peace by the supremacy of one Power?
“To secure peace by a world federation”—so a submissive pacifist may
argue—“would require some faint glimmerings of reason in rulers and
peoples, and is therefore out of the question; but to secure it by
allowing Germany to dictate terms to Europe would be easy, in view of
Germany’s amazing military success. Since there is no other way of
ending war”—so our advocate of peace at any price would contend—“let
us adopt this way, which happens at the moment to be open to us.” It
is worth while to consider this view more attentively than is commonly

There is one great historic example of a long peace secured in this
way; I mean the Roman Empire. We in England boast of the _Pax
Britannica_ which we have imposed, in this way, upon the warring races
and religions in India. If we are right in boasting of this, if we have
in fact conferred a benefit upon India by enforced peace, the Germans
would be right in boasting if they could impose a _Pax Germanica_ upon
Europe. Before the war, men might have said that India and Europe
are not analogous, because India is less civilized than Europe; but
now, I hope, no one would have the effrontery to maintain anything so
preposterous. Repeatedly in modern history there has been a chance of
achieving European unity by the hegemony of a single State; but always
England, in obedience to the doctrine of the Balance of Power, has
prevented this consummation, and preserved what our statesmen have
called the “liberties of Europe.” It is this task upon which we are now
engaged. But I do not think our statesmen, or any others among us, have
made much effort to consider whether the task is worth what it costs.

In one case we were clearly wrong: in our resistance to revolutionary
France. If revolutionary France could have conquered the Continent and
Great Britain, the world would now be happier, more civilized, and
more free, as well as more peaceful. But revolutionary France was a
quite exceptional case, because its early conquests were made in the
name of liberty, against tyrants, not against peoples; and everywhere
the French armies were welcomed as liberators by all except rulers and
bigots. In the case of Philip II we were as clearly right as we were
wrong in 1793. But in both cases our action is not to be judged by some
abstract diplomatic conception of the “liberties of Europe,” but by the
ideals of the Power seeking hegemony, and by the probable effect upon
the welfare of ordinary men and women throughout Europe.

“Hegemony” is a very vague word, and everything turns upon the degree
of interference with liberty which it involves. There is a degree of
interference with liberty which is fatal to many forms of national
life; for example, Italy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
was crushed by the supremacy of Spain and Austria. If the Germans
were actually to annex French provinces, as they did in 1871, they
would probably inflict a serious injury upon those provinces, and make
them less fruitful for civilization in general. For such reasons
national liberty is a matter of real importance, and a Europe actually
governed by Germany would probably be very dead and unproductive. But
if “hegemony” merely means increased weight in diplomatic questions,
more coaling stations and possessions in Africa, more power of securing
advantageous commercial treaties, then it can hardly be supposed that
it would do any vital damage to other nations; certainly it would not
do so much damage as the present war is doing. I cannot doubt that,
before the war, a hegemony of this kind would have abundantly satisfied
the Germans. But the effect of the war, so far, has been to increase
immeasurably all the dangers which it was intended to avert. We have
now only the choice between certain exhaustion of Europe in fighting
Germany and possible damage to the national life of France by German
tyranny. Stated in terms of civilization and human welfare, not in
terms of national prestige, that is now in fact the issue.

Assuming that war is not ended by one State conquering all the
others, the only way in which it can be permanently ended is by a
world-federation. So long as there are many sovereign States, each with
its own Army, there can be no security that there will not be war.
There will have to be in the world only one Army and one Navy before
there will be any reason to think that wars have ceased. This means
that, so far as the military functions of the State are concerned,
there will be only one State, which will be world-wide.

The civil functions of the State—legislative, administrative, and
judicial—have no very essential connection with the military functions,
and there is no reason why both kinds of functions should normally be
exercised by the same State. There is, in fact, every reason why the
civil State and the military State should be different. The greater
modern States are already too large for most civil purposes, but
for military purposes they are not large enough, since they are not
world-wide. This difference as to the desirable area for the two kinds
of State introduces a certain perplexity and hesitation, when it is not
realized that the two functions have little necessary connection: one
set of considerations points towards small States, the other towards
continually larger States. Of course, if there were an international
Army and Navy, there would have to be some international authority
to set them in motion. But this authority need never concern itself
with any of the internal affairs of national States: it need only
declare the rules which should regulate their relations, and pronounce
judicially when those rules have been so infringed as to call for the
intervention of the international force. How easily the limit of the
authority could be fixed may be seen by many actual examples.

The civil and military State are often different in practice, for many
purposes. The South American Republics are sovereign for all purposes
except their relations with Europe, in regard to which they are subject
to the United States: in dealings with Europe, the Army and Navy of the
United States are their Army and Navy. Our self-governing Dominions
depend for their defense, not upon their own forces but upon our Navy.
Most Governments, nowadays, do not aim at formal annexation of a
country which they wish to incorporate, but only at a protectorate—that
is, civil autonomy subject to military control. Such autonomy is,
of course, in practice incomplete, because it does not enable the
“protected” country to adopt measures which are vetoed by the Power
in military control. But it may be very nearly complete, as in the
case of our self-governing Dominions. At the other extreme, it may
become a mere farce, as in Egypt. In the case of an alliance, there is
complete autonomy of the separate allied countries, together with what
is practically a combination of their military forces into one single

The great advantage of a large military State is that it increases the
area over which internal war is not possible except by revolution. If
England and Canada have a disagreement, it is taken as a matter of
course that a settlement shall be arrived at by discussion, not by
force. Still more is this the case if Manchester and Liverpool have a
quarrel, in spite of the fact that each is autonomous for many local
purposes. No one would have thought it reasonable that Liverpool should
go to war to prevent the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal,
although almost any two Great Powers would have gone to war over
an issue of the same relative importance. England and Russia would
probably have gone to war over Persia if they had not been allies; as
it is, they arrived by diplomacy at much the same iniquitous result as
they would otherwise have reached by fighting. Australia and Japan
would probably fight if they were both completely independent; but both
depend for their liberties upon the British Navy, and therefore they
have to adjust their differences peaceably.

The chief disadvantage of a large military State is that, when external
war occurs, the area affected is greater. The quadruple Entente forms,
for the present, one military State; the result is that, because
of a dispute between Austria and Serbia, Belgium is devastated and
Australians are killed in the Dardanelles. Another disadvantage is
that it facilitates oppression. A large military State is practically
omnipotent against a small State, and can impose its will, as England
and Russia did in Persia and as Austria-Hungary has been doing in
Serbia. It is impossible to make sure of avoiding oppression by any
purely mechanical guarantees; only a liberal and humane spirit can
afford a real protection. It has been perfectly possible for England
to oppress Ireland, in spite of democracy and the presence of Irish
Members at Westminster. Nor has the presence of Poles in the Reichstag
prevented the oppression of Prussian Poland. But democracy and
representative government undoubtedly make oppression less probable:
they afford a means by which those who might be oppressed can cause
their wishes and grievances to be publicly known, they render it
certain that only a minority can be oppressed, and then only if the
majority are nearly unanimous in wishing to oppress them. Also the
practice of oppression affords much more pleasure to the governing
classes, who actually carry it out, than to the mass of the population.
For this reason the mass of the population, where it has power, is
likely to be less tyrannical than an oligarchy or a bureaucracy.

In order to prevent war and at the same time preserve liberty it is
necessary that there should be only one military State in the world,
and that when disputes between different countries arise, it should
act according to the decision of a central authority. This is what
would naturally result from a federation of the world, if such a thing
ever came about. But the prospect is remote, and it is worth while to
consider why it is so remote.

The unity of a nation is produced by similar habits, instinctive
liking, a common history, and a common pride. The unity of a nation is
partly due to intrinsic affinities between its citizens, but partly
also to the pressure and contrast of the outside world: if a nation
were isolated, it would not have the same cohesion or the same fervor
of patriotism. When we come to alliances of nations, it is seldom
anything except outside pressure that produces solidarity. England
and America, to some extent, are drawn together by the same causes
which often make national unity: a (more or less) common language,
similar political institutions, similar aims in international politics.
But England, France, and Russia were drawn together solely by fear
of Germany; if Germany had been annihilated by a natural cataclysm,
they would at once have begun to hate one another, as they did before
Germany was strong. For this reason, the possibility of coöperation in
the present alliance against Germany affords no ground whatever for
hoping that all the nations of the world might coöperate permanently in
a peaceful alliance. The present motive for cohesion, namely a common
fear, would be gone, and could not be replaced by any other motive
unless men’s thoughts and purposes were very different from what they
are now.

The ultimate fact from which war results is not economic or political,
and does not rest upon any mechanical difficulty of inventing means
for the peaceful settlement of international disputes. The ultimate
fact from which war results is the fact that a large proportion of
mankind have an impulse to conflict rather than harmony, and can only
be brought to coöperate with others in resisting or attacking a common
enemy. This is the case in private life as well as in the relations of
States. Most men, when they feel themselves sufficiently strong, set to
work to make themselves feared rather than loved; the wish to gain the
good opinion of others is confined, as a rule, to those who have not
acquired secure power. The impulse to quarreling and self-assertion,
the pleasure of getting one’s own way in spite of opposition, is native
to most men. It is this impulse, rather than any motive of calculated
self-interest, which produces war, and causes the difficulty of
bringing about a World-State. And this impulse is not confined to one
nation; it exists, in varying degrees, in all the vigorous nations of
the world.

But although this impulse is strong, there is no reason why it should
be allowed to lead to war. It was exactly the same impulse which led to
duelling; yet now civilized men conduct their private quarrels without
bloodshed. If political contest within a World-State were substituted
for war, imagination would soon accustom itself to the new situation,
as it has accustomed itself to absence of duelling. Through the
influence of institutions and habits, without any fundamental change
in human nature, men would learn to look back upon war as we look upon
the burning of heretics or upon human sacrifice to heathen deities. If
I were to buy a revolver costing several pounds, in order to shoot my
friend with a view to stealing sixpence out of his pocket, I should
be thought neither very wise nor very virtuous. But if I can get
sixty-five million accomplices to join me in this criminal absurdity, I
become one of a great and glorious nation, nobly sacrificing the cost
of my revolver, perhaps even my life, in order to secure the sixpence
for the honor of my country. Historians, who are almost invariably
sycophants, will praise me and my accomplices if we are successful,
and say that we are worthy successors of the heroes who overthrew the
might of Imperial Rome. But if my opponents are victorious, if their
sixpences are defended at the cost of many pounds each and the lives
of a large proportion of the population, then historians will call me
a brigand (as I am), and praise the spirit and self-sacrifice of those
who resisted me.

War is surrounded with glamour, by tradition, by Homer and the Old
Testament, by early education, by elaborate myths as to the importance
of the issues involved, by the heroism and self-sacrifice, which
these myths call out. Jephthah sacrificing his daughter is a heroic
figure, but he would have let her live if he had not been deceived by
a myth. Mothers sending their sons to the battlefield are heroic, but
they are as much deceived as Jephthah. And, in both cases alike, the
heroism which issues in cruelty would be dispelled if there were not
some strain of barbarism in the imaginative outlook from which myths
spring. A God who can be pleased by the sacrifice of an innocent girl
could only be worshiped by men to whom the thought of receiving such
a sacrifice is not wholly abhorrent. A nation which believes that its
welfare can only be secured by suffering and inflicting hundreds of
thousands of equally horrible sacrifices, is a nation which has no very
spiritual conception of what constitutes national welfare. It would
be better a hundredfold to forgo material comfort, power, pomp, and
outward glory than to kill and be killed, to hate and be hated, to
throw away in a mad moment of fury the bright heritage of the ages.
We have learnt gradually to free our God from the savagery with which
the primitive Israelites and the Fathers endowed Him: few of us now
believe that it is His pleasure to torture most of the human race in an
eternity of hell-fire. But we have not yet learnt to free our national
ideals from the ancient taint. Devotion to the nation is perhaps the
deepest and most widespread religion of the present age. Like the
ancient religions, it demands its persecutions, its holocausts, its
lurid heroic cruelties; like them, it is noble, primitive, brutal, and
mad. Now, as in the past, religion, lagging behind private consciences
through the weight of tradition, steels the hearts of men against mercy
and their minds against truth. If the world is to be saved, men must
learn to be noble without being cruel, to be filled with faith and yet
open to truth, to be inspired by great purposes without hating those
who try to thwart them. But before this can happen, men must first face
the terrible realization that the gods before whom they have bowed down
were false gods and the sacrifices they have made were vain.



Among the many gloomy novelists of the realistic school, perhaps the
most full of gloom is Gissing. In common with all his characters, he
lives under the weight of a great oppression: the power of the fearful
and yet adored idol of Money. One of his typical stories is “Eve’s
Ransom,” where the heroine, with various discreditable subterfuges,
throws over the poor man whom she loves in order to marry the rich man
whose income she loves still better. The poor man, finding that the
rich man’s income has given her a fuller life and a better character
than the poor man’s love could have given her, decides that she has
done quite right, and that he deserves to be punished for his lack of
money. In this story, as in his other books, Gissing has set forth,
quite accurately, the actual dominion of money, and the impersonal
worship which it exacts from the great majority of civilized mankind.

Gissing’s facts are undeniable, and yet his attitude produces a revolt
in any reader who has vital passions and masterful desires. His worship
of money is bound up with his consciousness of inward defeat. And in
the modern world generally, it is the decay of life which has promoted
the religion of material goods; and the religion of material goods, in
its turn, has hastened the decay of life on which it thrives. The man
who worships money has ceased to hope for happiness through his own
efforts or in his own activities: he looks upon happiness as a passive
enjoyment of pleasures derived from the outside world. The artist or
the lover does not worship money in his moments of ardor, because
his desires are specific, and directed towards objects which only he
can create. And conversely, the worshiper of money can never achieve
greatness as an artist or a lover.

Love of money has been denounced by moralists since the world began.
I do not wish to add another to the moral denunciations, of which the
efficacy in the past has not been encouraging. I wish to show how the
worship of money is both an effect and a cause of diminishing vitality,
and how our institutions might be changed so as to make the worship
of money grow less and the general vitality grow more. It is not the
desire for money as a means to definite ends that is in question. A
struggling artist may desire money in order to have leisure for his
art, but this desire is finite, and can be satisfied fully by a very
modest sum. It is the _worship_ of money that I wish to consider: the
belief that all values may be measured in terms of money, and that
money is the ultimate test of success in life. This belief is held in
fact, if not in words, by multitudes of men and women, and yet it is
not in harmony with human nature, since it ignores vital needs and the
instinctive tendency towards some specific kind of growth. It makes
men treat as unimportant those of their desires which run counter to
the acquisition of money, and yet such desires are, as a rule, more
important to well-being than any increase of income. It leads men to
mutilate their own natures from a mistaken theory of what constitutes
success, and to give admiration to enterprises which add nothing to
human welfare. It promotes a dead uniformity of character and purpose,
a diminution in the joy of life, and a stress and strain which leaves
whole communities weary, discouraged, and disillusioned.

America, the pioneer of Western progress, is thought by many to display
the worship of money in its most perfect form. A well-to-do American,
who already has more than enough money to satisfy all reasonable
requirements, almost always continues to work at his office with
an assiduity which would only be pardonable if starvation were the

But England, except among a small minority, is almost as much given
over to the worship of money as America. Love of money in England
takes, as a rule, the form of snobbishly desiring to maintain a certain
social status, rather than of striving after an indefinite increase
of income. Men postpone marriage until they have an income enabling
them to have as many rooms and servants in their house as they feel
that their dignity requires. This makes it necessary for them while
they are young to keep a watch upon their affections, lest they should
be led into an imprudence: they acquire a cautious habit of mind, and
a fear of “giving themselves away,” which makes a free and vigorous
life impossible. In acting as they do they imagine that they are being
virtuous, since they would feel it a hardship for a woman to be asked
to descend to a lower social status than that of her parents, and a
degradation to themselves to marry a woman whose social status was not
equal to their own. The things of nature are not valued in comparison
with money. It is not thought a hardship for a woman to have to accept,
as her only experience of love, the prudent and limited attentions of
a man whose capacity for emotion has been lost during years of wise
restraint or sordid relations with women whom he did not respect.
The woman herself does not know that it is a hardship; for she, too,
has been taught prudence for fear of a descent in the social scale,
and from early youth she has had it instilled into her that strong
feeling does not become a young woman. So the two unite to slip through
life in ignorance of all that is worth knowing. Their ancestors were
not restrained from passion by the fear of hell-fire, but they are
restrained effectually by a worse fear, the fear of coming down in the

The same motives which lead men to marry late also lead them to limit
their families. Professional men wish to send their sons to a public
school, though the education they will obtain is no better than at a
grammar school, and the companions with whom they will associate are
more vicious. But snobdom has decided that public schools are best, and
from its verdict there is no appeal. What makes them the best is that
they are the most expensive. And the same social struggle, in varying
forms, runs through all classes except the very highest and the very
lowest. For this purpose men and women make great moral efforts, and
show amazing powers of self-control; but all their efforts and all
their self-control, being not used for any creative end, serve merely
to dry up the well-spring of life within them, to make them feeble,
listless, and trivial. It is not in such a soil that the passion which
produces genius can be nourished. Men’s souls have exchanged the
wilderness for the drawing-room: they have become cramped and petty
and deformed, like Chinese women’s feet. Even the horrors of war have
hardly awakened them from the smug somnambulism of respectability.
And it is chiefly the worship of money that has brought about this
deathlike slumber of all that makes men great.

In France the worship of money takes the form of thrift. It is not
easy to make a fortune in France, but an inherited competence is very
common, and where it exists the main purpose of life is to hand it
on undiminished, if not increased. The French _rentier_ is one of the
great forces in international politics: it is he through whom France
has been strengthened in diplomacy and weakened in war, by increasing
the supply of French capital and diminishing the supply of French men.
The necessity of providing a _dot_ for daughters, and the subdivision
of property by the law of inheritance, have made the family more
powerful, as an institution, than in any other civilized country. In
order that the family may prosper, it is kept small, and the individual
members are often sacrificed to it. The desire for family continuity
makes men timid and unadventurous: it is only in the organized
proletariat that the daring spirit survives which made the Revolution
and led the world in political thought and practice. Through the
influence of money, the strength of the family has become a weakness
to the nation by making the population remain stationary and even tend
to decline. The same love of safety is beginning to produce the same
effects elsewhere; but in this, as in many better things, France has
led the way.

In Germany the worship of money is more recent than in France, England,
and America; indeed, it hardly existed until after the Franco-Prussian
War. But it has been adopted now with the same intensity and
whole-heartedness which have always marked German beliefs. It is
characteristic that, as in France the worship of money is associated
with the family, so in Germany it is associated with the State. Liszt,
in deliberate revolt against the English economists, taught his
compatriots to think of economics in national terms, and the German
who develops a business is felt, by others as well as by himself, to
be performing a service to the State. Germans believe that England’s
greatness is due to industrialism and Empire, and that our success in
these is due to an intense nationalism. The apparent internationalism
of our Free Trade policy they regard as mere hypocrisy. They have set
themselves to imitate what they believe we really are, with only the
hypocrisy omitted. It must be admitted that their success has been
amazing. But in the process they have destroyed almost all that made
Germany of value to the world, and they have not adopted whatever of
good there may have been among us, since that was all swept aside in
the wholesale condemnation of “hypocrisy.” And in adopting our worst
faults, they have made them far worse by a system, a thoroughness, and
a unanimity of which we are happily incapable. Germany’s religion is
of great importance to the world, since Germans have a power of real
belief, and have the energy to acquire the virtues and vices which
their creed demands. For the sake of the world, as well as for the sake
of Germany, we must hope that they will soon abandon the worship of
wealth which they have unfortunately learnt from us.

Worship of money is no new thing, but it is a more harmful thing than
it used to be, for several reasons. Industrialism has made work more
wearisome and intense, less capable of affording pleasure and interest
by the way to the man who has undertaken it for the sake of money. The
power of limiting families has opened a new field for the operation
of thrift. The general increase in education and self-discipline has
made men more capable of pursuing a purpose consistently in spite of
temptations, and when the purpose is against life it becomes more
destructive with every increase of tenacity in those who adopt it. The
greater productivity resulting from industrialism has enabled us to
devote more labor and capital to armies and navies for the protection
of our wealth from envious neighbors, and for the exploitation of
inferior races, which are ruthlessly wasted by the capitalist régime.
Through the fear of losing money, forethought and anxiety eat away
men’s power of happiness, and the dread of misfortune becomes a greater
misfortune than the one which is dreaded. The happiest men and women,
as we can all testify from our own experience, are those who are
indifferent to money because they have some positive purpose which
shuts it out. And yet all our political thought, whether imperialist,
radical, or socialist, continues to occupy itself almost exclusively
with men’s economic desires, as though they alone had real importance.

In judging of an industrial system, whether the one under which we
live or one proposed by reformers, there are four main tests which
may be applied. We may consider whether the system secures (1) the
maximum of production, or (2) justice in distribution, or (3) a
tolerable existence for producers, or (4) the greatest possible
freedom and stimulus to vitality and progress. We may say, broadly,
that the present system aims only at the first of these objects, while
socialism aims at the second and third. Some defenders of the present
system contend that technical progress is better promoted by private
enterprise than it would be if industry were in the hands of the
State; to this extent they recognize the fourth of the objects we have
enumerated. But they recognize it only on the side of the goods and
the capitalist, not on the side of the wage-earner. I believe that the
fourth is much the most important of the objects to be aimed at, that
the present system is fatal to it, and that orthodox socialism might
well prove equally fatal.

One of the least questioned assumptions of the capitalist system is,
that production ought to be increased in amount by every possible
means: by new kinds of machinery, by employment of women and boys, by
making hours of labor as long as is compatible with efficiency. Central
African natives, accustomed to living on raw fruits of the earth and
defeating Manchester by dispensing with clothes, are compelled to
work by a hut tax which they can only pay by taking employment under
European capitalists. It is admitted that they are perfectly happy
while they remain free from European influences, and that industrialism
brings upon them, not only the unwonted misery of confinement, but
also death from diseases to which white men have become partially
immune. It is admitted that the best negro workers are the “raw
natives,” fresh from the bush, uncontaminated by previous experience of
wage-earning. Nevertheless, no one effectively contends that they ought
to be preserved from the deterioration which we bring, since no one
effectively doubts that it is good to increase the world’s production
at no matter what cost.

The belief in the importance of production has a fanatical
irrationality and ruthlessness. So long as something is produced, what
it is that is produced seems to be thought a matter of no account. Our
whole economic system encourages this view, since fear of unemployment
makes any kind of work a boon to wage-earners. The mania for increasing
production has turned men’s thoughts away from much more important
problems, and has prevented the world from getting the benefits it
might have got out of the increased productivity of labor.

When we are fed and clothed and housed, further material goods are
needed only for ostentation.[12] With modern methods, a certain
proportion of the population, without working long hours, could do all
the work that is really necessary in the way of producing commodities.
The time which is now spent in producing luxuries could be spent partly
in enjoyment and country holidays, partly in better education, partly
in work that is not manual or subserving manual work. We could, if we
wished, have far more science and art, more diffused knowledge and
mental cultivation, more leisure for wage-earners, and more capacity
for intelligent pleasures. At present not only wages, but almost all
earned incomes, can only be obtained by working much longer hours than
men ought to work. A man who earns £800 a year by hard work could not,
as a rule, earn £400 a year by half as much work. Often he could not
earn anything if he were not willing to work practically all day and
every day. Because of the excessive belief in the value of production,
it is thought right and proper for men to work long hours, and the
good that might result from shorter hours is not realized. And all the
cruelties of the industrial system, not only in Europe but even more
in the tropics, arouse only an occasional feeble protest from a few
philanthropists. This is because, owing to the distortion produced by
our present economic methods, men’s conscious desires, in such matters,
cover only a very small part, and that not the most important part, of
the real needs affected by industrial work. If this is to be remedied,
it can only be by a different economic system, in which the relation of
activity to needs will be less concealed and more direct.

The purpose of maximizing production will not be achieved in the long
run if our present industrial system continues. Our present system is
wasteful of human material, partly through damage to the health and
efficiency of industrial workers, especially when women and children
are employed, partly through the fact that the best workers tend to
have small families and that the more civilized races are in danger of
gradual extinction. Every great city is a center of race-deterioration.
For the case of London this has been argued with a wealth of
statistical detail by Sir H. Llewelyn Smith;[13] and it cannot easily
be doubted that it is equally true in other cases. The same is true of
material resources: the minerals, the virgin forests, and the newly
developed wheatfields of the world are being exhausted with a reckless
prodigality which entails almost a certainty of hardship for future

Socialists see the remedy in State ownership of land and capital,
combined with a more just system of distribution. It cannot be denied
that our present system of distribution is indefensible from every
point of view, including the point of view of justice. Our system of
distribution is regulated by law, and is capable of being changed
in many respects which familiarity makes us regard as natural and
inevitable. We may distinguish four chief sources of recognized legal
rights to private property: (1) a man’s right to what he has made
himself; (2) the right to interest on capital which has been lent;
(3) the ownership of land; (4) inheritance. These form a crescendo of
respectability: capital is more respectable than labor, land is more
respectable than capital, and any form of wealth is more respectable
when it is inherited than when it has been acquired by our own

A man’s right to the produce of his own labor has never, in fact,
had more than a very limited recognition from the law. The early
socialists, especially the English forerunners of Marx, used to insist
upon this right as the basis of a just system of distribution, but in
the complication of modern industrial processes it is impossible to
say what a man has produced. What proportion of the goods carried by a
railway should belong to the goods porters concerned in their journey?
When a surgeon saves a man’s life by an operation, what proportion of
the commodities which the man subsequently produces can the surgeon
justly claim? Such problems are insoluble. And there is no special
justice, even if they were soluble, in allowing to each man what he
himself produces. Some men are stronger, healthier, cleverer, than
others, but there is no reason for increasing these natural injustices
by the artificial injustices of the law. The principle recommends
itself partly as a way of abolishing the very rich, partly as a way of
stimulating people to work hard. But the first of these objects can be
better obtained in other ways, and the second ceases to be obviously
desirable as soon as we cease to worship money.

Interest arises naturally in any community in which private property is
unrestricted and theft is punished, because some of the most economical
processes of production are slow, and those who have the skill to
perform them may not have the means of living while they are being
completed. But the power of lending money gives such great wealth
and influence to private capitalists that unless strictly controlled
it is not compatible with any real freedom for the rest of the
population. Its effects at present, both in the industrial world and in
international politics, are so bad that it seems imperatively necessary
to devise some means of curbing its power.

Private property in land has no justification except historically
through power of the sword. In the beginning of feudal times, certain
men had enough military strength to be able to force those whom they
disliked not to live in a certain area. Those whom they chose to leave
on the land became their serfs, and were forced to work for them in
return for the gracious permission to stay. In order to establish law
in place of private force, it was necessary, in the main, to leave
undisturbed the rights which had been acquired by the sword. The land
became the property of those who had conquered it, and the serfs were
allowed to give rent instead of service. There is no justification for
private property in land, except the historical necessity to conciliate
turbulent robbers who would not otherwise have obeyed the law. This
necessity arose in Europe many centuries ago, but in Africa the
whole process is often quite recent. It is by this process, slightly
disguised, that the Kimberley diamond mines and the Rand gold mines
were acquired in spite of prior native rights. It is a singular example
of human inertia that men should have continued until now to endure
the tyranny and extortion which a small minority are able to inflict
by their possession of the land. No good to the community, of any
sort or kind, results from the private ownership of land. If men were
reasonable, they would decree that it should cease to-morrow, with no
compensation beyond a moderate life income to the present holders.

The mere abolition of rent would not remove injustice, since it would
confer a capricious advantage upon the occupiers of the best sites and
the most fertile land. It is necessary that there should be rent, but
it should be paid to the State or to some body which performs public
services; or, if the total rental were more than is required for such
purposes, it might be paid into a common fund and divided equally among
the population. Such a method would be just, and would not only help to
relieve poverty, but would prevent wasteful employment of land and the
tyranny of local magnates. Much that appears as the power of capital
is really the power of the landowner—for example, the power of railway
companies and mine-owners. The evil and injustice of the present system
are glaring, but men’s patience of preventable evils to which they are
accustomed is so great that it is impossible to guess when they will
put an end to this strange absurdity.

Inheritance, which is the source of the greater part of the unearned
income in the world, is regarded by most men as a natural right.
Sometimes, as in England, the right is inherent in the owner of
property, who may dispose of it in any way that seems good to him.
Sometimes, as in France, his right is limited by the right of his
family to inherit at least a portion of what he has to leave. But
neither the right to dispose of property by will nor the right of
children to inherit from parents has any basis outside the instincts of
possession and family pride.

There may be reasons for allowing a man whose work is exceptionally
fruitful—for instance, an inventor—to enjoy a larger income than is
enjoyed by the average citizen, but there can be no good reason for
allowing this privilege to descend to his children and grandchildren
and so on for ever. The effect is to produce an idle and exceptionally
fortunate class, who are influential through their money, and opposed
to reform for fear it should be directed against themselves. Their
whole habit of thought becomes timid, since they dread being forced
to acknowledge that their position is indefensible; yet snobbery and
the wish to secure their favor leads almost the whole middle-class to
ape their manners and adopt their opinions. In this way they become a
poison infecting the outlook of almost all educated people.

It is sometimes said that without the incentive of inheritance men
would not work so well. The great captains of industry, we are assured,
are actuated by the desire to found a family, and would not devote
their lives to unremitting toil without the hope of gratifying this
desire. I do not believe that any large proportion of really useful
work is done from this motive. Ordinary work is done for the sake of
a living, and the very best work is done for the interest of the work
itself. Even the captains of industry, who are thought (perhaps by
themselves as well as by others) to be aiming at founding a family,
are probably more actuated by love of power and by the adventurous
pleasure of great enterprises. And if there were some slight diminution
in the amount of work done, it would be well worth while in order
to get rid of the idle rich, with the oppression, feebleness, and
corruption which they inevitably introduce.

The present system of distribution is not based upon any principle.
Starting from a system imposed by conquest, the arrangements made by
the conquerors for their own benefit were stereotyped by the law, and
have never been fundamentally reconstructed. On what principles ought
the reconstruction to be based?

Socialism, which is the most widely advocated scheme of reconstruction,
aims chiefly at _justice_: the present inequalities of wealth are
unjust, and socialism would abolish them. It is not essential to
socialism that all men should have the same income, but it is essential
that inequalities should be justified, in each case, by inequality
of need or of service performed. There can be no disputing that the
present system is grossly unjust, and that almost all that is unjust
in it is harmful. But I do not think justice alone is a sufficient
principle upon which to base an economic reconstruction. Justice would
be secured if all were equally unhappy, as well as if all were equally
happy. Justice, by itself, when once realized, contains no source of
new life. The old type of Marxian revolutionary socialist never dwelt,
in imagination, upon the life of communities after the establishment
of the millennium. He imagined that, like the Prince and Princess in
a fairy story, they would live happily ever after. But that is not a
condition possible to human nature. Desire, activity, purpose, are
essential to a tolerable life, and a millennium, though it may be a joy
in prospect, would be intolerable if it were actually achieved.

The more modern socialists, it is true, have lost most of the religious
fervor which characterized the pioneers, and view socialism as a
tendency rather than a definite goal. But they still retain the view
that what is of most political importance to a man is his income,
and that the principal aim of a democratic politician ought to be
to increase the wages of labor. I believe this involves too passive
a conception of what constitutes happiness. It is true that, in the
industrial world, large sections of the population are too poor to
have any possibility of a good life; but it is not true that a good
life will come of itself with a diminution of poverty. Very few of the
well-to-do classes have a good life at present, and perhaps socialism
would only substitute the evils which now afflict the more prosperous
in place of the evils resulting from destitution.

In the existing labor movement, although it is one of the most vital
sources of change, there are certain tendencies against which reformers
ought to be on their guard. The labor movement is in essence a movement
in favor of justice, based upon the belief that the sacrifice of the
many to the few is not necessary now, whatever may have been the case
in the past. When labor was less productive and education was less
widespread, an aristocratic civilization may have been the only one
possible: it may have been necessary that the many should contribute
to the life of the few, if the few were to transmit and increase the
world’s possessions in art and thought and civilized existence. But
this necessity is past or rapidly passing, and there is no longer any
valid objection to the claims of justice. The labor movement is morally
irresistible, and is not now seriously opposed except by prejudice
and simple self-assertion. All living thought is on its side; what is
against it is traditional and dead. But although it itself is living,
it is not by any means certain that it will make for life.

Labor is led by current political thought in certain directions which
would become repressive and dangerous if they were to remain strong
after labor had triumphed. The aspirations of the labor movement are,
on the whole, opposed by the great majority of the educated classes,
who feel a menace, not only or chiefly to their personal comfort,
but to the civilized life in which they have their part, which
they profoundly believe to be important to the world. Owing to the
opposition of the educated classes, labor, when it is revolutionary and
vigorous, tends to despise all that the educated classes represent.
When it is more respectful, as its leaders tend to be in England, the
subtle and almost unconscious influence of educated men is apt to sap
revolutionary ardor, producing doubt and uncertainty instead of the
swift, simple assurance by which victory might have been won. The very
sympathy which the best men in the well-to-do classes extend to labor,
their very readiness to admit the justice of its claims, may have the
effect of softening the opposition of labor leaders to the _status
quo_, and of opening their minds to the suggestion that no fundamental
change is possible. Since these influences affect leaders much more
than the rank and file, they tend to produce in the rank and file a
distrust of leaders, and a desire to seek out new leaders who will be
less ready to concede the claims of the more fortunate classes. The
result may be in the end a labor movement as hostile to the life of the
mind as some terrified property-owners believe it to be at present.

The claims of justice, narrowly interpreted, may reinforce this
tendency. It may be thought unjust that some men should have larger
incomes or shorter hours of work than other men. But efficiency in
mental work, including the work of education, certainly requires more
comfort and longer periods of rest than are required for efficiency
in physical work, if only because mental work is not physiologically
wholesome. If this is not recognized, the life of the mind may suffer
through short-sightedness even more than through deliberate hostility.

Education suffers at present, and may long continue to suffer, through
the desire of parents that their children should earn money as soon
as possible. Every one knows that the half-time system, for example,
is bad; but the power of organized labor keeps it in existence. It is
clear that the cure for this evil, as for those that are concerned with
the population question, is to relieve parents of the expense of their
children’s education, and at the same time to take away their right to
appropriate their children’s earnings.

The way to prevent any dangerous opposition of labor to the life of
the mind is not to oppose the labor movement, which is too strong to
be opposed with justice. The right way is, to show by actual practice
that thought is useful to labor, that without thought its positive aims
cannot be achieved, and that there are men in the world of thought who
are willing to devote their energies to helping labor in its struggle.
Such men, if they are wise and sincere, can prevent labor from becoming
destructive of what is living in the intellectual world.

Another danger in the aims of organized labor is the danger of
conservatism as to methods of production. Improvements of machinery
or organization bring great advantages to employers, but involve
temporary and sometimes permanent loss to the wage-earners. For this
reason, and also from mere instinctive dislike of any change of habits,
strong labor organizations are often obstacles to technical progress.
The ultimate basis of all social progress must be increased technical
efficiency, a greater result from a given amount of labor. If labor
were to offer an effective opposition to this kind of progress, it
would in the long run paralyze all other progress. The way to overcome
the opposition of labor is not by hostility or moral homilies, but by
giving to labor the direct interest in economical processes which now
belongs to the employers. Here, as elsewhere, the unprogressive part of
a movement which is essentially progressive is to be eliminated, not
by decrying the whole movement but by giving it a wider sweep, making
it more progressive, and leading it to demand an even greater change
in the structure of society than any that it had contemplated in its

The most important purpose that political institutions can achieve is
to keep alive in individuals creativeness, vigor, vitality, and the
joy of life. These things existed, for example, in Elizabethan England
in a way in which they do not exist now. They stimulated adventure,
poetry, music, fine architecture, and set going the whole movement out
of which England’s greatness has sprung in every direction in which
England has been great. These things coexisted with injustice, but
outweighed it, and made a national life more admirable than any that is
likely to exist under socialism.

What is wanted in order to keep men full of vitality is opportunity,
not security. Security is merely a refuge from fear; opportunity is the
source of hope. The chief test of an economic system is not whether
it makes men prosperous, or whether it secures distributive justice
(though these are both very desirable), but whether it leaves men’s
instinctive growth unimpeded. To achieve this purpose, there are two
main conditions which it should fulfil: it should not cramp men’s
private affections, and it should give the greatest possible outlet
to the impulse of creation. There is in most men, until it becomes
atrophied by disuse, an instinct of constructiveness, a wish to make
something. The men who achieve most are, as a rule, those in whom
this instinct is strongest: such men become artists, men of science,
statesmen, empire-builders, or captains of industry, according to the
accidents of temperament and opportunity. The most beneficent and the
most harmful careers are inspired by this impulse. Without it, the
world would sink to the level of Tibet: it would subsist, as it is
always prone to do, on the wisdom of its ancestors, and each generation
would sink more deeply into a lifeless traditionalism.

But it is not only the remarkable men who have the instinct of
constructiveness, though it is they who have it most strongly. It is
almost universal in boys, and in men it usually survives in a greater
or less degree, according to the greater or less outlet which it is
able to find. Work inspired by this instinct is satisfying, even when
it is irksome and difficult, because every effort is as natural as
the effort of a dog pursuing a hare. The chief defect of the present
capitalistic system is that work done for wages very seldom affords
any outlet for the creative impulse. The man who works for wages has
no choice as to what he shall make: the whole creativeness of the
processes concentrate in the employer who orders the work to be done.
For this reason the work becomes a merely external means to a certain
result, the earning of wages. Employers grow indignant about the trade
union rules for limitation of output, but they have no right to be
indignant, since they do not permit the men whom they employ to have
any share in the purpose for which the work is undertaken. And so
the process of production, which should form one instinctive cycle,
becomes divided into separate purposes, which can no longer provide any
satisfaction of instinct for those who do the work.

This result is due to our industrial system, but it would not be
avoided by socialism. In a socialist community, the State would be
the employer, and the individual workman would have almost as little
control over his work as he has at present. Such control as he could
exercise would be indirect, through political channels, and would be
too slight and roundabout to afford any appreciable satisfaction. It is
to be feared that instead of an increase of self-direction, there would
only be an increase of mutual interference.

The total abolition of private capitalistic enterprise, which is
demanded by Marxian socialism, seems scarcely necessary. Most men who
construct sweeping systems of reform, like most of those who defend the
_status quo_, do not allow enough for the importance of exceptions and
the undesirability of rigid system. Provided the sphere of capitalism
is restricted, and a large proportion of the population are rescued
from its dominion, there is no reason to wish it wholly abolished. As a
competitor and a rival, it might serve a useful purpose in preventing
more democratic enterprises from sinking into sloth and technical
conservatism. But it is of the very highest importance that capitalism
should become the exception rather than the rule, and that the bulk of
the world’s industry should be conducted on a more democratic system.

Much of what is to be said against militarism in the State is also
to be said against capitalism in the economic sphere. Economic
organizations, in the pursuit of efficiency, grow larger and larger,
and there is no possibility of reversing this process. The causes of
their growth are technical, and large organizations must be accepted
as an essential part of civilized society. But there is no reason
why their government should be centralized and monarchical. The
present economic system, by robbing most men of initiative, is one
of the causes of the universal weariness which devitalizes urban and
industrial populations, making them perpetually seek excitement, and
leading them to welcome even the outbreak of war as a relief from the
dreary monotony of their daily lives.

If the vigor of the nation is to be preserved, if we are to retain any
capacity for new ideas, if we are not to sink into a Chinese condition
of stereotyped immobility, the monarchical organization of industry
must be swept away. All large businesses must become democratic and
federal in their government. The whole wage-earning system is an
abomination, not only because of the social injustice which it causes
and perpetuates, but also because it separates the man who does the
work from the purpose for which the work is done. The whole of the
controlling purpose is concentrated in the capitalist; the purpose of
the wage-earner is not the produce, but the wages. The purpose of the
capitalist is to secure the maximum of work for the minimum of wages;
the purpose of the wage-earner is to secure the maximum of wages for
the minimum of work. A system involving this essential conflict of
interests cannot be expected to work smoothly or successfully, or to
produce a community with any pride in efficiency.

Two movements exist, one already well advanced, the other in its
infancy, which seem capable, between them, of effecting most of what
is needed. The two movements I mean are the coöperative movement and
syndicalism. The coöperative movement is capable of replacing the wage
system over a very wide field, but it is not easy to see how it could
be applied to such things as railways. It is just in these cases that
the principles of syndicalism are most easily applicable.

If organization is not to crush individuality, membership of an
organization ought to be voluntary, not compulsory, and ought always
to carry with it a voice in the management. This is not the case with
economic organizations, which give no opportunity for the pride and
pleasure that men find in an activity of their own choice, provided it
is not utterly monotonous.

It must be admitted, however, that much of the mechanical work which is
necessary in industry is probably not capable of being made interesting
in itself. But it will seem less tedious than it does at present if
those who do it have a voice in the management of their industry.
And men who desire leisure for other occupations might be given the
opportunity of doing uninteresting work during a few hours of the day
for a low wage; this would give an opening to all who wished for some
activity not immediately profitable to themselves. When everything
that is possible has been done to make work interesting, the residue
will have to be made endurable, as almost all work is at present, by
the inducement of rewards outside the hours of labor. But if these
rewards are to be satisfactory, it is essential that the uninteresting
work should not necessarily absorb a man’s whole energies, and that
opportunities should exist for more or less continuous activities
during the remaining hours. Such a system might be an immeasurable
boon to artists, men of letters, and others who produce for their own
satisfaction works which the public does not value soon enough to
secure a living for the producers; and apart from such rather rare
cases, it might provide an opportunity for young men and women with
intellectual ambitions to continue their education after they have
left school, or to prepare themselves for careers which require an
exceptionally long training.

The evils of the present system result from the separation between the
several interests of consumer, producer, and capitalist. No one of
these three has the same interests as the community or as either of
the other two. The coöperative system amalgamates the interests of
consumer and capitalist; syndicalism would amalgamate the interests
of producer and capitalist. Neither amalgamates all three, or makes
the interests of those who direct industry quite identical with those
of the community. Neither, therefore, would wholly prevent industrial
strife, or obviate the need of the State as arbitrator. But either
would be better than the present system, and probably a mixture of
both would cure most of the evils of industrialism as it exists now.
It is surprising that, while men and women have struggled to achieve
political democracy, so little has been done to introduce democracy in
industry. I believe incalculable benefits might result from industrial
democracy, either on the coöperative model or with recognition of a
trade or industry as a unit for purposes of government, with some
kind of Home Rule such as syndicalism aims at securing. There is
no reason why all governmental units should be geographical: this
system was necessary in the past because of the slowness of means of
communication, but it is not necessary now. By some such system many
men might come to feel again a pride in their work, and to find again
that outlet for the creative impulse which is now denied to all but a
fortunate few. Such a system requires the abolition of the land-owner
and the restriction of the capitalist, but does not entail equality of
earnings. And unlike socialism, it is not a static or final system: it
is hardly more than a framework for energy and initiative. It is only
by some such method, I believe, that the free growth of the individual
can be reconciled with the huge technical organizations which have been
rendered necessary by industrialism.



No political theory is adequate unless it is applicable to children as
well as to men and women. Theorists are mostly childless, or, if they
have children, they are carefully screened from the disturbances which
would be caused by youthful turmoil. Some of them have written books on
education, but without, as a rule, having any actual children present
to their minds while they wrote. Those educational theorists who have
had a knowledge of children, such as the inventors of Kindergarten and
the Montessori system,[14] have not always had enough realization of
the ultimate goal of education to be able to deal successfully with
advanced instruction. I have not the knowledge either of children or
of education which would enable me to supply whatever defects there
may be in the writings of others. But some questions, concerning
education as a political institution, are involved in any hope of
social reconstruction, and are not usually considered by writers on
educational theory. It is these questions that I wish to discuss.

The power of education in forming character and opinion is very
great and very generally recognized. The genuine beliefs, though not
usually the professed precepts, of parents and teachers are almost
unconsciously acquired by most children; and even if they depart
from these beliefs in later life, something of them remains deeply
implanted, ready to emerge in a time of stress or crisis. Education is,
as a rule, the strongest force on the side of what exists and against
fundamental change: threatened institutions, while they are still
powerful, possess themselves of the educational machine, and instil a
respect for their own excellence into the malleable minds of the young.
Reformers retort by trying to oust their opponents from their position
of vantage. The children themselves are not considered by either party;
they are merely so much material, to be recruited into one army or the
other. If the children themselves were considered, education would not
aim at making them belong to this party or that, but at enabling them
to choose intelligently between the parties; it would aim at making
them able to think, not at making them think what their teachers think.
Education as a political weapon could not exist if we respected the
rights of children. If we respected the rights of children, we should
educate them so as to give them the knowledge and the mental habits
required for forming independent opinions; but education as a political
institution endeavors to form habits and to circumscribe knowledge in
such a way as to make one set of opinions inevitable.

The two principles of _justice_ and _liberty_, which cover a very great
deal of the social reconstruction required, are not by themselves
sufficient where education is concerned. Justice, in the literal sense
of equal rights, is obviously not wholly possible as regards children.
And as for liberty, it is, to begin with, essentially negative: it
condemns all avoidable interference with freedom, without giving a
positive principle of construction. But education is essentially
constructive, and requires some positive conception of what constitutes
a good life. And although liberty is to be respected in education as
much as is compatible with instruction, and although a very great
deal more liberty than is customary can be allowed without loss to
instruction, yet it is clear that some departure from complete liberty
is unavoidable if children are to be taught anything, except in the
case of unusually intelligent children who are kept isolated from more
normal companions. This is one reason for the great responsibility
which rests upon teachers: the children must, necessarily, be more
or less at the mercy of their elders, and cannot make themselves
the guardians of their own interests. Authority in education is to
some extent unavoidable, and those who educate have to find a way of
exercising authority in accordance with the _spirit_ of liberty.

Where authority is unavoidable, what is needed is _reverence_. A man
who is to educate really well, and is to make the young grow and
develop into their full stature, must be filled through and through
with the spirit of reverence. It is reverence towards others that
is lacking in those who advocate machine-made cast-iron systems:
militarism, capitalism, Fabian scientific organization, and all the
other prisons into which reformers and reactionaries try to force
the human spirit. In education, with its codes of rules emanating
from a Government office, its large classes and fixed curriculum and
overworked teachers, its determination to produce a dead level of glib
mediocrity, the lack of reverence for the child is all but universal.
Reverence requires imagination and vital warmth; it requires most
imagination in respect of those who have least actual achievement or
power. The child is weak and superficially foolish, the teacher is
strong, and in an every-day sense wiser than the child. The teacher
without reverence, or the bureaucrat without reverence, easily despises
the child for these outward inferiorities. He thinks it is his duty
to “mold” the child: in imagination he is the potter with the clay.
And so he gives to the child some unnatural shape, which hardens with
age, producing strains and spiritual dissatisfactions, out of which
grow cruelty and envy, and the belief that others must be compelled to
undergo the same distortions.

Tho man who has reverence will not think it his duty to “mold” the
young. He feels in all that lives, but especially in human beings, and
most of all in children, something sacred, indefinable, unlimited,
something individual and strangely precious, the growing principle of
life, an embodied fragment of the dumb striving of the world. In the
presence of a child he feels an unaccountable humility—a humility not
easily defensible on any rational ground, and yet somehow nearer to
wisdom than the easy self-confidence of many parents and teachers. The
outward helplessness of the child and the appeal of dependence make him
conscious of the responsibility of a trust. His imagination shows him
what the child may become, for good or evil, how its impulses may be
developed or thwarted, how its hopes must be dimmed and the life in it
grow less living, how its trust will be bruised and its quick desires
replaced by brooding will. All this gives him a longing to help the
child in its own battle; he would equip and strengthen it, not for some
outside end proposed by the State or by any other impersonal authority,
but for the ends which the child’s own spirit is obscurely seeking.
The man who feels this can wield the authority of an educator without
infringing the principle of liberty.

It is not in a spirit of reverence that education is conducted by
States and Churches and the great institutions that are subservient to
them. What is considered in education is hardly ever the boy or girl,
the young man or young woman, but almost always, in some form, the
maintenance of the existing order. When the individual is considered,
it is almost exclusively with a view to worldly success—making money
or achieving a good position. To be ordinary, and to acquire the art
of getting on, is the ideal which is set before the youthful mind,
except by a few rare teachers who have enough energy of belief to break
through the system within which they are expected to work. Almost all
education has a political motive: it aims at strengthening some group,
national or religious or even social, in the competition with other
groups. It is this motive, in the main, which determines the subjects
taught, the knowledge offered and the knowledge withheld, and also
decides what mental habits the pupils are expected to acquire. Hardly
anything is done to foster the inward growth of mind and spirit; in
fact, those who have had most education are very often atrophied in
their mental and spiritual life, devoid of impulse, and possessing only
certain mechanical aptitudes which take the place of living thought.

Some of the things which education achieves at present must continue to
be achieved by education in any civilized country. All children must
continue to be taught how to read and write, and some must continue
to acquire the knowledge needed for such professions as medicine or
law or engineering. The higher education required for the sciences
and the arts is necessary for those to whom it is suited. Except in
history and religion and kindred matters, the actual instruction is
only inadequate, not positively harmful. The instruction might be given
in a more liberal spirit, with more attempt to show its ultimate uses;
and of course much of it is traditional and dead. But in the main it is
necessary, and would have to form a part of any educational system.

It is in history and religion and other controversial subjects that
the actual instruction is positively harmful. These subjects touch the
interests by which schools are maintained; and the interests maintain
the schools in order that certain views on these subjects may be
instilled. History, in every country, is so taught as to magnify that
country: children learn to believe that their own country has always
been in the right and almost always victorious, that it has produced
almost all the great men, and that it is in all respects superior to
all other countries. Since these beliefs are flattering, they are
easily absorbed, and hardly ever dislodged from instinct by later

To take a simple and almost trivial example: the facts about the battle
of Waterloo are known in great detail and with minute accuracy; but
the facts as taught in elementary schools will be widely different in
England, France, and Germany. The ordinary English boy imagines that
the Prussians played hardly any part; the ordinary German boy imagines
that Wellington was practically defeated when the day was retrieved
by Blücher’s gallantry. If the facts were taught accurately in both
countries, national pride would not be fostered to the same extent,
neither nation would feel so certain of victory in the event of war,
and the willingness to fight would be diminished. It is this result
which has to be prevented. Every State wishes to promote national
pride, and is conscious that this cannot be done by unbiased history.
The defenseless children are taught by distortions and suppressions and
suggestions. The false ideas as to the history of the world which are
taught in the various countries are of a kind which encourages strife
and serves to keep alive a bigoted nationalism. If good relations
between States were desired, one of the first steps ought to be to
submit all teaching of history to an international commission, which
should produce neutral textbooks free from the patriotic bias which is
now demanded everywhere.[15]

Exactly the same thing applies to religion. Elementary schools are
practically always in the hands either of some religious body or of a
State which has a certain attitude towards religion. A religious body
exists through the fact that its members all have certain definite
beliefs on subjects as to which the truth is not ascertainable. Schools
conducted by religious bodies have to prevent the young, who are often
inquiring by nature, from discovering that these definite beliefs are
opposed by others which are no more unreasonable, and that many of the
men best qualified to judge think that there is no good evidence in
favor of any definite belief. When the State is militantly secular, as
in France, State schools become as dogmatic as those that are in the
hands of the Churches (I understand that the word “God” must not be
mentioned in a French elementary school). The result in all these cases
is the same: free inquiry is checked, and on the most important matter
in the world the child is met with dogma or with stony silence.

It is not only in elementary education that these evils exist. In more
advanced education they take subtler forms, and there is more attempt
to conceal them, but they are still present. Eton and Oxford set a
certain stamp upon a man’s mind, just as a Jesuit College does. It
can hardly be said that Eton and Oxford have a _conscious_ purpose,
but they have a purpose which is none the less strong and effective
for not being formulated. In almost all who have been through them
they produce a worship of “good form,” which is as destructive to life
and thought as the medieval Church. “Good form” is quite compatible
with a superficial open-mindedness, a readiness to hear all sides,
and a certain urbanity towards opponents. But it is not compatible
with fundamental open-mindedness, or with any inward readiness to give
weight to the other side. Its essence is the assumption that what
is most important is a certain kind of behavior, a behavior which
minimizes friction between equals and delicately impresses inferiors
with a conviction of their own crudity. As a political weapon for
preserving the privileges of the rich in a snobbish democracy it is
unsurpassable. As a means of producing an agreeable social _milieu_ for
those who have money with no strong beliefs or unusual desires it has
some merit. In every other respect it is abominable.

The evils of “good form” arise from two sources: its perfect assurance
of its own rightness, and its belief that correct manners are more to
be desired than intellect, or artistic creation, or vital energy, or
any of the other sources of progress in the world. Perfect assurance,
by itself, is enough to destroy all mental progress in those who have
it. And when it is combined with contempt for the angularities and
awkwardnesses that are almost invariably associated with great mental
power, it becomes a source of destruction to all who come in contact
with it. “Good form” is itself dead and incapable of growth; and by its
attitude to those who are without it it spreads its own death to many
who might otherwise have life. The harm which it has done to well-to-do
Englishmen, and to men whose abilities have led the well-to-do to
notice them, is incalculable.

The prevention of free inquiry is unavoidable so long as the purpose
of education is to produce belief rather than thought, to compel the
young to hold positive opinions on doubtful matters rather than to
let them see the doubtfulness and be encouraged to independence of
mind. Education ought to foster the wish for truth, not the conviction
that some particular creed is the truth. But it is creeds that hold
men together in fighting organizations: Churches, States, political
parties. It is intensity of belief in a creed that produces efficiency
in fighting: victory comes to those who feel the strongest certainty
about matters on which doubt is the only rational attitude. To produce
this intensity of belief and this efficiency in fighting, the child’s
nature is warped, and its free outlook is cramped, by cultivating
inhibitions as a check to the growth of new ideas. In those whose
minds are not very active the result is the omnipotence of prejudice;
while the few whose thought cannot be wholly killed become cynical,
intellectually hopeless, destructively critical, able to make all
that is living seem foolish, unable themselves to supply the creative
impulses which they destroy in others.

The success in fighting which is achieved by suppressing freedom of
thought is brief and very worthless. In the long run mental vigor is
as essential to success as it is to a good life. The conception of
education as a form of drill, a means of producing unanimity through
slavishness, is very common, and is defended chiefly on the ground
that it leads to victory. Those who enjoy parallels from ancient
history will point to the victory of Sparta over Athens to enforce
their moral. But it is Athens that has had power over men’s thoughts
and imaginations, not Sparta: any one of us, if we could be born again
into some past epoch, would rather be born an Athenian than a Spartan.
And in the modern world so much intellect is required in practical
affairs that even the external victory is more likely to be won by
intelligence than by docility. Education in credulity leads by quick
stages to mental decay; it is only by keeping alive the spirit of free
inquiry that the indispensable minimum of progress can be achieved.

Certain mental habits are commonly instilled by those who are engaged
in educating: obedience and discipline, ruthlessness in the struggle
for worldly success, contempt towards opposing groups, and an
unquestioning credulity, a passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom.
All these habits are against life. Instead of obedience and discipline,
we ought to aim at preserving independence and impulse. Instead of
ruthlessness, education should try to develop justice in thought.
Instead of contempt, it ought to instil reverence, and the attempt at
understanding; towards the opinions of others it ought to produce, not
necessarily acquiescence, but only such opposition as is combined with
imaginative apprehension and a clear realization of the grounds for
opposition. Instead of credulity, the object should be to stimulate
constructive doubt, the love of mental adventure, the sense of worlds
to conquer by enterprise and boldness in thought. Contentment with the
_status quo_, and subordination of the individual pupil to political
aims, owing to the indifference to the things of the mind, are the
immediate causes of these evils; but beneath these causes there is one
more fundamental, the fact that education is treated as a means of
acquiring power over the pupil, not as a means of nourishing his own
growth. It is in this that lack of reverence shows itself; and it is
only by more reverence that a fundamental reform can be effected.

Obedience and discipline are supposed to be indispensable if order is
to be kept in a class, and if any instruction is to be given. To some
extent this is true; but the extent is much less than it is thought
to be by those who regard obedience and discipline as in themselves
desirable. Obedience, the yielding of one’s will to outside direction,
is the counterpart of authority. Both may be necessary in certain
cases. Refractory children, lunatics, and criminals may require
authority, and may need to be forced to obey. But in so far as this is
necessary it is a misfortune: what is to be desired is the free choice
of ends with which it is not necessary to interfere. And educational
reformers have shown that this is far more possible than our fathers
would ever have believed.[16]

What makes obedience seem necessary in schools is the large classes
and overworked teachers demanded by a false economy. Those who have no
experience of teaching are incapable of imagining the expense of spirit
entailed by any really living instruction. They think that teachers can
reasonably be expected to work as many hours as bank clerks. Intense
fatigue and irritable nerves are the result, and an absolute necessity
of performing the day’s task mechanically. But the task cannot be
performed mechanically except by exacting obedience.

If we took education seriously, and thought it as important to keep
alive the minds of children as to secure victory in war, we should
conduct education quite differently: we should make sure of achieving
the end, even if the expense were a hundredfold greater than it is. To
many men and women a small amount of teaching is a delight, and can be
done with a fresh zest and life which keeps most pupils interested
without any need of discipline. The few who do not become interested
might be separated from the rest, and given a different kind of
instruction. A teacher ought to have only as much teaching as can be
done, on most days, with actual pleasure in the work, and with an
awareness of the pupil’s mental needs. The result would be a relation
of friendliness instead of hostility between teacher and pupil, a
realization on the part of most pupils that education serves to develop
their own lives and is not merely an outside imposition, interfering
with play and demanding many hours of sitting still. All that is
necessary to this end is a (greater expenditure of money), to secure
teachers with more leisure and with a natural love of teaching.

Discipline, as it exists in schools, is very largely an evil. There is
a kind of discipline which is necessary to almost all achievement, and
which perhaps is not sufficiently valued by those who react against the
purely external discipline of traditional methods. The desirable kind
of discipline is the kind that comes from within, which consists in the
power of pursuing a distant object steadily, foregoing and suffering
many things on the way. This involves the subordination of impulse
to will, the power of a directing action by large creative desires
even at moments when they are not vividly alive. Without this, no
serious ambition, good or bad, can be realized, no consistent purpose
can dominate. This kind of discipline is very necessary, but can only
result from strong desires for ends not immediately attainable, and can
only be produced by education if education fosters such desires, which
it seldom does at present. Such discipline springs from one’s own will,
not from outside authority. It is not this kind which is sought in most
schools, and it is not this kind which seems to me an evil.

Although elementary education encourages the undesirable discipline
that consists in passive obedience, and although hardly any existing
education encourages the moral discipline of consistent self-direction,
there is a certain kind of purely mental discipline which is produced
by the traditional higher education. The kind I mean is that which
enables a man to concentrate his thoughts at will upon any matter
that he has occasion to consider, regardless of preoccupations or
boredom or intellectual difficulty. This quality, though it has no
important intrinsic excellence, greatly enhances the efficiency of
the mind as an instrument. It is this that enables a lawyer to master
the scientific details of a patent case which he forgets as soon as
judgment has been given, or a civil servant to deal quickly with
many different administrative questions in succession. It is this
that enables men to forget private cares during business hours. In a
complicated world it is a very necessary faculty for those whose work
requires mental concentration.

Success in producing mental discipline is the chief merit of
traditional higher education. I doubt whether it can be achieved except
by compelling or persuading active attention to a prescribed task. It
is for this reason chiefly that I do not believe methods such as Madame
Montessori’s applicable when the age of childhood has been passed.
The essence of her method consists in giving a choice of occupations,
any one of which is interesting to most children, and all of which
are instructive. The child’s attention is wholly spontaneous, as in
play; it enjoys acquiring knowledge in this way, and does not acquire
any knowledge which it does not desire. I am convinced that this is
the best method of education with young children: the actual results
make it almost impossible to think otherwise. But it is difficult
to see how this method can lead to control of attention by the will.
Many things which must be thought about are uninteresting, and even
those that are interesting at first often become very wearisome before
they have been considered as long as is necessary. The power of giving
prolonged attention is very important, and it is hardly to be widely
acquired except as a habit induced originally by outside pressure. Some
few boys, it is true, have sufficiently strong intellectual desires to
be willing to undergo all that is necessary by their own initiative
and free will; but for all others an external inducement is required
in order to make them learn any subject thoroughly. There is among
educational reformers a certain fear of demanding great efforts, and
in the world at large a growing unwillingness to be bored. Both these
tendencies have their good sides, but both also have their dangers. The
mental discipline which is jeopardized can be preserved by mere advice
without external compulsion whenever a boy’s intellectual interest and
ambition can be sufficiently stimulated. A good teacher ought to be
able to do this for any boy who is capable of much mental achievement;
and for many of the others the present purely bookish education is
probably not the best. In this way, so long as the importance of mental
discipline is realized, it can probably be attained, whenever it is
attainable, by appealing to the pupil’s consciousness of his own needs.
So long as teachers are not expected to succeed by this method, it is
easy for them to slip into a slothful dullness, and blame their pupils
when the fault is really their own.

Ruthlessness in the economic struggle will almost unavoidably be
taught in schools so long as the economic structure of society remains
unchanged. This must be particularly the case in middle-class schools,
which depend for their numbers upon the good opinion of parents, and
secure the good opinion of parents by advertising the successes of
pupils. This is one of many ways in which the competitive organization
of the State is harmful. Spontaneous and disinterested desire for
knowledge is not at all uncommon in the young, and might be easily
aroused in many in whom it remains latent. But it is remorselessly
checked by teachers who think only of examinations, diplomas, and
degrees. For the abler boys there is no time for thought, no time
for the indulgence of intellectual taste, from the moment of first
going to school until the moment of leaving the university. From first
to last there is nothing but one long drudgery of examination tips
and textbook facts. The most intelligent, at the end, are disgusted
with learning, longing only to forget it and to escape into a life
of action. Yet there, as before, the economic machine holds them
prisoners, and all their spontaneous desires are bruised and thwarted.

The examination system, and the fact that instruction is treated mainly
as training for a livelihood, leads the young to regard knowledge, from
a purely utilitarian point of view, as the road to money, not as the
gateway to wisdom. This would not matter so much if it affected only
those who have no genuine intellectual interests. But unfortunately it
affects most those whose intellectual interests are strongest, since
it is upon them that the pressure of examinations falls with most
severity. To them most, but to all in some degree, education appears as
a means of acquiring superiority over others; it is infected through
and through with ruthlessness and glorification of social inequality.
Any free, disinterested consideration shows that, whatever inequalities
might remain in a Utopia, the actual inequalities are almost all
contrary to justice. But our educational system tends to conceal this
from all except the failures, since those who succeed are on the way to
profit by the inequalities, with every encouragement from the men who
have directed their education.

Passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom is easy to most boys and
girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational
because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the
way to win the favor of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional
man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later
life. It causes men to seek a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever
is established in that position. It makes the power of Churches,
Governments, party caucuses, and all the other organizations by which
plain men are misled into supporting old systems which are harmful
to the nation and to themselves. It is possible that there would not
be much independence of thought even if education did everything
to promote it; but there would certainly be more than there is at
present. If the object were to make pupils think, rather than to make
them accept certain conclusions, education would be conducted quite
differently: there would be less rapidity of instruction and more
discussion, more occasions when pupils were encouraged to express
themselves, more attempt to make education concern itself with matters
in which the pupils felt some interest.

Above all, there would be an endeavor to rouse and stimulate the
love of mental adventure. The world in which we live is various and
astonishing: some of the things that seem plainest grow more and more
difficult the more they are considered; other things, which might have
been thought quite impossible to discover, have nevertheless been laid
bare by genius and industry. The powers of thought, the vast regions
which it can master, the much more vast regions which it can only dimly
suggest to imagination, give to those whose minds have traveled beyond
the daily round an amazing richness of material, an escape from the
triviality and wearisomeness of familiar routine, by which the whole of
life is filled with interest, and the prison walls of the commonplace
are broken down. The same love of adventure which takes men to the
South Pole, the same passion for a conclusive trial of strength which
leads some men to welcome war, can find in creative thought an outlet
which is neither wasteful nor cruel, but increases the dignity of man
by incarnating in life some of that shining splendor which the human
spirit is bringing down out of the unknown. To give this joy, in a
greater or less measure, to all who are capable of it, is the supreme
end for which the education of the mind is to be valued.

It will be said that the joy of mental adventure must be rare, that
there are few who can appreciate it, and that ordinary education can
take no account of so aristocratic a good. I do not believe this. The
joy of mental adventure is far commoner in the young than in grown
men and women. Among children it is very common, and grows naturally
out of the period of make-believe and fancy. It is rare in later life
because everything is done to kill it during education. Men fear
thought as they fear nothing else on earth—more than ruin, more even
than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and
terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions,
and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent
to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought
looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. It sees man, a feeble
speck, surrounded by unfathomable depths of silence; yet it bears
itself proudly, as unmoved as if it were lord of the universe. Thought
is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief
glory of man.

But if thought is to become the possession of many, not the privilege
of the few, we must have done with fear. It is fear that holds men
back—fear lest their cherished beliefs should prove delusions, fear
lest the institutions by which they live should prove harmful, fear
lest they themselves should prove less worthy of respect than they
have supposed themselves to be. “Should the working man think freely
about property? Then what will become of us, the rich? Should young
men and young women think freely about sex? Then what will become
of morality? Should soldiers think freely about war? Then what will
become of military discipline? Away with thought! Back into the shades
of prejudice, lest property, morals, and war should be endangered!
Better men should be stupid, slothful, and oppressive than that their
thoughts should be free. For if their thoughts were free they might
not think as we do. And at all costs this disaster must be averted.”
So the opponents of thought argue in the unconscious depths of their
souls. And so they act in their churches, their schools, and their

No institution inspired by fear can further life. Hope, not fear, is
the creative principle in human affairs. All that has made man great
has sprung from the attempt to secure what is good, not from the
struggle to avert what was thought evil. It is because modern education
is so seldom inspired by a great hope that it so seldom achieves a
great result. The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of
creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the
teaching of the young. Education should not aim at a passive awareness
of dead facts, but at an activity directed towards the world that
our efforts are to create. It should be inspired, not by a regretful
hankering after the extinct beauties of Greece and the Renaissance,
but by a shining vision of the society that is to be, of the triumphs
that thought will achieve in the time to come, and of the ever-widening
horizon of man’s survey over the universe. Those who are taught in this
spirit will be filled with life and hope and joy, able to bear their
part in bringing to mankind a future less somber than the past, with
faith in the glory that human effort can create.



The influence of the Christian religion on daily life has decayed very
rapidly throughout Europe during the last hundred years. Not only has
the proportion of nominal believers declined, but even among those who
believe the intensity and dogmatism of belief is enormously diminished.
But there is one social institution which is still profoundly affected
by the Christian tradition—I mean the institution of marriage. The
law and public opinion as regards marriage are dominated even now to
a very great extent by the teachings of the Church, which continue to
influence in this way the lives of men, women, and children in their
most intimate concerns.

It is marriage as a political institution that I wish to consider,
not marriage as a matter for the private morality of each individual.
Marriage is regulated by law, and is regarded as a matter in which
the community has a right to interfere. It is only the action of the
community in regard to marriage that I am concerned to discuss: whether
the present action furthers the life of the community, and if not, in
what ways it ought to be changed.

There are two questions to be asked in regard to any marriage system:
first, how it affects the development and character of the men and
women concerned; secondly, what is its influence on the propagation and
education of children. These two questions are entirely distinct, and
a system may well be desirable from one of these two points of view
when it is very undesirable from the other. I propose first to describe
the present English law and public opinion and practice in regard to
the relations of the sexes, then to consider their effects as regards
children, and finally to consider how these effects, which are bad,
could be obviated by a system which would also have a better influence
on the character and development of men and women.

The law in England is based upon the expectation that the great
majority of marriages will be lifelong. A marriage can only be
dissolved if either the wife or the husband, but not both, can be
proved to have committed adultery. In case the husband is the “guilty
party,” he must also be guilty of cruelty or desertion. Even when
these conditions are fulfilled, in practice only the well-to-do can be
divorced, because the expense is very great.[17] A marriage cannot be
dissolved for insanity or crime, or for cruelty, however abominable,
or for desertion, or for adultery by both parties; and it cannot be
dissolved for any cause whatever if both husband and wife have agreed
that they wish it dissolved. In all these cases the law regards the man
and woman as bound together for life. A special official, the King’s
Proctor, is employed to prevent divorce when there is collusion and
when both parties have committed adultery.[18]

This interesting system embodies the opinions held by the Church of
England some fifty years ago, and by most Nonconformists then and now.
It rests upon the assumption that adultery is sin, and that when this
sin has been committed by one party to the marriage, the other is
entitled to revenge if he is rich. But when both have committed the
same sin, or when the one who has not committed it feels no righteous
anger, the right to revenge does not exist. As soon as this point of
view is understood, the law, which at first seems somewhat strange, is
seen to be perfectly consistent. It rests, broadly speaking, upon four
propositions: (1) that sexual intercourse outside marriage is sin; (2)
that resentment of adultery by the “innocent” party is a righteous
horror of wrong-doing; (3) that his resentment, but nothing else, may
be rightly regarded as making a common life impossible; (4) that the
poor have no right to fine feelings. The Church of England, under the
influence of the High Church, has ceased to believe the third of these
propositions, but it still believes the first and second, and does
nothing actively to show that it disbelieves the fourth.

The penalty for infringing the marriage law is partly financial, but
depends mainly upon public opinion. A rather small section of the
public genuinely believes that sexual relations outside marriage are
wicked; those who believe this are naturally kept in ignorance of the
conduct of friends who feel otherwise, and are able to go through life
not knowing how others live or what others think. This small section of
the public regards as depraved not only actions, but opinions, which
are contrary to its principles. It is able to control the professions
of politicians through its influence on elections, and the votes of
the House of Lords through the presence of the Bishops. By these
means it governs legislation, and makes any change in the marriage
law almost impossible. It is able, also, to secure in most cases that
a man who openly infringes the marriage law shall be dismissed from
his employment or ruined by the defection of his customers or clients.
A doctor or lawyer, or a tradesman in a country town, cannot make a
living, nor can a politician be in Parliament, if he is publicly known
to be “immoral.” Whatever a man’s own conduct may be, he is not likely
to defend publicly those who have been branded, lest some of the odium
should fall on him. Yet so long as a man has not been branded, few men
will object to him, whatever they may know privately of his behavior in
these respects.

Owing to the nature of the penalty, it falls very unequally upon
different professions. An actor or journalist usually escapes all
punishment. An urban workingman can almost always do as he likes. A man
of private means, unless he wishes to take part in public life, need
not suffer at all if he has chosen his friends suitably. Women, who
formerly suffered more than men, now suffer less, since there are large
circles in which no social penalty is inflicted, and a very rapidly
increasing number of women who do not believe the conventional code.
But for the majority of men outside the working classes the penalty is
still sufficiently severe to be prohibitive.

The result of this state of things is a widespread but very flimsy
hypocrisy, which allows many infractions of the code, and forbids
only those which must become public. A man may not live openly with a
woman who is not his wife, an unmarried woman may not have a child,
and neither man nor woman may get into the divorce court. Subject to
these restrictions, there is in practice very great freedom. It is this
practical freedom which makes the state of the law seem tolerable to
those who do not accept the principles upon which it is based. What
has to be sacrificed to propitiate the holders of strict views is not
pleasure, but only children and a common life and truth and honesty.
It cannot be supposed that this is the result desired by those who
maintain the code, but equally it cannot be denied that this is the
result which they do in fact achieve. Extra-matrimonial relations which
do not lead to children and are accompanied by a certain amount of
deceit remain unpunished, but severe penalties fall on those which are
honest or lead to children.

Within marriage, the expense of children leads to continually greater
limitation of families. The limitation is greatest among those who
have most sense of parental responsibility and most wish to educate
their children well, since it is to them that the expense of children
is most severe. But although the economic motive for limiting families
has hitherto probably been the strongest, it is being continually
reinforced by another. Women are acquiring freedom—not merely outward
and formal freedom, but inward freedom, enabling them to think and
feel genuinely, not according to received maxims. To the men who have
prated confidently of women’s natural instincts, the result would be
surprising if they were aware of it. Very large numbers of women, when
they are sufficiently free to think for themselves, do not desire to
have children, or at most desire one child in order not to miss the
experience which a child brings. There are women who are intelligent
and active-minded who resent the slavery to the body which is involved
in having children. There are ambitious women, who desire a career
which leaves no time for children. There are women who love pleasure
and gaiety, and women who love the admiration of men; such women will
at least postpone child-bearing until their youth is past. All these
classes of women are rapidly becoming more numerous, and it may be
safely assumed that their numbers will continue to increase for many
years to come.

It is too soon to judge with any confidence as to the effects of
women’s freedom upon private life and upon the life of the nation.
But I think it is not too soon to see that it will be profoundly
different from the effect expected by the pioneers of the women’s
movement. Men have invented, and women in the past have often accepted,
a theory that women are the guardians of the race, that their life
centers in motherhood, that all their instincts and desires are
directed, consciously or unconsciously, to this end. Tolstoy’s Natacha
illustrates this theory: she is charming, gay, liable to passion, until
she is married; then she becomes merely a virtuous mother, without
any mental life. This result has Tolstoy’s entire approval. It must
be admitted that it is very desirable from the point of view of the
nation, whatever we may think of it in relation to private life. It
must also be admitted that it is probably common among women who are
physically vigorous and not highly civilized. But in countries like
France and England it is becoming increasingly rare. More and more
women find motherhood unsatisfying, not what their needs demand. And
more and more there comes to be a conflict between their personal
development and the future of the community. It is difficult to know
what ought to be done to mitigate this conflict, but I think it is
worth while to see what are likely to be its effects if it is not

Owing to the combination of economic prudence with the increasing
freedom of women, there is at present a selective birth-rate of a
very singular kind.[19] In France the population is practically
stationary, and in England it is rapidly becoming so; this means
that some sections are dwindling while others are increasing. Unless
some change occurs, the sections that are dwindling will practically
become extinct, and the population will be almost wholly replenished
from the sections that are now increasing.[20] The sections that are
dwindling include the whole middle-class and the skilled artisans.
The sections that are increasing are the very poor, the shiftless and
drunken, the feeble-minded—feeble-minded women, especially, are apt
to be very prolific. There is an increase in those sections of the
population which still actively believe the Catholic religion, such
as the Irish and the Bretons, because the Catholic religion forbids
limitation of families. Within the classes that are dwindling, it
is the best elements that are dwindling most rapidly. Working-class
boys of exceptional ability rise, by means of scholarships, into the
professional class; they naturally desire to marry into the class to
which they belong by education, not into the class from which they
spring; but as they have no money beyond what they earn, they cannot
marry young, or afford a large family. The result is that in each
generation the best elements are extracted from the working classes
and artificially sterilized, at least in comparison with those who are
left. In the professional classes the young women who have initiative,
energy, or intelligence are as a rule not inclined to marry young, or
to have more than one or two children when they do marry. Marriage
has been in the past the only obvious means of livelihood for women;
pressure from parents and fear of becoming an old maid combined
to force many women to marry in spite of a complete absence of
inclination for the duties of a wife. But now a young woman of ordinary
intelligence can easily earn her own living, and can acquire freedom
and experience without the permanent ties of a husband and a family of
children. The result is that if she marries she marries late.

For these reasons, if an average sample of children were taken out of
the population of England, and their parents were examined, it would
be found that prudence, energy, intellect, and enlightenment were less
common among the parents than in the population in general; while
shiftlessness, feeble-mindedness, stupidity, and superstition were more
common than in the population in general. It would be found that those
who are prudent or energetic or intelligent or enlightened actually
fail to reproduce their own numbers; that is to say, they do not on the
average have as many as two children each who survive infancy. On the
other hand, those who have the opposite qualities have, on the average,
more than two children each, and more than reproduce their own numbers.

It is impossible to estimate the effect which this will have upon
the character of the population without a much greater knowledge of
heredity than exists at present. But so long as children continue to
live with their parents, parental example and early education must
have a great influence in developing their character, even if we leave
heredity entirely out of account. Whatever may be thought of genius,
there can be no doubt that intelligence, whether through heredity or
through education, tends to run in families, and that the decay of the
families in which it is common must lower the mental standard of the
population. It seems unquestionable that if our economic system and
our moral standards remain unchanged, there will be, in the next two
or three generations, a rapid change for the worse in the character of
the population in all civilized countries, and an actual diminution of
numbers in the most civilized.

The diminution of numbers, in all likelihood, will rectify itself in
time through the elimination of those characteristics which at present
lead to a small birth-rate. Men and women who can still believe the
Catholic faith will have a biological advantage; gradually a race
will grow up which will be impervious to all the assaults of reason,
and will believe imperturbably that limitation of families leads to
hell-fire. Women who have mental interests, who care about art or
literature or politics, who desire a career or who value their liberty,
will gradually grow rarer, and be more and more replaced by a placid
maternal type which has no interests outside the home and no dislike
of the burden of motherhood. This result, which ages of masculine
domination have vainly striven to achieve, is likely to be the final
outcome of women’s emancipation and of their attempt to enter upon a
wider sphere than that to which the jealousy of men confined them in
the past.

Perhaps, if the facts could be ascertained, it would be found that
something of the same kind occurred in the Roman Empire. The decay of
energy and intelligence during the second, third, and fourth centuries
of our era has always remained more or less mysterious. But there is
reason to think that then, as now, the best elements of the population
in each generation failed to reproduce themselves, and that the least
vigorous were, as a rule, those to whom the continuance of the race was
due. One might be tempted to suppose that civilization, when it has
reached a certain height, becomes unstable, and tends to decay through
some inherent weakness, some failure to adapt the life of instinct to
the intense mental life of a period of high culture. But such vague
theories have always something glib and superstitious which makes them
worthless as scientific explanations or as guides to action. It is not
by a literary formula, but by detailed and complex thought, that a true
solution is to be found.

Let us first be clear as to what we desire. There is no importance in
an increasing population; on the contrary, if the population of Europe
were stationary, it would be much easier to promote economic reform
and to avoid war. What is regrettable _at present_ is not the decline
of the birth-rate in itself, but the fact that the decline is greatest
in the best elements of the population. There is reason, however, to
fear in the future three bad results: first, an absolute decline in the
numbers of English, French, and Germans; secondly, as a consequence
of this decline, their subjugation by less civilized races and the
extinction of their tradition; thirdly, a revival of their numbers on
a much lower plane of civilization, after generations of selection of
those who have neither intelligence nor foresight. If this result is
to be avoided, the present unfortunate selectiveness of the birth-rate
must be somehow stopped.

The problem is one which applies to the whole of Western civilization.
There is no difficulty in discovering a theoretical solution, but
there is great difficulty in persuading men to adopt a solution in
practice, because the effects to be feared are not immediate and
the subject is one upon which people are not in the habit of using
their reason. If a rational solution is ever adopted, the cause will
probably be international rivalry. It is obvious that if one State—say
Germany—adopted a rational means of dealing with the matter, it would
acquire an enormous advantage over other States unless they did
likewise. After the war, it is possible that population questions will
attract more attention than they did before, and it is likely that
they will be studied from the point of view of international rivalry.
This motive, unlike reason and humanity, is perhaps strong enough to
overcome men’s objections to a scientific treatment of the birth-rate.

In the past, at most periods and in most societies, the instincts of
men and women led of themselves to a more than sufficient birth-rate;
Malthus’s statement of the population question had been true enough
up to the time when he wrote. It is still true of barbarous and
semi-civilized races, and of the worst elements among civilized races.
But it has become false as regards the more civilized half of the
population in Western Europe and America. Among them, instinct no
longer suffices to keep numbers even stationary.

We may sum up the reasons for this in order of importance, as follows:—

1. The expense of children is very great if parents are conscientious.

2. An increasing number of women desire to have no children, or only
one or two, in order not to be hampered in their own careers.

3. Owing to the excess of women, a large number of women remain
unmarried. These women, though not debarred in practice from relations
with men, are debarred by the code from having children. In this class
are to be found an enormous and increasing number of women who earn
their own living as typists, in shops, or otherwise. The war has opened
many employments to women from which they were formerly excluded, and
this change is probably only in part temporary.

If the sterilizing of the best parts of the population is to be
arrested, the first and most pressing necessity is the removal of
the economic motives for limiting families. The expense of children
ought to be borne wholly by the community. Their food and clothing
and education ought to be provided, not only to the very poor as a
matter of charity, but to all classes as a matter of public interest.
In addition to this, a woman who is capable of earning money, and who
abandons wage-earning for motherhood, ought to receive from the State
as nearly as possible what she would have received if she had not had
children. The only condition attached to State maintenance of the
mother and the children should be that both parents are physically and
mentally sound in all ways likely to affect the children. Those who
are not sound should not be debarred from having children, but should
continue, as at present, to bear the expense of children themselves.

It ought to be recognized that the law is only concerned with marriage
through the question of children, and should be indifferent to what
is called “morality,” which is based upon custom and texts of the
Bible, not upon any real consideration of the needs of the community.
The excess women, who at present are in every way discouraged from
having children, ought no longer to be discouraged. If the State is
to undertake the expense of children, it has the right, on eugenic
grounds, to know who the father is, and to demand a certain stability
in a union. But there is no reason to demand or expect a lifelong
stability, or to exact any ground for divorce beyond mutual consent.
This would make it possible for the women who must at present remain
unmarried to have children if they wished it. In this way an enormous
and unnecessary waste would be prevented, and a great deal of needless
unhappiness would be avoided.

There is no necessity to begin such a system all at once. It might be
begun tentatively with certain exceptionally desirable sections of the
community. It might then be extended gradually, with the experience of
its working which had been derived from the first experiment. If the
birth-rate were very much increased, the eugenic conditions exacted
might be made more strict.

There are of course various practical difficulties in the way of such a
scheme: the opposition of the Church and the upholders of traditional
morality, the fear of weakening parental responsibility, and the
expense. All these, however, might be overcome. But there remains one
difficulty which it seems impossible to overcome completely in England,
and that is, that the whole conception is anti-democratic, since it
regards some men as better than others, and would demand that the State
should bestow a better education upon the children of some men than
upon the children of others. This is contrary to all the principles
of progressive politics in England. For this reason it can hardly be
expected that any such method of dealing with the population question
will ever be adopted in its entirety in this country. Something of the
sort may well be done in Germany, and if so, it will assure German
hegemony as no merely military victory could do. But among ourselves
we can only hope to see it adopted in some partial, piecemeal fashion,
and probably only after a change in the economic structure of society
which will remove most of the artificial inequalities that progressive
parties are rightly trying to diminish.

So far we have been considering the question of the reproduction of the
race, rather than the effect of sex relations in fostering or hindering
the development of men and women. From the point of view of the race,
what seems needed is a complete removal of the economic burdens due to
children from all parents who are not physically or mentally unfit, and
as much freedom in the law as is compatible with public knowledge of
paternity. Exactly the same changes seem called for when the question
is considered from the point of view of the men and women concerned.

In regard to marriage, as with all the other traditional bonds between
human beings, a very extraordinary change is taking place, wholly
inevitable, wholly necessary as a stage in the development of a new
life, but by no means wholly satisfactory until it is completed. All
the traditional bonds were based on _authority_—of the king, the
feudal baron, the priest, the father, the husband. All these bonds,
just because they were based on authority, are dissolving or already
dissolved, and the creation of other bonds to take their place is as
yet very incomplete. For this reason human relations have at present
an unusual triviality, and do less than they did formerly to break down
the hard walls of the Ego.

The ideal of marriage in the past depended upon the authority of the
husband, which was admitted as a right by the wife. The husband was
free, the wife was a willing slave. In all matters which concerned
husband and wife jointly, it was taken for granted that the husband’s
fiat should be final. The wife was expected to be faithful, while the
husband, except in very religious societies, was only expected to throw
a decent veil over his infidelities. Families could not be limited
except by continence, and a wife had no recognized right to demand
continence, however she might suffer from frequent children.

So long as the husband’s right to authority was unquestioningly
believed by both men and women, this system was fairly satisfactory,
and afforded to both a certain instinctive fulfilment which is rarely
achieved among educated people now. Only one will, the husband’s,
had to be taken into account, and there was no need of the difficult
adjustments required when common decisions have to be reached by two
equal wills. The wife’s desires were not treated seriously enough to
enable them to thwart the husband’s needs, and the wife herself, unless
she was exceptionally selfish, did not seek self-development, or see in
marriage anything but an opportunity for duties. Since she did not seek
or expect much happiness, she suffered less, when happiness was not
attained, than a woman does now: her suffering contained no element of
indignation or surprise, and did not readily turn into bitterness and
sense of injury.

The saintly, self-sacrificing woman whom our ancestors praised had her
place in a certain organic conception of society, the conception of the
ordered hierarchy of authorities which dominated the Middle Ages. She
belongs to the same order of ideas as the faithful servant, the loyal
subject, and the orthodox son of the Church. This whole order of ideas
has vanished from the civilized world, and it is to be hoped that it
has vanished for ever, in spite of the fact that the society which it
produced was vital and in some ways full of nobility. The old order
has been destroyed by the new ideals of justice and liberty, beginning
with religion, passing on to politics, and reaching at last the private
relations of marriage and the family. When once the question has been
asked, “Why should a woman submit to a man?” when once the answers
derived from tradition and the Bible have ceased to satisfy, there
is no longer any possibility of maintaining the old subordination.
To every man who has the power of thinking impersonally and freely,
it is obvious, as soon as the question is asked, that the rights of
women are precisely the same as the rights of men. Whatever dangers
and difficulties, whatever temporary chaos, may be incurred in the
transition to equality, the claims of reason are so insistent and so
clear that no opposition to them can hope to be long successful.

Mutual liberty, which is now demanded, is making the old form of
marriage impossible. But a new form, which shall be an equally good
vehicle for instinct, and an equal help to spiritual growth, has not
yet been developed. For the present, women who are conscious of liberty
as something to be preserved are also conscious of the difficulty of
preserving it. The wish for mastery is an ingredient in most men’s
sexual passions, especially in those which are strong and serious. It
survives in many men whose theories are entirely opposed to despotism.
The result is a fight for liberty on the one side and for life on the
other. Women feel that they must protect their individuality; men feel,
often very dumbly, that the repression of instinct which is demanded
of them is incompatible with vigor and initiative. The clash of these
opposing moods makes all real mingling of personalities impossible;
the man and woman remain hard, separate units, continually asking
themselves whether anything of value to themselves is resulting from
the union. The effect is that relations tend to become trivial and
temporary, a pleasure rather than the satisfaction of a profound need,
an excitement, not an attainment. The fundamental loneliness into which
we are born remains untouched, and the hunger for inner companionship
remains unappeased.

No cheap and easy solution of this trouble is possible. It is a trouble
which affects most the most civilized men and women, and is an outcome
of the increasing sense of individuality which springs inevitably from
mental progress. I doubt if there is any radical cure except in some
form of religion, so firmly and sincerely believed as to dominate
even the life of instinct. The individual is not the end and aim of
his own being: outside the individual, there is the community, the
future of mankind, the immensity of the universe in which all our
hopes and fears are a mere pin-point. A man and woman with reverence
for the spirit of life in each other, with an equal sense of their own
unimportance beside the whole life of man, may become comrades without
interference with liberty, and may achieve the union of instinct
without doing violence to the life of mind and spirit. As religion
dominated the old form of marriage, so religion must dominate the new.
But it must be a new religion, based upon liberty, justice, and love,
not upon authority and law and hell-fire.

A bad effect upon the relations of men and women has been produced by
the romantic movement, through directing attention to what ought to be
an incidental good, not the purpose for which relations exist. Love is
what gives intrinsic value to a marriage, and, like art and thought, it
is one of the supreme things which make human life worth preserving.
But though there is no good marriage without love, the best marriages
have a purpose which goes beyond love. The love of two people for
each other is too circumscribed, too separate from the community, to
be by itself the main purpose of a good life. It is not in itself a
sufficient source of activities, it is not sufficiently prospective,
to make an existence in which ultimate satisfaction can be found. It
brings its great moments, and then its times which are less great,
which are unsatisfying because they are less great. It becomes, sooner
or later, retrospective, a tomb of dead joys, not a well-spring of new
life. This evil is inseparable from any purpose which is to be achieved
in a single supreme emotion. The only adequate purposes are those which
stretch out into the future, which can never be fully achieved, but are
always growing, and infinite with the infinity of human endeavor. And
it is only when love is linked to some infinite purpose of this kind
that it can have the seriousness and depth of which it is capable.

For the great majority of men and women seriousness in sex relations
is most likely to be achieved through children. Children are to
most people rather a need than a desire: instinct is as a rule only
consciously directed towards what used to lead to children. The desire
for children is apt to develop in middle life, when the adventure of
one’s own existence is past, when the friendships of youth seem less
important than they once did, when the prospect of a lonely old age
begins to terrify, and the feeling of having no share in the future
becomes oppressive. Then those who, while they were young, have had
no sense that children would be a fulfilment of their needs, begin to
regret their former contempt for the normal, and to envy acquaintances
whom before they had thought humdrum. But owing to economic causes it
is often impossible for the young, and especially for the best of the
young, to have children without sacrificing things of vital importance
to their own lives. And so youth passes, and the need is felt too late.

Needs without corresponding desires have grown increasingly common as
life has grown more different from that primitive existence from which
our instincts are derived, and to which, rather than to that of the
present day, they are still very largely adapted. An unsatisfied need
produces, in the end, as much pain and as much distortion of character
as if it had been associated with a conscious desire. For this reason,
as well as for the sake of the race, it is important to remove the
present economic inducements to childlessness. There is no necessity
whatever to urge parenthood upon those who feel disinclined to it, but
there is necessity not to place obstacles in the way of those who have
no such disinclination.

In speaking of the importance of preserving seriousness in the
relations of men and women, I do not mean to suggest that relations
which are not serious are always harmful. Traditional morality has
erred by laying stress on what ought not to happen, rather than on
what ought to happen. What is important is that men and women should
find, sooner or later, the best relation of which their natures are
capable. It is not always possible to know in advance what will be the
best, or to be sure of not missing the best if everything that can be
doubted is rejected. Among primitive races, a man wants a female, a
woman wants a male, and there is no such differentiation as makes one
a much more suitable companion than another. But with the increasing
complexity of disposition that civilized life brings, it becomes more
and more difficult to find the man or woman who will bring happiness,
and more and more necessary to make it not too difficult to acknowledge
a mistake.

The present marriage law is an inheritance from a simpler age, and
is supported, in the main, by unreasoning fears and by contempt for
all that is delicate and difficult in the life of the mind. Owing
to the law, large numbers of men and women are condemned, so far
as their ostensible relations are concerned, to the society of an
utterly uncongenial companion, with all the embittering consciousness
that escape is practically impossible. In these circumstances,
happier relations with others are often sought, but they have to be
clandestine, without a common life, and without children. Apart from
the great evil of being clandestine, such relations have some almost
inevitable drawbacks. They are liable to emphasize sex unduly, to be
exciting and disturbing; and it is hardly possible that they should
bring a real satisfaction of instinct. It is the combination of love,
children, and a common life that makes the best relation between a man
and a woman. The law at present confines children and a common life
within the bonds of monogamy, but it cannot confine love. By forcing
many to separate love from children and a common life, the law cramps
their lives, prevents them from reaching the full measure of their
possible development, and inflicts a wholly unnecessary torture upon
those who are not content to become frivolous.

To sum up: The present state of the law, of public opinion, and of
our economic system is tending to degrade the quality of the race, by
making the worst half of the population the parents of more than half
of the next generation. At the same time, women’s claim to liberty
is making the old form of marriage a hindrance to the development of
both men and women. A new system is required, if the European nations
are not to degenerate, and if the relations of men and women are to
have the strong happiness and organic seriousness which belonged to
the best marriages in the past. The new system must be based upon the
fact that to produce children is a service to the State, and ought
not to expose parents to heavy pecuniary penalties. It will have to
recognize that neither the law nor public opinion should concern itself
with the private relations of men and women, except where children
are concerned. It ought to remove the inducements to make relations
clandestine and childless. It ought to admit that, although lifelong
monogamy is best when it is successful, the increasing complexity of
our needs makes it increasingly often a failure for which divorce
is the best preventive. Here, as elsewhere, liberty is the basis of
political wisdom. And when liberty has been won, what remains to be
desired must be left to the conscience and religion of individual men
and women.



Almost all the changes which the world has undergone since the
end of the Middle Ages are due to the discovery and diffusion of
new knowledge. This was the primary cause of the Renaissance, the
Reformation, and the industrial revolution. It was also, very directly,
the cause of the decay of dogmatic religion. The study of classical
texts and early Church history, Copernican astronomy and physics,
Darwinian biology and comparative anthropology, have each in turn
battered down some part of the edifice of Catholic dogma, until,
for almost all thinking and instructed people, the most that seems
defensible is some inner spirit, some vague hope, and some not very
definite feeling of moral obligation. This result might perhaps have
remained limited to the educated minority but for the fact that the
Churches have almost everywhere opposed political progress with the
same bitterness with which they have opposed progress in thought.
Political conservatism has brought the Churches into conflict with
whatever was vigorous in the working classes, and has spread free
thought in wide circles which might otherwise have remained orthodox
for centuries. The decay of dogmatic religion is, for good or evil,
one of the most important facts in the modern world. Its effects have
hardly yet begun to show themselves: what they will be it is impossible
to say, but they will certainly be profound and far-reaching.

Religion is partly personal, partly social: to the Protestant primarily
personal, to the Catholic primarily social. It is only when the two
elements are intimately blended that religion becomes a powerful
force in molding society. The Catholic Church, as it existed from the
time of Constantine to the time of the Reformation, represented a
blending which would have seemed incredible if it had not been actually
achieved, the blending of Christ and Cæsar, of the morality of humble
submission with the pride of Imperial Rome. Those who loved the one
could find it in the Thebaid; those who loved the other could admire it
in the pomp of metropolitan archbishops. In St. Francis and Innocent
III the same two sides of the Church are still represented. But
since the Reformation personal religion has been increasingly outside
the Catholic Church, while the religion which has remained Catholic
has been increasingly a matter of institutions and politics and
historic continuity. This division has weakened the force of religion:
religious bodies have not been strengthened by the enthusiasm and
single-mindedness of the men in whom personal religion is strong, and
these men have not found their teaching diffused and made permanent by
the power of ecclesiastical institutions.

The Catholic Church achieved, during the Middle Ages, the most organic
society and the most harmonious inner synthesis of instinct, mind,
and spirit, that the Western world has ever known. St. Francis,
Thomas Aquinas, and Dante represent its summit as regards individual
development. The cathedrals, the mendicant Orders, and the triumph of
the Papacy over the Empire represent its supreme political success.
But the perfection which had been achieved was a narrow perfection:
instinct, mind, and spirit all suffered from curtailment in order to
fit into the pattern; laymen found themselves subject to the Church in
ways which they resented, and the Church used its power for rapacity
and oppression. The perfect synthesis was an enemy to new growth, and
after the time of Dante all that was living in the world had first to
fight for its right to live against the representatives of the old
order. This fight is even now not ended. Only when it is quite ended,
both in the external world of politics and in the internal world of
men’s own thoughts, will it be possible for a new organic society and
a new inner synthesis to take the place which the Church held for a
thousand years.

The clerical profession suffers from two causes, one of which it shares
with some other professions, while the other is peculiar to itself.
The cause peculiar to it is the convention that clergymen are more
virtuous than other men. Any average selection of mankind, set apart
and told that it excels the rest in virtue, must tend to sink below the
average. This is an ancient commonplace in regard to princes and those
who used to be called “the great.” But it is no less true as regards
those of the clergy who are not genuinely and by nature as much better
than the average as they are conventionally supposed to be. The other
source of harm to the clerical profession is endowments. Property
which is only available for those who will support an established
institution has a tendency to warp men’s judgments as to the excellence
of the institution. The tendency is aggravated when the property is
associated with social consideration and opportunities for petty power.
It is at its worst when the institution is tied by law to an ancient
creed, almost impossible to change, and yet quite out of touch with
the unfettered thought of the present day. All these causes combine to
damage the moral force of the Church.

It is not so much that the creed of the Church is the wrong one. What
is amiss is the mere existence of a creed. As soon as income, position,
and power are dependent upon acceptance of no matter what creed,
intellectual honesty is imperiled. Men will tell themselves that a
formal assent is justified by the good which it will enable them to do.
They fail to realize that, in those whose mental life has any vigor,
loss of complete intellectual integrity puts an end to the power of
doing good, by producing gradually in all directions an inability to
see truth simply. The strictness of party discipline has introduced the
same evil in politics; there, because the evil is comparatively new, it
is visible to many who think it unimportant as regards the Church. But
the evil is greater as regards the Church, because religion is of more
importance than politics, and because it is more necessary that the
exponents of religion should be wholly free from taint.

The evils we have been considering seem inseparable from the existence
of a professional priesthood. If religion is not to be harmful in a
world of rapid change, it must, like the Society of Friends, be carried
on by men who have other occupations during the week, who do their
religious work from enthusiasm, without receiving any payment. And such
men, because they know the everyday world, are not likely to fall into
a remote morality which no one regards as applicable to common life.
Being free, they will not be bound to reach certain conclusions decided
in advance, but will be able to consider moral and religious questions
genuinely, without bias. Except in a quite stationary society, no
religious life can be living or a real support to the spirit unless it
is freed from the incubus of a professional priesthood.

It is largely for these reasons that so little of what is valuable in
morals and religion comes nowadays from the men who are eminent in
the religious world. It is true that among professed believers there
are many who are wholly sincere, who feel still the inspiration which
Christianity brought before it had been weakened by the progress of
knowledge. These sincere believers are valuable to the world because
they keep alive the conviction that the life of the spirit is what is
of most importance to men and women. Some of them, in all the countries
now at war, have had the courage to preach peace and love in the name
of Christ, and have done what lay in their power to mitigate the
bitterness of hatred. All praise is due to these men, and without them
the world would be even worse than it is.

But it is not through even the most sincere and courageous believers
in the traditional religion that a new spirit can come into the world.
It is not through them that religion can be brought back to those who
have lost it because their minds were active, not because their spirit
was dead. Believers in the traditional religion necessarily look to
the past for inspiration rather than to the future. They seek wisdom
in the teaching of Christ, which, admirable as it is, remains quite
inadequate for many of the social and spiritual issues of modern life.
Art and intellect and all the problems of government are ignored in
the Gospels. Those who, like Tolstoy, endeavor seriously to take the
Gospels as a guide to life are compelled to regard the ignorant peasant
as the best type of man, and to brush aside political questions by an
extreme and impracticable anarchism.

If a religious view of life and the world is ever to reconquer the
thoughts and feelings of free-minded men and women, much that we are
accustomed to associate with religion will have to be discarded. The
first and greatest change that is required is to establish a morality
of initiative, not a morality of submission, a morality of hope rather
than fear, of things to be done rather than of things to be left
undone. It is not the whole duty of man to slip through the world so
as to escape the wrath of God. The world is _our_ world, and it rests
with us to make it a heaven or a hell. The power is ours, and the
kingdom and the glory would be ours also if we had courage and insight
to create them. The religious life that we must seek will not be one
of occasional solemnity and superstitious prohibitions, it will not be
sad or ascetic, it will concern itself little with rules of conduct.
It will be inspired by a vision of what human life may be, and will
be happy with the joy of creation, living in a large free world of
initiative and hope. It will love mankind, not for what they are to
the outward eye, but for what imagination shows that they have it in
them to become. It will not readily condemn, but it will give praise to
positive achievement rather than negative sinlessness, to the joy of
life, the quick affection, the creative insight, by which the world may
grow young and beautiful and filled with vigor.

“Religion” is a word which has many meanings and a long history. In
origin, it was concerned with certain rites, inherited from a remote
past, performed originally for some reason long since forgotten, and
associated from time to time with various myths to account for their
supposed importance. Much of this lingers still. A religious man is one
who goes to church, a communicant, one who “practises,” as Catholics
say. How he behaves otherwise, or how he feels concerning life and
man’s place in the world, does not bear upon the question whether he
is “religious” in this simple but historically correct sense. Many men
and women are religious in this sense without having in their natures
anything that deserves to be called religion in the sense in which I
mean the word. The mere familiarity of the Church service has made
them impervious to it; they are unconscious of all the history and
human experience by which the liturgy has been enriched, and unmoved
by the glibly repeated words of the Gospel, which condemn almost all
the activities of those who fancy themselves disciples of Christ. This
fate must overtake any habitual rite: it is impossible that it should
continue to produce much effect after it has been performed so often as
to grow mechanical.

The activities of men may be roughly derived from three sources, not
in actual fact sharply separate one from another, but sufficiently
distinguishable to deserve different names. The three sources I mean
are instinct, mind, and spirit, and of these three it is the life of
the spirit that makes religion.

The life of instinct includes all that man shares with the lower
animals, all that is concerned with self-preservation and reproduction
and the desires and impulses derivative from these. It includes vanity
and love of possessions, love of family, and even much of what makes
love of country. It includes all the impulses that are essentially
concerned with the biological success of oneself or one’s group—for
among gregarious animals the life of instinct includes the group. The
impulses which it includes may not in fact make for success, and may
often in fact militate against it, but are nevertheless those of which
success is the _raison d’être_, those which express the animal nature
of man and his position among a world of competitors.

The life of the mind is the life of pursuit of knowledge, from mere
childish curiosity up to the greatest efforts of thought. Curiosity
exists in animals, and serves an obvious biological purpose; but it
is only in men that it passes beyond the investigation of particular
objects which may be edible or poisonous, friendly or hostile.
Curiosity is the primary impulse out of which the whole edifice of
scientific knowledge has grown. Knowledge has been found so useful
that most actual acquisition of it is no longer prompted by curiosity;
innumerable other motives now contribute to foster the intellectual
life. Nevertheless, direct love of knowledge and dislike of error still
play a very large part, especially with those who are most successful
in learning. No man acquires much knowledge unless the acquisition is
in itself delightful to him, apart from any consciousness of the use
to which the knowledge may be put. The impulse to acquire knowledge
and the activities which center round it constitute what I mean by the
life of the mind. The life of the mind consists of thought which is
wholly or partially impersonal, in the sense that it concerns itself
with objects on their own account, and not merely on account of their
bearing upon our instinctive life.

The life of the spirit centers round impersonal feeling, as the life
of the mind centers round impersonal thought. In this sense, all art
belongs to the life of the spirit, though its greatness is derived
from its being also intimately bound up with the life of instinct. Art
starts from instinct and rises into the region of the spirit; religion
starts from the spirit and endeavors to dominate and inform the life
of instinct. It is possible to feel the same interest in the joys and
sorrows of others as in our own, to love and hate independently of
all relation to ourselves, to care about the destiny of man and the
development of the universe without a thought that we are personally
involved. Reverence and worship, the sense of an obligation to
mankind, the feeling of imperativeness and acting under orders which
traditional religion has interpreted as Divine inspiration, all
belong to the life of the spirit. And deeper than all these lies the
sense of a mystery half revealed, of a hidden wisdom and glory, of a
transfiguring vision in which common things lose their solid importance
and become a thin veil behind which the ultimate truth of the world is
dimly seen. It is such feelings that are the source of religion, and if
they were to die most of what is best would vanish out of life.

Instinct, mind, and spirit are all essential to a full life; each has
its own excellence and its own corruption. Each can attain a spurious
excellence at the expense of the others; each has a tendency to
encroach upon the others; but in the life which is to be sought all
three will be developed in coördination, and intimately blended in a
single harmonious whole. Among uncivilized men instinct is supreme,
and mind and spirit hardly exist. Among educated men at the present
day mind is developed, as a rule, at the expense of both instinct and
spirit, producing a curious inhumanity and lifelessness, a paucity
of both personal and impersonal desires, which leads to cynicism and
intellectual destructiveness. Among ascetics and most of those who
would be called saints, the life of the spirit has been developed
at the expense of instinct and mind, producing an outlook which is
impossible to those who have a healthy animal life and to those who
have a love of active thought. It is not in any of these one-sided
developments that we can find wisdom or a philosophy which will bring
new life to the civilized world.

Among civilized men and women at the present day it is rare to find
instinct, mind, and spirit in harmony. Very few have achieved a
practical philosophy which gives its due place to each; as a rule,
instinct is at war with either mind or spirit, and mind and spirit are
at war with each other. This strife compels men and women to direct
much of their energy inwards, instead of being able to expend it all
in objective activities. When a man achieves a precarious inward peace
by the defeat of a part of his nature, his vital force is impaired,
and his growth is no longer quite healthy. If men are to remain whole,
it is very necessary that they should achieve a reconciliation of
instinct, mind, and spirit.

Instinct is the source of vitality, the bond that unites the life of
the individual with the life of the race, the basis of all profound
sense of union with others, and the means by which the collective life
nourishes the life of the separate units. But instinct by itself leaves
us powerless to control the forces of Nature, either in ourselves
or in our physical environment, and keeps us in bondage to the same
unthinking impulse by which the trees grow. Mind can liberate us from
this bondage, by the power of impersonal thought, which enables us to
judge critically the purely biological purposes towards which instinct
more or less blindly tends. But mind, in its dealings with instinct,
is _merely_ critical: so far as instinct is concerned, the unchecked
activity of the mind is apt to be destructive and to generate cynicism.
Spirit is an antidote to the cynicism of mind: it universalizes the
emotions that spring from instinct, and by universalizing them makes
them impervious to mental criticism. And when thought is informed by
spirit it loses its cruel, destructive quality; it no longer promotes
the death of instinct, but only its purification from insistence and
ruthlessness and its emancipation from the prison walls of accidental
circumstance. It is instinct that gives force, mind that gives the
means of directing force to desired ends, and spirit that suggests
impersonal uses for force of a kind that thought cannot discredit by
criticism. This is an outline of the parts that instinct, mind, and
spirit would play in a harmonious life.

Instinct, mind, and spirit are each a help to the others when their
development is free and unvitiated; but when corruption comes into any
one of the three, not only does that one fail, but the others also
become poisoned. All three must grow together. And if they are to grow
to their full stature in any one man or woman, that man or woman must
not be isolated, but must be one of a society where growth is not
thwarted and made crooked.

The life of instinct, when it is unchecked by mind or spirit,
consists of instinctive cycles, which begin with impulses to more
or less definite acts, and pass on to satisfaction of needs through
the consequences of these impulsive acts. Impulse and desire are not
directed towards the whole cycle, but only towards its initiation:
the rest is left to natural causes. We desire to eat, but we do not
desire to be nourished unless we are valetudinarians. Yet without
the nourishment eating is a mere momentary pleasure, not part of the
general impulse to life. Men desire sexual intercourse, but they
do not as a rule desire children strongly or often. Yet without the
hope of children and its occasional realization, sexual intercourse
remains for most people an isolated and separate pleasure, not uniting
their personal life with the life of mankind, not continuous with the
central purposes by which they live, and not capable of bringing that
profound sense of fulfilment which comes from completion by children.
Most men, unless the impulse is atrophied through disuse, feel a desire
to create something, great or small according to their capacities.
Some few are able to satisfy this desire: some happy men can create an
Empire, a science, a poem, or a picture. The men of science, who have
less difficulty than any others in finding an outlet for creativeness,
are the happiest of intelligent men in the modern world, since their
creative activity affords full satisfaction to mind and spirit as well
as to the instinct of creation.[21] In them a beginning is to be seen
of the new way of life which is to be sought; in their happiness we
may perhaps find the germ of a future happiness for all mankind. The
rest, with few exceptions, are thwarted in their creative impulses.
They cannot build their own house or make their own garden, or direct
their own labor to producing what their free choice would lead them to
produce. In this way the instinct of creation, which should lead on to
the life of mind and spirit, is checked and turned aside. Too often it
is turned to destruction, as the only effective action which remains
possible. Out of its defeat grows envy, and out of envy grows the
impulse to destroy the creativeness of more fortunate men. This is one
of the greatest sources of corruption in the life of instinct.

The life of instinct is important, not only on its own account, or
because of the direct usefulness of the actions which it inspires, but
also because, if it is unsatisfactory, the individual life becomes
detached and separated from the general life of man. All really
profound sense of unity with others depends upon instinct, upon
coöperation or agreement in some instinctive purpose. This is most
obvious in the relations of men and women and parents and children.
But it is true also in wider relations. It is true of large assemblies
swayed by a strong common emotion, and even of a whole nation in
times of stress. It is part of what makes the value of religion as a
social institution. Where this feeling is wholly absent, other human
beings seem distant and aloof. Where it is actively thwarted, other
human beings become objects of instinctive hostility. The aloofness
or the instinctive hostility may be masked by religious love, which
can be given to all men regardless of their relation to ourselves. But
religious love does not bridge the gulf that parts man from man: it
looks across the gulf, it views others with compassion or impersonal
sympathy, but it does not live with the same life with which they live.
Instinct alone can do this, but only when it is fruitful and sane and
direct. To this end it is necessary that instinctive cycles should be
fairly often completed, not interrupted in the middle of their course.
At present they are constantly interrupted, partly by purposes which
conflict with them for economic or other reasons, partly by the pursuit
of pleasure, which picks out the most agreeable part of the cycle and
avoids the rest. In this way instinct is robbed of its importance and
seriousness; it becomes incapable of bringing any real fulfilment, its
demands grow more and more excessive, and life becomes no longer a
whole with a single movement, but a series of detached moments, some of
them pleasurable, most of them full of weariness and discouragement.

The life of the mind, although supremely excellent in itself, cannot
bring health into the life of instinct, except when it results in a not
too difficult outlet for the instinct of creation. In other cases it
is, as a rule, too widely separated from instinct, too detached, too
destitute of inward growth, to afford either a vehicle for instinct
or a means of subtilizing and refining it. Thought is in its essence
impersonal and detached, instinct is in its essence personal and tied
to particular circumstances: between the two, unless both reach a
high level, there is a war which is not easily appeased. This is the
fundamental reason for vitalism, futurism, pragmatism, and the various
other philosophies which advertise themselves as vigorous and virile.
All these represent the attempt to find a mode of thought which shall
not be hostile to instinct. The attempt, in itself, is deserving of
praise, but the solution offered is far too facile. What is proposed
amounts to a subordination of thought to instinct, a refusal to allow
thought to achieve its own ideal. Thought which does not rise above
what is personal is not thought in any true sense: it is merely a more
or less intelligent use of instinct. It is thought and spirit that
raise man above the level of the brutes. By discarding them we may lose
the proper excellence of men, but cannot acquire the excellence of
animals. Thought must achieve its full growth before a reconciliation
with instinct is attempted.

When refined thought and unrefined instinct coexist, as they do in many
intellectual men, the result is a complete disbelief in any important
good to be achieved by the help of instinct. According to their
disposition, some such men will as far as possible discard instinct and
become ascetic, while others will accept it as a necessity, leaving
it degraded and separated from all that is really important in their
lives. Either of these courses prevents instinct from remaining vital,
or from being a bond with others; either produces a sense of physical
solitude, a gulf across which the minds and spirits of others may
speak, but not their instincts. To very many men, the instinct of
patriotism, when the war broke out, was the first instinct that had
bridged the gulf, the first that had made them feel a really profound
unity with others. This instinct, just because, in its intense form,
it was new and unfamiliar, had remained uninfected by thought, not
paralyzed or devitalized by doubt and cold detachment. The sense of
unity which it brought is capable of being brought by the instinctive
life of more normal times, if thought and spirit are not hostile to
it. And so long as this sense of unity is absent, instinct and spirit
cannot be in harmony, nor can the life of the community have vigor and
the seeds of new growth.

The life of the mind, because of its detachment, tends to separate a
man inwardly from other men, so long as it is not balanced by the life
of the spirit. For this reason, mind without spirit can render instinct
corrupt or atrophied, but cannot add any excellence to the life of
instinct. On this ground, some men are hostile to thought. But no good
purpose is served by trying to prevent the growth of thought, which has
its own insistence, and if checked in the directions in which it tends
naturally, will turn into other directions where it is more harmful.
And thought is in itself god-like: if the opposition between thought
and instinct were irreconcilable, it would be thought that ought to
conquer. But the opposition is not irreconciliable: all that is
necessary is that both thought and instinct should be informed by the
life of the spirit.

In order that human life should have vigor, it is necessary for the
instinctive impulses to be strong and direct; but in order that human
life should be good, these impulses must be dominated and controlled
by desires less personal and ruthless, less liable to lead to conflict
than those that are inspired by instinct alone. Something impersonal
and universal is needed over and above what springs out of the
principle of individual growth. It is this that is given by the life of
the spirit.

Patriotism affords an example of the kind of control which is needed.
Patriotism is compounded out of a number of instinctive feelings and
impulses: love of home, love of those whose ways and outlook resemble
our own, the impulse to coöperation in a group, the sense of pride
in the achievements of one’s group. All these impulses and desires,
like everything belonging to the life of instinct, are personal, in
the sense that the feelings and actions which they inspire towards
others are determined by the relation of those others to ourselves,
not by what those others are intrinsically. All these impulses and
desires unite to produce a love of man’s own country which is more
deeply implanted in the fiber of his being, and more closely united to
his vital force, than any love not rooted in instinct. But if spirit
does not enter in to generalize love of country, the exclusiveness of
instinctive love makes it a source of hatred of other countries. What
spirit can effect is to make us realize that other countries equally
are worthy of love, that the vital warmth which makes us love our own
country reveals to us that it deserves to be loved, and that only the
poverty of our nature prevents us from loving all countries as we love
our own. In this way instinctive love can be extended in imagination,
and a sense of the value of all mankind can grow up, which is more
living and intense than any that is possible to those whose instinctive
love is weak. Mind can only show us that it is irrational to love our
own country best; it can weaken patriotism, but cannot strengthen
the love of all mankind. Spirit alone can do this, by extending and
universalizing the love that is born of instinct. And in doing this it
checks and purifies whatever is insistent or ruthless or oppressively
personal in the life of instinct.

The same extension through spirit is necessary with other instinctive
loves, if they are not to be enfeebled or corrupted by thought. The
love of husband and wife is capable of being a very good thing, and
when men and women are sufficiently primitive nothing but instinct
and good fortune is needed to make it reach a certain limited
perfection. But as thought begins to assert its right to criticize
instinct the old simplicity becomes impossible. The love of husband
and wife, as unchecked instinct leaves it, is too narrow and personal
to stand against the shafts of satire, until it is enriched by the
life of the spirit. The romantic view of marriage, which our fathers
and mothers professed to believe, will not survive an imaginative
peregrination down a street of suburban villas, each containing its
couple, each couple having congratulated themselves as they first
crossed the threshold, that here they could love in peace, without
interruption from others, without contact with the cold outside world.
The separateness and stuffiness, the fine names for cowardices and
timid vanities, that are shut within the four walls of thousands upon
thousands of little villas, present themselves coldly and mercilessly
to those in whom mind is dominant at the expense of spirit.

Nothing is good in the life of a human being except the very best that
his nature can achieve. As men advance, things which have been good
cease to be good, merely because something better is possible. So it is
with the life of instinct: for those whose mental life is strong, much
that was really good while mind remained less developed has now become
bad merely through the greater degree of truth in their outlook on the
world. The instinctive man in love feels that his emotion is unique,
that the lady of his heart has perfections such as no other woman ever
equaled. The man who has acquired the power of impersonal thought
realizes, when he is in love, that he is one of so many millions of
men who are in love at this moment, that not more than one of all the
millions can be right in thinking his love supreme, and that it is not
likely that that one is oneself. He perceives that the state of being
in love in those whose instinct is unaffected by thought or spirit,
is a state of illusion, serving the ends of Nature and making a man
a slave to the life of the species, not a willing minister to the
impersonal ends which he sees to be good. Thought rejects this slavery;
for no end that Nature may have in view will thought abdicate, or forgo
its right to think truly. “Better the world should perish than that
I or any other human being should believe a lie”—this is the religion
of thought, in whose scorching flames the dross of the world is being
burnt away. It is a good religion, and its work of destruction must be
completed. But it is not all that man has need of. New growth must come
after the destruction, and new growth can come only through the spirit.

Both patriotism and the love of man and woman, when they are merely
instinctive, have the same defects: their exclusions, their enclosing
walls, their indifference or hostility to the outside world. It is
through this that thought is led to satire, that comedy has infected
what men used to consider their holiest feelings. The satire and the
comedy are justified, but not the death of instinct which they may
produce if they remain in supreme command. They are justified, not as
the last word of wisdom but as the gateway of pain through which men
pass to a new life, where instinct is purified and yet nourished by the
deeper desires and insight of spirit.

The man who has the life of the spirit within him views the love of man
and woman, both in himself and in others, quite differently from the
man who is exclusively dominated by mind. He sees, in his moments of
insight, that in all human beings there is something deserving of love,
something mysterious, something appealing, a cry out of the night, a
groping journey, and a possible victory. When his instinct loves, he
welcomes its help in seeing and feeling the value of the human being
whom he loves. Instinct becomes a reinforcement to spiritual insight.
What instinct tells him spiritual insight confirms, however much the
mind may be aware of littlenesses, limitations, and enclosing walls
that prevent the spirit from shining forth. His spirit divines in all
men what his instinct shows him in the object of his love.

The love of parents for children has need of the same transformation.
The purely instinctive love, unchecked by thought, uninformed by
spirit, is exclusive, ruthless, and unjust. No benefit to others is
felt, by the purely instinctive parent, to be worth an injury to one’s
own children. Honor and conventional morality place certain important
practical limitations on the vicarious selfishness of parents, since
a civilized community exacts a certain minimum before it will give
respect. But within the limits allowed by public opinion, parental
affection, when it is merely instinctive, will seek the advantage
of children without regard to others. Mind can weaken the impulse to
injustice, and diminish the force of instinctive love, but it cannot
keep the whole force of instinctive love and turn it to more universal
ends. Spirit can do this. It can leave the instinctive love of children
undimmed, and extend the poignant devotion of a parent, in imagination,
to the whole world. And parental love itself will prompt the parent
who has the life of the spirit to give to his children the sense of
justice, the readiness for service, the reverence, the will that
controls self-seeking, which he feels to be a greater good than any
personal success.

The life of the spirit has suffered in recent times by its association
with traditional religion, by its apparent hostility to the life of the
mind, and by the fact that it has seemed to center in renunciation.
The life of the spirit demands readiness for renunciation when the
occasion arises, but is in its essence as positive and as capable of
enriching individual existence as mind and instinct are. It brings with
it the joy of vision, of the mystery and profundity of the world, of
the contemplation of life, and above all the joy of universal love.
It liberates those who have it from the prison-house of insistent
personal passion and mundane cares. It gives freedom and breadth and
beauty to men’s thoughts and feelings, and to all their relations with
others. It brings the solution of doubts, the end of the feeling that
all is vanity. It restores harmony between mind and instinct, and leads
the separated unit back into his place in the life of mankind. For
those who have once entered the world of thought, it is only through
spirit that happiness and peace can return.



What can we do for the world while we live?

Many men and women would wish to serve mankind, but they are perplexed
and their power seems infinitesimal. Despair seizes them; those who
have the strongest passion suffer most from the sense of impotence, and
are most liable to spiritual ruin through lack of hope.

So long as we think only of the immediate future, it seems that what
we can do is not much. It is probably impossible for us to bring the
war to an end. We cannot destroy the excessive power of the State or
of private property. We cannot, here and now, bring new life into
education. In such matters, though we may see the evil, we cannot
quickly cure it by any of the ordinary methods of politics. We must
recognize that the world is ruled in a wrong spirit, and that a change
of spirit will not come from one day to the next. Our expectations
must not be for to-morrow, but for the time when what is thought now by
a few shall have become the common thought of many. If we have courage
and patience, we can think the thoughts and feel the hopes by which,
sooner or later, men will be inspired, and weariness and discouragement
will be turned into energy and ardor. For this reason, the first thing
we have to do is to be clear in our own minds as to the kind of life we
think good and the kind of change that we desire in the world.

The ultimate power of those whose thought is vital is far greater than
it seems to men who suffer from the irrationality of contemporary
politics. Religious toleration was once the solitary speculation of a
few bold philosophers. Democracy, as a theory, arose among a handful of
men in Cromwell’s army; by them, after the Restoration, it was carried
to America, where it came to fruition in the War of Independence. From
America, Lafayette and the other Frenchmen who fought by the side of
Washington brought the theory of democracy to France, where it united
itself with the teaching of Rousseau and inspired the Revolution.
Socialism, whatever we may think of its merits, is a great and growing
power, which is transforming economic and political life; and socialism
owes its origin to a very small number of isolated theorists. The
movement against the subjection of women, which has become irresistible
and is not far from complete triumph, began in the same way with a few
impracticable idealists—Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley, John Stuart Mill.
The power of thought, in the long run, is greater than any other human
power. Those who have the ability to think and the imagination to think
in accordance with men’s needs, are likely to achieve the good they aim
at sooner or later, though probably not while they are still alive.

But those who wish to gain the world by thought must be content to
lose it as a support in the present. Most men go through life without
much questioning, accepting the beliefs and practices which they find
current, feeling that the world will be their ally if they do not
put themselves in opposition to it. New thought about the world is
incompatible with this comfortable acquiescence; it requires a certain
intellectual detachment, a certain solitary energy, a power of inwardly
dominating the world and the outlook that the world engenders. Without
some willingness to be lonely new thought cannot be achieved. And it
will not be achieved to any purpose if the loneliness is accompanied
by aloofness, so that the wish for union with others dies, or if
intellectual detachment leads to contempt. It is because the state
of mind required is subtle and difficult, because it is hard to be
intellectually detached yet not aloof, that fruitful thought on human
affairs is not common, and that most theorists are either conventional
or sterile. The right kind of thought is rare and difficult, but it is
not impotent. It is not the fear of impotence that need turn us aside
from thought if we have the wish to bring new hope into the world.

In seeking a political theory which is to be useful at any given
moment, what is wanted is not the invention of a Utopia, but the
discovery of the best direction of movement. The direction which is
good at one time may be superficially very different from that which
is good at another time. Useful thought is that which indicates the
right direction for the present time. But in judging what is the right
direction there are two general principles which are always applicable.

1. The growth and vitality of individuals and communities is to be
promoted as far as possible.

2. The growth of one individual or one community is to be as little as
possible at the expense of another.

The second of these principles, as applied by an individual in his
dealings with others, is the principle of _reverence_, that the life
of another has the same importance which we feel in our own life. As
applied impersonally in politics, it is the principle of _liberty_,
or rather it includes the principle of liberty as a part. Liberty in
itself is a negative principle; it tells us not to interfere, but does
not give any basis for construction. It shows that many political and
social institutions are bad and ought to be swept away, but it does not
show what ought to be put in their place. For this reason a further
principle is required, if our political theory is not to be purely

The combination of our two principles is not in practice an easy
matter. Much of the vital energy of the world runs into channels which
are oppressive. The Germans have shown themselves extraordinarily full
of vital energy, but unfortunately in a form which seems incompatible
with the vitality of their neighbors. Europe in general has more vital
energy than Africa, but it has used its energy to drain Africa, through
industrialism, of even such life as the negroes possessed. The vitality
of southeastern Europe is being drained to supply cheap labor for the
enterprise of American millionaires. The vitality of men has been in
the past a hindrance to the development of women, and it is possible
that in the near future women may become a similar hindrance to men.
For such reasons the principle of reverence, though not in itself
sufficient, is of very great importance, and is able to indicate many
of the political changes that the world requires.

In order that both principles may be capable of being satisfied, what
is needed is a unifying or integration, first of our individual lives,
then of the life of the community and of the world, without sacrifice
of individuality. The life of an individual, the life of a community,
and even the life of mankind, ought to be, not a number of separate
fragments but in some sense a whole. When this is the case, the growth
of the individual is fostered, and is not incompatible with the growth
of other individuals. In this way the two principles are brought into

What integrates an individual life is a consistent creative purpose or
unconscious direction. Instinct alone will not suffice to give unity
to the life of a civilized man or woman: there must be some dominant
object, an ambition, a desire for scientific or artistic creation, a
religious principle, or strong and lasting affections. Unity of life is
very difficult for a man or woman who has suffered a certain kind of
defeat, the kind by which what should have been the dominant impulse
is checked and made abortive. Most professions inflict this kind of
defeat upon a man at the very outset. If a man becomes a journalist, he
probably has to write for a newspaper whose politics he dislikes; this
kills his pride in work and his sense of independence. Most medical
men find it very hard to succeed without humbug, by which whatever
scientific conscience they may have had is destroyed. Politicians are
obliged, not only to swallow the party program but to pretend to be
saints, in order to conciliate religious supporters; hardly any man
can enter Parliament without hypocrisy. In no profession is there any
respect for the native pride without which a man cannot remain whole;
the world ruthlessly crushes it out, because it implies independence,
and men desire to enslave others more than they desire to be free
themselves. Inward freedom is infinitely precious, and a society which
will preserve it is immeasurably to be desired.

The principle of growth in a man is not crushed necessarily by
preventing him from doing some definite thing, but it is often crushed
by persuading him to do something else. The things that crush growth
are those that produce a sense of impotence in the directions in which
the vital impulse wishes to be effective. The worst things are those to
which the will assents. Often, chiefly from failure of self-knowledge,
a man’s will is on a lower level than his impulse: his impulse is
towards some kind of creation, while his will is towards a conventional
career, with a sufficient income and the respect of his contemporaries.
The stereotyped illustration is the artist who produces shoddy work
to please the public. But something of the artist’s definiteness of
impulse exists in very many men who are not artists. Because the
impulse is deep and dumb, because what is called common sense is often
against it, because a young man can only follow it if he is willing to
set up his own obscure feelings against the wisdom and prudent maxims
of elders and friends, it happens in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred
that the creative impulse, out of which a free and vigorous life might
have sprung, is checked and thwarted at the very outset: the young man
consents to become a tool, not an independent workman; a mere means
to the fulfilment of others, not the artificer of what his own nature
feels to be good. In the moment when he makes this act of consent
something dies within him. He can never again become a whole man,
never again have the undamaged self-respect, the upright pride, which
might have kept him happy in his soul in spite of all outward troubles
and difficulties—except, indeed, through conversion and a fundamental
change in his way of life.

Outward prohibitions, to which the will gives no assent, are far
less harmful than the subtler inducements which seduce the will. A
serious disappointment in love may cause the most poignant pain, but
to a vigorous man it will not do the same inward damage as is done by
marrying for money. The achievement of this or that special desire is
not what is essential: what is essential is the direction, the _kind_
of effectiveness which is sought. When the fundamental impulse is
opposed by will, it is made to feel helpless: it has no longer enough
hope to be powerful as a motive. Outward compulsion does not do the
same damage unless it produces the same sense of impotence; and it will
not produce the same sense of impotence if the impulse is strong and
courageous. Some thwarting of special desires is unavoidable even in
the best imaginable community, since some men’s desires, unchecked,
lead to the oppression or destruction of others. In a good community
Napoleon could not have been allowed the profession of his choice, but
he might have found happiness as a pioneer in Western America. He could
not have found happiness as a City clerk, and no tolerable organization
of society would compel him to become a City clerk.

The integration of an individual life requires that it should embody
whatever creative impulse a man may possess, and that his education
should have been such as to elicit and fortify this impulse. The
integration of a community requires that the different creative
impulses of different men and women should work together towards some
common life, some common purpose, not necessarily conscious, in which
all the members of the community find a help to their individual
fulfilment. Most of the activities that spring from vital impulses
consist of two parts: one creative, which furthers one’s own life and
that of others with the same kind of impulse or circumstances, and
one possessive, which hinders the life of some group with a different
kind of impulse or circumstances. For this reason, much of what is in
itself most vital may nevertheless work against life, as, for example,
seventeenth-century Puritanism did in England, or as nationalism
does throughout Europe at the present day. Vitality easily leads to
strife or oppression, and so to loss of vitality. War, at its outset,
integrates the life of a nation, but it disintegrates the life of the
world, and in the long run the life of a nation too, when it is as
severe as the present war.

The war has made it clear that it is impossible to produce a secure
integration of the life of a single community while the relations
between civilized countries are governed by aggressiveness and
suspicion. For this reason any really powerful movement of reform
will have to be international. A merely national movement is sure to
fail through fear of danger from without. Those who desire a better
world, or even a radical improvement in their own country, will have
to coöperate with those who have similar desires in other countries,
and to devote much of their energy to overcoming that blind hostility
which the war has intensified. It is not in partial integrations,
such as patriotism alone can produce, that any ultimate hope is to be
found. The problem is, in national and international questions as in
the individual life, to keep what is creative in vital impulses, and at
the same time to turn into other channels the part which is at present

Men’s impulses and desires may be divided into those that are creative
and those that are possessive. Some of our activities are directed to
creating what would not otherwise exist, others are directed towards
acquiring or retaining what exists already. The typical creative
impulse is that of the artist; the typical possessive impulse is
that of property. The best life is that in which creative impulses
play the largest part and possessive impulses the smallest. The best
institutions are those which produce the greatest possible creativeness
and the least possessiveness compatible with self-preservation.
Possessiveness may be defensive or aggressive: in the criminal law it
is defensive, and in criminals it is aggressive. It may perhaps be
admitted that the criminal law is less abominable than the criminal,
and that defensive possessiveness is unavoidable so long as aggressive
possessiveness exists. But not even the most purely defensive forms of
possessiveness are in themselves admirable; indeed, as soon as they are
strong they become hostile to the creative impulses. “Take no thought,
saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink, or Wherewithal
shall we be clothed?” Whoever has known a strong creative impulse has
known the value of this precept in its exact and literal sense: it is
preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents
men from living freely and nobly. The State and Property are the great
embodiments of possessiveness; it is for this reason that they are
against life, and that they issue in war. Possession means taking or
keeping some good thing which another is prevented from enjoying;
creation means putting into the world a good thing which otherwise
no one would be able to enjoy. Since the material goods of the world
must be divided among the population, and since some men are by nature
brigands, there must be defensive possession, which will be regulated,
in a good community, by some principle of impersonal justice. But all
this is only the preface to a good life or good political institutions,
in which creation will altogether outweigh possession, and distributive
justice will exist as an uninteresting matter of course.

The supreme principle, both in politics and in private life, should
be _to promote all that is creative, and so to diminish the impulses
and desires that center round possession_. The State at present is
very largely an embodiment of possessive impulses: internally, it
protects the rich against the poor; externally, it uses force for the
exploitation of inferior races, and for competition with other States.
Our whole economic system is concerned exclusively with possession; yet
the production of goods is a form of creation, and except in so far as
it is irredeemably mechanical and monotonous, it might afford a vehicle
for creative impulses. A great deal might be achieved towards this
end by forming the producers of a certain kind of commodity into an
autonomous democracy, subject to State control as regards the price of
their commodity but not as to the manner of its production.

Education, marriage, and religion are essentially creative, yet all
three have been vitiated by the intrusion of possessive motives.
Education is usually treated as a means of prolonging the _status quo_
by instilling prejudices, rather than of creating free thought and a
noble outlook by the example of generous feeling and the stimulus of
mental adventure. In marriage, love, which is creative, is kept in
chains by jealousy, which is possessive. Religion, which should set
free the creative vision of the spirit, is usually more concerned
to repress the life of instinct and to combat the subversiveness of
thought. In all these ways the fear that grows out of precarious
possession has replaced the hope inspired by creative force. The wish
to plunder others is recognized, in theory, to be bad; but the fear of
being plundered is little better. Yet these two motives between them
dominate nine-tenths of politics and private life.

The creative impulses in different men are essentially harmonious,
since what one man creates cannot be a hindrance to what another is
wishing to create. It is the possessive impulses that involve conflict.
Although, morally and politically, the creative and possessive impulses
are opposites, yet psychologically either passes easily into the
other, according to the accidents of circumstance and opportunity. The
genesis of impulses and the causes which make them change ought to be
studied; education and social institutions ought to be made such as
to strengthen the impulses which harmonize in different men, and to
weaken those that involve conflict. I have no doubt that what might be
accomplished in this way is almost unlimited.

It is rather through impulse than through will that individual lives
and the life of the community can derive the strength unity of a
single direction. Will is of two kinds, of which one is directed
outward and the other inward. The first, which is directed outward,
is called into play by external obstacles, either the opposition of
others or the technical difficulties of an undertaking. This kind of
will is an expression of strong impulse or desire, whenever instant
success is impossible; it exists in all whose life is vigorous, and
only decays when their vital force is enfeebled. It is necessary to
success in any difficult enterprise, and without it great achievement
is very rare. But the will which is directed inward is only necessary
in so far as there is an inner conflict of impulses or desires; a
perfectly harmonious nature would have no occasion for inward will.
Such perfect harmony is of course a scarcely realizable ideal: in all
men impulses arise which are incompatible with their central purpose,
and which must be checked if their life as a whole is not to be a
failure. But this will happen least with those whose central impulses
are strongest; and it will happen less often in a society which aims
at freedom than in a society like ours, which is full of artificial
incompatibilities created by antiquated institutions and a tyrannous
public opinion. The power to exert inward will when the occasion arises
must always be needed by those who wish their lives to embody some
central purpose, but with better institutions the occasions when inward
will is necessary might be made fewer and less important. This result
is very much to be desired, because when will checks impulses which are
only accidentally harmful, it diverts a force which might be spent on
overcoming outward obstacles, and if the impulses checked are strong
and serious, it actually diminishes the vital force available. A life
full of inhibitions is likely not to remain a very vigorous life but
to become listless and without zest. Impulse tends to die when it is
constantly held in check, and if it does not die, it is apt to work
underground, and issue in some form much worse than that in which it
has been checked. For these reasons the necessity for using inward will
ought to be avoided as much as possible, and consistency of action
ought to spring rather from consistency of impulse than from control of
impulse by will.

The unifying of life ought not to demand the suppression of the casual
desires that make amusement and play; on the contrary, everything ought
to be done to make it easy to combine the main purposes of life with
all kinds of pleasure that are not in their nature harmful. Such things
as habitual drunkenness, drugs, cruel sports, or pleasure in inflicting
pain are essentially harmful, but most of the amusements that civilized
men naturally enjoy are either not harmful at all or only accidentally
harmful through some effect which might be avoided in a better society.
What is needed is, not asceticism or a drab Puritanism, but capacity
for strong impulses and desires directed towards large creative ends.
When such impulses and desires are vigorous, they bring with them, of
themselves, what is needed to make a good life.

But although amusement and adventure ought to have their share, it is
impossible to create a good life if they are what is mainly desired.
Subjectivism, the habit of directing thought and desire to our own
states of mind rather than to something objective, inevitably makes
life fragmentary and unprogressive. The man to whom amusement is the
end of life tends to lose interest gradually in the things out of
which he has been in the habit of obtaining amusement, since he does
not value these things on their own account, but on account of the
feelings which they arouse in him. When they are no longer amusing,
boredom drives him to seek some new stimulus, which fails him in its
turn. Amusement consists in a series of moments without any essential
continuity; a purpose which unifies life is one which requires some
prolonged activity, and is like building a monument rather than a
child’s castle in the sand.

Subjectivism has other forms beside the mere pursuit of amusement.
Many men, when they are in love, are more interested in their own
emotion than in the object of their love; such love does not lead to
any essential union, but leaves fundamental separateness undiminished.
As soon as the emotion grows less vivid the experience has served its
purpose, and there seems no motive for prolonging it. In another way,
the same evil of subjectivism was fostered by Protestant religion and
morality, since they directed attention to sin and the state of the
soul rather than to the outer world and our relations with it. None
of these forms of subjectivism can prevent a man’s life from being
fragmentary and isolated. Only a life which springs out of dominant
impulses directed to objective ends can be a satisfactory whole, or be
intimately united with the lives of others.

The pursuit of pleasure and the pursuit of virtue alike suffer from
subjectivism: Epicureanism and Stoicism are infected with the same
taint. Marcus Aurelius, enacting good laws in order that he might
be virtuous, is not an attractive figure. Subjectivism is a natural
outcome of a life in which there is much more thought than action:
while outer things are being remembered or desired, not actually
experienced, they seem to become mere ideas. What they are in
themselves becomes less interesting to us than the effects which they
produce in our own minds. Such a result tends to be brought about by
increasing civilization, because increasing civilization continually
diminishes the need for vivid action and enhances the opportunities
for thought. But thought will not have this bad result if it is active
thought, directed towards achieving some purpose; it is only passive
thought that leads to subjectivism. What is needed is to keep thought
in intimate union with impulses and desires, making it always itself
an activity with an objective purpose. Otherwise, thought and impulse
become enemies, to the great detriment of both.

In order to make the lives of average men and women less fragmentary
and separate, and to give greater opportunity for carrying out creative
impulses, it is not enough to know the goal we wish to reach, or to
proclaim the excellence of what we desire to achieve. It is necessary
to understand the effect of institutions and beliefs upon the life of
impulse, and to discover ways of improving this effect by a change
in institutions. And when this intellectual work has been done, our
thought will still remain barren unless we can bring it into relation
with some powerful political force. The only powerful political force
from which any help is to be expected in bringing about such changes
as seem needed is Labor. The changes required are very largely such
as Labor may be expected to welcome, especially during the time of
hardship after the war. When the war is over, labor discontent is sure
to be very prevalent throughout Europe, and to constitute a political
force by means of which a great and sweeping reconstruction may be

The civilized world has need of fundamental change if it is to be saved
from decay—change both in its economic structure and in its philosophy
of life. Those of us who feel the need of change must not sit still in
dull despair: we can, if we choose, profoundly influence the future. We
can discover and preach the kind of change that is required—the kind
that preserves what is positive in the vital beliefs of our time, and,
by eliminating what is negative and inessential, produces a synthesis
to which all that is not purely reactionary can give allegiance. As
soon as it has become clear what _kind_ of change is required, it will
be possible to work out its parts in more detail. But until the war is
ended there is little use in detail, since we do not know what kind of
world the war will leave. The only thing that seems indubitable is that
much new thought will be required in the new world produced by the
war. Traditional views will give little help. It is clear that men’s
most important actions are not guided by the sort of motives that are
emphasized in traditional political philosophies. The impulses by which
the war has been produced and sustained come out of a deeper region
than that of most political argument. And the opposition to the war
on the part of those few who have opposed it comes from the same deep
region. A political theory, if it is to hold in times of stress, must
take account of the impulses that underlie explicit thought: it must
appeal to them, and it must discover how to make them fruitful rather
than destructive.

Economic systems have a great influence in promoting or destroying
life. Except slavery, the present industrial system is the most
destructive of life that has ever existed. Machinery and large-scale
production are ineradicable, and must survive in any better system
which is to replace the one under which we live. Industrial federal
democracy is probably the best direction for reform to take.

Philosophies of life, when they are widely believed, also have a
very great influence on the vitality of a community. The most widely
accepted philosophy of life at present is that what matters most to
a man’s happiness is his income. This philosophy, apart from other
demerits, is harmful because it leads men to aim at a result rather
than an activity, an enjoyment of material goods in which men are not
differentiated, rather than a creative impulse which embodies each
man’s individuality. More refined philosophies, such as are instilled
by higher education, are too apt to fix attention on the past rather
than the future, and on correct behavior rather than effective action.
It is not in such philosophies that men will find the energy to bear
lightly the weight of tradition and of ever-accumulating knowledge.

The world has need of a philosophy, or a religion, which will promote
life. But in order to promote life it is necessary to value something
other than mere life. Life devoted only to life is animal without
any real human value, incapable of preserving men permanently from
weariness and the feeling that all is vanity. If life is to be fully
human it must serve some end which seems, in some sense, outside
human life, some end which is impersonal and above mankind, such as
God or truth or beauty. Those who best promote life do not have life
for their purpose. They aim rather at what seems like a gradual
incarnation, a bringing into our human existence of something eternal,
something that appears to imagination to live in a heaven remote from
strife and failure and the devouring jaws of Time. Contact with this
eternal world—even if it be only a world of our imagining—brings a
strength and a fundamental peace which cannot be wholly destroyed
by the struggles and apparent failures of our temporal life. It is
this happy contemplation of what is eternal that Spinoza calls the
intellectual love of God. To those who have once known it, it is the
key of wisdom.

What we have to do practically is different for each one of us,
according to our capacities and opportunities. But if we have the life
of the spirit within us, what we must do and what we must avoid will
become apparent to us.

By contact with what is eternal, by devoting our life to bringing
something of the Divine into this troubled world, we can make our own
lives creative even now, even in the midst of the cruelty and strife
and hatred that surround us on every hand. To make the individual life
creative is far harder in a community based on possession than it would
be in such a community as human effort may be able to build up in the
future. Those who are to begin the regeneration of the world must face
loneliness, opposition, poverty, obloquy. They must be able to live
by truth and love, with a rational unconquerable hope; they must be
honest and wise, fearless, and guided by a consistent purpose. A body
of men and women so inspired will conquer—first the difficulties and
perplexities of their individual lives, then, in time, though perhaps
only in a long time, the outer world. Wisdom and hope are what the
world needs; and though it fights against them, it gives its respect to
them in the end.

When the Goths sacked Rome, St. Augustine wrote the “City of God,”
putting a spiritual hope in place of the material reality that had been
destroyed. Throughout the centuries that followed St. Augustine’s hope
lived and gave life, while Rome sank to a village of hovels. For us,
too, it is necessary to create a new hope, to build up by our thought
a better world than the one which is hurling itself into ruin. Because
the times are bad, more is required of us than would be required in
normal times. Only a supreme fire of thought and spirit can save future
generations from the death that has befallen the generation which we
knew and loved.

It has been my good fortune to come in contact as a teacher with young
men of many different nations—young men in whom hope was alive, in
whom the creative energy existed that would have realized in the world
some part at least of the imagined beauty by which they lived. They
have been swept into the war, some on one side, some on the other.
Some are still fighting, some are maimed for life, some are dead; of
those who survive it is to be feared that many will have lost the life
of the spirit, that hope will have died, that energy will be spent,
and that the years to come will be only a weary journey towards the
grave. Of all this tragedy, not a few of those who teach seem to have
no feeling: with ruthless logic, they prove that these young men have
been sacrificed unavoidably for some coldly abstract end; undisturbed
themselves, they lapse quickly into comfort after any momentary assault
of feeling. In such men the life of the spirit is dead. If it were
living, it would go out to meet the spirit in the young, with a love
as poignant as the love of father or mother. It would be unaware of
the bounds of self; their tragedy would be its own. Something would
cry out: “No, this is not right; this is not good; this is not a holy
cause, in which the brightness of youth is destroyed and dimmed. It
is we, the old, who have sinned; we have sent these young men to the
battlefield for our evil passions, our spiritual death, our failure to
live generously out of the warmth of the heart and out of the living
vision of the spirit. Let us come out of this death, for it is we who
are dead, not the young men who have died through our fear of life.
Their very ghosts have more life than we: they hold us up for ever to
the shame and obloquy of all the ages to come. Out of their ghosts must
come life, and it is we whom they must vivify.”



[1] On this subject compare Bernard Hart’s “Psychology of Insanity”
(Cambridge University Press, 1914), chap. v, especially pp. 62–5.

[2] This was written before Christianity had become punishable by hard
labor, penal servitude, or even death, under the Military Service Act
(No. 2). [Note added in 1916.]

[3] The blasphemy prosecutions.

[4] The syndicalist prosecutions. [The punishment of conscientious
objectors must now be added, 1916.]

[5] In a democratic country it is the majority who must after all rule,
and the minority will be obliged to submit with the best grace possible
(_Westminster Gazette_ on Conscription, December 29, 1915).

[6] Some very strong remarks on the conduct of the “white feather”
women were made by Mr. Reginald Kemp, the Deputy Coroner for West
Middlesex, at an inquest at Ealing on Saturday on Richard Charles
Roberts, aged thirty-four, a taxicab driver, of Shepherd’s Bush, who
committed suicide in consequence of worry caused by his rejection from
the Army and the taunts of women and other amateur recruiters.

It was stated that he tried to join the Army in October, but was
rejected on account of a weak heart. That alone, said his widow, had
depressed him, and he had been worried because he thought he would lose
his license owing to the state of his heart. He had also been troubled
by the dangerous illness of a child.

A soldier relative said that the deceased’s life had been made “a
perfect misery” by women who taunted him and called him a coward
because he did not join the Army. A few days ago two women in Maida
Vale insulted him “something shocking.”

The Coroner, speaking with some warmth, said the conduct of such
women was abominable. It was scandalous that women who knew nothing
of individual circumstances should be allowed to go about making
unbearable the lives of men who had tried to do their duty. It was a
pity they had nothing better to do. Here was a man who perhaps had been
driven to death by a pack of silly women. He hoped something would soon
be done to put a stop to such conduct (_Daily News_, July 26, 1915).

[7] By England in South Africa, America in the Philippines, France
in Morocco, Italy in Tripoli, Germany in Southwest Africa, Russia in
Persia and Manchuria, Japan in Manchuria.

[8] This was written in 1915.

[9] This would be as true under a syndicalist régime as it is at

[10] These changes, which are to be desired on their own account, not
only in order to prevent war, will be discussed in later lectures.

[11] What is said on this subject in the present lecture is only
preliminary, since the subsequent lectures all deal with some aspect of
the same problem.

[12] Except by that small minority who are capable of artistic

[13] Booth’s “Life and Labour of the People,” vol. iii.

[14] As regards the education of young children, Madame Montessori’s
methods seem to me full of wisdom.


The King has been graciously pleased to accept a copy of the little
book containing suggestions to local education authorities and teachers
in Wales as to the teaching of patriotism which has just been issued
by the Welsh Department of the Board of Education in connection with
the observance of the National Anniversary of St. David’s Day. His
Private Secretary (Lord Stamfordham), in writing to Mr. Alfred T.
Davies, the Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Department, says that his
Majesty is much pleased with the contents of the book, and trusts that
the principles inculcated in it will bear good fruit in the lives and
characters of the coming generation.—_Morning Post_, January 29, 1916.

[16] What Madame Montessori has achieved in the way of minimizing
obedience and discipline with advantage to education is almost

[17] There was a provision for suits _in forma pauperis_, but for
various reasons this provision was nearly useless; a new and somewhat
better provision has recently been made, but is still very far from

[18] The following letter (_New Statesman_, December 4, 1915)
illustrates the nature of his activities:—


_To the Editor of the_ “New Statesman.”

SIR,—The following episodes may be of interest to your readers. Under
the new facilities for divorce offered to the London poor, a poor woman
recently obtained a decree _nisi_ for divorce against her husband,
who had often covered her body with bruises, infected her with a
dangerous disease, and committed bigamy. By this bigamous marriage
the husband had ten illegitimate children. In order to prevent this
decree being made absolute, the Treasury spent at least £200 of the
taxes in briefing a leading counsel and an eminent junior counsel and
in bringing about ten witnesses from a city a hundred miles away to
prove that this woman had committed casual acts of adultery in 1895
and 1898. The net result is that this woman will probably be forced by
destitution into further adultery, and that the husband will be able
to treat his mistress exactly as he treated his wife, with impunity,
so far as disease is concerned. In nearly every other civilized
country the marriage would have been dissolved, the children could
have been legitimated by subsequent marriage, and the lawyers employed
by the Treasury would not have earned the large fees they did from
the community for an achievement which seems to most other lawyers
thoroughly anti-social in its effects. If any lawyers really feel that
society is benefited by this sort of litigation, why cannot they give
their services for nothing, like the lawyers who assisted the wife? If
we are to practise economy in war-time, why cannot the King’s Proctor
be satisfied with a junior counsel only? The fact remains that many
persons situated like the husband and wife in question prefer to avoid
having illegitimate children, and the birth-rate accordingly suffers.

The other episode is this. A divorce was obtained by Mr. A. against
Mrs. A. and Mr. B. Mr. B. was married and Mrs. B., on hearing of the
divorce proceedings, obtained a decree nisi against Mr. B. Mr. B. is at
any moment liable to be called to the Front, but Mrs. B. has for some
months declined to make the decree _nisi_ absolute, and this prevents
him marrying Mrs. A., as he feels in honor bound to do. Yet the law
allows any petitioner, male or female, to obtain a decree _nisi_ and
to refrain from making it absolute for motives which are probably
discreditable. The Divorce Law Commissioners strongly condemned this
state of things, and the hardship in question is immensely aggravated
in war-time, just as the war has given rise to many cases of bigamy
owing to the chivalrous desire of our soldiers to obtain for the _de
facto_ wife and family the separation allowance of the State. The legal
wife is often united by similar ties to another man. I commend these
facts to consideration in your columns, having regard to your frequent
complaints of a falling birth-rate. The iniquity of our marriage laws
is an important contributory cause to the fall in question.

        Yours, etc.,
            E. S. P. HAYNES.

_November 29th._

[19] Some interesting facts were given by Mr. Sidney Webb in two
letters to _The Times_, October 11 and 16, 1906; there is also a Fabian
tract on the subject: “The Decline in the Birth-Rate,” by Sidney Webb
(No. 131). Some further information may be found in “The Declining
Birth-Rate: Its National and International Significance,” by A.
Newsholme, M.D., M.R.C.S. (Cassell, 1911).

[20] The fall in the death-rate, and especially in the infant
mortality, which has occurred concurrently with the fall in the
birth-rate, has hitherto been sufficiently great to allow the
population of Great Britain to go on increasing. But there are obvious
limits to the fall of the death-rate, whereas the birth-rate might
easily fall to a point which would make an actual diminution of numbers

[21] I should add artists but for the fact that most modern artists
seem to find much greater difficulty in creation than men of science
usually find.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained; occurrences of
inconsistent hyphenation have not been changed.

Duplicate hemi-title removed just before first chapter.

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