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Title: Aristocracy & Evolution - A Study of the Rights, the Origin, and the Social Functions - of the Wealthier Classes
Author: Mallock, W. H. (William Hurrell)
Language: English
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 Toute civilisation est l’œuvre des aristocrates.

 ’Tis thus the spirit of a single mind
   Makes that of multitudes take one direction,
 As roll the waters to the breathing wind,
   Or roams the herd beneath the bull’s protection,
 Or as a little dog will lead the blind,
   Or a bell-wether form the flock’s connection
 By tinkling sounds, when they go forth to victual,
 Such is the sway of your great men o’er little.
    ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·
 There was not now a luggage-boy but sought
   Danger and spoil with ardour much increased;
 And why? Because a little—odd—old man,
 Stript to his shirt, was come to lead the van.



The word _aristocracy_ as used in the title of this volume has no
exclusive, and indeed no special reference to a class distinguished
by hereditary political privileges, by titles, or by heraldic
pedigree. It here means the exceptionally gifted and efficient
minority, no matter what the position in which its members may
have been born, or what the sphere of social progress in which
their exceptional efficiency shows itself. I have chosen the word
_aristocracy_ in preference to the word _oligarchy_ because it means
not only the rule of the few, but of the best or the most efficient
of the few.

Of the various questions involved in the general argument of the
work, many would, if they were to be examined exhaustively, demand
entire treatises to themselves rather than chapters. This is
specially true of such questions as the nature of men’s congenital
inequalities, the effects of different classes of motive in producing
different classes of action, and the effects of equal education on
unequal talents and temperaments. But the practical bearings of an
argument are more readily grasped when its various parts are set
forth with comparative brevity, than they are when the attention
claimed for each is minute enough to do it justice as a separate
subject of inquiry; and it has appeared to me that in the present
condition of opinion, prevalent social fallacies may be more easily
combated by putting the case against them in a form which will render
it intelligible to everybody, and by leaving many points to be
elaborated, if necessary, elsewhere.

I may also add that the conclusions here arrived at, with whatever
completeness they might have been explained, elaborated, and
defended, would not, in my opinion, do more than partially answer the
questions to which they refer. This volume aims only at establishing
what are the social rights and social functions, in progressive
communities, of the few. The entire question of their duties and
proper liabilities, whether imposed on them by themselves or by
the State, has been left untouched. This side of the question I
hope to deal with hereafter. It is enough to observe here that it
is impossible to define the duties of the few, of the rich, of the
powerful, of the highly gifted, and to secure that these duties
shall be performed by them, unless we first understand the extent of
the functions which they inevitably perform, and admit frankly the
indefeasible character of their rights.





Science during the middle of this century excited popular interest
mainly on account of its bearing on the doctrines of Christianity • 3

Its popularity is now beginning to depend on its bearing not on
religious problems, but on social • 3

Science itself is undergoing a corresponding change • 4

Its characteristic aim during the middle of the century was to deal
with physical and physiological evolution • 4

Its characteristic aim now is to deal with the evolution of society
• 5

Social science itself is not wholly new • 5

What is new is the application to it of the evolutionary theory • 6

This excites men by suggesting great social changes in the future, • 7

which will give a speculative meaning to the history of humanity, • 8

or secure for men now existing, or for their children, practical
social advantages • 8

Men have thus a double reason for being interested in social science,
and sociologists a double reason for studying it; • 9

and it has attracted a number of men of genius, who have applied to
it methods learned in the school of physical science • 9

Yet despite their genius and their diligence, all parties complain
that the results of their study are inconclusive • 10

Professor Marshall and Mr. Kidd, for instance, complain of the fact,
but can suggest no explanation of it • 10

What can the explanation be? • 11

The answer will be found in the fact just referred to—that social
science attempts to answer two distinct sets of questions; • 12

and one set—namely, the speculative—it has answered with great
success; • 12

it has failed only in attempting to answer practical questions • 13

Now the phenomena with which it has dealt successfully are phenomena
of social aggregates, considered as wholes; • 13

but the practical problems of to-day, with which it has dealt
unsuccessfully, arise out of the conflict between different parts of
aggregates • 15

Social science has failed as a _practical_ guide because it has not
recognised this distinction; • 16

and hence arise most of the errors of the political philosophy of
this century • 16



Whatever may be done by some men, or classes of men, sociologists are
at present accustomed to attribute to _man_ • 17

Mr. Kidd’s _Social Evolution_, for instance, is based entirely on
this procedure • 17

He quotes with approval two other writers who have been guilty of it;
• 18

who both attribute to _man_ what is done by only a few men; • 19

and the consequences of their reasoning are ludicrous • 20

Mr. Kidd’s reasoning itself is not less ludicrous. The first half of
his argument is that religion prompts the few to surrender advantages
to the many, which, if they chose to do so, they could keep • 21

The second half is that the many could have taken these advantages
from the few, and that religion alone prevented them from doing so
• 21

This contradiction is entirely due to the fact that, having first
divided the social aggregate into two classes, he then obliterates
his division, and thinks of them both as “_man_” • 22

Mr. Kidd’s confusion is the result of no accidental error. It is the
inevitable result of a radically fallacious method; • 24

and of this method the chief exponent is Mr. Herbert Spencer, • 24

as a short summary of his arguments will show • 25

Mr. Spencer starts with saying that the chief impediment to social
science is the great-man theory; • 25

for, if the appearance of the great man is incalculable, progress, if
it depends on him, must be incalculable also; • 26

but if the great man is not a miraculous apparition, he owes his
greatness to causes outside himself; • 27

and it is these causes which really produce the effects of which he
is the proximate initiator • 27

These effects, therefore, are to be explained by reference not to the
great man, but to the causes that are behind the great man • 28

The true causes, says Mr. Spencer, of all social phenomena are
physical environment and men’s natural character • 29

The first physical cause of progress was an exceptionally fertile
soil • 29

and an exceptionally bracing climate • 29

All the conquering races came from fertile and bracing regions • 30

There were other regions more fertile, but these were enervating; and
hence the inhabitants of the former enslaved the weaker inhabitants
of the latter • 30

Again, division of labour, on which industrial progress depends, was
caused by difference in the products of different localities, • 31

which led to the localisation of industries • 32

The localisation of industries in its turn led to road-making; • 33

and roads made possible the centralisation of authority and
interchange of ideas • 33

Next, as to men’s natural character, which is the other cause of
progress, • 33

their primitive character did not fit them to progress, • 34

till it was gradually improved by the evolution of marriage and the
family—especially of monogamy • 34

Monogamy represents the survival of the fittest kind of sexual union
• 35

It developed the affections and the practice of efficient
co-operation • 35

The family being established, the nation gradually rose from it • 36

One family increased, and gave rise to many families, which were
obliged, in order to get food, to separate into different groups; • 36

and the recompounding of these groups, for purposes of defence or
aggression, formed the nation; • 37

all government being in its origin military • 37

But as the arts of life progress, industry emancipates itself from
governmental control, and becomes its own master, and also forms the
basis of political democracy • 37

Now, if we consider all these conclusions of Mr. Spencer’s, • 39

we shall find them to be all conclusions about aggregates as wholes,
not about parts of aggregates • 39

The only differences recognised by him between men are differences
between one homogeneous aggregate and another, • 40

and differences between similar men who happen to be occupied
differently • 41

But, as has already been said, the social problems of to-day arise
out of a conflict between different parts of the same aggregate;
therefore the phenomena of the aggregate as a whole do not help us
• 42

The conflict between the parts of the aggregate arises from
inequalities of position • 43

of which Mr. Spencer’s sociology takes no account • 44

Social problems arise out of the desire of those whose positions are
inferior to have their positions changed; • 45

and the practical question is, is the change they desire possible?
• 45

To answer this question we must examine into the causes why such and
such individuals are in inferior, and others in superior positions
• 46

Are inequalities in position due to alterable and accidental
circumstances? • 47

Or are they due to congenital inequalities which no one can ever do
away with? • 47

Social inequalities are partly due to circumstances; • 48

but most people will admit that congenital inequalities in talent
have much to do with them • 48

Why then insist on this fact? • 49

Because this fact is precisely what our contemporary sociologists
ignore, • 49

as Mr. Spencer shows us by his distinct admissions and assertions, as
well as by the character of his conclusions • 50

His condemnation of the great-man theory is a removal of all
congenital inequalities from his field of study; • 51

and he actually defines an aggregate as being composed of
_approximately equal units_ • 52

His failure and that of others, as practical sociologists, arises
from their building on this false hypothesis • 53



The ignoring of natural inequalities is a deliberate procedure. Let
us see how it is defended • 55

Let us examine Mr. Spencer’s defence of it • 55

He defends it in two ways; • 55

(1) by saying that the great man does not really do what he seems to
do; • 55

(2) by saying that what he seems to do is not really much • 56

He admits that the great man does do something exceptional in war;
• 57

but denies that he does anything exceptional in the sphere of
peaceful progress • 57

But how does the great man fulfil his function in war? By ordering
others • 58

The great man, in peace, does precisely the same thing • 59

Mr. Spencer, for example, orders the compositors who put his books
into type • 59

The inventor orders the men by whom his inventions are manufactured
• 60

The great man of business orders his employees • 61

The hotel-keeper orders his staff • 62

All these men resemble the great military commander; and if the
latter is a social cause, so are the former • 63

Next, as to the contention that the great man is the proximate cause
only, and not the true cause— • 63

This, as Mr. Spencer and three popular writers of to-day show us, • 64

resolves itself into four arguments: • 65

(1) That every first discovery involves all that have gone before it;
• 66

(2) that the discoverer’s ability itself is the product of past
circumstances; • 66

(3) that often the same discovery is made by several men at once; • 66

(4) that the difference between the great and the ordinary man is
slight • 66

Simultaneous discovery only shows that several great men, instead of
one, are greater than others • 67

The extent of the great man’s superiority depends on how it is
measured • 68

It may be slight to the speculative philosopher, but to the practical
man it is all-important • 69

As for the two other arguments, which admit the great man’s
greatness, but deny that it is his own, • 71

they are both true speculatively, but are practically untrue, or
irrelevant; • 71

just as statements of averages and classification of goods may be
true and relevant for one purpose, and false and irrelevant for
another • 72

Thus the argument that the great man owes his faculties to his
ancestors, and through his ancestors to the society which helped to
develop his ancestors, though a speculative truism, • 73

leads to nothing but absurdities if we apply it to practical life • 74

For if the great workers owe their greatness to the whole of past
society, the men who shirk work owe their idleness to it; and if the
former deserve no reward, the latter deserve no punishment • 75

The same argument applies to morals; and if accepted, we should have
to admit that nobody really did, or was really responsible for,
anything • 76

Finally, let us take the argument that most of what the great man
does depends on past discoveries and past achievements, to which he
does but add a little • 77

If this argument means anything, it must mean that greatness is
commoner than it is vulgarly thought • 78

But is this the case? Does Shakespeare’s debt to his antecedents make
Shakespeares more numerous? • 79

Shakespeare’s contemporaries had the same national antecedents that
he had; but they could not do what he did • 80

Men inherit the past only in so far as they can assimilate it • 80

Socialists say that inventions once made become common property • 81

This is absolutely untrue • 81

The discoveries and inventions of the past are the property of those
only who can absorb and use them • 82

Thus the introduction of the past into the question leaves the
differences between the great man and others undiminished • 82

If the ordinary man does anything, the great man does a great deal
more • 83

and in practical reasoning he is a true cause for the sociologist • 83

And, curiously enough, Mr. Spencer unconsciously admits this • 84

He declares that the Napoleonic wars were entirely due to the
maleficent greatness of Napoleon • 84

He defends patents because they represent the _very substance of the
inventor’s own mind_; • 86

and he attributes the modern improvement in steel manufacture to Sir
H. Bessemer • 87

So much, then, being established, we must consider two difficulties
suggested by it • 88



It may be objected that modern sociology does not, as here asserted,
neglect the great man, for it adopts the doctrine of the survival of
the fittest • 89

It may be asked, on the other hand, what place the great man has in
an exclusively evolutionary theory of progress • 90

The fittest survivor is not the same as the great man • 90

He plays a part in progress, but not the same part • 90

The fittest men, by surviving, raise the general level of the race,
and promote progress only in this way • 91

The great man promotes progress by being superior to his
contemporaries • 92

The movement of progress is double; • 93

one movement being very slow, the other rapid • 93

The survival of the fittest causes the slow movement • 93

The rapid movement is caused by the great man • 95

Next, as to evolution—what does the word mean? • 95

Its great practical characteristic, as put forward by Darwin, is that
it is opposed to the doctrine of design, or divine intention; • 96

and yet, according to Darwin, species resulted from the intention of
each animal to live and propagate • 96

Species, therefore, according to the evolutionist, is the result of
intention, but not the result intended • 97

Evolution, in fact, is the reasonable sequence of the unintended • 97

This is as true of social evolution as it is of biological • 97

Many of the social conditions of any age result from the past, but
were intended by nobody in the past; • 98

for instance, many of the social effects of railways and cheap
printing • 98

Therefore, whenever any great man produces some change intentionally
he has to work with unintended materials • 99

We can see this in the progress of dramatic art; • 99

also in the progress of philosophy • 100

And yet in each case the intended elements are equal or are greater
than the unintended • 100

We see the same thing in the history of the _Times_ printing press
• 101

It was the result of many kinds of unintended progress, constantly
recombined by intention • 102

Evolution, in fact, is the unintended result of the intentions of
great men • 104

The unintended or evolved element in progress is what concerns the
speculative philosopher • 105

The intended element, which originates directly in the great man, is
what is of interest for practical purposes • 106




The causality of the great man being established, we must consider
more precisely what greatness is • 111

Mr. Spencer will help us to a general definition of it • 112

He divides the human race into the clever, the ordinary, and the
stupid • 113

Now if all the race were stupid, it is plain there would be no
progress; • 114

nor would there be any if all the race were ordinary; • 114

therefore progress must be due to the clever, who are, as Mr. Spencer
says, a “_scattered few_” • 115

This is the great-man theory reasonably stated • 115

For great men are not necessarily heroes, as Carlyle thought, • 116

nor divided absolutely from all other men • 116

Greatness is various in kind and degree, • 117

but, at all events, there is a certain minority of men who resemble
each other in being more efficient than the majority • 117

We see this in poetry • 118

in singers, • 118

in the scholarship of boys at the same school, • 119

and similarly in practical life • 119

Enough men, as it is, have equal opportunities, to show how unequal
men are in their powers of using them • 120

No doubt a man may be ordinary in one respect and great in another;
• 120

but the majority are not great in any • 121

The measure of a man’s greatness as an agent of social progress is
the overt results actually produced by him • 121

A selfish doctor, if successful, is greater than a devoted doctor, if
unsuccessful • 122

The fact that many men who produce no social results seem better and
more brilliant than many men who do produce them, makes some argue
that these results require no greatness for their production • 122

But the most efficient forms of greatness have often nothing
brilliant about them • 123

A lofty imagination is often the enemy to practical efficiency; • 124

and great efficiency is often independent of exceptional intellect
• 125

Intellect _is_ required for progress, _e.g._ in invention; • 125

but the inventor by himself is often helpless, • 125

and has to ally himself with men whose exceptional gifts are
unimpressive and even vulgar • 126

Greatness is not one quality, but various combinations of many • 127

Greatness, then, is merely those qualities which, in any domain of
progress, make the few more efficient than the many • 127

The great-man theory, then, merely asserts that if some men were not
more efficient than most men, no progress would take place at all
• 128

But great men, in spite of these differences, all promote progress in
the same way • 128



In order to see how the great man promotes progress, we must consider
that whilst the fittest survivor only promotes it • 130

by living, whilst others die, • 130

the great man promotes progress by helping others to live • 131

He promotes progress not by what he does himself, but by what he
helps others to do • 132

We can see this by considering the progress of knowledge which, as J.
S. Mill says, is the foundation of all progress • 132

But all progress in knowledge is the work of “_decidedly exceptional
individuals_,” • 134

as Mill admits, though in curiously confused language • 135

Now how do the exceptional individuals, when they acquire knowledge,
promote progress by doing so? • 136

They promote progress by conveying their knowledge to, and imposing
their conclusions on, others • 137

A similar thing is true of invention, which is knowledge applied • 138

Invention promotes progress only because the inventor influences the
actions of the workmen who make and use his machines • 139

The man of business ability promotes progress also only by so
ordering others that the precise wants of the public are supplied
• 140

And the same principle is obviously true in the domain of war,
politics, and religion • 141

Greatness, however, is not in all cases equally beneficial • 142

The influence of some great men is more advantageous than that of
others • 143

Progress, then, involves a struggle through which the fittest great
men shall secure influence over others, and destroy the influence of
the less fit • 143

We now come to another point of difference between the fittest great
man and the fittest survivor • 143

The social counterpart to the Darwinian struggle for survival is to
be found in the struggle of labourers to find employment • 144

But this is not the struggle to which historical progress is due • 145

For the most rapid progress has taken place without any increased
fitness in the labourers • 145

The progressive struggle in industry is confined entirely to the
employers; • 146

and in every domain of progress it is confined to the leaders, to the
exclusion of those who are led • 146

In the progressive struggle between great men, the mass of the
community play no part whatever • 147

Let us take, for instance, two rival hotel-keepers • 148

One becomes bankrupt, and the other takes over his hotel and his
staff • 148

The sole struggle is between the employers, not the employed • 148

The staff of the unsuccessful hotel-keeper gain, not lose, by being
employed by the successful • 149

Historical progress, then, results from a struggle not for
subsistence, but for domination • 149



All gain by the domination of the fittest, except the few who fail to
secure power for themselves • 151

We must consider, however, that the great men who struggle for
domination would not do so without some strong motive; • 152

and also that they cannot dominate others except by some particular
means • 153

Now the question of motive we will treat of hereafter. At present we
will confine ourselves to the question of means • 153

These vary in each domain of social activity • 153

In some they are too obvious to need discussion • 154

We need consider what they are only in the domains of politics and
wealth-production • 155

The question is most important in its bearings on wealth-production
• 156

The great man in wealth-production can influence the actions of
others by two means only—by the slave-system and the wage-system • 157

The slave-system secures obedience by coercion, the wage-system by
inducement • 157

Wage-capital, not fixed capital, gives the primary power to
capitalism as a productive agent • 158

Wage-capital is an accumulation of the necessaries of life, • 159

owned or controlled by a few persons, • 159

and apportioned by them amongst many, on certain conditions • 160

Karl Marx entirely misunderstood what these conditions are • 160

The essence of these conditions is that the many shall be technically
directed by the few • 161

The question of how much the few appropriate of the product is a
separate question altogether • 162

The _corvée_ system or slavery would make wage-capital superfluous;
and this shows what the essential function of wage-capital is • 162

So-called “co-operation” is merely the wage-system disguised • 163

There are, then, only two alternatives—the wage-system and the
slave-system; • 164

as we shall find by considering how the socialists can only escape
the wage-system by substituting slavery • 165

For they would secure industrial obedience by coercion, • 166

not through the worker’s desire to earn his living. And this is the
essence of slavery • 166

Next let us consider the means by which the great directors of
industry compete against one another • 167

Under capitalism they do so, owing to the fact that the man who
cannot direct industry so as to please the public loses his capital,
and with it the means of direction • 167

The wage-system is the only efficient means of competition of this
kind • 168

The socialists, though they affect to be opposed to competition
altogether, • 168

re-introduce it into their own system, • 170

the only change being that it is associated with the slave-system,
which is very cumbrous and inefficient • 170

Competition between employers, then, is a part of every system that
permits of progress; • 172

and since the re-introduction of slavery is practically impossible,
we must regard the wage-system as a permanent feature of progressive
societies • 172

We might reduce society to ashes, but this system and capitalistic
competition would arise out of them; • 173

for capitalistic competition means the domination of the fittest
great men • 174

The industrial obedience of the many to the few is the fundamental
condition of progress • 174



In discussing the means by which the great man wields power in
politics, the debatable question differs from the question raised by
his power in industry; • 176

for the points that are debated in the case of the great
wealth-producer are admitted by all in the case of the governor • 176

The greatest democrat admits that the governor must be an exceptional
man, • 177

and also that he must be chosen by elective competition • 177

There is a competitive element even in autocracies, • 178

and democracies are essentially competitive • 178

All parties also agree that laws must be enforced by pains and
penalties • 179

Democrats are peculiar only in their theory that the sole greatness
required in their governors is a perceptive and executive greatness,
which will enable them to carry out the spontaneous wishes of the
many • 179

This is the only point in which the democratic theory differs from
the aristocratic • 180

The democratic ruler is, theoretically, a balance for weighing the
wills of the many, • 181

or a machine for executing their “mandates”; • 182

and there are signs which might suggest that the few in politics are
really becoming the mere instruments of the many • 182

But these signs are deceptive; for what seems the will of the many,
really depends on the action of another minority • 183

Opinions, to derive power from the numbers who hold them, must be
identical; • 184

but they seldom are identical till a few men have manipulated them
• 184

Thus what seems to be the opinion of the many is generally dependent
on the influence of a few • 185

The many, for instance, would never have had any opinions on Free
Trade or Bimetallism if the few had not worked on them • 185

Popular opinion requires exceptional men, as nuclei, round which to
form itself • 187

Thus even in what seems extremest democracy the few are essential
• 188

Democrats, however, may argue that under democracy the few do, in the
long-run, carry out the wishes of the many • 188

Even were this true, the current formulas of democracy would be
false, for unequal men would be essential to executing the wishes of
equals • 189

Now in reality the few are never mere passive agents; • 189

but nevertheless the many do impress their will on them to a great
extent • 190

The question is to _what_ extent? • 191

This introduces us to a new side of the problem—the extent of the
power of the many • 191

This is greater in politics than in industry; • 192

and yet when we think it over we shall see that it is great in most
domains of activity • 192

We had to take it for granted at starting. We must now examine it
• 193




Mill declares that when two agencies are essential to producing an
effect, their respective contributions to it cannot be discriminated
• 197

Mill argues thus with special reference to land and labour; • 198

but he overlooks what in actual life is the main feature of the case
• 198

The labour remaining the same, the product varies with the quality of
the land • 198

The extra product resulting from labour on superior land is due to
land, not labour • 199

This is easily proved by a number of analogous illustrations • 199

Mill errs by ignoring the changing character of the effect • 201

The case of labour directed by different great men is the same as the
case of labour applied to different qualities of land. The great men
produce the increment • 202

Labour, however, must be held to produce that minimum necessary to
support the labourer, • 203

both in agriculture • 203

and in all kinds of production • 204

The great man produces the increment that would not be produced if
his influence ceased • 204

Labour, it is true, is essential to the production of the increment
also; • 205

but we cannot draw any conclusions from the hypothesis of labour
ceasing; • 205

for the labourer would have to labour whether the great men were
there or no • 206

The cessation of the great man’s influence is a practical
alternative; the cessation of labour is not, • 206

as we see by frequent examples • 206

Thus the great man, in the most practical sense, produces what labour
would not produce in his absence • 208

An analysis of practical reasoning as to causes generally will show
us the truth of this • 208

For practical purposes _the_ cause of an effect is that cause only
which may or may not be present; • 209

as we see when men discuss the cause of a fire, • 210

or of the accuracy of a chronometer, • 210

or the causes of danger to a man hanging on to a rope • 211

But there is another means of discriminating between the products of
exceptional men and ordinary men • 212

This is by an analysis of the faculties necessary to produce the
product • 213

Are these faculties possessed by all, or by a few only? • 213



Carlyle was wrong in his claim for the great man because he failed
to note that his powers were conditioned by the capacities of the
ordinary men influenced by him • 215

The socialists are wrong because, seeing that the many do something,
they argue that they do everything • 215

What the many do is limited. We must see precisely what the limits
are • 216

If a Russian conspirator employs a hundred workmen to dig what they
think is a cellar, but is a mine for blowing up the Czar, • 216

the conspirator contributes the entire criminal character of the
enterprise • 217

When a choir sings Handel’s music, Handel contributes the specific
character of the sounds sung by them • 217

Let us turn to the facts of progress, • 217

and begin with economic progress and progress in knowledge • 218

In the case of economic progress we must apply the method of
inquiring what is produced by labour with and without the assistance
of the great man • 218

To the question of progress in knowledge we must apply the method of
inquiring what faculties are involved in it • 219

These are faculties entirely confined to the few • 219

And now let us turn to political government • 220

What can the faculties of average men do when left to themselves?
• 220

They can accomplish only the simplest actions, • 220

and formulate only the simplest demands • 221

The moment matters become at all complex the faculties of the
exceptional man are required • 221

Now in any civilised country few governmental measures are really
simple • 222

Exceptional men must simplify them for the many • 222

Thus the voice of the many, in all complex cases, echoes the voice of
the few • 223

This, however, is not the end of the matter; • 224

for the details of governmental measures are not the whole of
government • 224

The true power of democracy is to be seen in religious and family
life • 224

Though the influence of the great man in religion is enormous, • 225

yet religions have only grown and endured because they touch the
heart of the average man • 225

Christianity exemplifies this fact, • 225

and especially Catholicism • 226

The doctrines formulated by the aristocracy of Popes and Councils
originated among the mass of common believers • 227

Theologians and councils merely reasoned on the materials thus given
them • 228

Catholicism shows the great part played by the many so clearly,
because the part played by the few is defined by it so sharply • 228

Catholicism, however, is only alluded to here because it illustrates
the essential nature of truly democratic action • 229

Thus enlightened by it, let us turn back to family life • 230

Catholicism shows that democracy is a natural coincidence of
conclusions • 231

The home life of a nation depends on the same coincidence, or on
spontaneously similar propensities • 231

This truly democratic coincidence forces all governments to
accommodate themselves to it • 233

The same democratic power determines the structure of our houses,
• 233

and the furniture and other commodities in them, • 234

and indeed all economic products • 234

For though in the process of production the many are dependent on the
few, • 235

(a fact which the powers of trade unionism do but make more apparent)
• 235

yet it is the wants and tastes of the many which determine what shall
be produced • 238

and though great men elicit these wants by first supplying them, • 239

the wants themselves must be latent in the nature of the many, and
when once aroused are essentially democratic phenomena • 239

Thus though economic supply is aristocratic, economic demand is
purely democratic • 240

The most gifted brewer cannot make the public drink beer they do not
like • 241

Now in politics also there is a similar demand and supply; • 242

but the truly democratic demand in politics is not for laws • 242

The demand for laws is not the counterpart of a demand for
commodities, for commodities are demanded for their own sake, laws
for the sake of their results • 243

The demand for laws is like a demand that commodities shall be made
by some special kind of machinery • 243

No one makes this latter demand. Economic demand is single; political
demand is double • 244

Political democracy is vulgarly identified with the demand not for
social goods, but for machinery • 244

But in so far as democracy is a demand not for goods but for
machinery, it is not purely democratic • 245

The demands of the many are manipulated by the few • 245

Why, then, is democracy especially associated with the demand in
which its power is least? • 246

Because it is the only sphere of activity in which the many can
interfere with the machinery of supply at all; • 246

and they can interfere with it here because the effects of political
government on life are less close and important than the effects of
business management on business; • 247

and in any case the apparent power of the many is even here
controlled by the few • 247

The power of the many is a power to determine the quality of
civilisation and progress, not to produce them • 248



It will be objected that the conclusions reached in the last chapter
derogate from the dignity of the average man • 250

But they do not really do so; • 251

for since the great man, as here technically defined, is the man who
influences others so as to promote progress, • 251

the ordinary man, as opposed to him, need not be stupid • 252

He is merely the man whose talents do not increase the efficiency of
other men • 252

Poets, in this technical sense, are ordinary men • 252

So are the most skilful manual workers, • 253

for very great manual skill does not promote progress or influence
others, • 254

unless it can be metamorphosed into the shape of orders given to
others • 256

Again, brilliance or charm in private life does not promote progress
• 256

Therefore ordinary men, who do not promote progress, are not asserted
to be lacking in high qualities • 257

Indeed, what is really interesting in human nature is the typical
part of it, not the exceptional, • 258

as we may see by referring to art and poetry • 258

Average opinion also on social matters is for each class the wise
opinion; • 259

and the average faculties shared by all are in one sense the test of
truth • 259

Therefore in denying to the average man the powers that promote
progress • 260

we are not degrading the average man. We are merely asserting that
these powers form but a small part of life • 260

Socialists can object to this conclusion only because it establishes
the claim of exceptional men to exceptional wealth • 262

They cannot have any theoretical objections to it, for they are
beginning to recognise the importance of the exceptional man
themselves, • 263

and only obscure the fact for purposes of popular agitation • 264

So far, however, as the reasoning of this book has gone already,
no claim has been made for the great man to which socialists need
object; • 264

for we have assumed that he keeps none of the exceptional wealth he
makes, for himself, • 265

but that he works exactly on the terms the socialists would dictate
to him • 266

It now remains to consider whether he would really do so • 266




Great men differ from ordinary men in degree only, not in kind, • 271

and the use of exceptional powers is conditioned like the use of
ordinary powers • 272

Now let us take the most universal powers possessed by man, viz.
those used in acquiring the simplest food • 272

Man’s powers in agriculture would be latent unless man wanted food
and the earth’s surface were cultivable • 272

Thus the exercise of the simplest faculties depends on the want of
some certain object, and the possibility of attaining it • 273

If this is true of the commonest faculties which aim at supplying
necessaries, much more is it true of rare faculties which aim at
producing superfluities • 273

Society, then, if great men are to work in it, must be so constituted
as to make the reward they desire possible • 274

In so doing society makes a contract with its great men; • 274

and this is a contract which is being constantly revised • 275

The great men themselves are the ultimate fixers of their own price
• 276

Here is the final proof that living great men, not past conditions,
are the causes _practically_ involved in progress • 276

Thus living great men are masters of the situation • 277

because no one can tell that they have exceptional powers till they
choose to show them • 277

They cannot, therefore, be coerced from without, like ordinary
workers • 278

They must be _induced_ to work by a reward • 278

which they themselves feel to be sufficient • 279

Hence the great man’s character and requirements impress themselves
on the structure of society • 279

This is what socialists constantly forget • 280

and they propose to equalise matters by not offering great men any
exceptional reward • 281

They forget to ask whether, under these circumstances, great men
would exercise or reveal their exceptional powers at all • 281

Exceptional rewards are essential to exceptional action • 282

We must inquire what the required exceptional rewards are • 283



Socialists, though often forgetting the necessity of exceptional
motives, often remember it, • 284

and endeavour to show that socialistic society would have sufficient
rewards to offer to its great men, • 284

such as the pleasure of doing good, of excelling, and of receiving
honour • 285

The fundamental question is, will such rewards as these stimulate
great men to wealth-production? • 285

Is the enjoyment of exceptional wealth superfluous as a motive to
producing it? • 286

If it is so, it is for the socialists to prove that it is so; • 286

for they themselves admit that it has not been so in the past, and is
not actually so now • 287

Are there any signs, then, that the desire for exceptional wealth is
beginning to lose its power? • 288

We shall find that the socialists themselves maintain just the
contrary; • 288

for they appeal to the desire of each producer to possess all he
produces as the most universal and permanent desire in man; • 289

and never questioned this so long as they believed that the sole
producer was the labourer • 289

They questioned the doctrine only when they came to see that the
great man is a producer also; and they confine their questioning to
his case • 290

But if the labourer desires to possess what he produces, much more
will the great man do so; • 290

for even if he gives away what he produces, he desires to possess it
first • 291

There is no sign, therefore, that the desire for exceptional wealth
is losing force as a motive • 292

Are, then, other desires acquiring new force as motives to
wealth-production? • 292

Are the joys of excelling, of benefiting others, or of being honoured
by others, doing so? • 293

The desire of these joys is a motive to certain kinds of exceptional
conduct • 293

It is a motive to benevolent action and religious work; • 293

But neither of these is the same thing as wealth-production • 294

It is a motive to artistic production, certainly, • 294

and also to scientific discovery; • 295

and works of art are wealth, and scientific discovery is the basis of
industrial progress; • 296

but great art forms but a small part of wealth, • 296

and artistic effort other than the highest is motived by the desire
of pecuniary reward, • 297

whilst scientific discoveries, though made generally from the desire
for truth, are applied to wealth-production because the men who apply
them desire wealth • 297

What, however, of the fact that the desire for honour makes the
soldier work harder than any labourer? • 298

Why, the socialists ask, should not the same desire make the great
wealth-producer work? • 299

Mr. Frederic Harrison has urged a similar argument • 299

The answer to this is that the work of the soldier is exceptional;
• 300

and we cannot argue from it to the work of ordinary life • 301

The fighting instinct is inherent in the dominant races, • 302

in a way in which the industrial instinct is not • 303

And even in war those who make the prolonged intellectual efforts
required, ask for themselves other rewards besides honour • 303

Still more will the great wealth-producers do so • 304

There is therefore nothing to show that these other motives will
supersede the desire of wealth • 304

What they really do, and what socialists fail to see, is to mix with
the desire for wealth, and add to its efficiency • 304

As the desire of wealth has mixed with other desires in men like
Bacon, Rubens, etc. • 305

For in saying that the desire of wealth is essential as a motive to
wealth-production we do not mean the desire of wealth for its own
sake, • 305

or for the sake of physical gratification • 306

This forms a small part of its desirability • 306

It is desired mainly as a means to power, and to those very pleasures
which socialists offer instead of it • 307

The great wealth-producers, susceptible to the motives on which
socialists dwell, will desire exceptional wealth all the more because
of them • 308

It is argued, however, by semi-socialists that the actual producer
may be allowed the income he produces, but that this must end
with his life, and not be passed on to his family as interest on
bequeathed capital • 309

It is claimed that this arrangement would coincide with abstract
justice, • 310

for it is argued that all wealth which is not worked for must be
stolen • 310

This is utterly untrue, as the case of flocks and herds shows us;
• 311

but the chief producer of wealth that is not worked for is capital,
which is past productive ability stored up and externalised • 311

The dart of a savage hunter, • 312

the manure heap or cart horse of a peasant, • 312

are forms of capital which actually produce, and the product belongs
to those who own them • 313

The same is the case with such capital as engines and manufacturing
plant • 313

These implements are like a race of iron negroes, and are producers
as truly as live negroes would be • 314

Indirectly, wage capital is also a producer in the same way • 314

And indeed, till they saw that this argument could be turned against
themselves, it was strongly urged by the socialists • 315

Practically, however, the justification of income from capital • 316

rests on the fact that the power of capital to yield income is what
mainly makes men anxious to produce it; • 316

since if income-yielding capital could not be acquired and amassed,
wealthy men could make no provision for their families, • 317

nor could wealth give pleasure to those who might at any moment be
beggars • 318

Moreover, if incomes were not heritable, wealth would produce none of
those social results, such as continuous culture, etc., which make it
valuable • 319

The wealth that ceased with the men that actually made it would
produce a society of beasts • 319

Wealth is desirable because it is the physical basis of an enlarged
life; • 320

and there must thus be continuity in the possession of wealth • 320

Hence the great wealth-producer demands the possession not only of
what he produces directly, but of what he produces indirectly through
his past products • 321

The majority not only may, but do, acquire a share of the increment
produced by the great man; • 322

but whatever this share may be, it can never be such as to make
social conditions equal • 322



The wealthy class, owing to inheritance, is always much more numerous
than the great men actually engaged at any given time in production
• 324

But though inheritance gives a certain permanence to the wealthy
class, the families belonging to it are constantly, if slowly,
changing, • 325

and new men are constantly forcing their way into it • 326

Indeed the wealth of the country depends on the men potentially great
as producers actualising their talents and producing the wealth that
raises them • 326

It is therefore obvious that the wealth will increase in proportion
as these potentially great men have the opportunity of actualising
their productive powers • 327

It is impossible, however, to make opportunities absolutely equal
• 328

The question is how near we can approach to equality • 328

In a country where these opportunities have been made artificially
unequal there will be room for a great deal of equalisation • 329

But removing artificial impediments is only a negative kind of
equalisation • 329

It is probable, however, that for the development of genius of the
highest order this is all that is needful, • 330

and will secure the development of all the genius of the highest kind
that exists • 331

But genius of a lesser kind, which would else be lost, may, no doubt,
be elicited by positive educational help from the State; • 332

though the amount of such genius is overestimated by reformers,
because they confuse talents rare in themselves with accomplishments
that are only rare accidentally • 332

The latter can be increased indefinitely, the former not • 333

For real productive genius there is always room, • 333

but the economic utility of mere accomplishments is limited by the
conditions of production at the time • 333

Thus to produce more possible clerks than are wanted merely lowers
the wages of those employed, without increasing the utility of those
who are not employed • 334

Still, within limits, educational help from the State does much to
increase the supply of exceptional, though not great, talent • 335

But the main difficulty involved in the equalising of educational
opportunity is not the production of good results, but the avoidance
of bad • 335

The bad results are the stimulating of discontent, not in average
men, but in men who are really exceptional • 336

but those exceptional gifts are ill-balanced or have some flaw in
them • 337

For if education sets free and stimulates sound intellectual powers
• 337

it will similarly stimulate intellects that are not sound, • 338

or wills, with no intellect to match, and will generate a desire for
wealth in men who are not capable of creating it, • 338

and thus will merely produce needless misery and mischief • 339

Education, again, stimulates faculties that can really produce
exceptional results, but not results that are complete • 339

The progressive struggle requires that the intellects of some should
be stimulated, whose efforts fail • 340

But those failures that promote progress are failures that partially
succeed • 340

But there are abortive talents which produce failures that have no
relation to success. Those talents are purely mischievous; • 341

for example, the failure of the would-be artist, • 341

or that of the man who popularises wrong medical treatment • 342

But the commonest example of this kind of man is the socialistic
agitator, • 342

who demands the redistribution of wealth, whilst absolutely powerless
to produce it, • 343

and who consequently invents false theories about its production,
which do nothing but demoralise those who are duped by them • 343

(though even these theories can be discussed with profit under
certain circumstances) • 344

Men like these embody the two chief dangers of the equalisation of
educational opportunity, • 345

namely, the rousing in the average man wants he cannot satisfy, and
the stimulating of talents that are constitutionally imperfect • 345

The latter of these dangers is the source of the former • 346

It cannot be completely avoided, but the present theories of
education tend to heighten, not to minimise it • 346

The current theory that all talents should be developed is false,
• 347

so is the theory that all tastes should be cultivated in all alike.
The education proper for the rich is not a type but an exception • 347

These false theories rest on the false belief that equal education
could ever produce equal social conditions • 348

The majority of each class will remain in the class in which they
were born • 348

Only the efficiently exceptional can rise out of their own class,
• 348

and it is the ambition of the efficiently exceptional only that it is
really desirable to stimulate • 349

The average man should be taught to aim at embellishing his position,
not at escaping from it • 349



The radical politician will object to the foregoing conclusions in
terms with which we are familiar • 351

The radical theorist will put the same objections more logically.
If the desire of exceptional wealth is really the strongest motive,
he will say that it follows that most men, since they cannot all be
exceptionally rich, must always remain miserable • 352

Now the first answer to this is that the fact that all men will never
be equally wealthy does not prevent the conditions of all men from
improving absolutely • 353

Another answer is that if inequality in the possession of the most
coveted prizes of life implies misery amongst the majority, this evil
would be intensified rather than mitigated by socialists, who would
substitute unequal honour for unequal wealth • 354

The final answer is that the unequal distribution of wealth has no
natural tendency to cause unhappiness; • 357

for men’s desires vary. There is equality of desire for the
necessaries of life only; for this desire rests on men’s physical
natures, which are similar; • 357

but the desire for superfluities depends on their mental powers,
which vary • 358

The special appeal of luxury is mainly to the mind and the
imagination— • 358

the luxury, for instance, of a large house, • 359

or sleeping accommodation in a train • 359

Consequently the desire for luxury and wealth, like the pleasure they
give, depends on peculiar mental powers or peculiar mental states
• 360

Amongst most men the desire for wealth is naturally a speculative
desire only • 361

It implies no pain caused by the want of wealth • 361

The desire ceases to be speculative and becomes a practical craving
only when the imagination is exceptionally strong, and a strong
belief is present that the attainment of wealth is possible • 362

The desire for wealth, in fact, is in proportion to each man’s belief
that by him personally it is attainable • 364

This belief is naturally confined to men with exceptional
imaginations and exceptional productive powers • 365

It only becomes general by the popularising of false theories which
represent wealth as attainable by all, without exceptional talent or
exceptional exertion • 366

It is roused, for instance, in a man who suddenly is told that he
has a legal right to an estate which previously he never thought of
coveting • 366

The socialistic teaching of to-day creates a spurious desire for
wealth by its doctrines of impossible rights to it • 367

The practical craving for wealth is naturally confined to those who
have some talent for creating it, and the pain caused by its absence
is naturally confined to such men • 368

The socialistic theories merely cause a barren and artificial
discontent, • 368

which interferes with that harmonious progress on which the welfare
of the many depends • 369

These theories make enemies of classes who would otherwise be allies,
and the cause of true social reform suffers incalculable injury • 370

The object of the present work is to show the fallacy of the
theoretic basis of existing socialistic discontent and socialistic
aspirations; • 371

and to show that the many are not a self-existent power, • 372

but depend for all the powers they possess on the co-operation of the
few, • 373

whose rights are as sacred, and whose power is as great, as their own
• 375

The recognition of the fact that the relations and positions of
classes can never be fundamentally altered • 376

(especially when we consider the facts of history to which Karl Marx
drew attention) • 376

shows us not only how chimerical are the hopes of the socialists, but
what solid grounds there are for the hopes of more rational reformers
• 378





The interest with which the world in general, throughout the middle
portion of this century, has watched the progress of the various
positive sciences, would, when we consider how abstruse these
sciences are, seem strange and almost inexplicable if it were not
for one fact. This fact is the close and obvious bearing which
the conclusions of the sciences in question have on traditional
Christianity, and, indeed, on any belief in immortality and the
divine government of the world. The popular interest in science
remains still unabated, but the most careless observer can hardly
fail to perceive that the grounds of it are, to a certain extent,
very rapidly changing. They are ceasing to be primarily religious,
and are becoming primarily social. The theories and discoveries of
the _savant_ which are examined with the greatest eagerness are no
longer those which affect our {4} prospects of a life in heaven,
but those which deal with the possibility of improving our social
conditions on earth, and which appeal to us through our sympathies,
not with belief or doubt, but with the principles which are broadly
contrasted under the names of conservative and revolutionary.

Such being the case, it is hardly necessary to observe that science
itself has been undergoing a change likewise. The character of
the change, however, requires to be briefly specified. From the
time when geologists first startled the orthodox by demonstrating
that the universe was more than six thousand years old, and that
something more than a week had been occupied in the process of its
construction, to the time, comparatively recent, during which the
genius of Darwin and others was forcing on the world entirely new
ideas with regard to the parentage, and presumably the nature of
man, there was a certain limit—a certain scientific frontier—at
which positive science practically stopped short. Having sedulously
examined the materials and structure of the universe, until on the
one hand it reached atoms and molecules, it examined, on the other,
the first emergence of organic life, and traced its developments
till they culminated in the articulate-speaking human being. It
brought us, in fact, to man on the threshold of his subsequent
history; and there, till very recently, positive science left him.
But now there are signs all round us of a new intellectual movement,
analogous to that which accompanied the rise of Darwinism, {5} and
science once again is endeavouring to enlarge its borders. Having
offered us an explanation of the origin of the animal _man_, it
proposes to deal with the existing conditions of society very much
as it dealt with the structure of the human body, to exhibit them
as the necessary result of certain far-reaching laws and causes,
and to deduce our civilisation of to-day from the condition of the
primitive savage by the same methods and by the aid of the same
theories as those which it employed in deducing the primitive savage
from the brutes, and the brutes in their turn from primitive germ
or protoplasm. In other words, the great triumph of science during
what we may call its physical period has been the establishment of
that theory of development which is commonly spoken of as Evolution,
and the application of this to the problems of physics and biology.
The object of science in entering on what we may call its social
period is the application of this same theory to the problems of
civilisation and society.

It is true that, if we use the word science in a certain sense, the
attempt to treat social problems scientifically is not in itself
new. Political economy, to say nothing of utilitarian ethics, is a
social science, or it is nothing; and political economy had already
made considerable advances when modern physical science had hardly
found its footing. But before long physical science passed it, with
a step that was not only more rapid, but also immeasurably firmer,
and was presently giving such an example of what {6} accurate
science is, that it was thought doubtful whether political economy
could be called a science at all. The doubt thus raised cannot be
said to have justified itself. In spite of all the attacks that have
been made against the earlier economists, their principal doctrines
survive to the present day, as being, so far as they go, genuine
scientific truths. But whenever the thinker, who has been educated
in the school of modern physical science, betakes himself now to
the study of society and human action, and begins to apply to these
the developed theory of evolution, though he does not reject the
doctrines of the earlier economists, he sees them in a new light,
by which their significance is profoundly changed. The earlier
economists took society as they found it, and they reasoned as though
what was true of the economic life around them must be absolutely and
universally true of economic life always. Here is the point as to
which the thinker of to-day differs from them. He does not dispute
the truth of the deductions drawn by them with regard to society as
it existed during their own epoch; but, educated by the methods and
discoveries of the physical and biological evolutionist, he perceives
that society itself is in process of constant change, that many
economic doctrines which have been true during the present century
had little application to society during the Middle Ages, and that
centuries hence they may perhaps have even less. Thus, though he does
not repudiate or disregard the economic science of the past, he {7}
merges it in a science the scope of which is far wider and deeper.
This is a science which primarily sets itself to explain, not how a
given set of social conditions affects those who live among them,
but how social conditions at one epoch are different from those
of another, how each set of conditions is the resultant of those
preceding it, and how, since the society of the present differs from
that of the past, the society of the future is likely to differ from
that of the present.

What political economy has thus lost in precision it has gained
in general interest. So long as it merely analysed processes of
production and distribution which it was assumed would always
continue without substantial modification, political economy was
mainly a science for specialists, and was little calculated to arouse
any keen interest in the public. But now that it has been merged in
that general science of evolution, which offers to an unquiet age
what seems a scientific licence to regard as practically producible
some indeterminate transformation in these processes, political
economy has come to occupy a new position. Instead of being ignored
or ridiculed by the more ardent school of reformers, and even
neglected by conservatives as a not very powerful auxiliary, it has
now been brought down into the dust of the general struggle, and is
invoked by one side as the prophetess of new possibilities, and by
the other as an exorcist of mischievous and mad illusions. And what
is true in this respect with regard to political economy is {8} also
true with regard to evolutionary social science as a whole. Social
science as a whole, just like this special branch of it, is being
brought into vital contact with the lives and hopes of man, and is
exciting a popular interest strictly analogous to that which had been
excited by physical and biological science previously.

It is doing this in two ways, which, though closely connected, are
distinct. In the first place, it is directing our attention to
the human race as a whole, and is showing us how society and the
individual have developed in an orderly manner, growing upwards
from the lowest and the most miserable beginnings to the heights
of civilisation, intellectual, moral, and material, and how they
contain in themselves the potency of yet further development. It
thus offers to the mind a vast variety of suggestion with regard to
the significance of man’s presence upon the earth, and is held by
many to be supplying us with the materials of a religion calculated
to replace that which physical science has discredited. The second
way in which it excites popular interest is the way which has been
just illustrated by a reference to political economy. For besides
offering to our philosophic and religious faculties the vision of
man’s corporate movement from a condition of helpless bestiality
towards some “far-off divine event,” which glitters on us in the
remote future, social science is suggesting to us changes which are
of a very much nearer kind, and which appeal not to our speculative
desire to discover some {9} meaning in the universe, but to the
personal interest which we each of us take in our own welfare—such,
for instance, as a general redistribution of wealth, the abolition
or complete reorganisation of private property, the emancipation of
labour, and the realisation of social equality.

This distinction between the speculative and practical aspects of
social science has a special importance, which will be explained and
insisted on presently. But it is here mentioned only to show the
reader how strong a combination of motives is impelling the present
generation—the conservative classes and the revolutionary classes
equally—to transfer to social science the interest once felt in
physical; and how strong is the stimulus thus applied to sociologists
to emulate the diligence and success of the physicists and
biologists, their predecessors. Nor have diligence, enthusiasm, or
scientific genius been wanting to them. As has already been observed,
they have transformed social science altogether by applying to it
the doctrines of evolution which physical science taught them, and
have thus organically affiliated the former study to the latter. This
is in itself a triumph worthy of the enterprise that has achieved
it. But they have done far more than borrow from physics this mere
general theory. They have established between physical phenomena and
social an enormous number of analogies, so close that the one set
assists in the interpretation of the other. They have borrowed from
the physicists a number of their subsidiary theories, their methods
of grouping facts, and, above {10} all, their methods of studying
them. In a word, they are endeavouring to follow the masters of
physical science along the precise path which has led the latter to
such solid and such definite results.

We have now, however, to record a singular and disappointing truth.
Though men of science have, in the manner just described, been
engaged for years in the field of sociological study; though the way
was prepared for them by men like Comte, Mill, and Buckle; though
amongst them have been men like Mr. Spencer, with capacities of
the highest order, and though certain results have been reached of
the kind desired, complaints are heard from thinkers of all shades
of opinion that these results are singularly unsatisfactory and
inconclusive when compared with the efforts that have been made in
reaching them, and still more when compared with the results of
corresponding efforts in the sphere of physics.

No one complains more loudly of this comparative failure than some
of the most distinguished students of social science themselves.
Professor Marshall, for instance, who has done more than any other
English author to breathe into technical economics the spirit of
evolutionary science, admits that Comte, who laid the foundation of
sociology, and Mr. Spencer, who has invested it with a definitely
scientific character, have brought to the study of “_man’s actions
in society unsurpassed knowledge and great genius, and have made
epochs in thought by their broad surveys and suggestive hints_”; but
neither of them, he proceeds to say, has succeeded {11} in doing
more than this. Mr. Kidd, again, whose work on _Social Evolution_, if
not valuable for the conclusions he himself desires to substantiate,
is curiously significant as an example of contemporary sociological
reasoning, repeats Professor Marshall’s complaint, and gives yet
more definite point to it. Having observed that “_despite the great
advance which science has made in almost every other direction, there
is, it must be confessed, no science of human society, properly so
called_,” he justifies this observation by insisting on what is an
undoubted fact, that “_so little practical light has even Mr. Herbert
Spencer succeeded in throwing on the nature of the social problems of
our time, that his investigations and conclusions are, according as
they are dealt with by one side or the other, held to lead up to the
opinions of the two diametrically opposite camps of individualists
and collectivists, into which society is rapidly becoming organised_.”

Now what is the reason of this? Here is the question that confronts
us. That the methods adopted by the scientist in the domain of
physics are applicable to social phenomena, just as they are to
physical, has been not only established in a broad and general way,
but demonstrated by a mass of minute and elaborately co-ordinated
facts. Why, then, when we find them in the sphere of physics solving
one problem after another with a truly surprising accuracy, do they
yield us such vague and often contradictory results when we apply
them to the solution of the practical problems of society? {12}

Those who complain so justly of the failure of social science and
who yet show themselves altogether at a loss to account for it,
might have seen their way to answering this question had they
concentrated their attention on a point that was just now alluded
to. It was just now observed that the problems which social science
aims at answering, and is popularly expected to answer, are of two
distinct kinds—the philosophic or religious, and the practical; the
former being concerned with the destinies of humanity as a whole,
with movements extending over enormous periods of time, and with the
remote past and future far more than with the present; the other
being concerned exclusively with the present or the near future, and
with changes that will affect either ourselves or our own children.

Now it will be found that social science, whilst busying itself with
both these sets of problems, has met with the failures which are
alleged against it, only in dealing with the latter, and that, so
far as regards the former, it has successfully reached conclusions
comparable in precision and solidity to those of the physicists
and biologists whose methods it has so conscientiously followed.
Professor Marshall’s own treatise on _The Principles of Economics_,
and that of Mr. Kidd on _Social Evolution_ likewise, abound in
admissions that this statement of the case is correct. Professor
Marshall’s account of the rise and fall of civilisation as caused
by climate, by geographical position, and the influence of one race
and one civilisation on another,—an account of which he {13} places
in the very forefront of his elaborate work—is professedly merely a
summary of conclusions already arrived at; and the manner in which
he states these conclusions is itself evidence that sociologists,
when dealing with certain classes of social phenomena, have given
us something more than “_surveys_” and “_suggestive hints_.” Social
science, in fact, cannot be properly called a failure except when
it ceases to deal with the larger phenomena of society, which show
themselves only in the long course of ages, and descending to the
problems of a particular age and civilisation, endeavours to deduce,
from the general principles it has established, propositions minute
enough to be applicable to our immediate conduct and expectations. As
practical inquirers, therefore, the real question before us is not
why social science has failed, where physical science has succeeded,
but why social science has succeeded like physical science in one
direction, and, unlike physical science, failed so signally in
another. If we concentrate our attention on the subject in this way,
and thus realise with precision the nature of the failure we desire
to explain, we shall find that the explanation of it is not only far
simpler than might have been supposed, but also that the remedy for
it is far more obvious and more easy.

It has been said that sociology has succeeded in dealing with those
social phenomena which extend themselves through vast periods of
time, and has failed in dealing with those whose interest and {14}
existence is limited to lives of a few particular generations. Now
between these two sets of phenomena, as thus far described, the most
obvious difference is, no doubt, the difference in their magnitude.
This difference, however, is altogether accidental, and does nothing
to explain those curiously contrasted results which the study of
one set and the other has yielded to the modern sociologist. The
difference, which will explain these, is of quite another kind, and
may briefly be stated thus. The larger social phenomena—those which
interest the speculative philosopher, and with which sociology has
dealt successfully, are phenomena of social aggregates, or masses
of men regarded as single bodies; the smaller phenomena—those
which interest the practical man, and with which sociology has
dealt unsuccessfully—are essentially the phenomena not of social
aggregates, but of various parts of aggregates.

Let us illustrate the matter provisionally by two rudimentary
examples. As an example of the larger phenomena let us take the
advance of man from the age of stone to the ages of bronze and
iron. Of the smaller, we may take the phenomena referred to by Mr.
Kidd—namely, the appearance in the modern world of the socialist or
collectivist party, and the antagonism between it and the party of
private property and individualism. Now the first of these two sets
of phenomena—the use by men of stone implements, and the subsequent
use of metal implements—consist of phenomena which, so far as the
{15} sociologist is concerned, are manifested successively by
humanity, or some portion of humanity, as a whole. They are not
referred to individuals or small classes. No question is asked as to
what particular savage may rightly claim priority in the invention
of metal implements, or whether flint or bronze were the subjects
of any prehistoric monopoly. Those races amongst which the use of
the metals became general are regarded as a single body, which had
made this advance collectively. They are, indeed, as we shall again
have occasion to observe, habitually described under the common
name of _Man_. But let us turn to such phenomena as the antagonism
between individualists and collectivists, and the case is wholly
different. It is true that here also, as in the case we have just
been considering, our attention is called to a portion of the human
race, namely, the Western or progressive nations, which we may, for
certain purposes, regard as a single aggregate; but it is fixed, not
on the phenomena which this aggregate exhibits as a whole, but on
those exhibited by unlike and conflicting parts of it—the part which
sympathises with individualists on the one hand, and the part which
sympathises with collectivists on the other.

Thus the subject-matter of sociology, regarded as a speculative
science, consists of those points in which the members of any
given social aggregate resemble one another. The subject-matter of
sociology, regarded as a practical science, consists of those points
in which the members, or {16} certain groups of members, of any
given social aggregate differ from one another. And here we come to
the reason why sociology, as a practical science, has failed. It has
failed because hitherto it has not realised this distinction, and has
persisted in applying to the phenomena, involved in practical social
problems, the same terminology, the same methods of observation
and reasoning, which it has applied to the phenomena involved in
speculative social problems. By so doing, though it has dissipated
many popular errors, it has, in the most singular manner, given a
new vitality to others. It has indeed supplied a pseudo-scientific
sanction to the most abject fallacies that have vitiated the
political philosophy of this century; and it has thus been
instrumental in keeping alive and encouraging the most grotesquely
impossible hopes as to what may be accomplished by legislation,
and the most grotesquely false views as to the sources of social
and political power. To expose these fallacies, and the defective
reasoning on which they rest, is the object of the present volume.

The nature of that peculiarity in the procedure of modern sociology
which has just been described, and to which all its errors are due,
forms a very curious study, and it will be essential to exhibit
it with the utmost plainness possible. In the following chapter,
therefore, the reader shall be presented with examples of it.




Let us take any book we please, by any modern writer, who is
attempting to deal with any social subject scientifically, and
whenever he is calling attention to the great intellectual
triumphs which have caused the progress of civilisation, or to
any developments of human nature which have marked it, we shall
find that these triumphs or developments are always attributed
indiscriminately to the largest mass of people with whom they have
any connection—sometimes to “the nation,” sometimes to “the age,”
sometimes to “the race,” and more frequently still to “man.”

Reference has been made already to Mr. Kidd’s work on _Social
Evolution_, which, on its publication, attained an extraordinary
popularity, and which, whatever its value otherwise, is interesting
as a type of contemporary sociological reasoning. It is peculiarly
interesting as illustrating the point which we are now discussing.
Most of Mr. Kidd’s reasoning, especially in the crucial parts of
it, is not {18} only conducted, but is actually represented by a
terminology which refers everything to “the race,” “the age,” or
“man.” And it would be hard to find better examples in the works of
any other writer of the condition of thought underlying the use of
these phrases, and of the extraordinary consequences to which it

Three examples will be enough. The two first shall be from two other
writers, whom Mr. Kidd quotes with admiration; the third shall be
from himself. We will begin with the following passage, taken from
a contemporary economist, which Mr. Kidd singles out for emphatic
approval as “_a very effective statement_” of one of the truths of
social science.

“_Man_,” so the passage runs, “_is the only animal whose wants can
never be satisfied. The wants of every other living thing are uniform
and fixed. The ox of to-day aspires no more than did the ox when man
first yoked him. . . . But not so with man [himself]. No sooner are
his animal wants satisfied, than new wants arise. . . . [He] has but
set his feet on the first step of an infinite progression. . . .
It is not merely his hunger, but taste, that seeks gratification
in food. . . . Lucullus will sup with Lucullus; twelve boars roast
on spits that Antony’s mouthful of meat may be done to a turn;
every kingdom is ransacked to add to Cleopatra’s charms; and marble
colonnades, and hanging gardens, and pyramids that rival the hills,

This passage is taken from Mr. Henry George. {19} Our second example
shall be a passage which Mr. Kidd has borrowed from a far more
educated thinker—M. Emile de Lavelaye. Mr. Kidd quotes M. de Lavelaye
as saying that the eighteenth century brought the following message
to “_man_.” “_Thou shalt cease to be the slave of the nobles and
despots who oppress thee. Thou shalt be free and sovereign._” But the
realisation of the promise thus given has, in the present century, he
goes on to say, confronted us with this strange problem, “_How is it
that the Sovereign often starves? How is it that those who are held
to be the source of power often cannot, even by hard work, provide
themselves with the necessaries of life?_”

Now all these passages, if we consider them carefully, will be seen
to consist of statements, every one of which is false to fact. To say
that man’s wants are less stationary than those of the ox is not even
rhetorically true, unless we mean by “_man_” certain special races
of men; whilst the statements that follow are not true, rhetorically
or otherwise, of any race at all, but only of scattered individuals.
A really fine and discriminating taste in food is, as every epicure
knows, rare even amongst the luxurious classes. Antony and Lucullus
are types of what is not the rule, but the exception. So too are the
individuals who either desire hanging gardens, or could design them;
and more exceptional still are the individuals whose personal pride
and power either desire or can secure the erection of pyramids for
their tombs. {20}

In M. de Lavelaye’s utterances there is an analogous misstatement
and misconception of every fact with which he deals. The promises
of political democracy, as he describes them, were never addressed
to “_man_,” nor ever professed to be. The whole point of them was
that they were addressed to certain classes of men only; and that,
as addressed to other classes, they were not promises, but threats.
But a still graver confusion arises when the “_Sovereign_” is spoken
of as starving. If by the “_Sovereign_” M. de Lavelaye really means
“_Man_” as a whole, it is perfectly obvious that the “_Sovereign_”
never starves. The statement is equally untrue if the Sovereign is
taken to mean not man as a whole, but the immense majority of men;
and to ask why the Sovereign often does something which it never
does, is not to formulate an actual problem loosely, but to convert
an actual problem into one that is quite imaginary. The actual
problem is not why the whole or the immense majority of mankind often
starves, but why there are nearly always small sections of men who
do so, the majority all the while obtaining its normal nutriment;
and the absurd result of confusing these two very different things
is seen in the second form which M. de Lavelaye gives his question.
“_How is it_,” he asks, “_that those who are held to be the source of
power often cannot, even by hard work, provide themselves with the
necessaries of life?_” The answer is that the particular groups of
workers who, at any given time, happen to be unemployed, {21} were
never held to be _the_ source of power by anybody. M. de Lavelaye
might as well take one half of the passengers on a Dover packet, and
treating them as identical with the British nation at large, ask how
it is that those who are held to rule the waves can hardly set foot
on a deck without clamouring for the steward’s basin.

And now let us turn to Mr. Kidd himself. The object of his book is to
vindicate supernatural religion by exhibiting it as advantageous to
its possessors in the social struggle for existence. He endeavours
to make good his position by two distinct lines of argument. The
first of these is that the social struggle for existence, though
it produces progressive communities, and communities fitted to
endure, is injurious to the majority of those who at any given time
are engaged in it, and benefits only a minority, described by him
as “_the power-holding classes_.” This minority, according to his
account, could always, if it pleased, as it has pleased in all former
ages, defend its position and keep the majority in subjection; but
it is now beginning, under the pressure of a religious impulse, to
surrender to its inferiors voluntarily advantages which they could
never have extorted from it; and in this great fact our hope for the
future lies.

Such is one of the two main portions of Mr. Kidd’s message to
the world; and here follows the other, which will be found to be
fundamentally inconsistent with it. “_Man_,” if he had chosen to do
so, Mr. Kidd maintains—and this assertion {22} is repeated by him
with the utmost precision and emphasis—could at any period in his
history have “_suspended the struggle for existence_” and “_organised
society on a socialistic basis_”; and seeing that the struggle
for existence, although essential to progress in the long-run, is
injurious to the majority of each generation that takes part in it,
man, if his chief guide had been reason or self-interest, would have
been suspending this struggle constantly for the sake of his own
present advantage, and leaving the future to take care of itself.
Now, seeing that he does not, as a fact, pursue this obviously
reasonable course, it follows that some power opposed to reason must
have withheld him; and this power, argues Mr. Kidd, can be nothing
else than religion. Here, he says, are the two functions of religion
in evolution. It induces man to submit to the hardships of the
evolutionary struggle, at the same time it redeems him from them by
softening the hearts of the minority.

Now with Mr. Kidd’s views about religion we have nothing to do here.
We are concerned only with the extraordinary self-contradiction
involved in these his principal lines of argument, and also with
the cause which has led to it, and made it possible. At one moment
he says that the majority in all progressive communities have been
forced to submit to conditions of life that are prejudicial to them,
by a powerful minority to whom these conditions are beneficial, and
who, if they chose to do so, would still be able to maintain them. At
{23} another moment he says that this surprisingly patient majority
could have easily “_suspended these conditions_” at any period of
its history, and only failed to do so because religion prompted it
to forbear. How a contradiction of this kind could have found its
way into the reasoning of a really painstaking thinker, and been
actually allowed to form the backbone of it, may at first sight seem
inexplicable; but it is simply a typical result of the practice
we are now considering—that practice, common to all our modern
sociologists, of grouping the men they deal with into the largest
aggregate possible, and treating mixed classes of men as one single

It is easy to see precisely how Mr. Kidd’s mind has worked. In
the first part of his argument he divides progressive communities
into two sections, which he calls respectively “_the power-holding
classes_” or the “_successfuls_,” and the “_excluded classes_” or the
“_unsuccessfuls_” and he declares that the latter would naturally
desire to suspend the conditions of progress, whilst the former would
naturally desire, and are also able to maintain them. But when he
pushes his argument farther, and advances to the proposition that
if reason had been “_man’s_” sole guide, the conditions of progress
would have been suspended over and over again, he is enabled to take
this extraordinary step only because his thought and his terminology
undergo an unconscious metamorphosis. He forgets his original
analysis altogether. He merges the two classes, so sharply contrasted
by him, into one. He argues and {24} thinks about them both, under
the single category of “_man_”; he builds up his conclusions by
joining together the very things which, in arranging his premises,
he had so carefully put asunder; and the result of his speculation
reduced to its simplest terms is this—that “_man_” could have done,
at any period of his history, and if reason had been his sole guide,
actually would have done, something that was against the interests of
the stronger part of him, and beyond the power of the weaker.

The reader will not find much difficulty in understanding that if
sociologists persist in reasoning thus, they are hardly likely to
arrive at any conclusion sufficiently definite to guide us in the
practical difficulties of life. It may be urged, however, that such
language as we have been considering, though used by scientific
writers, is intended itself to be rhetorical rather than scientific,
or that it betrays the inaccuracy of this or that individual
thinker, instead of arising from a fundamental error in method. If
any one thinks this, he shall soon be disabused of his opinion. The
reader shall now be presented with a brief summary of the method
deliberately followed, and of some of the conclusions arrived at by
that distinguished thinker who has done more than any one else to
impart to sociology the character which it at present possesses; and
the error which lies at the bottom of the reasoning we have been just
considering shall there be exhibited, systematically exemplified,
and explicitly and elaborately defended. It is perhaps {25} hardly
necessary to say that the thinker thus referred to is Mr. Herbert

We will then follow Mr. Spencer’s reasoning from the beginning,
as set forth in his works; and before consulting his monumental
_Principles of Sociology_ we will turn to his _Study of Sociology_,
a smaller and preparatory treatise, in which the methods adopted by
him in his main inquiry are explained. He opens this treatise with
declaring that until recent years any scientific treatment of social
phenomena was impossible; and it was impossible, he says, for two
definite reasons. These were the prevalence of two utterly false
theories, both of which precluded the idea that anything like law or
order of a calculable kind were prevalent in the social sphere. One
of these theories was “_the theocratic theory_,” the other what he
calls “_the great-man theory_.”

The theocratic theory is that which explains all social change by
reference to the direct and arbitrary interference of a Deity;
and if this be adopted, Mr. Spencer has no difficulty in showing
that anything like a social science must be necessarily looked on
as impossible: for the only thread by which social phenomena are
connected will in that case be hidden in the will of an inscrutable
Being, which may indeed be made known to us by revelation, but which
is not susceptible of being either observed or calculated. This
theory, however, in its cruder form, at all events, is, says Mr.
Spencer, being fast discarded by everybody—even by the theologically
{26} orthodox; and the really important foe which social science
has to fight against is the great-man theory, not the theocratic.
Accordingly, it is by a criticism of the great-man theory that he
introduces us to the theory of society, which is in his estimation
true, and which alone presents social phenomena to us as amenable to
scientific treatment.

The great-man theory is summed up by him in the following quotation
from Carlyle: “_As I take it, universal history, the history of what
man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the history of the
great men who have worked here._” “_This_,” observes Mr. Spencer,
“_not perhaps distinctly formulated, but everywhere implied, is the
belief in which nearly all are brought up_”; and it is, he declares,
as incompatible as the theocratic theory itself with any belief in
the possibility of a social science, or any comprehension of what
such a science is; for either the great man is regarded as the
miraculous instrument of the Deity, a kind of “_deputy-God_,” in
which case we have “_theocracy once removed_”; or else his greatness,
though regarded as a natural phenomenon, is regarded as one whose
occurrence is so far fortuitous, that a great man of any given kind
of greatness might appear in one age or nation just as well as in
another; and in this case, if social changes depend on the great
man’s actions, these changes will be as fortuitous as the great
man’s own appearance, and will as little admit of any scientific

If, however, the great man is regarded as a {27} natural phenomenon
at all, if he is not to be looked upon as a species of incalculable
angel, this idea of his fortuitous appearance is, says Mr.
Spencer, plainly quite untenable. The great man, unless he differs
miraculously from other men, is produced as they are, in accordance
with natural laws, and, like them, owes his greatness to his near
and remote progenitors, just as a negro owes to his, his facial
angle, his blackness, and his woolly hair. “_Who would expect_,” Mr.
Spencer asks, “_that a Newton might be born of a Hottentot family,
or that a Milton might spring up among the Andamanese_?” The theory,
then, which explains social changes by referring them to the great
men whose names are connected with their initiation, will, unless
it is regarded as a theory of perpetual miracle, be recognised as
inadequate, even by those who have hitherto held it, when once they
have realised the absurd supposition which it implies. The great
man, whatever his seeming influence, is merely the agent of other
influences which are behind him. He merely transmits a shock, like
a man pushed by a crowd. Even supposing what Mr. Spencer entirely
denies to be the case, that he could really “_remake his society_,”
his society none the less must have previously made him, and supplied
him with those conditions which rendered his career possible; and
therefore, of any changes which he may popularly be said to have
caused, he is merely “_the proximate initiator_,” not the true cause
at all; and “_if_,” says Mr. Spencer, “_there is to be anything {28}
like a real explanation of such changes, it must be sought (not in
the great man himself), but in the aggregate of social conditions,
out of which he and they have arisen_.” Except, perhaps, in the
military struggles of primitive savage tribes, “_new institutions,
new activities, new ideas, all_,” he says, “_unobtrusively make their
appearance, without the aid of any king or legislator; and if you
wish to understand the phenomena of social evolution, you will not do
it, should you read yourself blind over the biographies of all the
great rulers on record, down to Frederick the Greedy, and Napoleon
the Treacherous_.” And he points his moral by observing, with a
certain philosophic tartness, that there is no surer index of a man’s
“_mental sanity_” than the degree of contempt which, as a scientific
thinker, he feels for the class of facts which the biography of
individuals offers him.

Such, then, being Mr. Spencer’s theory of the way in which social
phenomena must be regarded, if we mean to make them the subject of
anything like scientific study, let us turn to his _magnum opus_,
_The Principles of Sociology_, and see how, and with what results,
he puts his theory of study into practice. This immense work, full
of encyclopædic detail as it is, contains certain general and
comparatively simple conclusions, which can with sufficient clearness
be expressed in a short summary, and which are typical of the
character and the contents of Mr. Spencer’s sociology as a whole.
These general conclusions constitute in {29} outline the entire
history of human progress from the dawn of man’s existence to the
industrial civilisation of to-day.

The determining factors in all social phenomena are, says
Mr. Spencer, primarily of two kinds—the “_external_” and the
“_internal_.” The former consist of some of the various physical
circumstances in which each community or collection of men is
placed; the latter consist of the characters and constitutions of
the men themselves. In the history of each community the chief of
the external factors are these: the climate of the region which the
community occupies; the cultivability of this region; its geological
and geographical character; the way in which the fauna and flora
natural to it are distributed; and the character of the other
communities by which the community in question is surrounded. One of
the first generalisations, says Mr. Spencer, to which social science
leads is this—that progress can begin only in climates and regions
where the production of the necessaries of life is sufficiently easy
to leave men leisure and energy available for other work; and all
progress did as a fact begin in those parts of the earth where the
maintenance of life was easy.

He goes on to show, however, that the initiation of progress does not
require only that the men concerned in it should inhabit a region in
which the production of necessaries is easy and leaves them abundant
leisure. It is equally essential that the men themselves should
possess an energetic {30} temperament, which will not suffer them to
devote their leisure to idleness, but will make it the starting-point
for some further activity. Now this energetic temperament is the
special gift of climate. So, to a great extent, is the ease with
which necessaries are obtained from the soil; but whilst the
fertility of the soil is dependent on the climate being hot, the
requisite energetic temperament is dependent on the climate being
dry. “_The evidence_,” says Mr. Spencer, “_justifies this inference.
. . . On glancing over a general rain-map of the world, there will be
seen an almost continuous area, marked ‘rainless district,’ extending
across North Africa, Arabia, Persia, and all through Thibet and
Mongolia; and from within, or from the borders of this district, have
come all the conquering races of the Old World._”

But the full operation of climate on human progress is not
intelligible till a further climatic fact is considered. Though
in hot and dry climates the production of necessaries is easy, in
climates that are hot and moist their production is still easier.
It is these last that are really the gardens of the world, and that
offered to primeval man the easiest and most attractive homes. The
original inhabitants, however, of these favoured localities not only
profited by their conditions, but also ultimately suffered from them.
Whilst the fertility of their habitat pampered them, its moisture
destroyed their energy; and in process of time they were subjugated
by other races, who, cradled in drier climates, {31} retained their
energy unimpaired. In this natural descent of the stronger races
on “_the richer and more varied habitats_” of the weaker, and the
consequent super-position of one race over another, we see the origin
of slavery, and of all the ancient civilisations that reposed upon it.

We have here the three essential elements to the union of which
primarily all human progress has been due: firstly, a race remarkable
for its active energy; secondly, the appropriation by this race
of some richer habitat than its own; and thirdly, the possession
by it of an inferior race, as subjects, who are ready to work for
its benefit, and are capable, when coerced and directed by it, of
producing wealth indefinitely greater and more varied than they would
or could have produced had they been left to their own devices.

And here we are brought to the threshold of a new order of facts.
Industrial production, which is the basis of all civilisation, is
not, says Mr. Spencer, started on its progressive career by the
sudden orders of any one remarkable man, but by the spontaneous
action of certain natural causes. It must first be observed that
its general character and its progress are always found to depend
on the same thing. They depend on the division of labour. This,
as Mr. Spencer says, developed in varying degrees, is the salient
characteristic of every civilisation in the world. To what, then,
is the division of labour, in the first instance, itself due? This
is the opening question asked by Adam {32} Smith in his _Wealth of
Nations_; and he seems to regard it as one which is more or less
mysterious and recondite. The answer which he himself suggests is,
that there exists in man “_a natural propensity to truck, barter,
and exchange_.” The answer given by Mr. Herbert Spencer is a curious
illustration of how far, since the days of Adam Smith, social science
has progressed.

Mr. Spencer shows us that the origin of the division of labour was
no special propensity mysteriously innate in man. Its origin was the
natural diversity of the various districts inhabited by the groups
of men who originally took part in it. Thus “_some of the Fiji
Islands_,” he writes, “_are famous for wooden implements, others for
mats and baskets, others for pots and pigments—unlikenesses between
the natural products of the islands being the causes. . . . So also
. . . the shoes of the ancient Peruvians were made in the provinces
where aloes are most abundant, for they were made of the leaves of
an aloe called ‘maguey.’ The arms were supplied by the provinces
where the materials for making them were most abundant_.” Division of
labour, in short, was primarily a localisation of industries, caused
by the fact that a number of man’s different needs were each supplied
most easily by industry in some different locality.

By means of this explanation of the origin of the division of
labour, Mr. Spencer proceeds to explain, in a way which would have
astonished Adam Smith still more, other social phenomena of a kind
which {33} seem wholly different. He proceeds to show us that though
increased production of commodities was the chief direct result of
the localisation of industries, certain by-products resulted from it
also, whose effects were not less important. These by-products were
roads. In the localisation of industries, he says, we have the true
origin of road-making. The fact of industries being widely separated
in place, required a constant interchange of the various sorts of
goods; and the carriage of these goods to and fro between the same
points first produced tracks, such as those made by animals, then
paths, and at last regular roads. But to facilitate the movement
and interchange of goods is not the only, or the highest, though it
may be the first, function of roads. Roads facilitate two things
of a yet more interesting character—the movement of ideas and the
centralisation of authority. They form, in fact, the great physical
basis of civilised human government, and of the development of the
human intellect.

These examples of Mr. Spencer’s conclusions will be sufficient
to show how he studies the phenomena of social progress in so
far as they are the result of what he calls “_the external
factors_”—climate, locality, and the character of the other races
with which each race that is studied happens to have been brought in
contact. Let us now turn to what he calls the “_internal factors_,”
and consider the phenomena of progress which he explains by reference
to these. He helps us here by providing us with a summary of his own,
in which he calls the attention {34} of his readers to the most
important of his own conclusions arrived at in preceding chapters as
to this section of his subject. Having reminded us of how he started
with the “_external factors_,” and how he had shown the ways—namely
those we have just glanced at—in which they co-operated to produce
civilisation, “_our attention_,” he proceeds, “_was then directed to
the internal factors_”; and what he had to tell us, he says, about
the internal factors was as follows: “_An account was first given
of ‘Primitive Man—physical,’ showing that by stature, structure,
strength . . . he was ill fitted for overcoming the difficulties in
the way of advance. Then examination of ‘The Primitive Man—emotional’
led us to see that his imprudence and his explosiveness, restrained
but little by sociality and the altruistic sentiments, rendered
him unfit for co-operation. And then, in the chapter on ‘Primitive
Man—intellectual,’ we saw that while adapted by its active and
acute perceptions to the needs of a wild life, his type of mind was
deficient in the faculties required for progress in knowledge._”
Then, having referred to the long explanation given by him of the
rise of man’s religious belief, Mr. Spencer goes on to say that these
primitive human characteristics constitute the internal factors, with
which sociology starts, and that the business of this science is to
explain the evolution of all those subsequent “_phenomena resulting
from their combined actions_.” Of these phenomena the chief, he says,
are the following—monogamy as evolved from polygamy, polyandry,
{35} and promiscuity; the higher family affections as developed by
the monogamous family; and governmental and social organisation as
developed in two ways—by the conduct essential to war and the conduct
essential to industry. His conclusions, so far as possible, shall be
given in his own words.

To begin with marriage: in the earlier stages of society nothing
resembling it existed. The nearest approach to a family was the
mother and such children as could be kept alive without the help
of the father; and as the children grew up, this rudimentary group
dissolved. But “_from families thus small and incoherent_” there
naturally and inevitably arose, in accordance with the tendency to
variation by which the human units are characterised, and which is
the basis of all evolutionary selection, “_families of divergent
types_”—families founded on unions of which some were more lasting
than others, of which some were unions between one mother and many
fathers, some between one father and many mothers, and some between
one father and one mother. This last-named type of union, and the
family life resulting from it, had many practical advantages, such
as the production of closer bonds between the several members of the
family, and consequently the practice between them of more efficient
co-operation. Accordingly, no sooner did monogamous groups appear
than they exhibited a tendency to survive in the social struggle for
existence; and monogamy affords, with the affections that have grown
up under its shelter, the type {36} of marriage and family that
prevails amongst the most advanced races of to-day.

Next, as to the phenomena of governmental and social organisations:
these arise only with the formation of groups larger than the
family—of groups which we call communities, or nations, or social
aggregates; and we have to consider how these larger groups rose out
of the aggregation of the smaller. The process is explained, says Mr.
Spencer, by the same few “_internal factors_.” The nation sprang from
the family by the following inevitable stages. Let us take any family
group, sufficiently coherent to live together as a single household,
and supporting itself on the produce of the land that surrounds its
dwelling. Whilst this group is small, the acreage will be small also,
which, as ploughland, hunting-ground, or pasture, is required to
supply its wants; and each member of the group can easily reach his
work, starting from the common home, and coming back to it in the
evening. But as children grow, and children and great-grandchildren
multiply, the land required by the household correspondingly grows
in extent, and at last becomes so large that the whole of it cannot
be utilised by a body of men living on the same spot. Hence, as Mr.
Spencer expresses it, “_a fission of the group is necessitated_”; and
this process is repeated till there are a multitude of groups instead
of one. These groups, says Mr. Spencer, constitute the raw material
of the nation. The nation is formed “_by the recompounding of these
units once again_.” {37}

And how is this process of “_recompounding_” accomplished? Mr.
Spencer answers it is accomplished by one means only, and that is
the co-operation forced on them by war for some common interest.
Other tribes threaten to attack their territory, or they are desirous
of appropriating the territory of other tribes. Separately they
are powerless. The only course open to them is to band themselves
together and submit themselves to a common leader. In cases where
such wars are short, as observation of savage tribes shows us, the
rudimentary nation with its rudimentary discipline dissolves and
disappears as soon as the wars are over; but when the state of
warfare is prolonged by the rivalry of other societies, the military
leadership develops into a permanent centralised authority; and
from this military government, with its “_coercive institutions_,”
national existence and all forms of government spring.

And here Mr. Spencer’s argument takes a new departure and carries
us on to the point where we shall be compelled to leave it. As
governments and civilisations have advanced, he says, they have
taken two forms—that in which the original military element still
continues to preponderate, and that in which the military element
becomes gradually subordinate to the industrial. “_The former_,”
he says, “_in its developed form is organised on the principle of
compulsory organisation, whilst the latter in its developed form
is organised on the principle of voluntary co-operation_”; and the
latter {38} amongst civilised nations always tends to supersede the
former, in precise proportion as war tends to become less common.
The industrial form, it may be observed, corresponds in a general
way to the kinds of government commonly called “democratic”; but
its emergence, says Mr. Spencer, has its most important effects in
the sphere not of politics, but of economic production. Originally
the conditions of industry were regulated by the dictates of the
military and aristocratic ruler, as they are to-day in some savage
communities, and as they partially were in France till towards the
close of the last century. Under such a _régime_ the very “_right to
labour_” itself is regarded as belonging to the King; and he sells it
to his subjects on such terms as he may choose. But as the military
element in the government declines, not only does the character of
governmental legislation change, but industry frees itself from
governmental influence altogether. No king any longer arranges
markets, fixes wages or prices, and settles what kind and quantities
of commodities shall be produced. Industry becomes, as Mr. Spencer
says, “_substantially independent_.” He does not mean, however, that
it needs no regulation. It needs as much as ever a constant and nice
adjustment of the things produced to the current requirements of the
community; but this adjustment is now secured not by the interference
of a political ruler, but by a system which has spontaneously
developed itself amongst the trading and manufacturing classes. It is
a system, says Mr. Spencer, {39} which we may call “_internuncial,
through which the various structures_ (i.e. _manufacturing firms,
etc._) _receive from one another stimuli or checks, caused by rises
and falls in the consumption of their respective products. . . .
Markets in the chief towns show dealers the varying relations of
supply and demand; and the reports of these transactions, diffused
by the press, prompt each locality to increase or decrease of its
special functions. . . . That is to say, there has arisen, in
addition to the political regulating system, an industrial regulating
system, which carries on its co-ordinating function independently—a
separate plexus of connected ganglia._”

We have now looked at social evolution, as the product of both those
sets of causes—the “_external factors_” and the “_internal_”—by which
Mr. Spencer explains it, and have followed it, under both aspects,
from the earliest beginnings of progress to the dawn and development
of civilisation, such as history knows it. Our account of Mr.
Spencer’s theory of the ascent of man and society is necessarily very
incomplete; but the various conclusions mentioned in it may be said
to be exhaustively typical of the conclusions of social science as
Mr. Spencer conceives of it.

And now let us consider what the nature of those conclusions is.
We shall find that they are, one and all of them, conclusions with
regard to aggregates. All the phenomena with which they deal are
phenomena not of individuals, not of different classes, but of masses
of men, communities, races, nations, {40} the units of which are
regarded as being virtually so similar, that what is true of one is
virtually true of all. This similarity certainly is not imputed to
all mankind. Men are recognised as having been different in one epoch
from what they become in another, and one race and the inhabitants
of one climate as being different from other men differently born
and circumstanced. The primitive millions who could hardly walk
upright, and whose sexual relations resembled those of the animals,
are distinguished from their erect successors who married and lived
in families; and the strong and energetic races are distinguished
from their weaker contemporaries. But each of these aggregates is
regarded as a unit in itself. The conquering race which has grown
vigorous in dry regions, and the inferior race enslaved by it, which
has lost its strength in moist regions, are contrasted sharply
with each other; but neither is made the subject of any internal
division, nor treated as though the units composing it were not
virtually similar. Mr. Spencer of course admits (for this is one of
the fundamental parts of his philosophy) that these wholes, these
aggregates, progress through a constant differentiation of their
parts, different functions being performed by an increasing number
of groups; but the units who compose these groups, and whom he calls
the “_internal factors_,” are regarded by him as being congenitally
each a counterpart of the others; and their different functions and
their different acquired aptitudes are {41} regarded as the result
of different external circumstances which press into different moulds
one and the same material. Thus when the single group from which the
nation originally springs undergoes, as it becomes more numerous,
what Mr. Spencer calls the process of “fission,” and spreads itself
in search of food over an ever-extending area, new groups separate
not because they have different appetites, but because, having the
same appetites, they must satisfy them in different places by the
exercise of the same faculties. Division of labour, as we have seen,
he explains in the same way; and not its origin only, but its latest
and most elaborate developments. Of the manufacturing businesses of
to-day, for instance, with their promoters, managers, capitalists,
and multitudes of various workmen, not only is each business treated
by him as a single unit, but each of these units, or ganglia, is a
unit which differs from the rest for accidental reasons only, as a
gardener who happens to be digging may differ from a gardener who
happens to be raking a walk; and he describes the whole as “_a plexus
of ganglia connected by an internuncial system_.”

The use of this last phrase, and the physiological analogy suggested
by it, illustrate yet more clearly the fact here insisted on—namely,
that for Mr. Spencer the sociologist’s true unit of interest is the
social aggregate, as a whole, to the exclusion of the individual
or of the class. The latter are merely the ganglia, or veins,
or nerves, which are nothing {42} except as connected with the
organism to which they belong. Each social aggregate, in fact, is a
single animal; and whatever is achieved or suffered by any class or
individual within it, is really achieved or suffered, in the eye of
the Spencerian sociologist, not by the class or the individual, but
by that corporate animal, the community.

Now a study of these phenomena of aggregates is, as has been said
already, valuable for speculative purposes. It has led those who have
pursued it to a variety of important conclusions which have largely
revolutionised our conception of human history, and of the conditions
that engender civilisations or else preclude their possibility. It
has shown us human life as a great unfolding drama, but it has hardly
given us any help at all in dealing with the practical problems that
belong to our own day; and the reason of this, which has already
been stated generally, must be apparent the moment we consider what
these practical problems are. Their general character is sufficiently
indicated by such familiar antitheses as aristocracy and democracy,
the few and the many, rich and poor, capital and labour, or, as
Mr. Kidd puts it, collectivists and the opponents of collectivism.
In other words, the social problems of to-day—like the social
problems of most other periods—are problems which arise out of the
differences between class and class. That is to say, they depend on,
and derive their sole meaning from phenomena which are not referable
to the social aggregate as a whole, but which {43} are manifested
severally by distinct and independent parts. The social aggregate,
when regarded from this standpoint, is no longer a single animal,
whose pains or pleasures reveal themselves in a single consciousness.
It is a litter of animals, each of which has a consciousness of its
own, and, together with its consciousness, interests of its own also,
which are opposed to those of the others, instead of coinciding with

And now let us consider more closely out of what this opposition
arises. Mr. Spencer, as we have seen, in our rapid survey of his
arguments, lays great stress on the fact that as men rise into
aggregates, they do so only on condition of submitting themselves
to governors, military in the first place, and at a later stage
civil. The truth, however, which he thus elaborates, whatever may
be its speculative importance, fails to have any bearing on any
practical problem, because it is not a truth about which there has
ever been any practical disagreement. Aristocrat, democrat, and
socialist all agree that there must be orderly government of some
sort, and official governors to administer to it. The point at issue
between them is not whether some must govern and others submit to be
governed, but how the individuals who perform the work of government
shall be chosen, and what, apart from their official superiority and
authority, shall be their position with regard to the rest of the
community. Why should they enjoy any special social advantage? Or if
they are to enjoy it, why should they be usually {44} drawn from a
small privileged class, and not from the masses of the community,
sinking to the general level again when their tenure of office
terminates? Such are the questions proposed by one party; whilst the
other party replies by contending that the limited class in question
can alone supply governors of the required talents and character. Of
this clash of opinions and interests, which is as old as civilisation
itself, though in each age it assumes some different form, Mr.
Spencer’s social science necessarily takes no cognisance, because the
parts of each social aggregate have for him no separate existence.

The same criticism applies to his treatment of economic production.
He explains, as we have seen, the origin of the division of
labour, showing how “_unlikeness between the products of different
districts_” inevitably led to “_the localisation of industries_,”
turning one set of savages—to use his own example—into potters,
another into makers of baskets. But here again we have a truth which,
whatever its speculative interest, has no bearing on any practical
problem; for no one denies that division of labour is necessary, nor
do any of the difficulties of to-day turn upon its remote origin.
Socialists and individualists are alike ready to admit that different
men must follow different industries. The point at issue is why,
within the limits of the same industry, different men pursue it on
different levels, some being masters and capitalists, some being
labourers and subordinates. Here, just as in the sphere of political
and military government, {45} we have one class defending its
existing position and privileges, and another class attacking or
questioning them; and it is out of circumstances such as these, thus
briefly indicated, that the practical social problems of the present
day arise.

Now the question at the bottom of these can be reduced to very simple
terms. If all members of the community were content with existing
social arrangements, it is needless to say there would be no social
problems at all. Such problems are due entirely to the existence of
persons who are not contented, and who desire that certain of these
arrangements should be changed. It will be seen, accordingly, that
the great and fundamental question which, as a practical guide, the
sociologist is asked to answer, is whether or how far the changes
desired by the discontented are practicable; and the first step
towards ascertaining how far the arrangements in question can be
turned into something which they are not, is to ascertain precisely
how they have come to be what they are.

But this way of putting the case is still not sufficiently definite.
Mr. Spencer himself has put it in somewhat similar language; and yet
in doing so he has missed the heart of the problem. Mr. Spencer’s
speculative gaze, travelling over the past and present, sees one
generation melting like a cloud into another, and takes no note of
the individuals that compose each. The practical sociologist must
adopt a very different method of observation. He must remember that
practical problems arise {46} and become practical, not in virtue
of their relation to mankind generally, but in virtue of their
relation to each particular generation that is confronted by them;
and a particular generation in any given community, and the different
classes into which the community is divided, are made up respectively
of particular men and women. In asking, therefore, how the social
arrangements we have been considering have come to be what they are,
we must not ask in vague and general terms why a portion of the
social aggregate occupies a position which contents it, and another
portion a position which exasperates it; but we must consider the
individuals of which each portion, at any given time, is composed,
and begin the inquiry at the point at which they begin it themselves.
“Why am I—Tom or Dick or Harry—included in that portion of the
aggregate which occupies an inferior position? And why are these
men—William or James or George—more fortunate than I, and included
in the portion of the aggregate which occupies a superior position?”
To this question there are but three possible answers. The inferior
position of Tom or Dick or Harry is due to his differing from William
or James or George in external circumstances, which theoretically,
at all events, might all be equalised—such, for example, as his
education; or it is due to his differing from them in certain
congenital faculties, with respect to which men can never be made
equal—as, for example, in his brain power or his physical energy; or
it is due to his differing {47} from them in external circumstances
which have arisen naturally from differences in the congenital
faculties of others, and which, if they could be equalised at all,
could never be equalised with anything like completeness—such,
for example, as the possession by William and James and George of
leisured and intellectual homes secured for them by gifted fathers,
and the want of such homes and fathers on the part of Tom and Dick
and Harry.

The first question, accordingly, which we have to ask is as follows.
Taking Tom or Dick or Harry as a type of those classes who happen
to occupy an inferior position in the aggregate, and comparing him
with others who happen to occupy superior positions, we have to ask
how far he is condemned to the inferior position which he resents
by such external circumstances as conceivably could be equalised by
legislation, and how far by some congenital inferiority of his own,
or circumstances naturally arising out of the congenital inferiority
of others. Or we may put the question conversely, and ask how William
and George and James have come to occupy the positions which Tom,
Dick, and Harry envy. Do they owe their positions solely to unjust
and arbitrary legislation, which a genuinely democratic parliament
could and would undo? Or to exceptional abilities of their own, of
which no parliament could deprive them? Or to advantages secured
for them by the exceptional abilities of their fathers, which no
parliament could interfere with, or, at all events, could abolish,
without {48} entering on a conflict with the instincts of human
nature, and interfering with the springs of all human action?

Now that external circumstances of a kind, easily alterable by
legislation, have been, and often are, responsible for many social
inequalities, is a fact which we may here assume without particularly
discussing it. The inquiry, therefore, narrows itself still further,
and resolves itself into this: Do the congenital superiorities or
inferiorities of the persons, or of parents of the persons, who at
any given time are occupying in the social aggregate superior and
inferior positions, play any part in the production of these social
inequalities at all?

This question must plainly be the practical sociologist’s
starting-point; for if social inequalities are due wholly to
alterable and artificial circumstances, social conditions are
capable, theoretically, at all events, of being equalised; but if, on
the other hand, inferior and superior positions are partly, at all
events, the result of the congenital inequalities of individuals,
over which no legislation can exercise the least control, then a
natural limit is set to the possibilities of the levelling process;
and it is the business of the sociologist, if he aspires to be
a practical guide, to begin with ascertaining what these limits
are. Are, then, the congenital inequalities of men a factor in the
production of social inequalities, or are they not?

Now to many people it will seem that even to ask this question is
superfluous. They will regard {49} it as a matter patent to common
sense that men’s congenital inequalities are to a large extent the
cause, in every society, of such social inequalities as exist in it;
and they will possibly say that it is a mere waste of time to discuss
a truth which is so self-evident. It happens, however, that the more
obvious it seems to be to common sense, the more necessary it is
for us to begin our present inquiry with insisting on it; and the
reason is that, in spite of its being so obvious, the whole school
of contemporary sociologists, with Mr. Spencer as their head, base
their whole method of sociological study on a denial of it. By their
method of dealing with social aggregates only, they deny not only the
influence, but even the existence of congenital inequalities, and
endeavour to explain them away as an illusion of the unscientific
mind. They admit, indeed, as our quotation from Mr. Spencer showed,
that the primitive man was congenitally different from man in later
ages. They admit that the individuals reared in a dry climate, who
formed the conquering aggregates, were congenitally different from
the individuals reared in a moist climate, who formed the enslaved
aggregates; but they absolutely refuse to take any account whatever
of the congenital inequalities by which individuals within the same
aggregate are differentiated.

In order to show the reader that such is literally the case, we need
not rely merely on such inferences as have just been drawn from the
manner in which Mr. Spencer applies his method, and from the {50}
general character of his conclusions. We have the direct evidence of
his own categorical statements. Let us turn again to the criticism
with which, as we have already seen, he prefaces his whole series
of sociological writings, and which may be taken as his fundamental
profession of faith—his criticism, namely, of what he calls “_the
great-man theory_,” his rejection of it as being a theory which would
render all social science impossible, and his enunciation of the
theory which he contends must take its place. It may seem to some
readers that his rejection of the great man as a _vera causa_ which
will explain social phenomena amounts to no more than a rejection of
that exaggerated view of history which expresses itself in the works
of writers such as Froude and Carlyle, and which vaguely attributes
all the progressive changes of humanity to the personality of rulers,
of political and military autocrats—such as Henry VIII., Cromwell,
and Frederick the Great of Prussia. And indeed, to judge by Mr.
Spencer’s language, it is this exaggerated view which has been most
frequently present in his mind, as we may see by referring to the
passage already quoted, which concludes his demonstration that the
“_great-man theory_” is false. With the sole exception, he says, of
the military struggles of primitive tribes, “_new activities, new
institutions, new ideas, unobtrusively make their appearance, without
the aid of any king or legislator; and if you wish to understand the
phenomena of social evolution, you will not do it should you read
yourself {51} blind over the biographies of all the great rulers on
record, down to Frederick the Greedy and Napoleon the Treacherous._”

But Mr. Spencer, in rejecting the great “_ruler and legislator_”
as a factor in social evolution unworthy of the attention of the
sociologist, is really rejecting a great deal else besides. He is
really rejecting every inequality in capacity by which a certain
number of men are differentiated from, and raised above others. In
order to show that such is the case, we will avail ourselves of
his own words. We will, then, start with one casual remark out of
many, in which Mr. Spencer, forgetting his own theories, slips into
a method of observation truer than the one he advocates. “_Men_,”
he writes in his _Study of Sociology_, “_who have aptitudes for
accumulating observations are rarely men given to generalising;
whilst men given to generalising are commonly men who, mostly using
the observation of others, observe for themselves less from love of
particular facts than from the desire to put such facts to use._”
Nothing can be clearer than the distinction here drawn. It is one
of great importance in the elucidation of many social problems; and
it deals not with the likeness, but with a congenital difference,
which exists between men belonging to the same social aggregate. But
now let us compare this with another passage, in which Mr. Spencer,
returning again to his theory, explains how members of the same
aggregate are to be treated by any sociologist who would claim to
be a man of science. {52} “_Amongst societies of all orders and
sizes,” he writes, “sociology has to ascertain what traits there are
in common, determined by the common traits of human beings; what
less general traits, distinguishing certain groups of societies,
result from traits distinguishing certain races of men; and what
peculiarities in each society are traceable to the peculiarities of
its members._” This is clumsily expressed; but its meaning, which is
quite obvious, may be seen by taking, as a typical society, that of
England. The sociologist, in explaining English society, will have
to consider, according to Mr. Spencer, first, what traits Englishmen
have in virtue of being human creatures; secondly, he will have to
consider what traits they have in virtue of being Europeans, not
Orientals; and, thirdly, he will have to consider what traits they
have in virtue of being Englishmen, not Frenchmen or Germans.

The reader will at once perceive the contrast between the spirit
of these two passages. In the former Mr. Spencer notes, with great
penetration and accuracy, a most important point of difference
between two sets of men belonging to the same society. In the latter
he deals with societies as single bodies, the members of which
possess no personal traits whatever, except such as they all possess
alike; and all the traits in which they differ from one another, such
as the one just alluded to, of necessity disappear from the field of
vision altogether. Should any doubt as to the matter still remain
in the reader’s mind, it will be dispelled by {53} the quotation
of one further passage. “_A true social aggregate_,” he says [“_as
distinct from a mere large family_], _is a union of like individuals,
independent of one another in parentage, and approximately equal in

Here is the case stated with the most absolute clearness. All
congenital inequalities, as was said just now, between the various
individuals who make up the aggregate are ignored; and it is upon
this hypothesis of approximately equal units, acted on by different
external circumstances, that he attempts to build up his whole system
of sociology. He is, indeed, little as he himself may suspect it,
reproducing in another form the error of Karl Marx and the earlier
of the so-called “scientific socialists,” who maintained that all
wealth was the product of common or average labour, measured by time,
and that hour for hour any one labourer necessarily produced as much
wealth as another. The socialists of to-day are already beginning to
see that this monstrous, though ingeniously advocated, doctrine is
untenable as the foundation of economics; and yet, strange to say, a
doctrine strictly equivalent to it forms the accepted foundation of
contemporary social science. That science starts with the hypothesis
of approximately equal units, and ignores the congenital differences
between the individuals who compose the aggregate. We shall find it
to be ultimately from differences of this kind that all the practical
problems which beset civilisation spring, and that the inability
of the modern {54} sociologists, complained of by Mr. Kidd and
Professor Marshall, to throw on these problems any definite light is
simply the natural and inevitable result of excluding the differences
in question altogether from their scientific purview.

We will, in the next chapter, consider the whole range of arguments
used by Mr. Spencer and others in justification of this error.




It is evident that an error of the kind now in question does not
represent the carelessness of the untrained thinker. It is nothing if
not deliberate; and indeed Mr. Spencer admits that it is altogether
in opposition to the opinions which men naturally hold. Accordingly,
the arguments by which he and his followers justify it, and have
actually imposed it on all the sociological thinkers of their
generation, require, before we reject them, to be examined with the
utmost care.

Let us then turn our attention once again to the grounds on which
Mr. Spencer refuses to admit the great or exceptional man as a
true factor in the production of social change. If the reader
will reflect upon the account that has been already given of Mr.
Spencer’s arguments in connection with this point, he will find
that Mr. Spencer rejects the great man for two reasons, which are
not only distinct, but are, when interpreted closely, not entirely
consistent with each other. One of these reasons is that the great,
or exceptional man does {56} not really produce those great changes
of which he is nevertheless “_the proximate initiator_”; the other
is that, outside the sphere of primitive warfare, he does not even
proximately initiate any great changes at all. The first of these
two contentions is expressed with sufficient clearness in his
statement “_if there is to be anything like a real explanation_”
of those changes of which the great man is the “_proximate
initiator_”—changes, to quote an example which he himself gives, such
as those produced by the conquests of Julius Cæsar—this explanation
must be sought not in the great man himself, but “_in the aggregate
of social conditions out of which he and they_ (i.e. _the changes
commonly supposed to have been produced by him_) _have arisen_.”
Mr. Spencer’s second contention is expressed in the following
passage, the concluding words of which have been quoted already,
but on which it will be presently necessary for us to insist again.
“_Recognising_,” he says, “_what truth there is in the great-man
theory, we may say that, if limited to the history of primitive
societies, the histories of which are histories of little else than
endeavours to destroy one another, it approximately expresses fact in
representing the great leader as all-important. But its immense error
lies in the assumption that what was once true was true for ever, and
that a relation of ruler and ruled which was good at one time is good
for all time. Just as fast as the predatory activity of early tribes
diminishes, just as fast as large aggregates are formed, so fast do
societies {57} begin to give origin to new activities, new ideas, all
of which unobtrusively make their appearance without the aid of any
king or legislator_.”

It will be necessary to deal with these two contentions separately;
and we will begin with the second, as set forth in the words just
quoted. We shall find it valuable as an example of that singular
confusion of thought by which all the reasoning of our sociologists
with regard to this question is vitiated. Mr. Spencer speaks of
an “_immense error_” which he is pointing out and correcting. The
“_immense error_” in reality is to be found in his own conception.
It is hard to imagine anything more arbitrary and more gratuitously
false than the contrast which he here draws between the actions
of men in primitive war, for the success of which he admits a
great leader to have been essential, and their various actions and
activities as manifested in peaceful progress, which, he contends,
neither require leadership nor exhibit traces of its influence.
We are at this moment altogether waiving the question of how far
the great leader, when he is the proximate cause of the military
successes of his tribe, is their cause in any deeper sense. It is
enough for us now to take Mr. Spencer’s admission that the leader
is really the cause, in some sense or other, of the social changes
connected with early warfare; and, keeping to this sense, let us
consider in what possible way less causality can be attributed to the
actions of great men and leaders in the sphere of peaceful progress.

“_A primitive society_,” if it is to become powerful in war—this
Mr. Spencer admits—must have a great leader to direct it. But what
precisely is it that such a leader is and does? Such a leader leads,
because he is one mind or personality impressing for the moment its
superior qualities on many minds or personalities. He supplies the
fighting men of his society with an intelligence not their own—often
with a courage, a presence of mind, and a resolution. He dictates
to them the directions in which their feet are to carry them; the
manner in which they are to group themselves; the movements of their
hands and arms. He gives the word, and a thousand men dig trenches.
He gives the word again, and a thousand men wield swords; now he
makes them advance; now he makes them halt; and the measure of his
greatness as a leader is to be found in those results which, by
directing the action of all these men, he elicits from it.

And now from the triumphs of war let us turn to those of
peace. “_These_,” says Mr. Spencer, “_unlike the former, make
their appearance unobtrusively, without the aid of any king or
legislator_.” It may, no doubt, be true that they do appear
unobtrusively in the sense that they are not accompanied by trumpets
and drums and tom-toms. A factory for the production of toffee, or
of trimmings for ladies’ petticoats does not require an Ivan the
Terrible to direct it, nor are Mr. Spencer’s sentences as he writes
them punctuated by discharges of artillery. But if the essence of
kingship and {59} leadership is to command the actions of others,
the larger part of the progressive activities of peace, and the arts
and products of civilisation, result from and imply the influence of
kings and leaders, in essentially the same sense as do the successes
of primitive war, the only difference being that the kings are here
more numerous, and though they do not wear any arms or uniforms, are
incomparably more autocratic than the kings and czars who do.

As a particularly clear illustration of this important truth, let
us take Mr. Spencer himself, and place him before his own eyes as
an autocratic king or ruler. In certain respects he is so; and it
is only because he is so that he has been able to give, through his
books, his thoughts and theories to the world. For let us examine any
one of his volumes and consider what it is, in so far as it differs
from any other volume—let us say from a treatise on the cutting of
trousers, or an attack on the Spencerian philosophy—which is printed
in similar type on pages of the same size. It differs solely in the
order in which the letters have been arranged by the hands of the
compositors; and its value as a work of philosophy consequently
depends altogether on a certain complicated series of movements which
the hands of the compositors have made. And how has this prolonged
series of minute movements been secured? It has been secured by the
fact that Mr. Herbert Spencer, through his manuscript, has given
the compositors a prolonged series of orders, which their hands,
day after day, have been obliged to obey {60} passively. He has
been as absolute a master of all their professional actions as ever
was the most arbitrary general of the professional actions of his
soldiery; and there is absolutely no difference in point of command
and obedience between the compositors who, at Mr. Spencer’s bidding,
put into type the words “_homogeneity_” and “_the Unknowable_” and
the Guards who charged the French at the bidding of the Duke of

Precisely the same thing is true of all scientific inventions—not
indeed of inventions as mere ideas and discoveries, but of inventions
and discoveries applied practically to the service of civilisation.
The mere discovery of certain properties belonging to material
substances, or the thinking out of some new machine or process, may
be the work of one man, who has command over nobody except himself.
But the moment he proceeds to make his machine or process useful—to
apply it to the purpose of actual business or manufacture—he is
obliged to secure for himself an entire army of mercenaries, who act
under his orders in precisely the same way as soldiers act under the
orders of the military leader, or as the compositors act under the
orders of Mr. Spencer. When the electric telegraph was supplemented
by the invention of the telephone, telephones were produced, and
could have been produced, only by a multitude of men performing a
series of manual actions which were different in detail from anything
they had performed before, and which, if it had not been for the
inventor, would never {61} have been performed at all. They filed or
they cast pieces of metal into new shapes; with these pieces of metal
they connected in new order pieces of other materials, such as wood
and vulcanite, the shape of these last being new and special also;
and every piece of material shaped or connected with another piece
was the exact resultant of so many manual movements made in passive
obedience to the inventor’s autocratic orders. It was only because
his orders were obeyed with such humble fidelity and completeness
that these movements resulted in telephones, enriching the world with
a new convenience, and not in the old-fashioned telegraphic machines,
or in penholders, or vulcanite inkstands, or even in useless heaps
of shavings and brass filings. And the same is the case with every
invention or contrivance which has helped to build up the fabric of
modern material civilisation.

Civilisation, however, even in its most material sense, does not
consist of contrivances and inventions only. “_The one operation_,”
says Mill, “_of putting things into fit places . . . is all that man
does, or can do, with matter. He has no other means of acting on
it than by moving it._” But valuable as this formula is, it is not
sufficiently comprehensive; for there is another economic process
which, to the ordinary mind at all events, is hardly suggested by
such a phrase as “_to move matter_.”

The process referred to consists in the moving of men. What is meant
by the distinction here drawn is this—that the industrial efficiency
of a community {62} does not depend solely on the muscles of the
manual workers being given a right direction, so that they shall
shape material objects in such and such a way; but it depends also on
the movements which are prescribed to the men, being prescribed to
the men best fitted to perform them, and being prescribed to them in
such order that when each movement has to be made, the men told off
to make it shall be ready to make it at the moment. Here we see part
of the secret of the success of the great contractor.

The importance of these considerations becomes all the clearer to us
when we reflect on the fact that the mere production of commodities,
and the production of the means of production, form but a part
of the processes which advance, maintain, and indeed constitute
civilisation. A part almost equally large consists in the rendering
of various personal services, which often, no doubt, involve the
utilisation of improved appliances, but which almost as often are
neither more nor less than the performance of actions of a simple
and ordinary kind, the merit and demerit, the wastefulness or the
economy of which depend on their being performed with absolute
punctuality and despatch. A good example of this is the case of a
large hotel. Whether a large hotel is carried on at a profit or at a
loss depends almost entirely on this question of personal management.
The success of a successful manager does not depend on his capacity
for inventing new methods of waiting, of cooking, or of making beds.
It depends on his {63} capacity for organising his staff of cooks,
waiters, and chamber-maids. This is well expressed by that most
significant American saying, “He’s a smart man, but he couldn’t keep
a hotel”; the meaning being that one of the most important, and at
the same time one of the rarest faculties required for maintaining a
complicated civilisation like our own is the faculty by which, given
a number of tasks, one man governs a number of men in the act of
cooperatively performing them.

Examples of this kind might be indefinitely multiplied, but those
just adduced are quite sufficient to prove the sole point insisted
on at the present moment—namely, that whatever be the part (and Mr.
Spencer admits it to be “_all-important_”) which the great man plays
as a leader in primitive warfare, a part precisely similar in kind is
played by other great men in the peaceful processes, and, above all,
in the progress of civilisation.

And now, having dealt with this point, let us turn to Mr. Spencer’s
other contention—his contention namely that, whatever the part may
be, and however seemingly important, which the great man plays in
producing social changes, he is, in any case, nothing but their
“_proximate initiator_”;—that “_they have their chief cause in the
generations he descended from_”;—and that if there is to be anything
like a real and scientific explanation of them, it must be sought
in the aggregate of conditions out of which both he and they have
arisen, and not in the great man’s personality as revealed to us by
any {64} records of his life, or by any analysis of his peculiar

We have already seen in a general way how this feat of merging the
great man in “_the aggregate of conditions out of which he has
arisen_” is performed by Mr. Spencer himself. Let us now turn for a
moment to three other writers who, though differing from him as to
certain of his conclusions, have with regard to this particular point
done little else than popularise and apply his teaching.

“_It needs only a little reflection_,” writes Mr. Kidd, “_to
enable us to perceive that the marvellous accomplishments of modern
civilisation are primarily the measure of the social stability and
social efficiency, and not of the intellectual pre-eminence of the
peoples who have produced them. . . . For it must be remembered
that even the ablest men amongst us, whose names go down to history
connected with great discoveries and inventions, have each in reality
advanced the sum of knowledge by only a small addition. In the
fulness of time, and when the ground has been slowly and laboriously
prepared for it, the great idea fructifies and the discovery is
made. It is, in fact, the work not of one, but of a great number
of persons. How true it is that all the great ideas have been the
products of the time rather than of individuals may be the more
readily realised when it is remembered that, as regards a large
number of them, there have been rival claims put forward for the
honour of authorship by persons who, working quite independently,
have arrived at like results almost {65} simultaneously. Thus rival
and independent claims have been made for the discovery of the
differential calculus . . . the invention of the steam engine, . . .
the methods of spectrum analysis, the telegraph, the telephone, as
well as many other discoveries._” And then Mr. Kidd proceeds to quote
with approval the following sentence from an essay which was written
by an American socialist, Mr. Bellamy; and the sentence has been
repeated with solemn and triumphant unction in half the socialistic
books which have been given to the world since. “_Nine hundred and
ninety-nine parts out of the thousand of every man’s produce are the
result of his social inheritance and environment.” “This is so,_”
remarks Mr. Kidd, “_and it is, if possible, even more true of the
work of our brain than of the work of our hands._” To these passages
we must add one from Mr. Sidney Webb, who is, intellectually, a
favourable example of a modern English socialist. Referring to the
socialistic proposal that all kinds of workers, no matter what their
work, should be paid an equal wage, “_this equality_,” he says,
“_has an abstract justification, as the special ability or energy
with which some persons are born is an unearned increment due to
the effect of the struggle for existence upon their ancestors, and
consequently, having been produced by society, is as much due to
society as the unearned increment of rent._”

Here we have then, in the words of these four writers, Mr. Spencer,
Mr. Kidd, Mr. Bellamy, and {66} Mr. Sidney Webb, the case against
the great man set fully before us; and we may accordingly proceed to
analyse it. We shall find that it divides itself into four separate
arguments, which are constantly recurring in some form or other in
all the works of our modern sociological writers, and especially
in the works of those who are democratic or socialistic in their
sympathies. Firstly, there is the argument that in any advanced
civilisation not one of the improvements made during any given epoch
would have been possible if a variety of other improvements and the
accumulation of various knowledge had not gone before it; and that
thus the man who is called the inventor or author of the improvement
is merely the vehicle or delegate of forces outside himself.
Secondly, there is the argument that the inventor or author of the
improvement, even if we attribute to him some special ability of his
own, is in respect of his own congenital energies merely the product
and expression of preceding generations and circumstances. Of the
four arguments in question, these are the most important; but they
are constantly reinforced by two others. One is drawn from the fact
that several independent workers often arrive simultaneously at the
same discovery. The other is drawn from the fact—or what is alleged
to be the fact—that the interval which divides even the greatest
man from his fellows, alike in respect of what he is and of what he
accomplishes, is really extremely slight, and not worth considering.

For convenience’ sake, we will deal with these two latter arguments
first, and put them out of the way before we approach the others.
We will begin with the argument drawn from the fact that the same
discovery is often made simultaneously by independent workers. This
would perhaps hardly be worth discussing if it were not used so
constantly by such a variety of serious writers. The fact is true
enough, but what is the utmost that it proves? If two or three
men make the same discovery at once, this does not prove, as it
is supposed to do, that all men are approximately equal, but that
two or three men, instead of one man, are greater than the rest
of their fellow-workers. If three horses at a race out-distance
all competitors, and pass the winning-post within the same three
seconds, this does not prove that a cart-horse is as swift as the
Derby favourite. As a matter of fact, that more men than one should
reach at the same time the same discovery independently is precisely
what we should be led to expect, when we consider what discovery is.
The facts of nature which form the subject-matter of the discoverer
are in themselves as independent of the men who discover them as an
Alpine peak is of the men who attempt to scale it. They are indeed
precisely analogous to a peak which all discoverers are attempting to
scale at once; and the fact that three men make the same discovery
simultaneously does no more to show that any of their neighbours
could have made it, and that it is made in reality, not by them,
but by {68} their generation, than the fact that the three most
intrepid cragsmen in Europe meet at last on the same virgin summit,
which other adventurers had sought to scale in vain, would prove
the feat to have been really accomplished by the mass of tourists
at Interlaken, who had never climbed anywhere except by the Rigi
railway, and whose stomachs would be turned by a precipice of twenty

Let us now turn to the argument that the inequalities between men’s
abilities are small, that the work accomplished by even the ablest
is small also, and that the exceptional man as a separate subject of
study may, in the words of a writer who will be quoted presently,
be in consequence “_safely neglected_.” The answer to this is that
whether an inequality be great or small depends altogether on the
point from which the total altitude is measured. If a child who is
three feet high, and a giant who is nine feet high, are both of
them standing on the summit of Mont Blanc, the difference between
the elevation of their respective heads above the sea-level will
be infinitesimal; but no one who was discussing the question of
human stature would say that little children and giants were of
approximately the same height. Similarly, if our object is to
compare men in general with all other living creatures, no doubt the
difference between the ordinary man and a microbe is incomparably
greater than the difference between an ordinary man and Newton; but
if our object is to compare men with men, in relation to this or that
mental capacity—let {69} us say the capacity for scientific and
mathematical discovery—the difference which separates one ordinary
man from another is insignificant when compared with the difference
by which Newton is separated from both of them. And it is this
latter sort of difference which alone concerns the sociologist. The
difference which separates men from microbes is nothing to him. And
what is true of what men are, is equally true of what they do. The
addition made by any one great man to knowledge may be small when
compared with the knowledge, regarded in its totality, which has been
gathered together by all other great men preceding him; but it may at
the same time be incalculably great when compared with the additions
made by the ordinary men, his contemporaries.

Let us make this matter yet clearer by reference to one more
authority, who, though endeavouring to confirm the very argument
which is here being exposed, is, little as he perceives it,
assassinated by his own illustrations. In Macaulay’s essay on Dryden
there occurs the following passage, a part of which anticipates the
exact phraseology of Mr. Spencer. “_It is the age that makes the
man, not the man that makes the age. . . . The inequalities of the
intellect, like the inequalities of the surface of the globe, bear
so small a proportion to the mass, that in calculating its great
revolutions they may safely be neglected._” The passage is quoted
for the sake of this last simile. For those who study the human
destiny as a whole—who {70} survey it as speculative and remote
observers—the inequalities of intellect may, it is quite true, be
neglected as safely as the inequalities of the surface of a planet
are neglected by the astronomer who is engaged in calculating its
revolutions. But because these latter inequalities are nothing to
the astronomer, it does not follow that they are nothing to the
engineer and the geographer. To the astronomer the Alps may be
an infinitesimal and negligible excrescence, but they were not
this to Hannibal or the makers of the Mont Cenis tunnel. What to
the astronomer are all the dykes in Holland? But they are all the
difference to the Dutch between a dead nation and a living one.

And the same difference, even in its most minute details, holds good
between speculative, or as we may call it star-gazing, sociology
and sociology as a practical science; for is it not one of Mr.
Spencer’s most important and interesting contentions that these very
irregularities of the earth’s surface—these lands, seas, plains,
valleys, and mountains—which, when compared with the mass of the
earth, are so absolutely inappreciable, constitute some of the
most important of the “_external factors_” of human history and
civilisation? And the same holds good of the inequalities of the
human intellect. They may be nothing to the social star-gazer, but to
the social politician they are everything.

So much, then, for two of the most shallow sophisms that ever imposed
themselves on presumably serious reasoners. We will now turn to {71}
those two other arguments in which the case against the great man
finds its main support, and which, however misleading they may be,
must be examined at greater length. In both of these the distinctly
exceptional character of the great man is assumed, or at all events
is not denied, but it is represented as being, if it exists, not
properly the great man’s own. The first argument refers it to
aggregates of external conditions—the knowledge accumulated for the
great man’s use, the character of his fellow-citizens, who are ready
to carry out his orders, and generally to what Mr. Bellamy calls his
“_social inheritance and environment_.” The second argument refers it
to the great man’s line of ancestors, insisting that he inherits from
them his own exceptional capacities, which capacities his ancestors
acquired by being members of society, and of which it is accordingly
contended that society is ultimately the source.

Now on both these arguments, before we consider them in detail, there
is one broad criticism to be made, which applies to both equally.
There is a certain sense—a remote and speculative sense—in which they
are both of them quite true, and indeed are almost truisms; but for
practical purposes they are either not true at all, or if true, are
altogether irrelevant; and it is necessary to show the reader, by a
few simple examples, that in the doctrine that statements can be at
once true and not true there is no philosophical hair-splitting, and
no Hegelian paradox, but merely the assertion of a {72} fact which,
when once attention has been called to it, common sense will perceive
to be as obvious as it is important.

It was just now observed that the same thing can be great and not
great, according to the things with which we compare it. In the
same way the same statement may be true or not true, according to
the nature of the discussion on which it is brought to bear. Let us
take as an example those familiar statements of fact which are given
in terms of averages. If the vast majority of any given population
vary in height between the limits of five feet six and six feet, the
statement that a man’s average height is from five feet seven to
five feet eight would be a truth most important to the producers of
ready-made overcoats. But if half the population were two feet high,
and half rather more than nine feet, to give the average stature as
something like five feet seven would be for the coatmakers the most
absurd misstatement imaginable, and would lead them to make, if they
acted on it, garments that would fit nobody.

Let us turn from the question of the truth of a statement to the
question of its mere relevance; and we can illustrate what has been
said by an example equally homely. In the transference of goods by
rail, these have to be sorted according to bulk, weight, shape,
fragility, perishability, and so forth. In deciding which are to
be sent by fast trains, and which by slow, the primary question
will be that of perishability. When the perishable and {73} the
non-perishable shall have been separated, and they are being placed
on the trains allotted to them, the primary questions will be those
of shape, weight, and fragility. But so long as the preparatory
separation is in progress, to assert that the goods possess any of
these latter characteristics will be wholly irrelevant, no matter how
true. Boxes of fish will not be put with book parcels because neither
of them are fragile, or because they are both oblong; and each
characteristic, and every classification based on it, will be either
relevant or irrelevant, full of meaning or meaningless, according to
what question, out of a considerable series, has to be answered at
the moment by the officials who superintend the business.

And now let us go back to the two arguments that are before us; and
we shall be prepared to see how, though true for the speculative
philosopher, they have no meaning, or only a false meaning, for any
practical man.

We will first take that which is expressed with sufficient plainness
in the passage quoted from Mr. Sidney Webb, and which insists on
the great man’s debt to society generally, not for his external
circumstances, but for his personal character and capacities. The
idea involved in it is very easy to grasp. The great man’s congenital
superiority is an inheritance from his superior ancestors; but his
ancestors would not have had it to hand on to him if they had not
been forced to develop such superiorities as they possessed by
exerting them in a competitive struggle {74} with the great mass
of their contemporaries. Thus the mass of their contemporaries
formed a strop or hone on which the superior faculties of these men
were sharpened; and the great man of to-day, to whom the superior
faculties have descended, owes them accordingly, not to his own
ancestors only, but to the mass of inferior men who struggled with
them, and were worsted in the struggle. In other words, the greatness
of the exceptional man has really been produced by the whole body
of society in the past; and the results of it ought to be divided
amongst the whole body of society in the present.

Now that the above line of argument has a certain kind of truth
in it, it is hardly necessary to observe; and for biologists,
psychologists, and speculative philosophers generally, such truth
as it possesses may no doubt be of value; but that this truth has
no relation whatever to practical life, and no applicability to any
one of its problems, can be seen by considering the kind of results
we shall arrive at, if, adopting the reasoning of Mr. Webb and his
friends, we merely carry it out to the more immediate of its logical

Let us begin with their reasoning, so far as it concerns the past. If
the inferior competitors who were beaten by the great man’s ancestors
are to be credited with having helped to produce the talents by which
they were themselves defeated, and must therefore be held to have
had a claim on the wealth which these talents produced, which claim
has descended to the inferior majority of {75} to-day, the same
claim might be advanced by any weaker nation which, after a series
of battles, succumbs finally to the stronger. In the Franco-German
War the French might have said to the Germans, “You acquired by
fighting with us, the faculties which have enabled you to conquer
us. Your strength therefore, in reality, belongs to us, not you; and
hence justice requires that you should give us back Alsace.” In the
same way it might be urged that all the idle apprentices of the past
have, by the warning they afforded, stimulated the industry of the
industrious, and therefore in abstract justice had a claim on their

Let us now take Mr. Webb’s reasoning so far as it concerns the
present, and we shall find that it results in similar fantastic
puerilities. If the great man of to-day owes his greatness to society
as a whole, it is to society as a whole that the idle man owes
his idleness, the stupid man his stupidity, the dishonest man his
dishonesty; and if the great man who produces an exceptional amount
of wealth can, with justice, claim no more than the average man who
produces little, the man who is so idle that he shirks producing
anything may with equal justice claim as much wealth as either. His
constitutional fault, and his constitutional disinclination to mend
it, are both due to society, and society, not he, must suffer. And
the same thing holds good of every form of economic incompetence.

The absurdity of Mr. Webb’s position will be seen yet more clearly
when we see how it looks {76} when stated in the language of Mr.
Bellamy. “_Nine hundred and ninety-nine parts out of the thousand
of every man’s produce are the result of his inheritance and his
environment._” Now if this proposition has any practical application,
it must mean that the whole living population—great men and ordinary
men, labourers and directors of labour—who are commonly held to be
the producers of the income of Great Britain to-day, really produce
of it only one farthing in the pound; and hence, if we still persist
in considering the proposition a practical one, we shall be forced to
conclude that the whole of the living population might at any given
moment stop work altogether, or fall into a trance like the Seven
Sleepers of Ephesus, and the production would continue with hardly an
appreciable diminution.

Again, if the proposition has any practical bearing on economics,
it must necessarily have a bearing precisely similar on morals. If
a man of to-day produces only a thousandth part of what he seems
to produce, it is equally evident that he does only a thousandth
part of what he seems to do. Let us see, if we accept this theory,
to what sort of conclusions it will lead us. One conclusion to
which it will lead us at once is the following—that each of us is
responsible only for a thousandth part of his actions; and from this
will follow others more remarkable still. Since the holiest man has
elements of evil in him, and the worst man elements of good, the
good deeds for which we honour the saint may {77} really be the
result of his antecedents, and his few faulty deeds may be all that
we are to attribute to himself; whilst, conversely, the criminal’s
antecedents may have been the cause of all his crimes and vices, and
he may himself have done nothing but some acts of unnoticed kindness.
It will be thus impossible to form any true judgment of anybody;
for the real St. Peter may have been merely a false and truculent
ruffian, and the real Judas Iscariot may have been fit for Abraham’s
bosom. And yet even these conclusions deducible from the premises
of Mr. Bellamy are sane when compared with those deducible from the
premises of Mr. Sidney Webb; for Mr. Bellamy would allow a man to
be responsible for a thousandth part of his actions at all events,
whilst Mr. Sidney Webb would not allow that anybody either did or was
responsible for anything.

And now, finally, let us turn to that other argument which seeks to
eliminate the causality of the great man, not by proving that he owes
his superior brain-power to society, but by proving that superior
brain-power has little to do with his achievements, their principal
cause being the appliances, the opportunities, and the accumulated
knowledge at his command; and that these, at all events, are due not
to himself, but others—to the efforts of past generations, and the
legacy they have left to the present. This is the argument which
is mainly relied upon by Mr. Spencer. He insists on the fact that
none of the great inventors or discoverers could have made their
discoveries or {78} inventions if centuries of past progress had
not prepared the way for them. “_A Laplace, for instance_,” he says,
“_could not have got very far with the_ Mécanique Céleste _unless he
had been aided by the slowly developed system of mathematics, which
we trace back to its beginnings amongst the ancient Egyptians_”; and
his many other illustrations are all of the same kind.

If we consider the meaning of this argument carefully we shall
see that its logical outcome is not to deny to the great man all
superiority whatsoever, but to exhibit his superiority as being
less than it is usually supposed to be. Laplace, Mr. Spencer would
say, may have been personally a little above the level of his
contemporaries, but he owed most of his elevation to sitting on
the shoulders of his predecessors. Now if this reduction of the
great man’s reputed greatness to such very small proportions has
any practical meaning, it must mean that greatness is not only
less than it is supposed to be, but is also a great deal commoner,
and more easily procurable. Whatever any particular great man has
done, could have been done, if he had not done it, by an indefinite
number of others. Let us then take as an illustration some definite
task, and see how far such reasoning has any practical application.
Our illustration shall be taken from the domain of art; for the
great artist, according to Mr. Spencer’s special statement, owes
his greatness to the achievements of past generations, just as the
great mathematician does, or the great thinker, or the great {79}
inventor. Let us suppose, then, that it is desired to decorate some
public hall with pictures worthy of Titian or Michael Angelo, or to
open some national theatre with a new play worthy of Shakespeare. The
great question will be where to find the artist or poet whose works
shall even approximate to these ideals of excellence; and any one
who knows anything about either pictures or poetry will know that to
find him is a well-nigh hopeless task. Now what conceivable help,
what conceivable meaning, would there be in Mr. Spencer’s coming
forward and telling the public that the greatest poet or artist is
the product of the same conditions that have produced any one of
themselves? Mr. Spencer has actually made this precise statement.
Let us therefore refer to the terms in which he has done so. “_Given
a Shakespeare_,” he says, “_and what dramas could he have written,
without the multitudinous conditions of civilised life—without the
various traditions which, descending to him from the past, gave
wealth to his thought, and without the language which a hundred
generations had developed and enriched by use?_”

Mr. Spencer could not have put his own case more clearly; and the
more clearly it is put, the more easy it is to answer it, and to
show that for practical men it has no meaning whatsoever. The answer
to the question he asks is not only obvious, but contains at the
same time the solution of the whole problem we are discussing. It
will inevitably take the form of another question. Given the {80}
conditions of civilised life, and the traditions of England and its
language, as they were under Queen Elizabeth, how could these have
produced dramas like _King Lear_ and _Hamlet_, unless England had
happened to possess that unique phenomenon—a Shakespeare? Could a
Bottom have written these dramas, or a Dogberry, or a Sir Toby Belch?
Or could Sir Thomas Lucy, or any of the “poetasters” satirised by Ben
Jonson? Or could the actors, Kemp, Jones, and Bryan, who assisted
in the representation of these dramas upon the stage? The answer
is, of course, No. And yet these men inherited the same language
that Shakespeare did; the three last had the advantage of knowing
his finest passages by heart. The weaver, the bellows-mender, the
constable, the Justice of Peace, had behind them the same traditions
that Shakespeare had, and were surrounded by the same “_multitudinous
conditions_” of civilisation. But out of these conditions one man
alone was capable of eliciting the results elicited by Shakespeare.
The real explanation of the whole difficulty—the difficulty involved
in the fact that whilst the argument of Mr. Spencer and Mr. Bellamy
is, in a speculative sense, not merely true but a truism, it is
utterly untrue in any practical sense—is as follows: Every human
being living at any given time is, as Mr. Spencer says, an inheritor
of the past; but men inherit the past in very different degrees. They
inherit the knowledge of the past only according to the degree to
which they acquire it; the language of the past only according {81}
to their skill in manipulating it; the inventions of the past only
according to their skill in reproducing and using them.

The extraordinary confusion of thought involved in Mr. Spencer’s
position is focalised in an argument constantly employed by
socialists—that “_inventions once made, become common property_.”
Except the earliest and simplest of them, they no more become common
property than the countless facts and figures buried in Parliamentary
Blue-Books become the property of every new member of Parliament, or
than encyclopædic knowledge becomes the property of every one who
happens to inherit an edition of the _Encyclopædia Britannica_; or
than the power of deciphering the hieroglyphics which are preserved
in the British Museum becomes the property of every cabman who
drives his vehicle along Great Russell Street. It is perfectly true
that the discovery of each new portion of knowledge enables men to
acquire it who never might have discovered it for themselves; but
as the acquisition of the details of knowledge becomes facilitated,
the number of details to be acquired increases at the same time; and
the increased ease of acquiring each is accompanied by an increased
difficulty in acquiring all, or even in assimilating those which are
practically connected with one another. A mechanic, for instance,
could with ten minutes’ attention comprehend the principle involved
in a cantilever bridge, but to design and construct a bridge such as
that which now spans the {82} Forth, with its spans of six hundred
yards and its altitudes of aerial steel, implies an assimilation
of our multitudinous existing knowledge, such as is hardly to be
found in a score of engineers in Europe. Or to turn once more to
Mr. Spencer’s example of Shakespeare, whilst all Shakespeare’s
contemporaries had the same antecedents that he had, the same
line of thinkers behind them, and the same developed vocabulary,
Shakespeare’s mind was capable of absorbing much of the national
inheritance, whilst the great mass of his contemporaries could
comparatively absorb very little.

We are thus brought back to the point from which we set out—namely,
the differences in capacity by which men are distinguished from
one another; and we see that all the reasonings of our modern
sociologists have, for practical purposes, left these differences
undiminished. The difference between the great man and the ordinary
man is not made less by the fact that they both of them owe much to a
common past, any more than the difference between a hogshead of water
and a wine-glass is made less by the fact that both have been filled
from the same stream.

The conclusion, therefore, of the whole matter is as follows. In
the first place, whatever may be the speculative significance of
Mr. Spencer’s contention, which Mr. Bellamy expresses with the
arithmetical precision of an accountant, that each living generation
does only a minute fraction of what it seems to do, or of arguments
like Mr. Sidney Webb’s, that {83} each living generation does
nothing at all of what it seems to do, the mass of living men at all
events do something, in the very real sense that if they did not do
it they would die; and the doing of this something is for them the
whole of life, and all practical problems depend on the manner in
which they do it. Such being the case, it follows, in the second
place, that however much the ordinary man does, the great man does
a great deal more. Therefore, if the ordinary man does any of the
things that he seems to do, and causes any of the events that he
seems to cause—if he ploughs the farm that he seems to plough, and
lays the bricks that he seems to lay—indeed we may add, if he eats
the dinners that he seems to eat—the great man in a precisely similar
sense is the cause of those changes and of that progress which he
seems to cause. Hence of these changes he is, for the practical
sociologist, not merely the proximate initiator, whose action and
peculiarities may be neglected, but a true and primary cause, on
which the attention of the sociologist must be concentrated; and just
as in action it is impossible to do without him, so in practical
reasoning it is impossible to go behind him.

The reader has now been shown the absolute futility of that train
of reasoning by which even so keen a thinker as Mr. Spencer has
persuaded himself that he can get rid of the causality of the great
man, and in which every socialistic reformer who has risen above the
level of a demagogue has attempted to find a scientific foundation
for his {84} impossible castle in the air. But the demolition
and exposure of these mischievous and miserable fallacies shall
not be entrusted only to the arguments that have been brought to
bear on them. The validity of these arguments shall now be finally
substantiated by direct appeal to a sociologist whose identity may
surprise the reader. This is none other than Mr. Spencer himself,
who, when he forgets to be the conscious expositor of his theory, and
turns aside to illustrate some particular point by examples drawn
from the experience of common life, is constantly contradicting,
in a most remarkable but entirely unconscious way, the fundamental
principle which he has deliberately set himself to establish.

In the seventh chapter of his _Study of Sociology_, being
incidentally concerned to insist on the iniquity and the
mischievousness of war, he describes how Europe, during the earlier
years of this century, was visited by certain disasters, far-reaching
and horrible, from the consequence of which the world has hardly
yet recovered. These disasters consisted of slaughter, plunder,
pestilence, agony, rape, and ruin; and to say nothing of their
results on those whom they left alive, they resulted in some two
million violent and unnecessary deaths. And how does Mr. Spencer
explain these appalling phenomena? He who declares that we should
learn nothing about social causation “_should we read ourselves
blind over the biographies_” of all the great rulers of the world,
explains them by tracing them to one sole and single cause; and this,
he says, was the genius {85} and personality of Napoleon. “_Out of
the sanguinary chaos of the Revolution_,” he writes, “_rose a soldier
whose immense ability, joined with his absolute unscrupulousness,
made him now general, now consul, now autocrat. The instincts of
the savage were scarcely at all qualified in him by what we call
moral sentiments. . . . And all this slaughter, all this suffering,
all this devastation was gone through—_” Let us pause and ask why
it was gone through, according to Mr. Spencer. Does he say it was
gone through because of “_aggregates of past conditions_” and the
influence of antecedent generations? Far from it. He says, “_All this
was gone through because one man had a restless desire to be despot
over all men._”

But perhaps Mr. Spencer may have a defence ready. He may tell us
that the influence of Napoleon was merely that of a military leader,
which influence he has excepted from his theory of general causes.
To this it must be answered in the first place that Napoleon was
at all events not a leader in “_early_” or “_primitive_” warfare,
to which Mr. Spencer’s exception is specifically and emphatically
limited. Mr. Spencer consequently shows us, by his own practical
reasoning, that this theoretical limitation of which he made so much
cannot be maintained for a moment, and that whatever is true of great
leaders in a primitive war, he himself recognises—all his theories
notwithstanding—as equally true of them in the most advanced stages
of civilisation. But a far more important {86} answer, and one taken
from himself, is still in reserve—an answer which clenches the whole
matter, and shows us that Mr. Spencer, in his dealings with practical
life, really recognises great men as exercising in the arts of peace
precisely the same kind of causality which Napoleon exercised in war.

Let us turn to Mr. Spencer’s treatise on _Social Statics_, and to
the section of it in which he treats of patents—or as he himself
describes them, “_the rights of property in ideas_.” He begins by
complaining that the right of patenting “_inventions, patterns, or
designs_” is not recognised as being based on any moral right at all,
but is generally regarded as a kind of “_privilege_” or “_reward_.”
“_The prevalence of such a belief_,” says Mr. Spencer, “_is by no
means creditable to the national conscience. . . . To think_,” he
exclaims, “_that a sinecurist should be held to have a ‘vested
interest’ in his office, and a just title to compensation if it is
abolished; and yet that an invention over which no end of mental toil
has been spent, and on which the poor mechanic has laid out perhaps
his last sixpence—an invention which he has completed entirely by his
own labour and with his own materials—has wrought, as it were, out of
the very substance of his own mind—should not be acknowledged as his

_Social Statics_ is one of Mr. Spencer’s earlier works. Let us now
consult his latest, the third and final volume of his _Principles
of Sociology_; and here we shall find this same admission that the
{87} great man’s achievements are wrought not out of aggregates
of conditions, but “_out of the very substance of his own mind_,”
emphasised by him as a practical truth, with all the vigour of
a practical man. In his chapter on the “_Interdependence and
Integration of Industrial Institutions_” he dwells with much
eloquence on the almost incalculable benefits that have resulted,
and extended themselves through the whole industrial world, from
certain improvements introduced into the manufacture of steel. And to
what were these improvements due? Mr. Spencer answers this question
not merely by admitting, but by insisting with the fervour of a
hero-worshipper, that they were due to the genius of one single man,
namely Bessemer; and so obvious does this truth appear to him, that
he devotes an indignant footnote to denouncing the governing classes
for not being sufficiently alive to it, and for conferring on a man
who, “_out of the very substance of his own mind_,” had wrought such
gigantic and universally beneficial changes, no higher reward than
the title of Sir Henry Bessemer—“_an honour_” he says, “_like that
accorded to a third-rate public official on his retirement, or to a
provincial mayor on the occasion of the Queen’s Jubilee_.”

After this, what more need be said? Here we have Mr. Spencer himself,
the moment he touches the practical side of life, contemptuously
brushing aside the whole of his speculative theory and admitting,
or rather insisting, with the most unhesitating and uncompromising
vigour, that “_the phenomena of {88} social evolution_,” even
if they do not result entirely, as Carlyle would have it, from
the actions of great men, yet cannot, at all events, be possibly
explained without them; and that great men, their natures, and the
details of their active lives, are primary factors to be studied by
every practical sociologist, and are not to be merged in “_society_,”
in “_antecedents_,” and in “_aggregates of conditions_.”

The practically independent character of the great man’s causality
will be yet more apparent at another stage of our argument, and we
shall see that the whole structure of all civilised societies depends
on it. But we may, for the present, regard it as being sufficiently
established, and the absurd and unreal character of the attempts to
get rid of it demonstrated. So much, then, being assumed, we will, in
the following chapter, consider two objections of a character very
different from any of those of which we have now disposed. They are
objections which will very possibly have suggested themselves to the
reader’s mind, but which, instead of conflicting with the truth which
has been just elucidated, will be found, when examined carefully, to
emphasise and to enlarge its significance.




The two objections to which reference has just been made are
connected with two doctrines, neither of which has thus far been
submitted to any detailed examination, and one of which has
indeed been hardly so much as alluded to, but which are both
intimately associated, in the estimation of the world at large,
with contemporary science, and more especially with contemporary
sociology. One of these doctrines is that of the survival of the
fittest. The other is that which, more or less distinctly, is
suggested at the present time by the much-abused word “evolution.”
When the reader thinks of the doctrine of the survival of the
fittest, when he reflects on the fact that Mr. Spencer is an avowed
disciple of Darwin, and that Mr. Spencer’s own disciples are
constantly making allusion to “_the rivalry of existence_” and the
“_successfuls and the unsuccessfuls_,” he may be tempted to ask
himself if it can be really true that Mr. Spencer has eliminated
the great man from his system after all. On the other hand, when
the reader thinks of _evolution_, {90} which, whatever it may
mean, at all events means a progress essentially different from the
achievements of particular individuals, he may wonder in what way the
doctrine of evolution can be reconciled with any doctrine which has
the achievements of individuals for its basis.

We will take these two points in order. With regard to the survival
of the fittest in the competitive struggle for existence, the great
fact which it is necessary to make clear is as follows; and it is
one which our contemporary sociologists have altogether failed to
perceive. In the evolution of societies, just as in the evolution
of species—in the evolution of man as a social being, as in the
evolution of man as an animal—the struggle for existence has played
an important part; but in social evolution the part played by it is
very far from being that which is popularly supposed, nor does the
survival of the fittest in any way correspond with the position and
influence claimed for the great man. Certain of the phenomena of
progress are no doubt produced by it, but they are as different from
those which the great or exceptional man produces, as is the movement
of the earth round the sun from its movement round its own axis.
In order to understand this, let us first consider carefully how
progress, as the result of the struggle for existence, is explained
by our contemporary sociologists. The matter is put succinctly
and very clearly in the following passage from Mr. Kidd’s _Social

“_Progress everywhere_,” he says, “_from the {91} beginning of life,
has been effected in the same way, and is possible in no other way.
It is the result of selection and rejection. In the human species, as
in every other species which has ever existed, no two individuals of
a generation are alike in all respects; there is infinite variation
within certain narrow limits. Some are slightly above the average
in a particular direction, as others are slightly below it; and
it is only when the conditions prevail that are favourable to the
preponderating reproduction of the former, that advance in any
direction becomes possible. To formulate this as the immutable law of
progress since the beginning of life has been one of the principal
results of the biological science of the nineteenth century.
. . . To put it in words used by Professor Flower in speaking of
human society, ‘Progress has been due to the opportunity of those
individuals who are a little superior in some respects to their
fellows of asserting their superiority, and of continuing to live,
and of promulgating as an inheritance that superiority’_.”

The entire Spencerian position as regards the social struggle for
existence is here given us in a nutshell. The competitive struggle
is a process which produces progress by means of the manner in
which it affects men in general. In any community the means of
subsistence are being constantly appropriated by the members who
are a little stronger than the rest, whilst those who are weaker
have an insufficient portion left them. The latter therefore die
early themselves; or breed no children; {92} or breed children
who die early; whilst the former live long, and breed children who
live likewise; and of these children there is always a certain
percentage in whom are reproduced the superior qualities of their
parents. Thus the weaker members of the community are always dying
out, whilst stronger members not only become more numerous, but more
efficient as individuals also. In other words, the Darwinian struggle
for existence produces progress by raising the general average of
efficiency. It has nothing to do with a few men towering over the
rest. It works by producing a simultaneous rise of all. The superior
“_assert their authority_” not by commanding their inferiors, but
merely by “_continuing to live_” and having children as superior as
themselves. In this way, to quote an illustration from Mr. Spencer,
the progressive races of Europe have reached a stage of development
which makes possible amongst them the appearance of men like Laplace
or Newton, an event which could not occur amongst the Hottentots
or the Andaman islanders. It will thus at once be clear that the
theory of the survival of the fittest explains progress by reference
to an order of facts totally distinct from those involved in the
influence claimed for the great man. Whilst the theory of survival
is illustrated by the superiority of Europeans to Hottentots, the
great-man theory is illustrated by, and depends on, the superiority
of men like Newton to the great mass of Europeans.

What relation, then, do these two explanations {93} bear to each
other? In a direct way they are not related at all. They neither
conflict with each other nor overlap each other. They are both of
them true; but true as explaining different sets of phenomena. One of
the great errors of which our modern sociologists are guilty consists
in their failure to perceive that social progress is not a single
movement but the joint result of two, which differ from each other—to
repeat what was said just now—quite as much as do the two movements
of the earth. The difference between them will become instantly clear
to us if we will turn our attention merely to the single obvious fact
that the two take place at different rates of speed, the one set of
changes being slow, like the succession of years; the other set of
changes being rapid, like the succession of days. The general rise
in capacity which distinguishes the modern civilised nations from
primitive man, or from the lowest savages of to-day, and which has
been due to what Mr. Kidd calls “_the preponderating reproduction
of individuals slightly above the average_,” has been the work of
an incalculable number of centuries. It has been so slow that, in
many respects at all events, it has been indistinguishable during
the course of several thousand years. The great thinkers amongst
the ancient Egyptians were not congenitally inferior to the great
thinkers of to-day. The brain of Aristotle was equal to the brain
of Newton; whilst the masons whose hands constructed the Coliseum
and the Parthenon knew as much of their craft as those who {94}
constructed the Imperial Institute. But with this slowness in the
rise of the general level of capacity let us compare the progressive
results achieved within some short period. We cannot do better than
take the past hundred years, and consider the progress made in the
material arts of life. How the whole spectacle changes! Within that
short period, at all events, no one will venture to maintain that
the average congenital capacities of our own countrymen have been
enlarged. We are not wittier than Horace Walpole, more polite than
Lord Chesterfield, more shrewd and sensible than Dr. Johnson; whilst
it is easy to see by reference to those trades, such as the building
trade, which science and invention have done comparatively little
to alter, that the natural efficiency of the average workman is no
greater now than in the days of our great-great-grandfathers. And yet
during that short period what an astounding progress has taken place!
To sum it up in a bald economic formula, whilst the capacities of the
average Englishman have remained altogether stationary, the economic
productivity per head of the population of this country has during
the past century trebled, and more than trebled itself.

This remarkable comparison between the rapidity of actual progress
and the extreme slowness of the biological development resulting from
the survival of the fittest in the Darwinian struggle for existence,
will be enough to show anybody that progress is not one movement but
two; and whilst the survival of {95} the fittest explains the slow
and almost imperceptible movement, the rapid and perceptible movement
is explained by the leadership of the greatest. It is with the rapid
movement alone that the practical sociologist is concerned; and hence
for him the great man, not the fittest, is the important factor.

Let us now consider what is meant by the process called social
evolution, regarded as something distinct from those intentional
advances made and maintained by the genius of great men. To
understand this, we must consider what is meant by evolution
generally. Mr. Spencer defines it in terms of “_the homogenous_”
and “_the heterogenous_”; and from his own point of view we may
accept his definition as correct. But facts have many aspects;
and according to the purpose with which we deal with them they
will require different definitions, which, though none of them
are incompatible with the others, will have between themselves no
apparent resemblance. Thus the biologist’s definition of a man will
be quite distinct from the theologian’s; and the dangerous illness
of a great party leader will be one phenomenon for his followers,
and quite another for his doctor. In the same way Mr. Spencer’s
definition of evolution, however admirable it may be from a certain
point of view, is not exhaustive. It entirely leaves out of sight
those characteristics of the process which it is necessary before all
things that the practical sociologist should understand.

To reach a definition that will include these {96} let us begin by
fixing our attention on that order of facts which formed the special
study of Darwin, and in connection with which the theory of evolution
became first known to the world; and let us ask what was the greatest
and the most notorious effect produced by Darwinism on human thought
generally. Its greatest and most notorious effect was to disprove,
or rather render superfluous, the old theory which explained the
varieties of organic life by referring them to the design of some
quasi-human intelligence. According to the old theory, every species
of living thing, from the lowest to the highest, was produced by
the power and purpose of one supreme Mind, who adapted the frame
and faculties of each to a prearranged set of circumstances and the
fulfilment of certain needs. According to the theory of evolution,
associated with the name of Darwin, these results were accomplished
by purpose and intelligent power likewise, only not by the power and
purpose of one supreme external Mind, but by the power and purpose
of the living things themselves. Each living thing chose its mates,
reproduced its kind, hunted for food, fought with rivals, and either
conquered or was conquered by them, in obedience to the promptings
of its own instinctive purposes. These were the motive power of the
whole evolutionary process. The variety and development of organic
life, as we know it, did not result indeed from one great intention,
but it did result from an infinity of little intentions. {97}

Now so far the theory of design and the theory of evolution very
closely resemble each other; but here we come to the point of
essential difference between them. According to the theory of design,
the varieties and gradations of organic life were not only the result
of intention in the supreme Mind, but were also themselves the exact
result intended. According to the evolutionary theory, although they
were the result of an infinity of intentions, not one of the living
things, from whose intention they resulted, intended them. They were
the by-product of actions undertaken for entirely different ends—that
is to say, for the benefit of the individual creatures who undertook
them. This is the essential and this is the peculiar character with
which the theory of evolution invested them. It presented to the
mind the extraordinary phenomenon of a single series of actions
producing a double series of results—the intended and the unintended,
the latter of which, though entirely different from the former,
was equally orderly, equally reasonable and coherent. Evolution,
in fact, as revealed to us in the physiological world, is, for the
philosopher, neither more nor less than this—the _reasonable sequence
of the unintended_.

But this definition of evolution does not apply only to development
in that world of facts studied by Darwinian science. It is equally
applicable to the process of social evolution also. Indeed social
evolution is even more strikingly, though not more truly, than
physiological evolution, the reasonable {98} sequence of the
unintended. How this is can be easily made plain; and when once the
idea is grasped, which the definition embodies, it will be seen that
social evolution, although it is no doubt different from all or from
any of those changes deliberately produced by the agency of the great
man, instead of excluding these changes, or eliminating the great man
as the cause of them, is a process which depends altogether upon him
and them, and that, instead of obscuring the great man’s importance,
it only exhibits it in a stronger and clearer light.

Let us take then our definition of evolution as the reasonable
sequence of the unintended, and apply the idea embodied in it to
that aggregate of conditions, either in our own or any similar
period, amongst which the great man works. All these conditions,
such as the knowledge which he finds accumulated, the inventions
which he finds in use, the political and the economic conditions
of his country, are, taken as a whole, the result of no one man’s
genius. It is equally obvious that they do not, in their incalculably
complex entirety, represent any one man’s intention, or even the
joint intention of any number of men acting in concert. Printing,
for example, and railway travelling have produced a number of social
results never dreamed of by the men who perfected our locomotives
and our steam printing presses. Accordingly, when any great man of
to-day initiates some fresh social change, whether as an inventor,
a director of industry, a politician, or {99} a religious teacher,
a large part of his achievement consists in his manipulation and
refashioning of results of past human action, which can be set down
to the credit, or ascribed to the intentions of no individual, and
no body of individuals. The society of the past intended these no
more than the great men of the past. They are results, that is to
say, which come all under the heading of the unintended. But when
we consider the great man’s achievement thus, we shall not only
witness the grouping of many of the factors essential to it into one
heterogeneous but logically coherent class, as the unintended. When
such a grouping has taken place, we shall see that there remains
behind an equally coherent and equally striking residuum—namely,
the social results and conditions that have been obviously and
notoriously intended. These may not be found existing apart from the
former; but though in conjunction or combination with them, they
will be visible as a distinct and separate element, and their true
importance as a factor in social progress will begin to be apparent
to the mind the moment their specific peculiarity, as just described,
is apprehended.

Let us take a few examples which, owing to their magnitude and
familiarity, will be at once intelligible. Our first shall be taken
from the histories of art and of speculative philosophy. In each
of these domains of human activity and achievement we find those
phenomena of development to which it is now customary to apply the
name of evolution. Thus we hear of the evolution of philosophy
from the {100} crude guesses of Thales to the elaborate system of
Aristotle. We hear of the evolution of the Greek drama from the
exhibitions of Thespis with his cart to the tragedies of Æschylus
and of Sophocles; and similarly we hear of the evolution of the
English drama from such exhibitions as miracle plays or _Gammer
Gurton’s Needle_ to tragedies such as _Hamlet_ and comedies such
as _As You Like It_. And to all such examples of development the
word _evolution_ is applied with perfect accuracy; for there is in
each an obvious and orderly sequence of the unintended. Aristotle’s
philosophy was in part derived from that of his predecessors. He
employed existing materials so as to produce a result which was not
intended, indeed was not even imagined, by those who originally
got them together and fashioned them, and which would never have
been reached by Aristotle himself, if his predecessors had not thus
unintentionally assisted him. None the less, however, does the
Aristotelian philosophy, as its author gave it to the world, embody
the deliberate intention of his profound and unrivalled genius;
and it is only because it embodies this intended element that it
constitutes an advance on the philosophies that went before it.
Similarly, though Sophocles and Shakespeare, in constructing their
dramas, each profited by the achievements of the dramatists who had
gone before them, and though the art of each would doubtless have
been more crude and imperfect had he come into the world a generation
or two before he did, yet the part played {101} by evolution in
the production of _Hamlet_ and _Antigone_ is totally distinct from,
and is altogether dwarfed by, the part played by the genius and the
intentions of their great authors.

Let us now turn to invention and applied science; and the history of
social progress, as connected with and derived from them, will show
the same two elements—the unintended and the intended, similarly
related and similarly coexistent. A brilliant illustration of
this fact is provided for us, in one of his books, by Mr. Herbert
Spencer, though he himself, with a curious blindness and perversity,
uses it not to illustrate but to obscure the point on which we are
now dwelling. The illustration referred to is the history of the
press by which the _Times_ is printed, which implement, according
to Mr. Spencer, is the result altogether of evolution. “_In the
first place_,” he says, “_this automatic printing machine is
lineally descended from other automatic printing machines . . . each
pre-supposing others that went before. . . . And then, in tracing
the more remote antecedents, we find an ancestry of hand printing
presses._” He further points out that this press implies not only an
ancestry of former presses, but also the existence of the machinery
used in making it, and again how this machine-making machinery has
a distinct ancestry of its own, which includes the fact of the
abundance of iron in England. Geometry, physics, chemistry also, he
says, played their part in the process; and he winds up by referring
to purely social causes. {102} Why, he asks, was the Walter press
produced? In order that “_with great promptness_” it might “_meet an
enormous demand_.”

It is difficult to imagine a better illustration than this of the
part played by evolution in the domain of mechanical invention. It
is perfectly evident that the mass of discoveries and inventions
which preceded and paved the way for the final invention in question
were due to men who had no idea in their heads of such a machine
as a steam-driven printing press at all. When printing was first
invented, steam-power was undreamed of. When the steam-engine was
being perfected as a means of driving machinery, the inventors had
no specific intention of applying this force to the printing press.
The men whose genius and energy in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries laid the foundation of the English iron trade, and with it,
as Mr. Spencer says, the foundation of “_machine-making generally_,”
in all probability never even saw a newspaper, and could not have
conceived the possibility of collecting enough news daily to fill as
much as one page of the _Times_. The mathematicians and chemists to
whose work Mr. Spencer alludes most probably never gave a thought to
the practical application of their discoveries, and knew as little
of the process of printing as they did of Chinese grammar. But let
us give to these facts all the weight we can. Let us accept the
antecedents that made the Walter press possible as not only sequences
but also concurrences of the unintended; and yet the part played
{103} by the great man remains as essential, and remains as large as
ever. The fact that the Walter press could never have existed unless
Caxton’s press had existed, and that Caxton never foresaw the future
development of his apparatus, does nothing to disprove the fact
that in the development of printing generally, genius like Caxton’s
was an indispensable agent, and one which stamped its character on
the whole sequence of inventions which it inaugurated. Nor again
does the fact that an invention like the Walter press implies not
only a direct sequence of inventions and discoveries, but also a
concurrence of many separate sequences, such as the invention and
discoveries of chemists, of machine-makers, and producers of iron,
do anything to disprove the importance and the necessity of the part
played by the men to whose genius the press was directly due. For
although the co-existence of the separate sequences referred to—the
parallel march of progress in many separate arts and sciences—may
have been altogether unintended by any of those concerned in them,
what was emphatically not unintended was their final concurrence—the
fact of their being brought together for one definite purpose. This
was due to the deliberate intention of exceptional men with strong
synthetic powers, who appropriated and connected the achievements
of various other men. Chemistry, geometry, the production of iron,
and the development of machinery for machine-making would never have
worked together to produce an automatic {104} printing press had the
immediate inventors of such an implement not coerced them into their
service, and forced them to contribute to a deliberately planned

The state of the case is this. Let us take any civilised society
at any period we will, and examine it in the act of advancing to
the next stage of its development. We shall find that its existing
conditions consist partly of results intended by particular great
men whose past actions have produced them, and partly of results
neither foreseen nor intended by anybody. Thus at the present day
amongst our social conditions we have the telegraph and the railway
system—both of them results intentionally produced by individuals;
and we have also a variety of new wants and habits, new methods of
conducting trade and government, which have been produced by these,
but which were neither intended nor even thought of by the inventors
of the locomotive, or by Wheatstone and Cooke when their wires at
last realised the long-forgotten dream of the Italian Jesuit Strada.†
Thus, though social conditions at any given time are a compound
of intended results and unintended, and even though we may admit
that at any given time these last are more widely diffused than the
former, these last {105} are themselves the children of intention
once removed. Great men may not have meant to produce them, but they
have arisen from conditions which great men did mean to produce;
and they could not have arisen in any other way. And here we are
brought to a fact more obvious and more important still. Before any
further advance in social civilisation can be made, other existing
conditions, whether intentionally produced or not, require to be
intentionally re-combined and acted on by men whose enterprise,
whose intellect, and whose constructive imagination mark them out
from their fellows as the pioneers of the future. We are thus once
more confronted with the fact already insisted on—that the social
conditions of a time are the same for all, but that it is only
exceptional men who can make exceptional use of them, and turn them
into a stepping-stone on which their generation may rise higher.

 † Strada, an Italian Jesuit, in the seventeenth century invented,
 or rather imagined, communication by electric telegraph; and his
 idea actually comprised the use of two needles moved by two magnets,
 these magnets being connected in such a way that, by the movement of
 either of them, the needle actuated by the other could be made to
 point to such and such letters on a dial.

Social evolution, therefore, in so far as it is other than
biological, may be defined as the unintended result of the intentions
of great men; and this definition at once brings us back to the truth
which was urged in the first chapter as the starting-point of our
argument, and which can now be put before the reader with an added
force and clearness.

It was said in the first chapter that sociologists have succeeded
in dealing with those wider social phenomena which are exhibited
by social aggregates as wholes, and which are interesting and
significant {106} to the speculative or religious philosopher. The
truth of this statement is illustrated by what has just been said
about evolution. If evolved phenomena are phenomena which exhibit a
reasonable sequence, and have yet been intended by no animal or human
mind, it is open to the thinker to argue that they must have been
intended by the mind of some higher power; and a new gate is opened
into the Eden of theological speculation, from which man was driven
when he first ate of the tree of scientific knowledge.

But whilst the business of the speculative philosopher is solely
with the phenomena that have been unintended, the business of the
practical sociologist is solely with the phenomena that have been
intended. A moment’s reflection will convince the reader that
this must be so. The meaning of the words “practical science”
is a science from which we can draw practical advice; but all
advice implies an intended end; and every attempt to solve social
problems scientifically must be concerned with results which we may
deliberately set ourselves to produce, and not with by-products
which, _ex hypothesi_, are beyond our calculation. We may study
these by-products of intention as they have shown themselves in the
past; but if we do this, it will be with the object of becoming
able to foresee them in the future. So soon as we can foresee them,
we shall be able to intend their production; and when this happens
they will cease to belong to the unintended. The great man will
then consciously aim at them, and {107} not leave them to the
incalculable chances of evolution. It may safely be said, no doubt,
that, let us study human conduct as we may, unintended, or evolved
phenomena will always continue to form a large part of what we mean
by social progress; but, as practical inquirers, we must put them on
one side, and confine our attention to those factors in the problem
which either embody some definite human intention themselves, or on
which we can found, by studying them, some definite intention of our
own. And of such factors the chief is the great man, whose importance
is enhanced rather than dwarfed by the fact that his intellect and
his energy are the causes not only of great results which he intends,
but also of those others—wider, if not more important—which, though
neither intended nor foreseen by himself or by anybody else, would,
if it were not for him, never take place at all.






That great men are true causes of progress is admitted by Mr. Spencer
himself to be the natural opinion of mankind. What has been done,
then, in the preceding book is not much more than this:—a sound
popular judgment, which is of the highest sociological importance,
has been rescued from the discredit cast on it by the sophisms of
modern theorists. These very theorists themselves, when they reason
as practical men, have been shown to the reader blowing all their
disproofs of it to the winds, and holding and appealing to it as
tenaciously and as passionately as anybody; and it is consequently
given back to us, with its old authority unimpaired. Sound popular
judgments, however, are not science. They lack what is the essence of
science—that is to say, analytical precision. We must now, therefore,
take this judgment with regard to the great man, and endeavour to
invest it with a meaning exact and full enough to enable us to apply
it to the detailed phenomena of society.

And here Mr. Herbert Spencer shall once more {112} help us; for this
remarkable writer, though he fails to recognise what he is doing,
not only appeals on many critical occasions to the great-man theory
as an explanation of the most important social phenomena, but he is
repeatedly calling attention throughout his sociological writings
to those facts of human nature of which the great-man theory is the
expression. It will be sufficient to quote a few passages only.

Let us turn, then, to the opening pages of Mr. Spencer’s _Study of
Sociology_ and consider what is contained in them. We shall find that
they are entirely devoted to describing the abject mental condition
of by far the largest portion of all classes of English society, from
the labourer, the farmer, and the Nonconformist minister with his
Bible, up to “men called educated” and the most illustrious of our
historians and philosophers. All of them, says Mr. Spencer, “_are
slaves to unwarranted opinions_”; “_proximate causes_” are all that
the majority of them are able to understand. Nor does he represent
this as some accidental result, due to prejudices or deficiencies
in education peculiar to our own country. He represents it as
an inevitable result of the character of the human race. In his
“_Postscript_” to the same volume he takes care to make his meaning
plain. “_Most people_,” he says, “_conclude quickly from small
evidence_,” and are incapable “_of comprehending in their totality
assembled propositions._” Indeed, those whose mental constitution is
such that they can take a {113} rational view of “_human affairs_”
are, he proceeds to say, merely “_a scattered few_.” He elsewhere
divides society into “_the capable and the incapable_,” the “_worthy
and the unworthy_”; and in the “_Postscript_” just alluded to he
mentions as an admitted fact that in every social aggregate “_the
inferior form the majority_.” But a yet more caustic passage remains
to be mentioned. In this same work, _The Study of Sociology_, he is
ridiculing—and very justly—the socialistic idea that the State can be
endowed with any talent or wisdom beyond what happens to be possessed
by the individual functionaries who compose the State. These
functionaries, he says, are merely “_a cluster of men_,” which, like
any other cluster taken at hap-hazard, will comprise “_a few clever
individuals, many ordinary, some decidedly stupid_”; and he devotes
pages to showing by means of multiplied examples, how incapable the
ordinary statesman, to say nothing of the decidedly stupid, has been
of promoting progress in even the simplest ways.

Mankind at large, then, according to Mr. Spencer, may, roughly
speaking, be divided into three classes—the “_clever_” who are
few, the “_ordinary_” who are the bulk of the population, and the
“_decidedly stupid_” who form a considerable residuum; and it will
appear from what he says of that representative “_cluster_,” the
State, that whilst all real progress is the work of the clever few,
the “_ordinary men_” do nothing to promote it, and “_the decidedly
stupid men_” impede it. {114}

Now it must be perfectly obvious to the reader that in this
description of mankind we have the fundamental facts before us which
the great-man theory formulates. For let us begin by supposing that
the entire human race contained no individuals superior to the
“_decidedly stupid_,” who, whenever they are placed in official
positions, do nothing, Mr. Spencer declares, but commit the most
pernicious blunders, either by their irrational conservatism, or
their still more irrational innovations. It is obvious that in this
case the world would never have progressed at all. Let us next
suppose that in addition to the “_decidedly stupid_” men, the human
race comprises also a large proportion of “_ordinary_” men, but not
a single man who deserves to be called more than “_ordinary_.” Could
social progress, as we know it, have taken place even then? Could
thought, for example, ever have made any advances, had everybody
been as incapable as Mr. Spencer’s “_ordinary_” man is of taking a
rational view of human affairs—had everybody been enslaved, like
him, “_to unwarranted opinions_,” and been, like him, entirely
lacking in the faculty which enables a man to comprehend “_assembled
propositions in their totality_”? Or to put the whole matter in terms
of a single instance, could Mr. Spencer’s own system of philosophy
have been written if he himself had not been immensely superior not
only to “_ordinary_” men, but even to those rival thinkers whom, in
every one of his volumes, he treats with such supreme disdain? {115}

The answer of course is No. Under such conditions progress would
have been quite impossible. Our simple argument will accordingly run
thus. It is evident that those triumphs of thought, enterprise, and
invention, to which social progress is due, could never have been
made had the whole of each generation been as stupid and void of
character as its lowest and weakest members. Therefore progress must
be due to men who are superior to the “_decidedly stupid_.” Here we
have the great-man theory in embryo. But it is equally evident that
we can go a step farther, and say that progress could never have
taken place had there been no individuals who in will, originality,
and intellect were superior to “_ordinary men_.” Social progress,
therefore, must be due to this third class—the class which alone is
capable of taking “_a rational_” view of things; but this class,
as Mr. Spencer tells us, consists of a “_scattered few_,” and here
we have, in Mr. Spencer’s own language, neither more nor less than
the great-man theory developed. We have it developed in the form of
a distinct general proposition that progress is due not to mankind
at large, but to a minority of exceptional individuals, and in this
form, which Mr. Spencer has assisted us in giving it, it is brought
into actual accordance with the facts of social life, and, unlike the
wild exaggerations of Carlyle, it will be found to accord the more
closely with them the more fully it is analysed.

The error of writers like Carlyle was that they took a part for
the whole. They recognised no {116} great men at all except great
men of the greatest kind—heroic figures which appeared once or
twice in a century; and as for the rest of mankind, they treated
them, in accordance with Mr. Spencer’s formula, as a mass of units,
approximately equal in capacity. The truth of the case is, on the
contrary, this:—that whatever is done by great men of the heroic
type, something similar, if not so striking, is done by a number of
lesser great men also; that whilst the action of the heroic great
men is intermittent, the action of the lesser great men is constant;
and that the latter, as a body, although not individually, do
incalculably more to promote progress than the former.

Let us accordingly make it perfectly clear that when we describe
great men as being a minority, or a “_scattered few_,” we do not mean
that out of every thousand men there are nine hundred and ninety-nine
“_ordinary_” men and one genius; or that there are (let us say) seven
hundred who can be described for all purposes as “_ordinary_,” and
two hundred and ninety-nine who can be for all purposes described as
“_stupid_”; and that there is one “_clever_” or “_great_” man who
towers over them like an oak tree over bramble bushes. Nor, again,
do we mean that “_greatness_” is some single definite quality,
which marks its possessor out like a white man amongst negroes.
Believers in extreme democracy, who very rightly discern in the
great-man theory the destruction of their favourite enthusiasms, will
instinctively seek to attribute some meaning such as this to its
exponents. But the great-man {117} theory, when properly analysed
and explained, will be found to comprise no such absurdities as the
foregoing. When we speak of “greatness” we mean a great variety of
efficiencies, which, though grouped together because they are all
exceptional in degree, are nevertheless indefinitely various in
kind; and, moreover, the degrees to which they are exceptional are
indefinitely various also, the degree being in many cases so low that
it is difficult to say whether it should be classed as exceptional at
all. In short, there are as many degrees of greatness as there are of
temperature; and it is as difficult to draw a line between ordinary
men and men whose greatness is of a very low degree, as it is to
draw a line between coldness, coolness, and low degrees of heat. But
though it may be questionable whether we should call a day cool when
the thermometer is at fifty-nine, and whether we should call it hot
when the thermometer is at sixty-one, everybody admits that it is hot
when the thermometer is at eighty-five, and cold when the thermometer
registers twenty degrees of frost. In the same way, though there will
be a certain number of people who may be classed as great by one
judge and classed as ordinary by another, there is a certain number
whose capacities, however unequal amongst themselves, set their
possessors apart as indubitably greater than the majority; and we
are speaking with sufficient, though we cannot speak with absolute
precision, when we say that progress depends on the action of this
minority. {118}

How great the inequality is between the natural powers of men
is perhaps most clearly evidenced by the case of art, and more
especially the art of poetry. In certain domains of effort it may
be urged that unequal results are caused by unequal circumstances,
quite as much as by unequal capacities. But about poetry, at
all events, this cannot be said. Some of the greatest poets the
world has ever known—it is enough to instance the cases of Burns
and Shakespeare—have been men of no wealth and of very imperfect
education. Obviously, therefore, in poetry one man has as good a
chance as another. It is no doubt often argued—and this argument
has already been examined—that great poets, of whom Shakespeare is
a favourite example, owe part of their greatness not to themselves,
but to their age. But this does nothing to explain the differences
between poets who belong to the same age, and who, all of them, in
this respect, start with the same advantage. Let us confine our
comparisons then to men who were each other’s contemporaries, and
ask what made Burns a better poet than Pye, Shakespeare a greater
poet than the feeblest of his forgotten rivals, Pope than Ambrose
Philips, Byron than “_the hoarse Fitzgerald_”? There is only one
answer possible. These men in respect of poetry had been made giants
by nature; those were condemned by nature to live and to die dwarfs.

And the same inequality that exhibits itself in the domain of poetry
will be found in every other domain of human effort. What can be
more {119} unequal than the gifts of different singers? In every
school and university we see multitudes of young men and boys whose
opportunities of learning are not only similar but identical, but
of whom, in respect to assimilating what they are taught, not one
in ten rises appreciably above a certain level, and not one in a
hundred rises above it signally. We have Virgil at one end of the
scale, and Bavius and Mævius at the other; at one end Patti, and the
other the vocalist of the street; at one end a Scaliger and a Newton,
and at the other the idler and the dunce, who can hardly conjugate
τυπτω or stumble across the Asses’ Bridge. And in practical life
the same phenomenon repeats itself. Let us take any department of
social activity or production, on the results of which the welfare
of society at any given time depends. Let us take, for instance,
the work of government, or invention, or commercial enterprise. In
each of these we shall find a large number of men, each doing what
is in him to subserve some particular end; and we shall find a few
producing results which are great both for themselves and others,
and the many producing results which are uniform in their individual

It is perfectly true that in these great departments of practical
life there may not be so obvious or so widely extended an equality
of opportunity as that which prevails amongst poets, or amongst
scholars in the same seminary, but in each department there will be
a large number, at all {120} events, whose opportunities are as
equal as human ingenuity could make them. This is so in the French
army, in the English House of Commons, and in the world of business
and industry; and yet of men thus equally placed we see some doing
great things, and doubling their opportunities by using them;
others doing little or nothing, and throwing their opportunities
away. We have accordingly in every domain of activity a sufficient
number of persons with the same external advantages, to show by the
extraordinary difference between the results accomplished by them how
great the natural inequality between men’s capacities is, and how far
the efficiency of a few exceeds that of the majority. It is therefore
nothing to the purpose to attribute, as many reformers do, men’s
inequality in efficiency to the fact that equality of opportunity is
not at present as general as it theoretically might be. To extend
this equality further might produce good results or bad; but in
neither case would it tend to make men’s capacities equal. The utmost
it would do in this particular respect would be merely to widen the
area of their realised inequality—to increase the number of the
mountains, not to produce a plain.

It will doubtless be objected by those who would minimise natural
inequalities that a man may be contemptible in one capacity—that
of a poet, for instance—and yet be greater as a man than men who
in one capacity are superior to him. It may, for example, be said
that Frederick of Prussia, in spite of his {121} bad poetry, was
a greater man than Voltaire. This is perfectly true; but it is
necessary to explain clearly that it in no way contradicts what is
being here asserted. It is, on the contrary, part of it. It cannot
be too emphatically said that greatness, in the only sense in which
we are here considering it—that is to say, as an agent of social
progress—is a quality which we attribute to a man not with reference
to his whole nature, but with reference solely to the objective
results produced by him, so that in one domain of activity a man may
be great, in another ordinary, in another decidedly stupid. What,
then, we here mean by a great man is merely a man who is superior to
the majority in his power of producing some given class of result,
whereas the average man and the stupid are not superior to the
majority in their powers of producing any.

The reader must thus entirely disabuse himself of the idea that
greatness, as an agent of social progress, has any necessary
resemblance to greatness as conceived of by the moralist. A man may
be a great saint or a noble “moral character” who passes his life
in obscurity, stretched on a bed of sickness, and incapable even of
rendering the humblest help to others. He is great in virtue not of
what he does, but of what he is. But greatness, as an agent of social
progress, has nothing whatever to do with what a man is, except in so
far as what he is enables him to do what he does. If two doctors were
confronted by some terrible epidemic, and the one met it by tending
the poor {122} for nothing, and died in his unavailing efforts to
save his patients, whilst the other fled from the infected district,
and solacing himself at a distance with a mistress and an excellent
cook, invented a medicine by which the disease could be warded off,
and proceeded to make a large fortune by selling it, though the
former as a man might be incalculably better than the latter, the
latter as an agent of progress would be incalculably greater than the
former. Again, if two doctors tried to invent such a medicine, and
whilst the first succeeded the second failed, the second, though he
might have exerted himself far more than the first, and have failed
only owing to some minute flaw in his faculties, would be not only
less great as an agent of progress than the first, but he would not
be practically an agent of progress at all, any more than a man is an
agent in saving another from drowning if he merely stretches a hand
which the drowning man cannot reach, and actually himself tumbles
into the water in doing so.

This truth, which sounds brutal when plainly stated, but is really
little more than a sociological truism, is constantly overlooked, and
even indignantly denied, by thinkers whose emotions are more powerful
than their minds. The way in which such persons reason is very easily
understood. They see that a number of men by whom great social
results are produced—men who make successful inventions and who found
great businesses—are narrow-minded, uncultivated, and contemptible
in {123} general conversation, and that a number of other men who
produce no such results are scholars, critics, thinkers, keen judges
of men and things; and contrasting the brilliancy of those who have
produced no great social results with the narrow ideas and dulness of
those who have produced many, they proceed to argue that great social
results cannot possibly require great men to produce them; or, in
other words, that they might be produced by almost anybody.

But the whole of this class of objections will altogether disappear
when we more closely examine what the qualities are on which the
production of given social results depends. Let us take a few of
these results as examples. Let us take the formulation and the
popularising of some particular political demand, by which the whole
course of a country’s history is affected, and the increasing and
cheapening the supply of some articles of popular consumption—sugar,
let us say, or workmen’s boots and clothing. The persons who urge the
objections we are now discussing assume that all greatness, other
than physical strength and dexterity, must be necessarily ethical or
intellectual, and be calculated to excite our ethical or intellectual
admiration. But let them consider the qualities requisite to produce
such results as have just been mentioned, and they will see that no
assumption could be more wide of the truth.

A man who should, without underpaying his employees, succeed in
manufacturing for the poorer {124} classes boots, jackets, or shirts
better in quality and very much less in price than those which they
are accustomed to buy now, would probably have to devote a large part
of his life to the consideration of a particular kind of seemingly
sordid detail. To a man of wide culture and brilliant imagination,
the concentration of his faculties on details such as these would
be impossible; and if he wished to produce any of the results in
question, he would soon discover that he could not. The men who do
produce them are rendered capable of doing so, not by the width of
their minds, but by the exceptional narrowness. The intellectual
stream flows strongly because it is confined in a narrow channel,
and thus what to the superficial observer seems a sign of their
inferiority, is really, so far as the results are concerned, one of
the chief causes of their greatness.

    The mean man with the little thing to do
            Sees it and does it;
    The great man with the great end to pursue
            Dies ere he knows it.

Robert Browning very tersely puts the case thus. We have only to
alter his language in one respect. Seeing that the results we have
now in view are realised results or nothing, the “_mean man_,” as an
agent of material progress, will be the “great man,” and the “great
man” will be the little.

So, too, with regard to the man who affects {125} the history of his
country by formulating and popularising some particular political
demand—the secret of such a man’s success, in four cases out of five,
will be found to lie in the greatness, not of his intellect, but of
his will—in an exceptionally sanguine temperament, in exceptional
courage and energy, and very likely in an exaggerated belief in his
own nostrums, which, instead of being a sign of great intellectual
acuteness, is incompatible with it.

No doubt social progress, as a whole, has required and does require
for its production intellectual powers of the highest and rarest
kind. The point here insisted on is that it is not produced by
intellectual powers alone, and that intellectual powers alone would
be quite unable to produce it. Thus the sorrows and disappointments
of the unfortunate inventor are proverbial; and the reason is that
great inventive powers are frequently accompanied by a very feeble
will and a fantastic ignorance of the world; the inventor, though
strong as a mind, being pitiably weak as a man. He can do everything
with his inventions except make them useful to anybody. He might be
practically far greater were he to lose some of his intellectual
powers, could he thereby develop some of the humbler qualities in
which he is wanting. As it is, he resembles a chronometer which is
without a main-spring, and which is useless when compared with a
ten-and-sixpenny watch. Hence the inventor has so frequently to ally
himself with the man of {126} enterprise, and only becomes great,
as a social force, by doing so. Such unions are often sufficiently
strange in appearance. We see some man whose intellect is the
finest machine imaginable, but he is only redeemed from absolute
and grotesque uselessness by his partner, who is little better
than an inspired bagman. But such a bagman’s gifts, however the
inefficient theorist may despise them, are, though less striking than
the inventor’s, often quite as rare. No doubt many great inventors
have the practical gifts as well as the intellectual, and their
greatness, in such cases, is comprehended completely in themselves.
It remains, however, an equally composite thing, no matter whether it
takes two men or only one to complete it; and exceptional intellect
is only one of its elements. The other qualities with which it
requires to be allied, and which alone give it its practical value,
such as determination, shrewdness, and a certain thickness of skin,
though often remarkable individually for the exceptional degree to
which they are developed, just as often unite to produce practical
greatness, not because of the exceptional degree to which they are
developed, but of the exceptional proportions in which they are
combined. Some of the most essential of them, indeed, need not
be exceptional at all, except from the fact of their association
with others that are so. Much greatness, for instance, of the most
powerful kind, consists mainly of very ordinary sense in conjunction
with extraordinary energy; and energy is often, as has already been
pointed out, in proportion {127} to the narrowness rather than to
the width of the imagination.

Greatness, in short, as an agent of social progress, is in most
cases not a single quality, but a peculiar combination of many; its
composition varies according to the character of the results in the
production of which the great men are severally more efficient than
the majority; and it often depends less on the extent to which any
special faculty is developed, in comparison with the same faculty as
possessed by ordinary men, than it does on the degree to which each
faculty is developed as compared with the others possessed by the
great man himself.

When we speak of greatness, then, in the sense here attributed to
the word—when we speak of great men as agents of social progress—we
do not mean that the world is divided into ordinary men and heroes.
The members of that minority whom we group together as great men,
though some of them are, no doubt, of noble and heroic proportions,
are for the most part great in relation to special results only; even
in relation to these special results they are great in very various
degrees, and many of them in other relations may be ordinary, or even
less than ordinary. It must therefore be clearly understood that
greatness, as an agent of social progress, is not an absolute thing,
and that to say of any one man that he possesses more greatness
than another is a statement which, taken by itself, has no definite
meaning. When we {128} say that a man is great we mean that he is
exceptionally efficient in producing some particular result, which is
either implied or specified—that he is great in commanding armies, or
in managing hotels, or in conducting public affairs, or in cheapening
and improving the manufacture of this or that commodity; and when we
say that such and such a man possesses the quality of greatness to
such and such a degree we mean that he produces results of a given
kind, which are in such and such a degree better or more copious than
results of the same kind which are produced by other people.

The inequality of men, then, in natural capacity being an obvious
fact, and the nature and the degrees of their inequalities having
been now generally explained, we may re-state, with a meaning more
precise than was formerly possible, the fundamental proposition
implied in the great-man theory, when that theory is raised from a
rhetorical to a scientific formula. Progress of an appreciable kind,
in any department of social activity and achievement, takes place
only when, and in proportion as, some of the men who are working to
produce such and such a result are more efficient in relation to that
class of result than the majority; or conversely, if a community
contained no man with capacities superior to those possessed by the
greater number, progress in that community would be so slow as to be
practically non-existent.

We must now go on to inquire what is the {129} precise way in which
the men who are superior to the majority bring progress about; and we
shall find that, however various they may be in other respects, they
all promote progress in a way that is fundamentally similar.




It has already been explained that the _great man_, as here
understood, does not in any way correspond with the _fittest man_
in the Darwinian struggle for existence. The fittest man in the
Darwinian sense merely promotes progress by the physiological
process of reproducing his slight superiorities in his children,
and thus raising in the slow course of ages the general level of
capacity throughout subsequent generations of his race. The great
man, on the contrary, promotes progress, not because he raises the
capacity of the generations that come after him, but because he rises
individually above the general level of his own. This, however, is
only one of the differences by which the great man is distinguished
from the fittest. There are two others, of which the first that we
must consider is as follows.

The fittest man, or the survivor in the Darwinian struggle for
existence, is, so far as his own contemporaries are concerned,
greater than his inferiors only in respect of what he accomplishes
for {131} himself, or for those immediately dependent on him. He
is the man who lives and thrives whilst others die or languish,
because whilst they can secure for themselves but little of what is
requisite for life and health, he, by his superior gifts, is able to
secure much. “_Families_,” says Mr. Spencer, “_whom the increasing
difficulty of obtaining a living does not stimulate to improvement in
production are on the high road to extinction, and must ultimately
be supplanted by those whom the difficulty does so stimulate_.” That
is to say, Mr. Spencer, and all our modern sociologists with him,
conceive of the fittest as a man, or a man and his family, who fight
for their food in isolation, like a lion and lioness with their cubs,
and who affect their contemporaries only by being better fed than
they, or as a race-horse affects its competitors only by being first
at the winning post.

But the great man, as an agent of progress, shows his greatness in
a way precisely opposite to that in which the fittest man shows his
fitness. This it is that our contemporary sociologists all fail to
perceive, and endless error is the consequence. The great man, unlike
the strongest lion, promotes progress by increasing the food-supply
not of himself, but of others; or if he increase his own, as he
no doubt generally does, he does so only by showing others how to
increase theirs. He is like a lion who should be better fed than the
rest of the lions in his region, not because he took a carcase from
them for which they all were fighting, {132} but because he showed
them how to find others which they never would have found unaided,
and took for himself in payment a small portion of each. The great
man, in fact, as an agent of social progress, is great not in virtue
of any completed results which he produces directly, by the action
of his own hands or brains, or which he exhibits in his own person,
but in virtue of the completed results which, by some simultaneous
influence which he exercises over the brains or hands of others, he
enables others to exhibit in themselves, or produce or do in the form
of products or social services.

In order to realise this great truth, let us begin with considering
that form of greatness which promotes social progress by supplying it
with its first materials, and from which all other kinds of greatness
draw some portion of their nourishment. It so happens that one of the
most remarkable thinkers of this century, who, though he preceded Mr.
Spencer, belongs to the same school, is able to assist us here by a
very apt and remarkable passage.

John Stuart Mill, in that section of his _System of Logic_ to which
he gives the title of “_The Logic of the Moral Sciences_,” writes
thus. “_In the difficult process of observation and comparison which
is required (for the purpose of obtaining a better understanding of
the laws of empirical sociology, and especially of social progress)
it would evidently be a great assistance if it should happen to
be the fact that one element in the complex existence of social
man is pre-eminent over all the others, as the prime agent {133}
of the social movement. For we could then take the progress of
that one element as the central chain, to each successive link of
which, the corresponding links of all the other progressions being
appended, the succession of facts would by this alone be presented
in a kind of spontaneous order, far more approaching to the real
order of their filiation than could be obtained by any other merely
empirical process. Now the evidence of history and that of human
nature combine, by a striking instance of consilience, to show that
there really is one social element which is predominant and almost
paramount amongst the agents of social progression. This is the state
of the speculative faculties, including the nature of the beliefs
which by any means they have arrived at, concerning themselves and
the world by which they are surrounded. Thus_,” Mill continues,
“_to take the most obvious case, the impelling force to most of the
improvements effected in the arts of life is the desire for increased
material comfort; but as we can only act on external objects in
proportion to our knowledge of them, the state of knowledge at any
given time is the limit of the industrial improvement possible at
that time, and therefore the progress of industry must follow and
depend upon the progress of that knowledge_.”

Any one who was inclined to be hypercritical might object, and object
with justice, that the practical application of knowledge often
lags behind the speculative attainment, and that material progress
therefore, at certain times, depends on {134} some new state of
the practical rather than of the speculative faculties; but apart
from this not very important inaccuracy of expression, Mill’s way of
putting the case is admirable for its lucidity and for its truth;
and we may, for our present purpose, be content to take it as it
stands. All civilisation depends on the accumulation of speculative
knowledge, and all progress in civilisation depends on an increase in
speculative knowledge.

Speculative knowledge, however, does not increase of itself. It is
not acquired without considerable effort; and people acquire it
only because they strongly desire to do so. Such being the case,
let us turn to another passage, taken likewise from the writings
of Mill, and occurring in the very same chapter as that which has
just been quoted. “_It would be a great error_,” says Mill, “_and
one very little likely to be committed, to assert that speculation,
intellectual activity, the pursuit of truth, is amongst the more
powerful propensities of human nature, or holds a predominating place
in the lives of any save decidedly exceptional individuals. But
notwithstanding the relative weakness of this principle among other
sociological agents, its influence is the main determining cause
of social progress, all the other dispositions of our nature which
contribute to that progress being dependent on it for accomplishing
their share of the work_.”

Now what does this passage mean? About its meaning, and the truth
of its meaning, there can be no possible doubt; but it will be
well to observe {135} the extraordinary confusion in which Mill
involves what he means by his perverse manner of expressing it. In
the first sentence of this last passage he tells us as clearly as
possible that with regard to the pursuit of truth, and the power of
discovering and understanding it, mankind are divided broadly into
two classes—the great majority with whom the “_pursuit of truth_”
and “_intellectual activity_” are “_slight propensities_,” and “_the
decidedly exceptional individuals_” with whom these propensities
are overmastering. But he has no sooner drawn this clear and
all-important distinction between the two classes than he proceeds
to undo his own work and mixes them together again in one unmeaning
blur. He converts his statement that only “_the decidedly exceptional
individuals_” desire truth with any great intensity, and have the
faculties requisite for discovering it, into the statement that if
we take “_the decidedly exceptional individuals_” and the majority
together, and regard them as one body, which he calls “_mankind_,”
we shall find that the average desire for truth is lukewarm, and
the faculties for discovering it insufficient. He might just as
well group Shakespeare with a hundred ordinary men; tell us that
Shakespeare could write the greatest poetry the world has ever known,
and that the hundred other men could write no poetry at all, and then
convert these statements into the following—that the one hundred and
one men, Shakespeare included, could only write poetry of a very
moderate quality. {136}

This confusion of statement, however, on the part of Mill, is merely
mentioned here in passing, as one more example of the nature of that
inveterate error—namely the ignoring of the differences between one
class of men and another—which has made modern sociology so useless
for practical purposes. The sole point which really now concerns us
is this. In spite of the verbal, and indeed the mental confusion into
which Mill lapses, the truth which he was struggling to express, and
which no one, he says, would be likely to contradict, is not that,
as he nonsensically puts it, the speculative faculties are weak in
mankind generally, but that amongst the larger part of mankind they
have hardly any efficiency at all, whilst “_in decidedly exceptional
individuals_” they are intense, active, and conquering; and that
consequently it is these “_decidedly exceptional individuals_” who
practically constitute “_the one social element which is predominant,
and almost paramount, amongst the agents of social progression_.”

Now such being the case, let us resume our present inquiry, and ask
how do these individuals who alone strongly desire truth, and have
the faculties for discovering it, perform the practical part which
Mill so rightly assigns to them? By what kind of conduct do they
become “_agents of social progression_” so as to raise communities
from the level of helpless savagery and gradually endow them with
all the resources of civilisation? One thing is perfectly clear.
They do not so by the mere act {137} of acquiring knowledge, by
laying up this treasure in a napkin, or by showing it secretly to
one another. They do so only by diffusing it, in such measure as is
practicable, amongst a circle of men much wider than themselves. They
do so, that is to say, by influencing the minds of others, by guiding
their attention to this and to that fact, by providing, as it were, a
go-cart for their weaker intellectual faculties, and compelling them
to confront and assent to such and such propositions. All that mass
of developing knowledge and expanding ideas which forms not only the
basis but a part of all progressive civilisation, and is commonly
called by the general name of enlightenment, is produced solely by
the influence on average minds of the minds that are “_decidedly
exceptional_.” It is not produced by the fact that the “_decidedly
exceptional_” minds are stocked with such ideas and with such
knowledge themselves, but by the fact that they communicate such a
measure of these to average minds as average minds are severally able
to receive.

To realise the truth of this we need do no more than consider for a
moment the ordinary process of education. The schoolmaster and the
college tutor, by the State or some other authority, are compelled
to give their pupils instruction in certain subjects. But there is
another kind of compulsion involved in the matter also; and this has
to do not with the selection of the subjects that are to be taught,
but with what is to be taught about them. The general progress of
a community depends {138} primarily upon this; and what is to
be taught about them is determined not by the State, or by any
other legally constituted body, but by the masters of speculative
knowledge, by contemporary men of science, scholars, historians,
and philosophers. Knowledge advances because these men are not only
adding to it, but because they are perpetually assimilating the new
discoveries with the old; and these men, by means of their comments
on previous writers, or by new works of their own, often reproduced
in the form of text-books, put the word into the teachers’ mouths;
and the teachers, like the prophet Balaam, are compelled to speak it.
In other words, great speculative thinkers are great as agents of
mental civilisation and enlightenment only because, and only in so
far as, they settle for others what these others shall believe and

And now let us pass from mental progress to material—that is to say,
from speculative knowledge to applied knowledge; and the truth that
is being here insisted on will become clearer still. The master
of knowledge, as applied to production, is the inventor. Now the
most perfect and important machines ever devised by man—let us say
the steam-engine and the printing press—had they been planned by
their original inventors in all their present completeness, but
kept by the inventors to themselves in the form of working models,
made by their own hands and shut up in their own rooms, would have
left the arts of life totally unaffected; our fastest means of
travelling would still be the stage-coach; {139} our few books
would be produced by the methods of the mediæval scriptorium. These
machines are instruments of social progress only because, and in so
far as, they are multiplied and brought into use; and they could
not be multiplied—as efficient implements, they could not be even
made—without the co-operation of an enormous number of workers. It
is probable indeed that in constructing the very model itself an
inventor will have to employ some labour besides his own. Thus this
first and preliminary step towards rendering his apparatus a factor
in social progress he can take only by influencing one or two other
men, at all events—artisans whose technical action he directs in such
a way that it produces something specifically different from anything
which it had produced before; and as the apparatus is reproduced on a
larger scale, put on the market, multiplied so as to meet a growing
demand, and thus actually produces an effect on the arts of life,
this practical result takes place only because, and in so far as,
the number of artisans whose action is influenced by the inventor
increases. The inventor, in other words, is an agent of “_social
progression_” only because the particularised knowledge of which his
invention consists is embodied either in models, or drawings, or
written or spoken orders, and thus affects the technical action of
whole classes of other men, just as Mr. Spencer affects, by means of
his manuscript, the technical actions of the compositors who put his
treatises into type. {140}

Material progress, however, depends not only on the inventor and his
machine. It depends also on the uses to which his machine is to be
put. Here we shall find a new kind of greatness to be necessary—that
which is called business ability; and we shall find that this
operates precisely like the greatness of the inventor, through the
influence which its possessor exercises over other men.

All progress or development in commerce and in the arts of production
is in proportion to the correspondence in every place and season of
the goods brought into the market with the contemporary wants of
the buyers. If it were not for this correspondence of the economic
supply with the demand, progress in production would not be social
progress at all; for just as a community does not become materially
civilised by the mere act of wanting what it cannot get, so it does
not become materially civilised by being presented with what it does
not want—clothes, for example, which it could not possibly wear,
and books in an unknown language, which it could not possibly read,
or diminutive houses and furniture fit only for dolls. Now in any
progressive community the wants of the buyers are in constant process
not only of development but fluctuation, and are rarely quite the
same in any two localities simultaneously. In order, therefore, that
what is supplied may be in correspondence with what is wanted, it
is necessary that in each industry the nature of the commodities
produced be continually modified by men with a {141} special sort
of knowledge of the world; and also, since want, in the sense of
efficient demand, depends on the price at which these commodities
can be supplied, it is necessary, just as it is in the case of the
manufacture of machinery, that the army of men whose labour is
involved in producing them shall be subject to men who, by their
powers of industrial generalship, will be able to reduce the cost
of reproduction to a minimum. Every business, in fact, and every
industrial enterprise, succeeds or fails, not according to the amount
of average labour involved in it, but according to the talents and
energy by which this labour is directed. Thus in the economic domain,
even more than in the intellectual, the great man is seen to be an
agent of “_social progression_,” in virtue not of the results which
he himself produces by the direct action of his own hands or brain,
but of the results which, being what he is, he causes to be produced
by others.

And now having dealt with the great man as an agent of speculative
progress which, as Mill says, is at the bottom of progress of all
other kinds, and having dealt with him also as an agent of that
manufacturing, commercial, economic or material progress which Mill
cites as the chief example of what practical progress is, and having
shown how the essence of his greatness is his power of influencing
others, let us illustrate this truth finally by a brief reference to
three other kinds of human and social activity which exhibit it {142}
in a light so obvious that it requires no explanation. These three
kinds of activity are the military, the political, and the religious.
The great soldier, as has been said already, is essentially the
great commander—the man who makes others act and group themselves
in a specific way. The statesman not only aims at benefiting his
countrymen generally, but he achieves his aim by the same means as
the soldier, namely, by influencing the actions of others in certain
specific respects; whilst the man who is socially great in the domain
of morals and religion is the man whose teaching and example affect
the actions, and even the inmost feelings, of multitudes, or gives
precision to their faith.

But here, having reduced to a truism this important truth that the
great man, as an agent of social progress, is great only because he
is able to exercise a specific influence over others, it is necessary
to turn our attention to a different order of facts altogether.
Greatness, as we have seen already, is of very many kinds. It is a
varying compound of various and variously developed qualities; and
its degree is measured by its efficiency in producing this or that
result by which society is benefited. But greatness, in the sense of
exceptional power of so influencing others that some given result
shall be produced by them, has other varieties besides those that
have been already mentioned. Each domain of progress has not only
its own leaders, but it has leaders who desire to lead men in very
different directions. There are scientists {143} with conflicting
theories, inventors with rival inventions, statesmen with rival
policies. It follows accordingly that though all these men may be
possessed of talents indefinitely above the average, they would
not all of them, were their influence over other men equal, affect
society in an equally advantageous way. Some men, indeed, whose
talents are “_decidedly exceptional_” would, on account of some flaw
or defect in their character, not promote, but, on the contrary,
retard true progress, in exact proportion as they made their views
prevail. Thus, though all progress is due to great men, all great men
would not promote progress; or they would, at all events, not promote
it equally. Progress, therefore, as resulting from the actions of
great men, depends on the degree to which certain of them make their
own views prevail, and secure the rejection of others which are
directly or indirectly opposed to them. It depends, that is to say,
on a keen competitive struggle which is continually taking place
within the limits of the exceptional minority.

And here we come to that further point of difference, which still
remains to be noticed, between the part played in social progress by
the great man, and the part in it played by the fittest according
to the Darwinian theory. Two points of difference between them have
been noted and explained already, one being that the fittest man
promotes progress only because he raises, by a physiological process,
the average capacities of his successors, whereas the great man
promotes {144} progress because he is himself more capable than
his contemporaries; the other being that the fittest fulfils his
social function by fighting for his own hand, without any reference
to others, whereas the great man fulfils his solely by influencing
others. We are now coming to a third point, which is, for practical
purposes, even more important than the preceding.

The great-man theory, just like the theory of Darwin, involves a
competitive struggle. This struggle is a struggle between great
men; and its existence is a fact of too obvious a character to
have escaped the notice of even the most inaccurate of our social
evolutionists. But they one and all of them have completely
misunderstood its nature. They have hastened to identify it with
the Darwinian struggle for existence, from which it differs in the
most vital manner conceivable; and, obscuring it thus by a loose and
misleading analogy, they have managed to blind themselves to its
entire practical significance. The Darwinian struggle for existence
no doubt has its counterpart in the contemporary competition of
labourers to find remunerative employment, and in the fact that those
who are least successful in finding it would, if left to themselves,
be continually dying off. In a progressive country there is, or
there always tends to be, a larger number of would-be labourers than
there is of tasks which at the moment can be profitably assigned
to them. A struggle therefore is involved in obtaining work of any
kind; and for the higher kinds of work the struggle is very keen.
But this is not the {145} struggle to which modern progress is due.
Progress, in the sense of the rapid and appreciable movement which
alone concerns us here, is—to confine ourselves for a moment to the
domain of industry—not the result of a struggle to execute work in
the best way, but is the result of a struggle to give the best orders
for its execution. It presupposes the existence of a certain amount
of skill; but it does not, except in its very earliest stages, depend
on the struggle of so many thousand men, each to become individually
a more skilful worker than his fellows. It is, on the contrary, when
its earliest stages have been passed, so independent of any further
increase of skill in the individual worker, that it continues its
course whilst skill remains stationary.

This is shown by the fact that some of the greatest advances ever
made in material civilisation have been made during the active
lifetime, and with the aid of the hands and muscles, of a single
generation of workers, and has implied no improvement at all either
in their acquired faculties or their inherited. Let us take, for
instance, the introduction of the electric light, and the way in
which it is superseding gas. The mechanics first employed to make the
appliances for its production were none of them asked to perform any
task which required on their part any new knowledge or dexterity.
All they were asked to do, and all they did, was to submit their
existing faculties to some new external guidance: and the electric
light, in so far as it has superseded {146} gas, has superseded it
not because it is the product of more skilful labour, but because
it is the product of manual labour directed by a set of inventors
and employers, who, so far as regards certain social requirements,
direct it more successfully than another set. The struggle which it
represents is a struggle between employers only. It does not, except
by accident, represent any struggle between the employed.

And what is true of the struggle which produces industrial progress,
is true of that which produces progress of all other kinds.
Scientific knowledge increases in proportion as those exceptional
individuals whose studies have brought them most near to the truth
are able to fight down the opinions of the exceptional individuals
who differ from them, and to impress their own undisputed upon the
world. Such knowledge does not increase on account of any struggle
amongst the learners, which causes some of them to become more and
more apt in learning. It grows on account of a struggle between
philosophers, each of whom aims at settling what the learners shall
learn. And with regard to religion and politics the case is just the
same. The progressive struggle is primarily between rival prophets
and politicians. The spread of Christianity, for instance, was not
brought about by Christian races exterminating those that were not
Christians. It was brought about by Christian thinkers and teachers
discrediting the doctrines taught by thinkers and teachers who were
opposed to them. Free-trade, {147} again, in this country has not
triumphed over protectionism, because the mass of free-traders have
exterminated the mass of protectionists. It has triumphed simply
because, in the eyes of the majority, one school of theorists has
succeeded in discrediting another.

Now these facts, which, when once stated, are so obvious, not only
throw the Darwinian struggle for existence altogether into the
background as an agent in social progress, but they show that it
presents us with no true analogy to that kind of struggle from which
progress principally results. They show us, on the contrary, that
the struggle which produces social progress, though it resembles
the Darwinian struggle in one point, is in all other points
contrasted with it. The struggle of one employer against another to
direct labour in the most advantageous way, or the struggle of one
politician or religious teacher against another to secure for his own
views the largest number of adherents, is so far like the Darwinian
struggle for existence, that it is a struggle in which individual is
pitted against individual, and the gain of the successful is the loss
of the unsuccessful. But the limits within which this struggle is
confined are very narrow indeed; and the mass of the community takes
no part in it whatsoever.

In order to show this with the utmost clearness possible, let us turn
again to the domain of economic progress, which generally supplies
the sociologist with his simplest and most luminous illustrations.
{148} The success of the strongest and ablest employers—that is to
say, the heads of the most successful businesses—may involve, and
does involve their selection for survival as employers, and does
involve the extinction, as employers, though not necessarily as men
and parents, of their weaker and less able rivals; but it involves no
struggle for existence with the men employed by them—that is to say,
with the great masses of the community. Two men, we will say, start
rival hotels, and each begins with a staff of a hundred persons. One
of the two understands his business far better than the other. His
hotel is always full, whilst his rival’s is half empty. The latter
at last becomes bankrupt; the former buys his business, and together
with his premises takes over his staff. He employs two hundred
persons, instead of a hundred as at first; the hotel of the bankrupt,
which the bankrupt ran at a loss, now yields the same profit as
the other; and the aggregate takings of the two are thus increased
largely. Here we have a community of two hundred and two persons
offering a marked example of great material progress; and this
progress has been the result of a genuine struggle for existence. But
the struggle for existence has been between two persons only—that
is to say, between the two hotel-keepers. As _hotel-keepers_
existence is the very thing they have been struggling for, and the
survival of the one has meant the disappearance of the other; but
between them and the two hundred persons employed by them there has
been no struggle at all. The achievement {149} by the successful
hotel-keeper of a fortune double that with which he started has not
involved any diminution in the wages of his staff. It will, on the
contrary, if we are to take the case now in question as typical of
the survival of the fittest employers generally, have not only not
diminished their wages, but very largely increased them. For here
there is one further truth which naturally introduces itself to our
observation. Whatever allowance it may be necessary to make for the
lowest class or residuum of our modern populations, it is the most
clearly proved and prominent fact in modern industrial history—and
one which even socialists are now ceasing to deny—that along with the
vast increase in wealth which the ablest employers have, by their
struggle with rivals, secured for their own enjoyment, there has been
not a corresponding diminution, but a corresponding increase in the
means of subsistence that have gone to the population generally. The
average income per head in this country of that class—composed mainly
of wage-earners—which does not pay income tax has, in terms of money,
nearly trebled itself during the present century; its purchasing
power has increased in a yet larger ratio, and its increase will
be found to have been most rapid and striking at periods when the
struggle amongst the employing class has been keenest.

It will thus be seen that the struggle which produces economic
progress—and progress of every kind is produced in the same way—is
not a general {150} struggle which pervades the community as
a whole; neither is it a struggle between the majority and an
exceptionally able minority, in which both classes are struggling
for what only one can win, and in which the gain of the one involves
the loss of the other; but it is a struggle which is confined to the
members of the minority alone, and in which the majority play no part
as antagonists whatsoever. It is not a struggle amongst the community
generally to live, but a struggle amongst a small section of the
community to lead, to direct, to employ, the majority in the best
way; and this struggle is an agent of progress because it tends to
result, not in the survival of the fittest man, but in the domination
of the greatest man.




The whole secret of social progress, other than the most rudimentary,
is summed up in the formula with which the preceding chapter has
concluded. Progress is the result of the domination or the triumphant
influence of the greatest. That is to say, the civilisation of
the entire community depends alike for its advance and for its
maintenance on a struggle which is confined within the limits of an
exceptional class; and the ordinary members of the community are
connected with it only by the fact that when the fittest competitor
achieves the domination for which he is struggling, they, instead
of being defeated by him, share the advantage of his victory. When
the scientific doctor discredits the theories of the quack, when the
competent organiser of industry causes the ruin of the incompetent,
when a good ministry drives a bad from office, when a great general
supersedes one who is inferior, or when a true religious teacher
destroys the influence of a false, the whole community gains, except
the men who have personally lost {152} authority, and who share the
merited fate of their own errors or deficiencies.

The progress and the maintenance, then, of civilisation in any
community depends on its possessing a number of great men, of which
number the greatest shall, by competition with the others, succeed in
gaining a control over the beliefs and actions of the majority.

Here, however, we are introduced to two new sets of facts, which have
not thus far come under our consideration at all.

In the first place, great men do not come into the world ready-made.
Their greatness is potential only, or in other words it is
practically non-existent, until it has been developed; and the
process of developing it is in most cases extremely arduous. The
philosopher, the soldier, the inventor, the statesman, the great
merchant or manufacturer, achieve success only by prolonged and
intense effort, by study, by concentrated thought, by action, by rude
experience. Genius, indeed, has been defined as an infinite capacity
for taking trouble; and the definition, though very incomplete, is,
so far as it goes, true. No one, however, takes trouble without a
motive; and a motive being some object of desire, such as money,
rank, or pleasure, which a man hopes to attain by a certain line of
action, it follows that if a community is to possess great men as
actual agents of progress, and not merely as wasted potentialities,
its social constitution must be such as to offer and make attainable
positions, possessions, {153} pleasures, or other advantages which
its potentially great men will feel to be worth working for.

In the second place, since the great man, as we have seen, is an
agent of progress and civilisation only because he influences
others—because he guides their speculative beliefs, and in certain
respects commands their actions—the society or community to which
the great man belongs must be such as not only to supply him with
a motive for exercising this influence, but also to enable him to
secure for himself the means by which it may be exercised; and,
furthermore, the means in question must be of a kind which will
enable the rival great men to bring their respective capacities to a
decisive practical test, so that the influence of the most efficient
may establish itself, and that of the less efficient cease.

Now the whole question of motive we will deal with later on. We will
for the present put it altogether aside. We will assume a natural
impulse on the part of all great men to develop their powers to the
utmost, and employ them in influencing others, wholly independent
of any other reward than such a minimum of sustenance and comfort
as is physically essential to their efficiency; and we will confine
our attention altogether to the question of the means by which the
influence of the great men over the majority is obtained.

Human progress, however, being a complex thing, and taking place
in different domains of activity, the means by which the great man
influences others will vary with the nature of the results which his
{154} influence aims at eliciting. The social activities on which
progress depends, though they may be subdivided indefinitely, are
reducible to five kinds—intellectual, religious, military, economic,
and political; and with regard to the two first, the influence of the
great man exerts itself to determine what others shall believe and
think; with regard to the three last, it exerts itself to determine
what others shall do.

Now out of these five domains of activity the three first—namely,
the intellectual, the religious, and the military—are such that
the means by which the great man makes his influence felt in them
hardly require discussion. In the first place, they are obvious—there
is no dispute about what they are; and, in the second place, the
fact of their being what they are has no bearing, except such as
is very remote, on any disputed question concerning the practical
organisation of society. In the intellectual world thinkers,
scholars, and men of science gain their influence by discussions,
for the most part embodied in books, which discussions are carried
on before a jury of expert critics, each man defending his own views
against the views of those who differ from him; and the jury of
experts ultimately gives its verdict, to which sooner or later the
community at large submits. The religious leader gains his influence
similarly. He gains it by arguments and persuasions, which are felt
by a band of followers to touch the spirit more deeply than those of
other prophets. He gives to his disciples, and his {155} disciples
give to the multitude. But these means are of so universal a kind,
and have so little connection with any specific social arrangements,
that none of the disputed points of social politics are involved in
them; and we consequently have at present no occasion to discuss
them. So, too, with regard to the military leader, though the
means which are employed by him do, beyond a doubt, imply social
arrangements of a very specific kind—namely, an iron system of
discipline, with death and the lash to sanction it; yet these
arrangements, however they may be denounced by sentimentalists, have
always been found essential to the efficiency of every army; and
though many worthy people would abolish military activity altogether,
and whilst socialists especially express themselves anxious to do
so, it is perfectly evident—nor would any socialist deny it—that
a socialist State, if it had to fight for its existence, would be
obliged to enforce the required military discipline by methods
essentially identical with those of Cæsar or Wellington. It may,
indeed, be disputed whether the great military leader is not a
superfluous figure on the social stage; but so long as his greatness
makes itself felt at all, it will continue to make itself felt by the
same means.

The only domains of social activity, therefore, in which the means
employed by the great man to control the actions of others so that
ordinary men may be guided by the faculties of the exceptional—the
only domains of activity in which these means, {156} thus employed,
really require minute and careful discussion, and have really a
direct bearing on the practical problems of the day—are the domain
of economic production and the domain of political government.
These, indeed, may be said to contain between them the whole of the
questions with regard to which parties are divided—with regard to
which those who believe that the conditions of civilisation may be
indefinitely improved but can never be fundamentally altered, are
divided from those who believe them to be capable of indefinite

This is specially true of the domain of economic production; for
it is mainly on account of its connection with the production
and distribution of wealth that political government excites so
much popular interest and forms the subject of so much vehement
controversy. And in every other domain of human activity equally, we
shall find that the interests, the endeavours, and the disputes of
men have an economic process as their basis, or economic progress
as their object. The processes of production and commerce are, in
fact, the central processes of every nation’s life. Government exists
to foster them, and changes its form as these processes develop;
whilst fleets and armies exist mainly for their protection, and more
and more depend on the progress that takes place in them. It is, in
short, in the domain of economics that all the social problems of
the day either begin or end; and consequently in examining the means
by which the great man influences others, the question which it is
{157} really our first concern to examine relates to the means by
which great men, whose greatness consists in the fact that they are
exceptional in their powers of causing the production of wealth,
and on whom consequently the wealth of the whole community depends,
obtain a control over other men’s productive actions.

This control can be secured in two ways only, or else in some way
that is a combination or modification of both. One of these ways is
slavery; the other is the capitalistic wage-system. Let us consider
how the two resemble each other, and also how they differ.

They resemble each other because both, in so far as they subserve
progress, subserve it for precisely the same reason. They are both
contrivances by which the superior few may secure, so far as industry
is concerned, the implicit obedience of the many. On the private
lives of the many their effects will be widely different; but so far
as concerns their direct connection with industry—their operation
on men during the actual processes of production—slavery and the
capitalistic wage-system differ only in this: that the one secures
the required industrial obedience by operating on men’s fears; the
other secures it by operating on their desires and wills. Thus the
slaves who built the pyramids had each some specified task—the making
of so many bricks, the cutting of such and such stones, or the
fixing of bricks and stones in such and such situations—which had to
be performed if the pyramids were to be built at all. So, too, if
the Hotel Metropole at Brighton was to {158} be built at all, the
bricklayers, masons, and other workmen who built it had to perform
tasks of a precisely similar kind. But obedience to orders on the
part of the Egyptian slave was secured by the knowledge on his part
that disobedience would be punished by some form of chastisement, and
very likely of torture, whilst obedience on the part of the Brighton
workman was secured by the knowledge on his part that, unless he
chose to yield it, one way, at all events, of earning a livelihood
would be closed to him.

It is this latter method of securing industrial obedience that is
made possible by the capitalistic wage-system; and it is primarily
for this reason that what is called capitalism is an agent of
progress, and has developed itself in progressive communities. As for
capital itself, this, as we all know, performs part of its functions
by assuming the form of machinery, buildings, bridges, railways, and
a variety of structures and appliances which are grouped together
under the general head of _fixed capital_ by economists. But these
structures and appliances are themselves the result of the previous
influence of great men on the industrial actions of the many; and as
it was by means of wage-capital that this influence was secured, the
primary and most essential functions which capital fulfils, and which
really form the essence of the capitalistic system, are to be found
by considering capital as employed in the payment of wages.

Now capital as thus employed consists of an {159} accumulation
of the necessaries and comforts of life, by the consumption and
use of which men are able to sustain themselves when engaged on
works requiring a long period for their completion, which will when
completed be useful and produce much, but which, until they are
completed, will be of no use at all, and will consequently supply
nothing to the workers when actually engaged on them. The simplest
example of work of this kind is agriculture. The first man who
saved sufficient food to support himself, whilst tilling the soil
and waiting for his crops to ripen, was the first capitalist. But
capital, when it takes the form of accumulated necessaries and
comforts, though it now reaches the workers in the form of wages
usually, need not do so of necessity. It need not do so when the
work is extremely simple and the methods employed are rude. Wherever
agriculture, for example, is in its earliest stages, every husbandman
may be his own capitalist, and start with an accumulation of food in
his own cottage which will keep him alive till his crops are ready
for sale or for consumption. In cases such as these we have capital
which, so far as its substance is concerned, is identical with
wage-capital, but is not wage-capital nevertheless. In order to turn
it into wage-capital it is necessary that these accumulations of food
shall pass out of the control of the workers—such as the husbandmen
just referred to—and be brought under the control of some other
person or persons, who will dole them out to the workers on certain
conditions only. The wage-system, in short, {160} does not represent
capital as such. It represents capital, in the form of the immediate
means of subsistence, as owned or controlled by a small number of
persons; and its efficiency as a productive agent resides in the
bargain which it enables any great man possessing it to make with
ordinary workers—a bargain, not that they shall work such and such a
number of hours (for that they would have to do were each man his own
employer), but that they shall do their work in accordance with the
great man’s directions.

Now this fact that the wage-system represents the control of capital
by the few—and this is its essential characteristic—is the fact on
which, more than on any other, the socialistic opponents of the
modern wage-system insist. They are never weary of insisting that
it has its foundation in a monopoly. But though they perceive the
fact, they entirely miss its significance. Karl Marx conceives
of the capitalists as a body of men who, so far as production is
concerned, are absolutely inert and passive. Owing to a variety of
causes, he says, during the past four hundred years all the means of
production have come under their control, and access can be had to
them only, as it were, through gates, of which these tyrants hold the
key. Outside are the manual labourers, who are the sole producers
of wealth, but who, without the means of production, naturally can
produce nothing—not even enough to live on; and the sole economic
function which the capitalist fulfils is to let the {161} labourers
in every day through the gates, on the condition that every evening
the unhappy men render up to him the whole produce of their labours,
except that insignificant fraction of it which is just necessary to
fit them for the labours of the day following. Now it is no doubt
theoretically possible that a society might exist, composed of a mass
of undifferentiated and undirected manual labourers on the one hand,
and on the other of a few passive monopolists who extracted from
them most of what they produced, as the price of allowing them the
opportunity of producing anything; but it is perfectly certain that a
society of this kind would exhibit none of the increasing productive
power which, as even Marx and his school admit, is one of the most
distinctive features of industry under the capitalistic wage-system.
Under that system productive power has increased, not because capital
has enabled a few men to remain idle, but because it has enabled a
few men to apply, with the most constant and intense effort, their
intellectual faculties to industry in its minutest details. It has
increased not because the monopoly of capital has enabled the few to
say to the many, “We will allow you to work at nothing, unless you
give us most of what you produce,” but because it has enabled them to
say to the many, “We will allow you to work at nothing, unless you
will consent to work in the ways that we indicate to you.”

The few, so far as our present argument is {162} concerned, may
appropriate much of the gross product or little; or they may leave
the whole of it to be divided amongst their employees. What they
actually have done, or do, or may do, in this respect, is another
question altogether, and will be discussed hereafter separately. The
essence of the wage-system, in so far as it has influenced the actual
processes of production, is in the power it gives to the few to
direct the producers, not in the power it gives them to appropriate
the products. It will indeed require very little reflection to
show us that if the great men in the industrial world would only
develop and use their faculties, without any motive of ambition or
self-interest to stimulate them,—as indeed at the present moment we
are assuming that they do,—they could use the wage-system for the
purpose of directing industry merely by monopolising the control
of capital without monopolising, and even without sharing in, its

This truth will become plainer still when we reflect that if only
certain conditions prevailed which in many civilised countries
survived till quite recently, the whole process of production as we
now have it might be carried on without any wage-capital at all.
These conditions are those of the _corvée_ system, under which
peasants and others who owned the lands upon which they lived,
and maintained themselves on those lands in a certain position of
independence, were compelled to place their labour, for so many days
a week, at the absolute {163} disposal of this or that superior.
Such a system, if applied to modern industry, would have, no doubt,
many incidental disadvantages; but if only a number of independent
peasant-proprietors could be forced to give half their time to the
proprietor of a neighbouring factory, and during that time to work
in it under his orders, the entire use and necessity of wage-capital
would in theory, at all events, be gone. The same thing is also true
of slavery, between which and the wage-system the _corvée_ system
stands midway. Like the peasant-proprietor, who is forced to give
part of his labour to his over-lord, the slave is supplied with the
necessaries of life independently of his obedience to the detailed
orders of his task-master. The peasant maintains himself by tilling
his own fields; the slave-owner feeds his slave just as he would
feed an animal. In neither case is the giving or the withholding
of a livelihood used as the motive or sanction by which industrial
obedience is ensured. Obedience is ensured by the direct application
of force, or the knowledge on the slave’s part or the peasant’s that
force will be applied if necessary.

It will, no doubt, be urged by some that whatever assistance is
afforded by the talents of the few to the industrial efforts of the
many, may be secured by a third means, which is neither slavery nor
yet the wage-system—that is to say, by what is called the system of
“co-operation.” Co-operative production, however, when it differs
in anything except in name from production as carried on under the
ordinary {164} wage-system, differs from it only in being the
wage-system under a thin disguise. For the ideal cooperative factory
is simply a factory in which all the shareholders are workers, and
all the workers are shareholders, and in which, being shareholders,
they elect their manager. Under such conditions, each of these
working shareholders may receive his remuneration under the form,
not of wages, but of profits. But if any shareholder, or any group
of shareholders, should systematically shirk working, or disobey the
manager’s orders, the whole, or a part of the payment that would be
otherwise due to him, would be withheld; for unless some regulation
of this kind were in force, it would be impossible to ensure any
co-operation amongst the co-operators, or any order, or any equality
of diligence. Each worker’s profits, then, are in reality his wages,
being essentially a payment which is made to him only on condition
that he performs certain specified tasks in a certain specified way.

We are thus brought back to the point from which we started—namely,
that there are two methods only by which, in the domain of industry,
the superior faculties of the few can direct the faculties of the
many: firstly, the capitalistic wage-system, which is the method of
inducement; secondly, slavery, complete or partial, which is the
method of coercion. And of the truth of this assertion the reader
shall now be presented with a highly interesting and curiously
conclusive proof, taken from the very last quarter in which he would
naturally expect to find {165} it. This proof is afforded us by the
schemes which, with ever-increasing clearness, have of recent years
been put forward by all the more thoughtful socialists.

These enthusiasts, who are still careful to tell us that they regard
the wage-system as the source of all social evils, have been slowly
coming to perceive that the ability with which the labour is directed
is as important a factor in production as the labour itself, which
is directed by it. They propose accordingly to regenerate the human
race by transferring the ownership of capital from private employers,
not to groups of factory-hands, as the “co-operators” propose, but to
the State; and by substituting for the private employers a hierarchy
of State officials. Now these officials, so far as the wage-system
is concerned, if they differed at all from private employers of
to-day, would and could differ from them in the following way only.
The present dispensers of wages assign the means of subsistence
to each worker in proportion to the exactness, intelligence, and
efficiency with which he obeys orders. The dispensers of wages under
socialism would dispense these means daily to every worker alike,
with no immediate reference to his industrial actions whatsoever; and
the direction of his actions would be a second, and wholly distinct

That such is the case is shown, and indeed distinctly admitted, in
a preface to the American edition of _Fabian Essays_. It is there
stated that {166} with regard to the apportionment of the means
of subsistence, the only “_truly socialistic_” scheme is one which
would “_absolutely abolish_” all economic distinctions, “_and the
possibility of their again arising, by making an equal provision for
the maintenance of all an incident and an indefeasible condition of
citizenship, without any regard whatever to the relative specific
services of different citizens. The rendering of such services, on
the other hand, instead of being left to the option of the citizen,
with the alternative of starvation, would be required under one
uniform law or civic duty, precisely like other forms of taxation or
military service._”

Such, then, is the most advanced socialistic programme—the programme
of the men who have set themselves to devise an escape from
capitalism. An escape from capitalism it may be; but it is an escape
into complete slavery. For the very essence of the position of the
slave, as contrasted with the wage-labourer, so far as the direction
of his productive actions is concerned, is that he has not to work
as he is bidden in order to gain his livelihood, but that, his
livelihood being assured to him, he has to work as he is bidden in
order that he may avoid the lash, or some other form of punishment;
and amongst all the more thoughtful socialists there is now a
consensus of admission that the socialistic State would necessarily
have in reserve the severest pains and penalties for the idle and the
careless and the disobedient.

Since, then—let us once more repeat it—the {167} progress and
maintenance of economic civilisation depend, as even socialists are
now beginning to perceive, on the industrial actions of average men
being subjected to the control of exceptional men, and since this
control can be secured by two methods only—that of the wage-payer
and that of the slave-owner—it is evident that all progress and
civilisation implies the existence of either one system or the other,
and that socialists accordingly, in proportion as they reject the
wage-system, are obliged to replace it by what is essentially the
system of slavery.

We have thus far, however, dealt with but one half of our subject. We
have considered merely the means by which any one great man exercises
industrial control over the actions of a number of ordinary men. We
have still to consider the means by which the most efficient of the
great men get this control into their own hands, and take it out of
the hands of the less efficient.

Under the _régime_ of private capitalism this process is simple.
The fitness or efficiency of each great man is according to the
acceptability to the public of the goods or services which he offers
them. If the public are not pleased with these goods and services,
they do not buy or demand them; and the capital of the man by whom
they are offered, not being renewed by any money received, melts
in his hands, and with it his control over other men’s labour.
Meanwhile, by a converse process, the great men who offer goods and
services which the public desire {168} and find serviceable, renew
and increase by their payments the capital which has been disbursed
by him, and renew and increase his control over other men’s labour
along with it.

Now if the wage-system is the sole alternative to slavery as a means
by which the great man controls the actions of the ordinary man, it
is still more obviously the sole alternative to slavery as a means
by which one great man, in controlling them, shall compete against
another great man. Indeed, we may speak still more strongly. We may
say not only that it is the sole alternative means, but that it is
the sole efficient means. And if we desire a proof of this, all we
have to do is to repeat our former procedure, and consider how the
socialists propose to supply its place.

It is, no doubt, true that when we first begin this consideration
it does not appear that we should derive from it much direct
enlightenment; because, if we may go by what the socialists
themselves tell us, one of their principal objects is to abolish
competition altogether. Their protestations, however, with regard
to this matter betray a most curious and most amusing confusion of
thought. They declare that competition must be abolished because
it inflicts misery on the majority—that is to say, on the weakest
in what they call the “_cut-throat struggle_.” But, as was shown
at great length in the last chapter, competition means two, and
two absolutely distinct things—one being a struggle to live, the
other a struggle to dominate; and {169} the effects of the two on
the majority are altogether different. To this fundamental truth
the socialists are completely blind. The struggle to live, or, in
other words, the struggle to secure employment, no doubt, when it is
severe, does entail suffering on the strugglers. But this struggle,
though it often accompanies progress, under the capitalistic system
is not essential to it—as is shown by the fact that when such
progress is most rapid the struggle in question tends to disappear
altogether; for the competition is then amongst the employers to
find labour, rather than amongst the labourers to find employment.
Now if the struggle for employment could be obviated by any kind of
social reform, an indubitable benefit would, no doubt, be conferred
on the workers generally. But just as this struggle for work or
for existence—this struggle of one worker against another—is not
essential to the capitalistic wage-system, and certainly did not
originate with it, and just as that system would not necessarily be
abolished by its overthrow, so it is not the kind of competition
against which the socialists direct their main attacks. Their main
attacks are directed against the struggle between the wage-payers,
not the wage-earners—that is to say, against the struggle not for
existence, but for domination; and the struggle for domination
has on the workers generally no evil effects at all, except such
as are occasional and accidental. On the contrary, the workers
are as much interested in its maintenance as anybody; for {170}
not only does it inflict no injury on themselves, but to it that
progress in the processes of production is due on which their own
hopes depend, as much as do those of their employers. Accordingly,
the socialists, profound thinkers as they are, propose to abolish
the competition by which the workers benefit, because they confuse
it with the competition by which the workers suffer. The point,
however, which concerns us here is not that they have made a blunder
as to the kind of competition which they should attack, but that
the kind of competition which they declare themselves pledged to
abolish, as a thing accursed, and the root of all social evils, they
really reintroduce into their own programme, altered only by being
associated with the system of slavery, and by being robbed of its
practical efficiency, and robbed of nothing else.

For our contemporary socialists, who have at last come to perceive
that the productivity of labour depends on the ability with which
it is directed, perceive also the fact that, out of many possible
directors, some would direct it far more efficiently than others.
They also perceive the fact that the directors of labour, who,
according to their proposals, would be officials of the bureaucratic
State, could prove their efficiency only by practical experiment.
Now if all capital were, as socialists propose it should be, owned
by the State, and if all the means of subsistence were apportioned
amongst the citizens equally, without reference to the work performed
by them; and if all the directors of labour, whether inventors or
business {171} organisers, had to act as State officials, or else
not act at all, the practical experiments necessary to show which
officials were the fittest could be brought about only by the State
investing such and such of them with a quasi-military power over so
many regiments of labourers for such and such a time, which power
would be renewed if they could persuade the State to reappoint them,
or taken from them if the State should be persuaded that some other
men, their rivals, would employ this power more usefully. And this
is precisely what the proposals of the socialists come to. The whole
multitude of State officials who would direct socialistic industry
would, according to every socialistic programme, be appointed,
promoted, or degraded to the ranks of ordinary workers in accordance
with the efficiency shown by them in the practical command of labour.
Some socialists propose that these officials should owe their
appointment to a central governing body; others propose that they
should owe them to popular election; but in either case, appointment,
promotion, or degradation would necessarily and avowedly, if it did
not depend on favouritism, depend on the practical results which the
different men in question elicited from labour by their different
methods of directing it. In other words, the whole system of
socialistic production would involve and depend on competition; and
the only essential difference between this bureaucratic competition
under socialism and the competition of {172} capitalists which
socialists so furiously denounce, is that whilst the capitalists
obtain control over labour by means of wages, which control, by a
natural and automatic process, is gradually extinguished unless it
is used efficiently, the competitors for office under socialism
would obtain the same control by compulsory powers with which the
State would invest them, and which they would lose or retain at the
pleasure of some more or less arbitrary authority.

Competition, then, between the directors of labour—or, as it is here
defined, the struggle for industrial domination—is as much a part of
the theoretical _régime_ of socialism as it is a part of the actual
_régime_ of capitalism. The only differences between the two consist,
firstly, in the means by which labour is directed, coercion being
employed in one case, and in the other the inducement of wages; and,
secondly, in the means by which the fittest director is placed in
power, and the less fit deprived of it—an official body deciding the
matter in the one case, and the mass of the consuming public deciding
it in the other for themselves.

Now we may safely say that the _régime_ of industrial coercion, or
slavery, even though it should bear the name of socialism, is not in
these days possible. It is impossible for two reasons—one, that it
is out of harmony with the sentiments of the modern world; and the
other—equally strong, though not so generally avowed—that it is an
exceedingly clumsy and wasteful instrument of {173} competition.
We may, accordingly, dismiss it from our consideration; and such
being the case, there remains for us the absolute certainty that
if society is to make any further industrial advance, or if it is
to save itself from a relapse into industrial helplessness, the
capitalistic wage-system, and with it capitalistic competition, or,
in other words, the competitive struggle for domination, must both
of them be continued under some form or other; nor, although they
may be modified in an indefinite number of their details, is there
any apparent possibility of ever modifying them in any of their
essentials. Indeed, the great moral to be drawn from the facts that
have been here elucidated is that if any one institution in the
modern world threatens to be permanent, that institution is the
capitalistic wage-system; and all proposed alterations in it we
may set down as impossible in precise proportion as the socialists
attach value to them. The foolish dreamers who imagine that they can
overthrow it, consider only its outer aspect, and not the forces of
which it is the expression. It is perfectly true that this system
might at any given time, and in any given country, be paralysed or
reduced to ashes; but the forces that would overthrow it would be
essentially non-productive. The men who destroyed it would find
themselves powerless without it, and would be obliged to submit to,
and assist in, its reconstruction. For the outer form of capitalism
is not what capitalism is, any more than a painter’s brush is the
power that paints great pictures. Capitalism, in its essence, is
merely {174} the realised process of the more efficient members
of the human race controlling and guiding the less efficient;
capitalistic competition is the means by which, out of these more
efficient members, society itself selects those who serve it best;
and no society which intends to remain civilised, and is not prepared
to return to the direct coercion of slavery, can escape from
competition and the wage-system, under some form or other, any more
than it can stand in its own shadow.

With regard, then, to economic production, which, of all social
activities, is for the practical sociologist incomparably the most
important, what we have thus far seen is as follows. We have seen,
not that it is impossible—for this question has been expressly
postponed—that men may be made far more equal than they are now in
respect of the possession of wealth; but that whatever degree of
equality they may some day attain to in its possession, they can
never be otherwise than unequal in the parts played by them in its
production; that their inequality in productive power is of such a
kind as to render the industrial obedience of the larger number of
them to the minority the primary and permanent condition on which
economic progress is possible; that what feather-brained fanatics
call “_economic freedom_” would be merely another name for economic
helplessness; and that all the democratic formulas which for the
past hundred years have represented the employed as the producers of
wealth, and the capitalistic employers as the appropriators of it,
are, {175} instead of being, as they claim to be, the expressions of
a profound truth, related to truth only as being direct inversions
of it. Whatever appearances may seem to show to the contrary, it is
the few and not the many who, in the domain of economic production,
are essentially and permanently the chief repositories of power. That
this is so in the domain of intellect we have seen already. We will
now turn our attention to the domain of political government, and
consider the part played by the exceptional few there—the nature and
origin of their power, and the means by which it is exercised.




In discussing, with reference to political government, the means by
which the great man controls the actions of others, it will be found
that the point on which we shall have to concentrate our attention
differs somewhat from that which engaged it when we were discussing
the same question with reference to economic production. For all the
points which, with reference to the directors of industry, it was
necessary to establish in opposition to the sociological sophistries
of to-day are, with reference to the political governor, admitted
by all alike. Thus we shall find on reflection that the extremest
democratic reformer, no less than the aristocrat or the strict
upholder of autocracy, admits, firstly, that satisfactory governors
must be exceptional or great men; secondly, that the fittest great
men can be secured by competition only; and, thirdly, that however
they are appointed, and whatever may be the principles on which they
govern, their orders must in every case be enforced by virtually the
same {177} sanctions. The last of these three facts—namely, that the
commands of the governor must be enforced by some system of restraint
and punishment for the disobedient—is sufficiently plain to require
no further notice; but the two others, obvious as they really are,
are not perhaps generally realised, and it will be well to give a few
words to them.

That the efficient governor, though he need not always be a genius,
must in some respects, at all events, be a great or exceptional man,
is of course admitted by the advocates of autocracy, aristocracy,
or oligarchy. All that requires to be shown is that it is admitted
also by the thinkers who are most opposed to them—by socialists and
extreme democrats. This admission on their part is implied in the
notorious importance attached by them to the machinery of popular
election; for popular election is simply an elaborate means of
expressing the opinion of the people that out of so many possible
governors, this one or that one is endowed with greater capacity than
the others. If the capacities of all were equal, or if exceptional
capacity was not required, the _personnel_ of the government might
be chosen by casting lots. Next, as to the question of competition,
it must be obvious to every one that the popular election of
governors is not only an admission that some few men out of many are
greater or more capable than the rest, but is also, on the part of
the candidates for election themselves, competition in one of its
intensest and most sharply accentuated forms. {178}

Competition, indeed, is implicit in every form of government. Were
it absent in any, it would be absent in complete autocracies;
but even in these it is latent, and always ready to come into
operation; for the most absolute autocrat, if he happen to make
his rule sufficiently odious to a sufficient number of his
subjects,—“_postquam cerdonibus esse timendus cœperat_”—will, as
history shows us, be assassinated or got rid of somehow, and some
other candidate for power, probably an autocrat also, will be put in
his place, and will either retain or lose it, according as experiment
shows him to be a tolerable ruler, or the reverse. Here is political
competition in its most rudimentary form; but it is competition none
the less; and it generally involves a competition more advanced than
itself; for the most absolute autocrat is obliged to govern through
ministers; and these rise and fall according as experiment shows them
to be fitter or less fit for the accomplishment of their master’s
purposes. If, then, even the power of the autocrat rests ultimately
on competition and practical experiment, much more does the power
of government, under aristocratic and oligarchic constitutions.
Oligarchies invariably aim at ruling through their strongest
members; and which are the strongest is shown by experimental
competition only; whilst political democracy, under all its forms, is
experimental competition open and undisguised. A Gladstone remains
in power because, as his years of office succeed each other, he
satisfies the majority by the manner in which he governs them; and
his {179} power is taken from him when the majority cease to be
satisfied, not only because they are of opinion that he governs
badly, but because they are of opinion that a Disraeli will govern
better. A democracy, in fact, and an oligarchy, so far as competition
is concerned, differ merely in the way in which the competitors are
admitted to the arena, and in the number and character of the jury
which awards the prizes.

Since, then, with regard to the points just dealt with—namely, the
necessity for great men as governors, for the selection of the
fittest of them by competition, and for the use of coercion and
punishment as a means of enforcing orders—there is no essential
difference between the most extreme democracy and its opposites,
in what does that practical or theoretical difference between them
consist, by which most undoubtedly the former is distinguished from
the latter? The only essential point of difference between them lies,
not in their respective schemes or theories of the machinery of
government, or of their methods of electing governors, but in their
theory of the powers which election communicates to those elected.
An elected governor, whether chosen from a large or a small class,
is, according to the aristocratic or oligarchic theory, chosen
because he is personally wiser than those who elect him; and it is
theoretically his mission, within very wide limits, to follow his
own judgment, not that of the electors. The democratic theory is the
very reverse of this. The elected governor, {180} according to that
theory, is elected not because he is supposed to be wiser than his
constituents, but because he is supposed to be exceptionally capable
of understanding their precise wishes, and giving effect to each
of them. In the first of these two cases the governor is like the
physician whom the patient calls in, but whose orders he never thinks
of disputing. In the second, he is like the professional Spanish
letter-writer, whom the illiterate lover employs to put his passion
for him grammatically upon paper.

The only point, then, in which democracy can claim to differ
essentially, not only from autocracy, but from any form of
oligarchy, lies not in its form of government, but in the power
that is behind its government. This power, according to democratic
theorists, is the power of the mass of ordinary men, as definitely
opposed to exceptional men; and the exceptional men who are picked
out as governors would necessarily, in an ideal democracy, be
exceptional only for such qualities as practical activity and a
quick apprehension of the wishes of other people, which would enable
them to do what their many-headed master bade them; but they would
have to be wanting in any strength of mind or originality which
might prompt them to acts out of harmony with their master’s temper
at the moment, or what is the same thing, to any acts beyond their
master’s comprehension, even although such acts might be for his
future benefit. This is what the democratic theory, in its last
analysis, means. All exceptional will {181} is to be smothered or
over-ridden by the average will, as is expressed clearly enough in
the well-worn democratic formula—every man’s vote is to count for one
in government; no man’s vote is to count for more than one.

Now this theory of the relation of the great man to the many,
so far as regards the conduct of civil government, is identical
with the theory which, with a much wider application, Mr. Herbert
Spencer enunciates as the foundation of his sociological system.
As enunciated by Mr. Spencer we have already submitted it to
examination, and we have shown that, in every practical sense, it is
altogether fallacious, and that its acceptance renders all practical
sociology impossible. We will now proceed to show that, as applied
even to the most popular forms of government, it is as false as it is
when applied to social phenomena generally.

That the essential principle of democracy, as just described,
according to which the brain of the ideal ruler is merely a balance
for weighing the wills of multitudes, which are dropped into one
or other of its scales, like marbles—that this principle has ever
yet been completely realised, no democrat will perhaps venture to
maintain; but the whole democratic propagandism of the present day
implies, before all things else, that its complete realisation is
possible, and that every day “the peoples” are getting nearer to it.
The facts, however, which are supposed to warrant this conclusion are
to be sought, not in the sphere of official government, but {182}
without it. They are to be sought not in the conduct of elected
legislators, but in the machinery by which they are elected, and,
above all, in those unofficial movements, meetings, and agitations
by which the prophets of democracy affirm that the great mass of the
people is learning to exert the power which was always latent in it,
and to express its will with regard to every question of government
as it arises, even if it has something yet to learn in the art of
securing that its governors shall carry out its commands. It is this
view of the situation which is expressed in the popular saying that
a constituency has elected a member, or that the people has elected
a parliament, with what is called a “mandate” to do some specified
thing or things—to break up the United Kingdom, to disestablish
the English Church, to penalise the drinking of a glass of beer on
Sundays, or to deprive our soldiers of protection against the most
malignant of contagious maladies.

Now the democrats, it must be admitted, are so far right, that a real
political power has come into existence which has no constitutional
connection with the men who nominally govern; and this is frequently
used with such efficiency, and with such definite purpose, that
official governors—men of most exceptional intellect—are compelled
by it to use their intellect for ends which they themselves condemn.
Here, then, in this external power, is to be found, if it is to
be found anywhere, the will of the many, as conceived of by the
theorists of {183} democracy, exerting itself independently of any
separate will of the few, and turning the powers of the few into its
willing or unwilling instruments.

Now perhaps the question which will in this place most naturally
suggest itself is whether this will of the many, however effectively
it may be exercised, is really a power that makes for civilisation
and progress, and whether it is not more likely to bring harm than
benefit to those very collections of ordinary men who exercise it.
And this question is, no doubt, extremely pertinent; but it is not
one that need engage our attention now. The fact which alone we are
now concerned to demonstrate is that the alleged will of the many is
not what democrats conceive it to be, and that it is not really the
will of the many at all.

For although there is much in the history of the present century to
warrant the assumption that the political will of the many is at
last emerging as a supreme and independent governing power, we shall
find that these movements and opinions, which seem, when viewed
superficially, to result from the spontaneous actions and spontaneous
thoughts of the many, really imply the influence of exceptional men,
just as much as those movements which are avowedly aristocratic in
origin; and that in the absence of these men the movements could
never have taken place, nor the opinions have ever assumed any
uniform and coherent shape.

To understand how this is, we need merely reflect upon the fact that
masses of men, as masses, can {184} only have a will at all when
their judgments with regard to certain particular questions happen
to be absolutely identical, and have thus a cumulative force, like
that of weights piled on one another above some substance which it
is desired to compress. Now, whatever may be the thoughts, wishes,
or opinions which spontaneously shape themselves in the minds of any
body of ordinary men—men various in training and temperament, and
none of them remarkable for wisdom—these never take a shape which
will give them any cumulative power unless amongst the ordinary
men there is some man more active than the rest, who weighs them,
compares them, eliminates what he thinks to be their discrepancies,
adds what is in his opinion necessary to their logical completion,
and clothes them in catching language, which appeals both to the
mind and to the memory. Not till this is done do the mass of persons
concerned realise how identical their opinions on a given question
are; and they then perceive them to be identical for an exceedingly
simple reason—that the exceptional man has made a mould for them,
into which they have all been run.

It is then, for the first time, that the mass of ordinary men become
conscious of corporate power; for then they become, with regard to
a given question, conscious for the first time that their opinions
are absolutely identical, and that in a certain given direction
their power is consequently cumulative. But the opinion of these
men, whose numbers give political force to it, is very far from
representing {185} the capacities of these men only. It represents
the capacities, the character, and very probably the personal designs
of the exceptional man who supplied that common mould to which the
unanimity of the other men’s opinions is due; and the one opinion
which thus comes to be held by all of them will not be precisely
the opinion that was originally held by any. The original opinion
of each will have undergone some modification. It will have been
softened, emphasised, developed, or other elements will have been
added to it, which would never have entered the mind of the ordinary
man naturally, and which even when admitted he does but imperfectly
understand. Thus whilst a political opinion expressed, or a political
demand made, by a body of ordinary men thus absolutely unanimous
seems at first sight a genuine expression of the will and the
capacities of the many, it always in part, and it very often mainly
represents capacities and purposes belonging to one man alone, the
many being practically little more than a phonograph, which repeats
his words to the world through an enormous resonator.

Let us take, for instance, the two questions of Free Trade and
Bimetallism. If any British Government were to revert to the system
of protection, it cannot be doubted that throughout the country there
would be meetings and demonstrations, at which every throat would
be unanimous in shouting condemnation of their conduct. America
has witnessed a precisely similar outburst in favour of a proposal
{186} to remonetise silver. The issues raised, however, both by
the free traders and the bimetallists, are of a kind so complicated
that exceedingly few people would be able even to describe their
nature clearly enough to satisfy the most lenient examiner who should
set them a paper in economics. The majority of those who declared
for bimetallism in America had as little to do with forming their
own opinions as the little boys would have in a preparatory school
who should shout their approval of some new emendation made by one
of their masters of a corrupt passage in Pindar; nor does that
British opinion in favour of free trade principles which has caused
our Government to adopt them, and would hinder or prevent their
repudiation, rest in the minds of the majority of those who hold it,
on any larger amount of original thought or knowledge. Ninety-nine
free traders out of a hundred would never have been free traders at
all if it had not been for the oratory of Cobden. The least-educated
portion of the citizens of the United States would never have howled
themselves hoarse over an intricate financial problem if it had
not been for the oratory and the singular activity of Mr. Bryan.
Indeed, what is oratory itself, which in all democracies, from that
of Athens downwards, has been essential to the work of government,
but an embodied expression of the fact that the many are powerless,
unless here and there some thinker will think for them, and give them
opinions which may form a mould or a nucleus for their own? Even a
{187} village meeting is never got together without the agency of
some one who is slightly more efficient than the rest. He need not
be wiser than they. He very frequently is not; but he has some gift
or other which qualifies him for taking the lead. His temperament
is more active, his words flow more freely, or he is hampered by
less insight into his own ignorance or imbecility; and his opinions
are the nucleus round which those of the rest form themselves, and
which generally imparts to them something of its own character, as a
vinegar plant does to the liquor in which it is immersed.

Without some such nuclei afforded to the many by the few, popular
thought is nebulous, and popular will unborn. An exceptional few
are essential even to those revolutionary movements which have
the destruction of the power of the few for their object. It is
impossible for the many to attack one set of superiors, except by
submitting themselves to the leadership or dictatorship of another
set; and although these last may to a certain extent represent the
multitude, it is usually just as true that the multitude represent
them. The multitude cannot even unite to influence those exceptional
persons to whom is entrusted the official work of government without
placing themselves under the influence of another set of exceptional
persons; and thus the extremest democracy will be found, if we
only look below the surface, to be neither more nor less than an
oligarchy disguised. It is, no doubt, true that those who actually
govern do in a certain {188} sense derive their power from the
many. They do so even in countries where the supreme governor is
an autocrat. In countries with a popular constitution they derive
their power from the many by an organised and conscious system;
but even in the extremest democracies the average men can exercise
their power only by constant processes of surrendering it into the
hands of exceptional men. They surrender it into the hands of the
exceptional men for the simple and enduring reason that, with very
few exceptions, which will be examined in another place, it comes
into existence only in the very act of surrendering it; and the many
accordingly place themselves in the hands of the few because, from
the very constitution of human nature, they cannot avoid doing so.

We thus see that even in that sphere of political action in which, if
anywhere, the many should be independent of the few, the many without
the few would have no power at all.

The apologists of democracy, however, have another argument left
them. They may contend that the exceptional men, who are necessary
to the development of the collective powers of ordinary men, though
each of them is constantly, with regard to particular questions,
following his own devices rather than the instructions of the
electorate, do on the whole, and in the long-run, substantially carry
out the intentions and devices of those who are theoretically their
masters; and that though they may do what their masters could never
have thought of for {189} themselves, yet they can never continue
to do anything of which their masters do not actually approve. Now
even were this representation of the case true, it would leave
untouched that broad and fundamental truth on which it is the primary
purpose of the present work to insist. It would leave untouched
the truth that the great mass of human beings are helpless without
the assistance of a minority more efficient than themselves. If
ninety-nine average men, through the aid of a hundredth man who is
exceptional, can develop and give effect to a collective will, which
is altogether their own, and originates entirely with themselves,
but if they can neither develop it nor give effect to it unless
the hundredth man lent them his services, the power of this one
man is as essential to the power of the ninety-nine, as it would
be if the orders which he executes had been largely originated by
himself; just as a lens is essential to the photographer’s camera
though its function is solely to focalise, not to colour, the rays
transmitted by it. Accordingly, even on the above hypothesis, the
modern democratic formula, which makes each man count for one, and
nobody count for more than one, would, if judged scientifically, be
absolutely and fundamentally false; for the power ascribed by it
to the accumulated faculties of equals would be really the power
of equals united with the power of a superior; and the difference
between the equals and the superior would be at once apparent
from this—that if one of the equals were subtracted, the power of
the whole {190} hundred would be diminished by one ninety-ninth
only; but if the one superior were subtracted, it would collapse
altogether. Thus the presence of the superior, and the terms on which
his services can be secured, would even in this case be subjects on
which the sociologist would be bound to bestow the same attention
as he bestows at present on the activities of the ordinary men; and
unless he should do this, his conclusions would be wholly valueless.

As a matter of fact, however, the hypothesis that the superior few
are ever the mere passive agents which the democratic theory assumes
them to be is false; and it is as a rule false in exact proportion to
the difficulty and importance of the cases to which it is applied.
The qualities which enable men to organise the opinions of others
are usually qualities which endow them with strong opinions of their
own; and in addition to their own opinions, these men, with their
exceptional vigour, have usually their own purposes also; and the
popular will, as put into execution by them, is always modified, and
very often metamorphosed, by what they themselves add to or subtract
from it. Still it must be admitted that, in spite of their dependence
on the few, the many can, and do to a great extent, impress their own
genuine will—the will and wishes of the average man as distinct from
the will and wishes of the man who is in any way exceptional—on the
exceptional men to whom their power is surrendered. The acts of the
governing few may never entirely represent {191} the will and wishes
of the average man, when these acts are considered as a whole; but
they may be forced to embody, and they generally do embody, a certain
element of what average men wish and will; and their character as a
whole is profoundly modified in consequence. The question then is
simply a question of degree. What is the extent—or rather what is the
utmost possible extent—of this genuine power of the many to make the
faculties of the exceptional few their servants? Is it great or small?

The reader will perceive that when this question is asked our
inquiry is gradually taking a new turn, and that having started with
asserting the claims of the great man as the author and sustainer of
both intellectual and economic progress, we are led, when we come to
consider him as an agent in the domain of politics, to inquire into
what is done by the average man, as well as into what is done by him.
And the reason for this is that in the domain of politics the many,
so far as direct and intentional influence is concerned, are actually
capable of playing a far larger part than they are in the domain of
speculation or of advanced economic production. A statesman like Mr.
Gladstone might, without absurdity, maintain that he had a mandate
from the many to grant home-rule to Ireland; but nobody could pretend
that any body of mechanics had given Watt a mandate to invent the
steam-engine, or that any one gave Newton a mandate to discover the
law of gravitation. And yet the reflection will {192} probably force
itself upon every reader that if the many play a part in politics
which is commensurate with that of the few, they play a part in
intellectual and economic progress also. It would be useless for
the few to unfold their thoughts and their discoveries to the many,
if the many were not, in various degrees, capable of assimilating
and responding to them. Still less could the great man of industry
realise his progressive inventions, or carry out his extending
schemes of business, if it were not that an indefinite number of
ordinary men—those “serviceable animals,” as Mr. John Morley calls
them—were endowed with capacities that enabled them to carry out his
bidding. What would Mahomet have done if he had not had followers?
What would Columbus have done if he had not had seamen? The reader,
accordingly, will inevitably be led to urge that in attributing to
the great men of the world the results which we have attributed to
them, our statements are unmeaning, unless they are accepted as
incomplete, and are understood to imply more than they have actually
expressed. If no progress of any kind could have taken place without
the many, surely, it will be argued, the many must have had some
share in producing it; and unless we can assert and discriminate
precisely what this share is—what are the phenomena of progress which
are due to the activity of ordinary men—it is meaningless to assert
that most of them are due to the activity of exceptional men.

And the larger part of this argument is perfectly {193} true. In
dealing with the activities of the few, we have taken those of the
many for granted. This general assumption, however, though inevitable
at the beginning of our inquiry, has been provisional only. To
any scientific conception of what is done exclusively by the few,
an equally scientific conception of what is done by the many is
essential. We must measure the former by the latter, as we measure
mountains by their respective heights above the sea-level. That such
a discrimination between the work of these two bodies is possible
may be doubted by some; and accordingly before we actually proceed
to undertake it, we will dispose of the arguments that will be, and
actually have been, advanced in proof of its impracticability, and
set forth the principles on which it must be, and obviously can be,






In the first chapter of his _Principles of Political Economy_ Mill
alludes to the question raised by certain thinkers, of “_whether
nature gives more assistance to labour in one kind of industry
than another_”; and he endeavours to show that the question is
useless and unanswerable. In every industry, he says, there would
be no product at all unless nature gave something and labour did
something. Each is “_absolutely indispensable_” and the part played
by each is consequently “_indefinite and incommensurable_.” “_When
two conditions_,” he proceeds, “_are equally necessary for producing
the effect at all, it is unmeaning to say that so much of it is
produced by one, and so much by the other; it is like attempting to
decide which half of a pair of scissors has most to do in the act
of cutting, or which of the factors five and six contributes most
to the production of thirty_.” If this argument is applicable to
nature and labour as agents in the {198} production of commodities,
it is equally applicable to the few and the many as agents in the
production of social progress generally; and the crisp phrases
and illustrations which Mill employs in formulating it, put in
the clearest and most forcible manner possible the whole class of
objections referred to at the close of the last Book.

Mill brings the argument forward with special reference to
agriculture. Let us take, he says in effect, the products of any
farm; and it is obviously absurd to inquire which produces most of
it—the fields or the farm labourers. Now if all labour were equal,
and if there were only one farm in the world, or if every acre of
land, when the same labour was applied to it, yielded the same
amount of produce, this would, no doubt, be true. The actual state
of the case is, however, widely different. Acres vary very greatly
in fertility; and if the produce of one—the least fertile—when
cultivated by a given amount of labour, be symbolised by ten loaves,
the produce of others, when cultivated by the same labour, will be
symbolised by loaves to the number of twelve, fifteen, or twenty.
Here, then, we have a constant quantity of labour, which produces
ten loaves from each of the four acres in question; but when applied
to the first, it produces ten loaves only; when applied to the three
others, it produces two, or five, or ten loaves in addition. About
the first ten loaves, in each case, it is not possible to argue. So
far as they are concerned, the result is in each case the same; with
regard to them we cannot {199} make any comparison; and we must
admit that the parts played by land and labour in producing them
are “_indefinite and incommensurable_,” precisely as Mill says they
are. But the two, the five, or the ten extra loaves which result
when labour is applied to the second, the third, and the fourth acre
respectively, but do not result at all so long as it is applied only
to the first, constitute phenomena of a different order altogether.
The labour being in each of the four cases the same, and these
additional loaves resulting in three cases only, these additional
loaves are obviously not due to labour, but to certain additional
qualities present in the last three acres and not present in the
first. In other words, though in producing the loaves, or, as Mill
puts it, “_the effect_,” the parts played respectively by land and
labour are incommensurable so long as the land, the labour, and the
effect remain the same, the parts become immediately mensurable as
soon as the effect begins to vary, and one of the causes, and one of
the causes only, varies also.

This truth can be yet further elucidated by means of Mill’s two other
illustrations. If the two blades of a pair of scissors were made of
two different materials, and the one blade were of such a nature
that it was always of the same quality, and human ingenuity was not
capable of improving it, whilst the qualities of the other blade
varied with the skill devoted to its manufacture, and if one pair of
scissors should cut twenty yards of cloth in a minute, whilst another
cut only ten, the additional {200} efficiency of the more efficient
pair would, it is perfectly obvious, be due to that blade in respect
of which this pair differed from the pair which was less efficient,
not to the blade in respect of which both pairs were similar. Again,
let us take Mill’s case of the two numerals five and six. If five
is always to be the number multiplied, and six is always to be the
multiplier, it is true we cannot say which does most in producing
the result—thirty. But if the number to be multiplied remains always
five, whilst the multiplying number varies—if it is in one case six
and in another case ten,—and if the result of the multiplication
in the second case is not thirty but fifty, it is obvious that the
additional twenty which results from our multiplying by ten is due
not to any change in the number multiplied, but to the additional
four introduced into the number multiplying. To these illustrations
we may add two others—the movement of a modern bicycle and the
movement of a man running. A modern bicycle cannot be propelled
without a chain; and if there were only one kind of bicycle in the
world, Mill might fairly have said that it was meaningless and
useless to ask whether the wheels or the chain contributed most to
its velocity. But if there are two bicycles, with precisely similar
wheels, but with dissimilar chains, and if the same man riding on
one can accomplish ten miles an hour only, but on the other fifteen,
the common sense of every bicycle rider in the world will tell him
that the additional five miles are contributed entirely by the chain,
and {201} the patentees of the chain, we may be certain, will add
their valuable testimony to the fact. So with regard to running, Mill
might fairly have said that if we consider it in an abstract and
general sense, it is absurd to ask which contributes most to “_the
effect_”—the ground or the man that runs on it, because the first is
as indispensable to the man’s movement as is the second. But if two
men are racing each other over the same course, and one runs a mile
whilst the other runs only half, it is perfectly obvious that the
extra speed of the winner is contributed not by the ground, which for
both men is just the same, but by certain qualities in the winner
which the loser does not possess, or which the winner possesses in
larger measure than he.

Now in all questions connected with progressive social action the
effects which have to be considered are not general effects, such
as running at some indeterminate speed, each of which effects is
considered as being single of its kind, and which, in consequence,
cannot be compared with anything, but effects each kind of which
exhibits many comparable varieties, such as the running of several
men whose respective speeds are different. The whole error of Mill’s
argument depends on his failure to perceive this. He describes the
result of man’s labour applied to land—a result which we have for
convenience’ sake expressed in terms of loaves as “_the_ effect.”
He says “_nature and labour are equally necessary for producing the
effect at all_,” as though the same amount of land and {202} labour
must always result in the production of the same number of loaves. To
conceive and speak of the matter in this way is to ignore entirely
all the phenomena of progress—all the phenomena which differentiate
civilisation from savagery, and which it is the special function
of economics and of sociology to explain. Rent, for example, the
theory of which Mill states with extreme lucidity, and insists upon
with the utmost emphasis, arises from the fact that one man and one
acre of land, instead of producing something that can be described
generally as “_the_ effect,” produce in different cases effects that
are widely different—ten loaves when the acre is bad, twenty loaves
when the acre is good: and, in a similar way, when the acres are of
the same quality, twenty loaves will be produced by an acre if it
is cultivated by the methods of civilisation, and only ten by an
acre if it is cultivated by the methods of a savage. Now, just as
agricultural rent arises from different qualities in the soil, so
does agricultural progress arise from differences in the powers of
the men. It is measured by, and it consists of, not “_the_ effect,”
but a series of effects, similar indeed in kind, but continually
increasing in degree; and it is their differences in degree, not
their similarity in kind, that form for the economist the particular
subject to be considered.

And what is true in this respect of production and progress in
agriculture is equally true of production and progress generally. The
former indeed are the simplest type of the latter, just as they are
{203} their original basis; and before we proceed farther, there is
one fact more in connection with them on which it is necessary for
the purposes of our present argument to insist. Of soils the same as
to area, but not the same as to quality, some, it has been said, will
produce ten loaves, some fifteen, some twenty; and soils may exist,
perhaps, which would produce only five. But in order that any soil
may be cultivated by human labour, it is necessary that the product
should be at least sufficient to keep the men alive who devote
their labour to cultivating it. No set of men, unless artificially
subsidised, could continue to cultivate any region if the product of
twelve months’ labour would support them for only three months. It
follows, therefore, from this truism that no soils can be cultivated
which will not yield to labour a certain minimum product. Now,
though this minimum is, in a certain sense, the product of labour
and of land jointly, for all purposes of practical reasoning it is
the product of labour alone. It is so because the sole object of
practical reasoning about the matter is to determine the principles
on which the product of the land is to be distributed; and with
regard to that minimum there can be no doubt or question. It must go
to the labourer, and it can go to no one else. The landlord, if there
be one, cannot take any part of it; for if he did, the labourer would
die, and there would cease to be any product to take. Labour, then,
in agriculture must be held for all practical purposes to produce the
whole of that minimum {204} resulting from its application to the
least productive soils which the labourer can live by cultivating;
and it is only in the case of soils which are more productive than
these, and which yield to similar labour a product above this
minimum, that land, apart from labour, can be said practically to
produce anything at all.

Now just as we can argue with regard to land and labour, so can we
argue with regard to the average men and the great men, and measure
what they contribute respectively to any given civilisation; for
just as a thousand men from some good soil will elicit twice the
produce they would be able to elicit from a bad soil, so from a bad
soil may a thousand average men manage to elicit, if directed by
some agricultural genius, twice the product which they would elicit
if left to themselves; and just as in the former case, according to
the principles above stated, we shall ascribe the smaller product to
labour without any reference to land, and ascribe to land the excess
only of the larger product over the smaller, so in the second shall
we ascribe the smaller product to the average men, and the excess of
the larger product over the smaller to the great man. We shall say,
in fact, that the great man produces so much of the product as comes
annually into existence when he directs the others, and disappears as
soon as he ceases to direct them.

Here, however, the original objection of Mill will suggest itself
again, though in a somewhat different form; for in spite of all that
has been {205} said, it still remains certain that the great man
could not produce this excess unless the average men were present to
carry out his directions; and the reader will possibly be disposed
to argue that the average men may be as reasonably credited with the
whole of the product except that insignificant fraction which the
great man could have produced without _them_, as the great man may be
credited with the whole of the product except that which the average
men could have produced without _him_.

Now this reasoning has a certain fanciful plausibility, but it is
absolutely devoid of any practical meaning; and in order to show
the reader how and why it is so, it will be necessary to direct his
attention to a certain fact which lies at the bottom of all practical
reasoning, but which few practical reasoners ever consciously
realise. All such reasoning is in its nature hypothetical, and can
be reduced to a statement that if such conditions are present,
such consequences will result; and that if existing conditions be
altered in any specified way, the results will exhibit a specified
and corresponding difference. If, however, this reasoning is to have
any practical value, one thing is essential to it—namely, that the
supposed alterations shall be at least approximately possible. No
practical conclusion, for instance, could possibly be drawn as to
machinery by considering what would happen if the properties of the
circle were to be changed, and different parts of the circumference
should be at different distances from the {206} centre. It is
equally evident that no practical conclusion as to the claims and
prospects of labour could be drawn by considering what would happen
if the labourers could live without food. Now since no food is
producible without labour, a population which does not labour is just
as impossible a conception as a population which does not require
to eat; and no practical conclusions can be arrived at by supposing
it to exist; but populations which have developed and submitted
themselves to no great men, not only can exist, but have existed, and
do exist to-day; and thus we are reasoning in a strictly practical
way when we consider what would be produced by the average men if the
great man ceased to direct them, but we are reasoning to no practical
purpose at all by considering what would happen if the average men
ceased to labour. The latter—or the majority of them—would have to
labour in any case, whether there were any great man to direct their
labour or no; and the supposition of their labouring is bound up with
the supposition of their existence. The sole practical alternatives
which can in the present case be conceived and reasoned from are
average men labouring under the direction of the great man’s talents,
or the same men labouring blindly as best they can by themselves.

These alternatives are being constantly exemplified in the actual
life of communities. We may see men to-day, not only amongst savages,
but amongst the peasantries of civilised countries, such as Russia,
India, and parts of Ireland and the Scottish islands, {207} who
are still almost independent of any intellect superior to their
own, and who maintain themselves by the exertion of man’s commonest
faculties only. We may see again populations who have been in the
same condition, but who, under great men’s guidance, become agents
in producing a civilisation which they could by themselves not only
not produce, but could, by themselves, hardly even imagine; and again
we may see how in more than one country the energies of the great
man, having worked these wonders for a time, become paralysed by
insecurity under a barbarous and predatory despotism, and how, as his
action ceases, the masses relapse again into their former condition
of relative inefficiency.

Accordingly, though the productivity of the average men, as distinct
from the great men, will be different in one race or region from
what it is in another, just as their diet will be and the other
necessaries of existence, yet within each community experience
furnishes us with comparisons which show us, roughly at all events,
how much the average men produce without the aid of the great
men, and how much the great men, by directing the average men,
add to this.† To calculate these amounts {208} with any approach
to exactness will, no doubt, be more difficult in some cases than
others, just as is the case with book-keeping in various businesses.
But it is enough to have shown the reader that, despite Mill’s
contention to the contrary, the calculation is one which is based on
the simplest and most indisputable principles, and that not only in
a theoretical, but in the most strictly practical sense, what great
men produce, when they co-operate with average men by directing them,
is the amount or degree in which the total result produced exceeds or
excels that which was produced by average men when unaided, and would
be again produced by them were the great man’s aid withdrawn.

 † It is, of course, true that in densely populated countries and
 in certain industries the average workmen, if left to themselves
 suddenly, with no man of business ability to guide them, would be
 unable to produce anything. But so long as the man of exceptional
 talent employs them to produce anything, they contribute something
 to the result, and must, for practical purposes, be held to produce
 so much of it as will provide them with the means of living. If
 it happens, as is sometimes the case, that the total value of the
 profit is less than the workmen’s wages, the employer must either
 alter the character of his product, so as to meet the public demand,
 or he will otherwise be crushed out of existence as an employer, and
 his workmen will pass under the control of some more able rival.

The absolute validity of this method of argument and calculation will
be yet more apparent to the reader when we pursue a step farther our
analysis of reasoning generally as applied to practical matters, and
consider it especially when it takes the form of a direct discussion
with regard to causes and effects. In the strictest sense of the word
it would plainly be quite impossible to specify fully the causes of
even effects of the simplest kind. The motion, for instance, of a
ball when a cricketer hits it, would, in any discussion of the game,
be said to have been caused by {209} the cricketer; but the entire
antecedents and conditions which have rendered this effect possible
comprise not only all the incidents of the cricketer’s past training,
but the history of cricket itself, and half the properties of matter.
It would be impossible and useless to specify all these. When we
say that anything is the cause of anything else, we are always
selecting that cause out of an indefinite number, on which, for the
purpose on hand, it is practically important that we should insist;
and the cause on which it is important that we should insist for
practical purposes will be found to be always one which, under the
circumstances in view, may or may not be present,‡—which a careless
person may neglect to introduce, or an ignorant person be persuaded
to take away; whilst those other causes whose presence is assumed by
all parties to the {210} discussion, and which no one proposes to
take away, or which no one is able to take away, or whose number,
if they were mentioned, would make all discussion impossible, are
passed over in silence, for there is no need to mention them. Thus
we all know that when a house is burnt to the ground the causes of
the phenomenon comprise the inflammable nature of timber, and indeed
the whole chemistry of combustion; but if an insurance office is
disputing the owner’s claim to compensation on the ground that the
owner set a light to it purposely, whilst the owner maintains that
the scullery-maid set it alight by accident whilst reading in bed a
novel of Belgravian life, the only causes that will be put forward
by the litigants will, let us say, be a candle alleged by the owner
to have ignited the scullery-maid’s pillow-case accidentally, and on
the other hand a match which is alleged by the agent of the insurance
office to have been applied by the owner to the drawing-room
curtains intentionally. Or again, let us take the case of a ship’s
chronometer. The reliability of a chronometer, any practical man will
tell us if we ask him about the matter, depends on the balance and
the escapement. It is the perfect “compensation” of the former and
what is called the “detachment” of the latter that differentiates
the chronometer from the ordinary lever watch; and these are
rightly said to be the causes of the chronometer’s superiority as
a time-keeper. But a balance and escapement of themselves will not
keep time at all. They are useless without a {211} main-spring and
a train of intervening wheel-work. But if any one were explaining
the causes of a chronometer’s exceptional accuracy he would never
think of mentioning these last at all. He would not dwell on the
properties of the coil of elastic steel, or on the interaction of
the ordinary toothed wheels, or on the steel axes which make their
interaction possible. And why would he omit these causes? He would
omit them because they would be assumed, because there would be no
discussion about them, and because they are implied in the existence
of all watches and chronometers equally. If, however, the case
were reversed—if all escapements and all balances were alike, and
there was no room for superiority except in the main-spring and the
wheel-work—the latter would be dwelt on, and the former would be
passed over, in any discussion that turned on the causes of accurate

 ‡ It was his complete neglect of these considerations that
 enabled Karl Marx to impose on himself and others his doctrine
 that the value of commodities depended on the amount of average
 labour embodied in them—a doctrine which is the most remarkable
 intellectual mare’s nest of the century. It is perfectly true that
 if all other circumstances were always equal—the demand for the
 commodities in question, the ability with which average labour is
 directed, and the assistance which the genius of the great inventors
 gives to it—it is perfectly true that then the amount of average
 labour embodied in various commodities would be the measure of their
 value; for labour in that case would be the only variant. But, in
 reality, the important variants are not average labour, but the
 ability by which labour is directed. The efficiency of labour itself
 is practically constant; and for the student of wealth-production
 the principal force to be studied is the ability of the few, by
 which the labour of the many is multiplied, and which only exerts
 itself under special social circumstances.

Let us take one case more. A man is hanging by a rope which is
fastened to a spike of rock, and is looking for samphire or birds’
eggs on the face of a sheer cliff. It is suddenly perceived by some
of his friends on the summit that the rope is frayed a yard or two
above his head. They are anxious for his safety; and if any one asked
them why, they would answer, Because his life depends on the rope
not breaking. Let us suppose, however, that the rope is perfectly
strong, but that the spike of rock, it is attached to shows signs
of being about to fall. The man’s friends in that case will explain
{212} their anxiety by saying that his life depends not on the rope
but on the rock. In either case it would literally depend on both,
and on a thousand other things beside; but in either case one cause
only is mentioned, or calls for mention, and that is the cause whose
cessation or continuance is doubtful. For similar reasons, and in a
similar sense, great men are said to be the causes of all that is
done or produced in the communities to which they belong, beyond a
certain minimum which, even when not insignificant, is stationary;
for though the efforts of the average men are essential to the
production of this addition to the minimum, just as they are to the
production of the minimum itself, there is no question of their
efforts coming to an end unless the men come to an end also; whereas
the activities of the great men require special circumstances for
their development, and constitute the only productive force which
modern democratic activity practically tends to paralyse, or at all
events diminish or impede.

But there is yet another method, still more necessary to be
described, by which we are able to differentiate the respective
products of these two classes of men—a method which will assist us
not only to assign to each a certain portion of one joint effect, but
also to particularise many of the elements of which each portion is
composed. This method will be explained more fully in the following
chapter, but it will be well to give a general and preliminary
explanation of it here. It is founded on the two {213} following
propositions, which, when once they have been considered, will be
seen to be self-evident. Whatever the many contribute to the social
conditions of a community, either in the way of industrial production
or of the formation of habits and sentiments, consists of effects
produced by those traits or faculties of human nature in which all
members of that community are approximately and practically equal.
Thus the fact that all men are alike obliged to eat, and that all
parents as a rule have a preference for their own offspring, are
facts which determine much in the conditions of all societies. On
the other hand the social effects which are produced exclusively by
the few are effects produced by certain traits and faculties which,
though possibly possessed in a rudimentary state by all men, are
appreciably and efficiently developed in the persons of the few only.
The dramas of Shakespeare, though in a sense they are eminently
national, could never have been produced had Shakespeare possessed no
gifts except such as were possessed at the time by the English nation
at large. The discoveries of Newton, the inventions of Watt and
Stephenson, similarly were produced by powers that were indefinitely
above the average. It is needless to say that they could not have
been produced otherwise. If we will but reflect carefully on obvious
truths like these, we shall see that civilisations are woven out of
two kinds of materials, the one originating in traits common to the
community generally, the other in traits confined to a {214} more or
less numerous minority; and even when the two are most closely woven
together we shall be able to follow out and identify the different
threads, which never can lose the trace of their different and
opposite origins.




The great-man theory as held by the conventional historian, and
expressed by Carlyle and others in those vehement formulas which
have so justly excited the ridicule of Mr. Herbert Spencer, errs not
because it emphasises the fact that the great man is the sole cause
of progress in the sense that no progress could have taken place
without him, but because it ignores the fact that the ordinary men of
his time, being the tools with which he works, or the instrument on
which he plays, the result is conditioned not only by his capacities,
but by theirs; just as the kind of music that can be produced by a
pianist is determined not only by his own skill, but by the character
of the piano also. Writers like Mr. Spencer, on the other hand, and
with him the whole school of socialists, impressed by the obvious
fact that the many do something, never pause to inquire what they
do, or how much they do, or how little, but rush to the conclusion
that {216} the many do everything. This conclusion is even more
meaningless than the doctrine which it is intended to contradict. The
many do something, and they do what is of extreme importance; but
its importance is strictly limited, and is indeed only intelligible
through its limitations, just as the character of a profile is
intelligible only through its outlines. The object, therefore, of
the sociological inquirer must be to discover precisely what these
limitations are. The methods by which the discovery is to be made
have been already indicated. Let us now go on to apply them. They
are of two kinds. One consists of an examination of what, in any
domain of activity, the many would produce, if the influence of the
few were absent. The other consists in an examination of the kind of
faculties which the production of such or such a result implies. If
these faculties are common to all, we say the result is produced by
the many; if the faculties are rare, we say it is produced by the few.

The practical validity of both these kinds of reasoning is shown by
the following imaginary, but not impossible case. A hundred Russian
workmen, all of them loyal to the Czar, are employed by a citizen
of Moscow to enlarge a subterranean cellar, and another hundred are
employed to fill it with heavy wine-cases. A week after the work
is completed the Czar is driving outside, and, as he passes the
citizen’s house, is killed by an explosion from below. The so-called
cellar was a mine, the wine-cases were filled with dynamite. Now
if all {217} those who were concerned in the production of this
catastrophe were tried, it is perfectly evident that the part played
by the workmen would be sharply separated from that played by the man
employing them; and that, though they no doubt would have contributed
something to the result, they would have contributed nothing to its
essential and criminal elements. It is equally evident that if the
designed and attained result had been not criminal, but beneficent,
the elements in it that made it glorious would be the product of the
man who planned and intended it, and not of the workmen who blindly
obeyed his orders, neither knowing nor caring what the result would
be. Let us take another case of a somewhat different character.
When a spontaneous cheer bursts from a thousand people, the volume
of sound is obviously the unadulterated product of the many. On
the other hand, when a thousand people with ordinarily good voices
are so trained and organised as to sing a chorus out of _Israel in
Egypt_, the peculiar qualities which render the sounds produced by
them valuable, obviously imply the existence of the musical genius of
Handel, or in other words, faculties which belong to hardly one man
in a million, and are thus the product not of the many, but of one.

And now let us turn to the actual facts of life, and the kinds
of activity on which progress and civilisation depend, and let
us apply our two analytical methods to these. It is needless to
repeat, after what has been said in a previous chapter, that it is
{218} impossible, in a case like this, to examine social activity
as a whole. Such activity is of various kinds, and each must be
dealt with separately. Let us begin, then, with two—the activity of
economic production, and the activity which results in the growth of
speculative knowledge. The first affords us the clearest illustration
of how to discriminate the product of the many by considering what
it would shrink to were the influence of the few absent. The second
affords us the clearest illustration of how to discriminate the
product of the many by considering the nature of the faculties which
the production of the result implies.

To begin with production, then, let us take the case of the United
Kingdom, and consider the amount per head that was annually produced
by the population a hundred years ago. This amount was about £14. At
the present time it is something like £35, and the purchasing power
of money has so increased with the cheapening of commodities, that
the excess of the latter sum over the former is far greater than it
seems. Now, if we attribute the entire production of this country, at
the close of the last century, to common or average labour (which is
plainly an absurd concession), we shall gain some idea of what the
utmost limits of the independent productivity of the ordinary man
are; for the ordinary man’s talents as a producer, when directed by
nobody but himself, have, as has been said already, not appreciably
increased in the course of two thousand years, and have certainly
not increased {219} within the past three generations. The only
thing that has increased has been the concentration on the ordinary
man’s productive talents of the productive talents of the exceptional
man. The talents of the exceptional man, in fact, have been the only
variant in the problem; and, accordingly, the minimum which these
talents produce is the total difference between £14 and £35. This sum
is no mere piece of fanciful ingenuity. Parts of it are being done
daily before our eyes, and its practical character is being shown in
the most conclusive manner, when the profits of a business decline
on the death of some head or partner, or when some declining town is
restored to its old prosperity by some man of industrial genius, who
starts in it some new manufacture.

And now let us pass from industrial activity to intellectual, and
apply to this our second method of analysis. Of purely intellectual
results, or, as Mill calls them, “_advances in speculative
knowledge_,” the most striking examples are to be found in the
mathematical sciences. To the advances made in these it is not only
certain but obvious, that the many have contributed nothing, because
even of that section of mankind which has some mathematical aptitude
the majority are unable even to appreciate them completely when
they are made; much less do they possess the powers to make them.
No one would contend that the books of Euclid are the result of the
faculties possessed by every average school-boy, or of the kind of
man into which the average school-boy grows. We may indeed dismiss
{220} purely intellectual progress as the domain in which the
efficiency of the many stands absolutely at zero.

Let us pass now to the domain of political government, and consider
to what extent the faculties of the many, as distinct from those of
the few, are capable of operating there. This inquiry resolves itself
mainly into the question of how much the many can do to direct the
activity of the few, the activity of the few being presupposed; but
it will be well to consider first how much, if anything, the many
can accomplish, or the faculties of ordinary men can accomplish,
without any assistance from exceptional faculties whatsoever. In the
domain of politics, which is here meant to include all organised
action of a public and political character, as well as the making and
the administration of laws, the only positive functions or actions
which can be performed by the co-operation of the average faculties
of men, or by absolute and unadulterated democracy, are very simple
destructive actions and the formulation of, and the insistence on,
very simple demands. Of the destructive actions referred to we shall
find an excellent example in the lynching of a negro who has outraged
some white American girl, or in such an act as the burning of the
Tuileries by the communists. In each of these actions the feelings
of those who take part in it are as nearly as possible identical.
In the first, all of the men are equal in their sense of righteous
indignation; in the second, they are all equal in their feeling
of blind rebellion; and no special skill is in either case {221}
required by any one of them. It is true that even in such cases as
these there will most probably be leaders, of some sort, but they
will be leaders by accident, and the others will be their comrades
rather than their subordinates. Of the simple demands which the many
can formulate and insist upon unaided, we may take as an example a
demand for the abolition of a tax which distresses in an obvious way
multitudes of men equally; or a demand for the continuance of a war,
in which the issues at stake are sufficiently apparent to anybody who
can read a newspaper. The protest against the tax by the multitudes
of men whom it harasses, and the national demand, when it arises, for
the continuance of such a war, are phenomena which are absolutely
democratic. They are each the sum of a number of spontaneous feelings
and reasonings. They do not require any leader to stimulate them; and
all who contribute to their force do so in an equal degree.

But the moment we come to cases of any complexity the situation
changes. If the negro’s guilt could be established only by
inference, the lynchers would have to be convinced of it by some
clever advocate. If the lynching itself were a matter of extreme
difficulty, the lynchers would require to be commanded by the boldest
and shrewdest of their number. If the tax protested against were
indirect, if its injurious effects were hard to detect and realise,
and if it were capable of being represented as less injurious than
any other, men of exceptional {222} activity and exceptional
sharpness would be required to rouse the sufferers to a perception
of what caused their suffering. In other words, democracy, the many,
or the faculties possessed by the many, are incapable of initiation
in any complex matter, or of carrying out any course of complex
action when initiated; and we may sum up the case by saying that all
corporate action in politics is less and less purely democratic in
proportion as the questions dealt with are less and less simple.

Now, as a matter of fact, in any civilised country the majority
of the measures which the Government has to devise and carry out,
however simple in appearance, are very far from simple in reality.
Even when their details are few, the good or the bad effects of
them are certain to depend on a great variety of circumstances,
with regard to which ordinary faculties can form no independent
judgment; and if ordinary men are to express any judgment on such
measures at all which is not put into their mouths by others and
then uttered by rote, these measures must be placed before them by
talented interpreters and advocates, who will reduce the details to
a real or apparent simplicity and invest their alleged results with
charm and an air of certainty.† Accordingly, when we approach the
{223} question from the point of view of the many, we do nothing
but arrive at the same conclusion to which we were brought when we
approached it from the point of view of the few. We arrive, that
is to say, at the conclusion that, if we mean by government the
devising, the passing, and the administration of this and of that
measure, the genuine power of the many, even under the most popular
constitution, becomes less and less in proportion as the greatness
and the civilisation of the country increase. The voice of the many
is heard as loudly as ever; but what guides the voice is not the
personality that seems to utter it. What guides it is a handful of
men, exceptionally active, though not always exceptionally wise. The
voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.

 † This truth is strikingly illustrated by the history of the Home
 Rule agitation in Ireland. Whether Home Rule would be advantageous
 for the British Empire or for Ireland is a very complicated
 question, and the demand for it consequently never became
 genuinely popular until it was identified with the simplest of all
 aspirations—the non-payment of rent.

And here before pursuing the subject farther let us look back for a
moment, and consider the point in our argument at which we have now
arrived. We have seen, then, that in the domain of modern industrial
activity the many, if we estimate the total produced in terms of
value, produce only an insignificant portion of the total. We have
seen that in the domain of intellectual and speculative progress the
many literally produce or achieve nothing. We have seen that in the
devising and administration of governmental measures the many are
powerful in proportion as the issues are exceptionally simple—that is
to say, in proportion as they are few and far between.

Now the reader may think that this brings us to {224} the end of our
inquiry; but it only brings us to the beginning of what is really
the important part of it. For though these conclusions, so far as
they go, are absolutely true, they by no means dispose of the whole
question which is before us, nor do they really reduce the social
power of the many to such small dimensions as they at first sight
seem to do. Thus speculative knowledge, though the many contribute
nothing to its progress, itself contributes nothing to progress until
the many are affected by it, and respond somehow to its stimulus;
economic production, when regarded merely as an affair of quantity
or as an accumulation of values—a process in which the part played
by the many is humble—does not represent that process in its true
social entirety; nor is civil government wholly an affair of measures
which are devised, discussed, amended, demanded, opposed, carried,
or rejected from year to year. We shall find, accordingly, that, in
spite of what has just been said, there is room in social life for
the operation of the genuine will of the many—of pure, spontaneous,
and unadulterated democracy. We shall find that the power of this
will, though it is in certain directions incalculably less than it is
at present generally believed to be, is paramount in domains where
its action is not generally recognised at all; and the nature of its
action here will throw a remarkable light on the nature of all action
which is in a true sense democratic. Of the domains of activity here
referred to, the most important are those of religion and family
life. {225}

Every religion, regarded as a body of doctrines and observances,
with the special habits of mind and dispositions of the heart which
are appropriate to them, which has ever influenced great masses of
mankind, is mainly a result of pure democratic action. It is true
that in the establishment of the great religions of the world another
agency has played a great part also. In no other sphere has the
influence of great individuals been so vast and so far-reaching as
in this. The mere mention of such personages as Christ, Buddha, and
Mahomet will make us realise that such is the case; and to these we
may add the missionaries, saints, and theologians who have spread
and explained the respective gospels entrusted to them, and given
by their saintly lives examples of the value of their teaching.
But whilst nowhere is the power of the few—of the very few—more
conspicuous than in the domain of religion, nowhere is the power of
the many more conspicuous also. No religion has ever grown, become
established, and influenced the lives of men unless its doctrines and
its spirit have appealed to those wants of the heart and soul which
have been shared, to a degree approximately equal, by all members
of the communities, nations, or races amongst whom the religion in
question has become established.

The truth of this statement is not in the least invalidated if we
apply it to a religion which we assume to have been supernaturally
revealed. Indeed, the clearest example of its truth may be found
in the phenomenon of Christianity. Whether we {226} attribute the
doctrines of Christianity to a natural or a supernatural source, it
will be equally plain in either case that they have found acceptance
amongst men because there was something inherent in the nature of
each individual Christian which naturally responded to them. Even
the staunchest Protestant who takes his stand most exclusively on
the Bible will be unable to deny that Protestant Christianity, as
it exists, represents not merely an assent to a number of bare
propositions uttered by Christ, or made with regard to Him by His
disciples, but also the subjective interpretation given to these
by each believer as he assents to them. Thus the doctrine of the
Atonement would never have been accepted by men, it would never
even have conveyed any meaning to them, if there had not been
something in their nature corresponding to a sense of sin; and the
universal effect which, for a time at least, this doctrine had on
all the Western nations and on all classes alike, showed that this
something which corresponded with the sense of sin was one of those
characteristics in which all men were approximately equal, and that
the acceptance of the doctrine was therefore a true act of democracy.

But the clearest illustration of the truth thus insisted on is to
be found, not amongst the varying and conflicting doctrines of
Protestantism, which represent theoretically the direct result of
the revealed truths of the Bible on each believer individually, but
in Christianity as represented by the Church of Rome. According to
ordinary Protestant opinion, {227} the doctrines of the Church
of Rome represent a structure built up by the misguided ingenuity
of priests, and imposed by them on a credulous and passive laity;
but so far, at all events, as the more important doctrines are
concerned, the very reverse is the case really. It has been the
world of ordinary believers that has imposed its beliefs on the
priests; not the priests that have imposed them on the world of
ordinary believers. Let us take, for instance, the Catholic doctrine
of the Eucharist, or the beliefs implied in the _cultus_ of the
Virgin Mary. That the sacramental elements were actually the body
and blood of Christ, that the Redeemer who died on the cross for
each individual sinner entered under the form of these elements into
each sinner’s body—entered bearing the stripes on it by which the
sinner was healed, and mixing with the sinner’s blood the divine
blood that had been shed for him—this was the belief of the common
unlettered communicant long before priests and theologians had, by
the aid of Aristotle, explained the assumed miracle as a process
of transubstantiation; and longer still before their philosophic
explanation was, by the ratification of any general Council, given
its place amongst the definite teachings of the Church. Similarly,
the devotion to the Virgin Mary first sprang up amongst the mass of
believers naturally, because the idea of God’s mother, with all her
motherly love, with all her virgin purity, and with all her human
sorrows allied so closely to omnipotence, touched countless hearts
{228} in a way which was in all cases practically similar; just as
the offer of a helping hand would make a similar appeal to each one
of a multitude of men drowning. The official teaching of the Church
with regard to the Virgin’s sinlessness, and the degree of worship
which is her due, has been the work, no doubt, of the few, not of
the many—of priests, of theologians, of Councils, of the spiritual
aristocracy; but the doctrines which they have thus defined have been
no more fabricated by themselves than the wines, good or bad, which a
peasantry have made for centuries, are made by the chemist of to-day,
who at last undertakes to analyse them.

It has been said that the part which democracy plays in the
development of religion is shown us by the Church of Rome with
greater distinctness than it is by any other great communion of
believers; and the reason is that no other great communion of
believers shows us with so much precision the part played by an
aristocracy, and thus leaves the part played by democracy with so
sharply defined a frontier. The Roman Church alone is in possession
of a complete machinery by which all the pious opinions of the whole
body of its members—the opinions which have spontaneously shaped
themselves in the minds of innumerable Christians as the result of
a multitude of independent spiritual experiences, and which, when
sufficiently manifested, have been studied by various theologians,
and reduced by them to logical and coherent forms—shall be finally
submitted to one great representative {229} Council. This Council
considers how far they are consistent with doctrines already defined,
and with one another, and how far, explicitly or implicitly, there
is any warrant for them in the Scriptures. It ends with rejecting
some, whilst others are reconciled and affirmed by it; and then these
last are added to the authoritative teachings of the Church. But the
Council, with the Pope included in it, is nothing more than a lens
by which the rays originating in the democracy of the faithful are
focalised and made to transmit a clear and coherent picture; and
the Roman Catholic religion, regarded as a body of doctrines which
have actually influenced the spiritual lives of men, is a magnified
picture, projected, as it were, upon the sky, of those secret but
common elements of the human mind and heart, in virtue of which all
men are supposed to be equal before God, and which unite the faithful
into one class, instead of graduating them into many.

This analysis of what may be called the natural history of
Catholicism may be thought, perhaps, to have little appreciable
connection with those social or sociological problems which at
present agitate the world, and give to the theory of democracy its
main practical interest. But neither Catholicism nor religion at
large has been referred to here for its own sake. They have been
referred to because the case of religion affords a singularly clear
illustration of the essential nature of democratic action generally,
because it helps us to understand that action in the affairs of
ordinary life, and {230} because it shows us very vividly how
democracy, as a political power, operates outside the domain to which
it is popularly supposed to be confined.†

 † The political power of the religious beliefs of a community can be
 seen at a glance when we consider our own government of India. Our
 government there, in the ordinary sense of the word, is a government
 of the few, not a government of the many; and yet the religion or
 religions of the many impose limitations on our legislators as
 stringent as any that could be imposed on them by any number of
 formal mandates.

And now let us turn again to a nation’s family life, and consider it
in the light which the case of Catholicism throws on the question
of what, essentially, democratic action is. The religious life of a
Catholic is meritorious only when the beliefs and dispositions of
heart which his religion requires of him are spontaneous. No doubt
they may have been developed in him by some stimulus from without,
but it is essential that, when once present in him, they should draw
their life from himself. A saint may rouse a sinner to repentance,
but the repentance in its minutest details must be the sinner’s own
work. He must be his own overseer, he must be his own taskmaster.
In economic production this is not so. A bricklayer may contribute
to the building of some exquisite cathedral without any sympathy
with the architect’s intentions, and indeed without any knowledge
of them; but a man cannot be a true Christian unless Christ’s will
becomes his, and unless the beliefs suggested from without are seized
on by his own soul, and made a part of himself by his soul’s {231}
spontaneous workings. Thus the common religious opinions of the
mass of devout Catholics are, theoretically at all events, the sum
of a number of independent opinions, which agree because they result
from a number of similar but independent experiences. Here we have
the essence of democratic action—namely, a natural coincidence of
conclusions, which happen to be identical, not because those who hold
them have allowed their thinking to be done for them by the same
thinkers, but because with regard to the points in question they
naturally themselves think and feel identically.

Now the home or family lives of the citizens of any race or nation
owe their points of identity to essentially the same causes.
They result from propensities in a vast multitude of men which,
although they are similar, are independent. The structure of the
family differs amongst different races. Amongst some it is based
on polygamy; amongst others on monogamy; but no matter what its
details in either case may be, the government, however autocratic,
accommodates itself to the family life of the people; not the family
life of the people to the laws and the dictation of the government.
It will be enough to confine ourselves to the Western or progressive
races, amongst whom family life has its basis in monogamy. Advocates
of socialism often distinctly say, and the principles of socialism
beyond all doubt require, that the family, as now existing, shall
be practically broken up; and that whilst the union of the parents
is {232} made terminable with an ease unapproached at present, the
multiplication of children shall be regulated by State authority,
and that the children themselves shall be reared by the State rather
than by the parents. For both these arrangements there are many
obvious arguments, which are from the point of view of the socialist
quite unanswerable. If the State binds itself to provide for all the
children that are born, it is bound to claim some control over the
number of them that shall be thrown on its hands. If the State is
to be the sole employer and sole director of labour, it must settle
the number of children that shall be educated for each branch of
industry. If the solidarity of feeling requisite to make socialism
possible is ever to be obtained, it can be obtained only by fusing
into one those family groups now so obstinately separate. But here
the socialists encounter one of their great stumbling-blocks.‡ In
theory the advocates of the extremest and most complete democracy,
they are baffled by the habits and character of the very masses to
whom they address themselves. There may be unhappy homes, and there
may be unnatural parents, but the masses, as a whole, will not listen
to any proposal for invading the privacy of the home or for tampering
with the parental tie. Any average {233} mother would, when it
came to the point, tear out the eyes of any socialist legislator
who, under pretext of increasing her weekly wages, should seriously
attempt to snatch her children out of her arms. Similar resistance
would be offered to any attempt to modify, beyond certain limits, the
institution of marriage, or to interfere in any way with the habits
of a people’s home life. These habits give rise to legislation by the
few, but they do not originate in it. The legislation of the few, on
the contrary, has so to shape itself as to protect those modes of
life and institutions which these habits naturally produce; and the
laws that do this, no matter who devises and administers them, come
into being under genuinely democratic dictation. It is a genuinely
democratic power which maintains them unaltered, or imposes its own
limits on any modification of them which may be made.

 ‡ The Italian socialist, Giovanni Rossi, who attempted in 1890 to
 found a socialistic colony in Brazil (an attempt which completely
 failed), attributes his failure largely to the tenacity with which
 his followers clung to family life. “If I had the power,” he writes,
 “to banish the greatest afflictions of this word, plagues, wars,
 famines, etc. etc., I would renounce it, if instead I could suppress
 the family.”

The effects, however, of the natural similarities of men’s family
lives are not to be found only in the domain of laws and government.
They confront us even more openly in the material surroundings of
our existence, especially in the structure of the dwellings of all
classes except the lowest. The detached cottage as well as the large
mansion, the row of cottages each with its separate door, and the
tenement of three rooms, are in one respect all alike. They are
constructed and arranged in accordance with those propensities which
keep the members of the family group united, and each family group
separate from all others. Nor do matters end here; {234} for if the
propensities which result in family life affect the structure of the
dwelling, other tastes or propensities equally spontaneous determine
what commodities shall be put in it. It is true that these tastes are
different in different social classes; it is true also that they have
not, so far as their details are concerned, as deep a root in our
nature as the propensities which give its character to the family.
They are stimulated, sustained, and modified by constant suggestions
from without, by circumstances, and by tastes which, within limits,
vary greatly; but they are all alike in this, that when they become
efficient, or, in other words, take definite shape as a want, the
want has become a part of the man who feels it, and is for the time
as spontaneous as are the family instincts themselves.

The influence, however, of men’s spontaneous wants is not confined to
the house and household appliances, but extends itself over the whole
domain of economic products. And here we are brought back again to
another portion of the ground which we have already traversed. We are
brought back to the domain of economic production; but brought back
with eyes opened to a new order of facts.

Now before we proceed to a consideration of these, let us
recapitulate what has been said with regard to this subject already.
The main fact which was dwelt upon in our previous examination of it
was the fact that in wealth-production all but the earlier advances
are due, both in their achievement and their maintenance, to the few,
{235} and to the few alone. The practical validity of this reasoning
has been shown in the preceding chapter, and defended against the
common objections sure to be brought against it; and just now it
was reinforced incidentally when we were considering the influence
of the many on the doctrines of the Church of Rome; for whilst the
essentially democratic origin of these doctrines was insisted on, it
was shown that the religion of the Catholic democracy could have no
organic growth, no definition nor cohesion without the aristocracy of
theologians and the machinery of popes and councils. It was further
pointed out that if even in the development of religion the many
are dependent on the exceptional powers of the few, in the process
of economic production they are incalculably more dependent. For
whilst Catholicism represents the ideas of the multitude, analysed,
perfected, and carried out by the few, advanced economic production,
such as the production of a beautiful cathedral, represents the
ideas of the few carried out in partial or complete ignorance by the

Attention must now be called to certain further facts which
constitute the final evidence of the truth of the same conclusions.

The facts now referred to are those of contemporary trade unionism.
These are supposed by many of the trade unionists and their
sympathisers to show the growth of democratic power in the domain
of production generally. What they do in reality is to exhibit
its essential limitations. They {236} show this in a way which
is hidden from the careless thinker by a curiously inaccurate and
misleading use of language. Trade unionism is constantly described
as the organisation of Labour. In reality it is nothing of the
kind. It is an organisation of labourers; and that, as we shall
see, is a totally different thing; for where labourers are spoken
of under the collective name of Labour, they are so spoken of with
special and exclusive reference to the phenomena which they manifest
when actually exerting themselves in production. Were the same men
organised for some ethical or religious purpose, they would be spoken
of not as Labour, but as the National or Popular Conscience. The
organisation of Labour is the setting men to perform a large variety
of correlated productive tasks, and prescribing to each man what his
own task shall be. But the organisation of labourers that has been
brought about by trade unionism is of a precisely opposite kind, and
has a precisely opposite end. Its end is not production, but the
cessation of production; not the prescribing, the devising, and the
allotting of tasks, but the taking men away from them. In a word,
it is the organisation not of production, but of obstruction; nor
does the fact that the trade unions have succeeded in organising the
latter give so much as a hint that they would be able to organise
the former. Even if they could do so, it would be the leaders, not
the men, that performed the feat—a new race of employers separating
themselves from the body of the employed; and this fact is oddly
enough acknowledged {237} by the very men who are apparently most
blind to it. For one of the arguments most frequently used to show
the practicability of industrial democracy is based on the unusual
ability manifested by the officials of the trade unions in managing
strikes and great demonstrations of strikers. Must not these men, it
is asked, have very exceptional capacities who can gather together
their thousands at the shortest possible notice, and march them into
Hyde Park through the crowded thoroughfares of London? And it is
perfectly true that many of the trade union leaders are, in their own
way, men with remarkable and exceptional characteristics. But, in the
first place, the more that their admirers magnify them, the more do
they detract from the democratic character of trade unionism; and in
the second place, if a man is necessarily exceptional because he can
so far organise some thousands of men as to march them occasionally
into an enclosure where they walk about sucking oranges, how much
more exceptional must be the abilities that can organise similar
men, day after day, for the performance of the most intricately
adjusted tasks, in such a way that their efforts shall result in
an Atlantic liner! Trade unionism, then, whatever the ability of
its leaders, does not represent democratic action in the actual
process of economic production at all; and instead of pointing to any
development of such action in the future, merely helps to show us
that no such development is to be looked for.

Such being the case, then, the facts that now {238} claim our
attention will, when they are first stated, wear an appearance
of paradox; for though the power of democracy, in the advanced
processes of production, is smaller than it is in any other kind
of social activity, abstract thought and discovery alone excepted,
yet it exercises an influence on production none the less, which
is as purely democratic in character and as far-reaching in its
consequences as that which it has ever exercised over the doctrines
of any religion.

For what is the object of production? It is the satisfaction of human
wants, which begin as needs, and gradually develop into tastes. The
multiplication of these needs, together with the satisfaction of
them, is what civilisation means; and though material wealth may
increase, as it does in many new countries, without any concurrent
development of civilisation in its higher forms, civilisation in its
higher forms cannot increase, and certainly cannot diffuse itself
throughout the community at large, without a development in the means
of material production. Books, for example, though they are vehicles
of mental culture, are themselves economic commodities, and depend
for their accessibility to the public on the same kind of industrial
agencies as do cotton, sugar, tobacco, and that comforter of the
nations—alcohol. Refinement of taste and feeling, again, is largely
diffused by pictures; but the accessibility of any great picture to
the vast majority of any nation depends on the industrial processes
by which it can be cheaply and faithfully {239} reproduced—processes
which have only of late years reached any sort of perfection.

But all the industrial ingenuity that great men have ever possessed
would be absolutely futile unless the commodities they were employed
in producing, or the services they were employed in rendering,
satisfied tastes and wants existing in various sections of the
community. The eliciting of these wants, or the development of these
tastes, depends often on the previous supply of the products or
services that minister to them. Thus the introduction of railways,
of the electric telegraph, of the telephone, of the electric light,
preceded any popular demand for them; and many a great writer,
according to the well-known saying, has to create the taste by
which he is to be appreciated. But he could not create the taste,
or, in other words, make it actual, unless it existed already in
human nature as a potentiality, any more than the producers of
electric light could make the general public anxious to have it in
their houses if mankind at large entertained no wish whatever to do
anything but sleep between the hours of sunset and sunrise. The wants
and tastes, then, to which all production ministers, whether common
to all men, like the desire for food, or developed by influences from
without, like the desire for telegraphic accommodation, are, when
once they are in existence, essentially democratic in their nature.
They are not like the movements of a mason, who constructs under an
architect’s order a cathedral with the design of which he has nothing
at {240} all to do. They represent the uncontrolled promptings of
the individual’s own nature, and they affect production, and dictate
to the producers what they shall produce, because they represent a
spontaneous similarity of taste amongst a multitude of individuals
living under similar circumstances. Here we have the reconciliation
of the seemingly contradictory facts, that the power of the many over
production is at once paramount and small.

Economic demand, though it owes most of its development to the
few, is yet, when its development has taken place, fundamentally
democratic in its nature. But, on the other hand, economic supply,
which not only ministers to existing wants, but elicits new ones,
tends ever more and more as civilisation advances to depend on the
action of the few. For as wants increase there is required, in
order to satisfy them, a growing elaboration in the methods and
organisation of supply; and in proportion as supply becomes more and
more elaborately organised, it becomes, from the necessities of the
case, less and less democratic. In the Middle Ages, for instance,
the only rich _supplying_ class consisted of merchants, because
the exchange of commodities, and the bringing them in the required
quantities to the proper markets, was a process more complicated than
the orginal processes of producing them. Production has now become
quite as complicated as commerce; and a manufacturing aristocracy has
developed itself equal in wealth to the commercial. {241}

But though supply thus depends on the domination of the few, and
rises and falls with the ability with which that domination is
exercised, it is itself at the same time under the domination of the
many. Some industrial genius may make a colossal fortune by directing
the labour of some thousands of men to the production (let us say) of
a new species of beer; but his enterprise will succeed only because
millions of men like the beer, and demand it under the direction of
their own taste alone. The tastes of the many, of course, exhibit
many varieties. Where a million men demand beer, another million
will demand whisky; and there are many commodities, such as guns,
golf balls, and cricket bats, the demand for which is confined to
comparatively small classes. But the point here insisted on is, not
that every member of the community demands the same commodities, but
that whatever commodities are demanded, are demanded in each case
in accordance with the spontaneous wishes of individuals, and that
the total force of the demand is the cumulative result of a number
of actions and desires which happen to be spontaneously similar. The
commodities supplied to them have, in other words, to be accommodated
to a genuinely democratic order; and if the consuming democracy does
not consider them suitable, it virtually, by refusing to buy them,
condemns them to be destroyed. Thus if we direct our attention to
consumption, the few—the directors of industry—are the servants
of the many; though if we direct {242} our attention, as we did
previously, to production, the many, in the capacity of workers, are
the servants or subjects of the few.

And now let us turn back to the domain of politics. We shall find
that we do so possessed of a new clue to the true nature and extent
of the powers of the many there. For we shall find that in civil
government, just as in economic production, the process involved is
a process of supply and demand; and that whilst there is a certain
kind of political demand in respect of which the many are paramount,
and act as a true democracy, their power in the business of supply is
never more than partial, and is in most cases illusory.

The first point of which we must here take notice is this—that though
the analogy between economic production and civil government is a
genuine one, it is not to be found in the phenomena in which we
should naturally be tempted to look for it. What we should naturally
be inclined to do would be to take the demand for laws and policies
as the counterpart to the demand for commodities, and the framing
of such laws and the carrying out of policies as the counterpart to
economic supply; the first of these, like the demand for commodities,
being simple and spontaneous; the second difficult, like the
manufacture of them. But in arguing thus we should be wrong.

The demand for laws and policies is, as we have seen already, by no
means a simple thing, like the demand, let us say, for a particular
kind {243} of beer; nor is it the true counterpart to such a demand;
for the beer is demanded for its own sake, but laws and policies are
not. They are demanded for the sake of certain results on social life
which, by various processes of reasoning, those who demand them have
been led to believe that they will produce; and it is the results of
laws and policies, not the laws and policies themselves, which are
in the political sphere what commodities are in the economic, and
for which alone the demand is purely and genuinely democratic. The
multitudes of men who were led to demand the abolition of the corn
laws were not led to do so because the actual process of abolishing
them was profitable or pleasurable in itself, but because they
believed it would mean a larger loaf on their breakfast-tables. It
was in the demand for the loaf that the many were spontaneously
unanimous, and expressed their own views, not those of anybody
else. Their unanimity in demanding the measure was produced by the
arguments of an intellectual oligarchy, and could not have been
produced without them. Thus whilst the demand for the larger loaf
was equivalent to a demand for a particular kind of beer, the demand
for the law was equivalent to a demand that the brewer should employ
some novel appliances for brewing, with the merits of which they were
acquainted only through the puffs and explanations of the patentee.

There is therefore a great difference between political demand
and economic. Economic demand {244} is single; political demand
is double; and whilst one part of political demand—namely, the
demand for social results—corresponds with economic demand, or the
demand of the consumer for commodities, the other part of political
demand—namely, the demand for particular measures—does not correspond
with economic demand at all, but is, on the contrary, in contrast
to it. For when workmen’s wives buy some particular make of calico
for their husband’s shirts, or when cyclists buy some particular
kind of tyre for their bicycles, they do so because they approve of
the qualities which those goods manifest when in use; not because
they approve of the machinery by which the goods were made. But in
politics, although there is likewise a demand for political goods,
as such,—for social security, personal prosperity, and so forth,—of
which each man is naturally his own judge, just as those who use them
are of the tyres or calico, and although statesmen and governments
are frequently supported by the nation, not because they have carried
this measure or that, but because the political goods supplied by
them are on the whole satisfactory, yet the political demand which
is supposed to be the special characteristic of democracies is not a
demand for the completed goods, but a demand that this or that patent
shall be used in the hope of producing them.

Now political patents are most of them highly complicated devices;
the action of all of them is dependent on a complication of
circumstances; and they {245} are always the work of a special class
of inventors. They never represent the spontaneously similar ideas
of the mass of ordinary men, any more than the machinery used in a
great brewery represents the spontaneously similar ideas of the happy
and united customers whom a spontaneously similar taste leads to
the same tied house. All that the many can do with regard to these
political patents is to listen to the accounts of them given by the
patentees, their agents, and their travellers, and to make the best
choice they can between a number of different contrivances which
they have had no share in devising, and which they only partially
understand. They are, indeed, in much the same position in which
that portion of the public would be placed which travels habitually
between London and Glasgow, if it were asked to decide by its votes
which of five kinds of reversing gear should be made use of on the
London and North-Western engines. If this question had really to be
decided by vote, the public might so far instruct itself by lectures
from the competing inventors as to give votes for this contrivance
or for that; but the very grounds on which its choice was formed
would be obviously supplied to it by others; its choice would be
limited by the number of the contrivances before it, and the part
spontaneously played by it in the whole transaction would be small.
And yet, as has just been said, it is the making of a choice of this
kind that is regarded as being, in the domain of politics, typically,
if not exclusively, the exercise of {246} the power of the many.
The result is that, whilst the many do in reality exert, through
their spontaneously similar demand for certain social results, an
influence on legislation which in certain respects is paramount, the
political theorist, neglecting this fact altogether, confines himself
to asserting their power in the demand for political means—the kind
of demand in respect of which they are most influenced by others.

Now what, let us ask, is the explanation of this fact? How does it
come that in government a power is attributed to the many which
is, even by recent socialists, not attributed to them in economic
production? The reason is that over the processes of economic
production the many can exercise no control at all, but that over
the devising of governmental measures they can exercise some, which,
though absolutely small, is yet, by comparison, large.

Thus, for instance, though the structure and manufacture of watches
is in one sense determined by the many, because the manufacture of
those watches only can be continued permanently which satisfy the
many, and which the many will consent to buy, it would be impossible
for any watchmaker to produce good watches at all if his workmen were
constantly required to be altering or readjusting the escapements in
order to introduce some “dodge” devised by any man in the street.
But in politics this is not the case. The influence of the men in
the street, though it can exert itself through {247} exceptional
men only, and is consequently not wholly their own, does continually
make itself felt in law-making as it does not make itself felt in
watchmaking; and yet the conduct of government is not rendered
impossible, whereas the making of the watches would be. Indeed, in
very many cases it is not even rendered unsatisfactory.

For this peculiarity in politics there are three reasons. One is
that the connection between measures and the general welfare of the
community is by no means so close or immediate as the connection
between a watchmaker’s tool and the wheel or pinion to which he
applies it. Social effects follow on measures slowly, and the
tendencies of bad measures are neutralised by other causes. The
second reason is that, as Mr. Spencer rightly insists—agreeing
in this judgment with the wisdom of Dr. Johnson—the social ills
which governments “can cause or cure” are far less numerous than
many thinkers imagine; and the third reason is one with which we
are already familiar, that the power of the many in determining
what measures shall be adopted is, although not an illusion, less
considerable than it appears to be. But whatever their power in
this respect, the great point to remember is that it cannot exert
itself or exist for any practical purpose unless the few provide
it with the means of doing so, any more than a rudder has power to
guide a ship unless some other power shall have set the ship in
motion. The popular demand for measures, or the popular {248} choice
between them, alike presupposes the few who will make the supply a

And if the power of the many over supply is thus limited even in
the domain of politics, in the domain of economic production it is
more limited still, and in the domain of intellectual progress it
is absolutely non-existent. Their true power is in their demand for
completed results—for knowledge which they can assimilate, for dogmas
logically stated, which reveal to them clearly what they already
believe dimly, for food they can enjoy, for clothes that please their
eyes, for commodities and appliances that minister to their comfort
and convenience, for social security, for freedom, and for personal
and national prosperity. In other words, the truth, when properly
understood, is a truism. The many are all powerful in determining
the quality of progress and civilisation because it is their own
tastes and wants to which civilisation must minister, and their
own qualities which civilisation must draw out; but of initiating
civilisation, of advancing it, or even maintaining it, the many are
absolutely incapable unless they have the few to guide them. They
contain within themselves the things that have to be developed, but
they cannot themselves provide themselves with the conditions of
their own development. Without the few to assist them they could no
more progress than a train of railway carriages could progress in the
absence of the locomotive.

It is impossible, however, to state these {249} conclusions plainly
without realising that in some quarters violent objections will
be taken to them; nor is it difficult to see on what grounds the
objections will rest. These shall accordingly be discussed in the
next chapter; and it shall be shown that the conclusions to which
our inquiry has brought us thus far really contain in them nothing
inconsistent with the sentiments, or incompatible with the objects,
of even those extreme reformers who will certainly feel impelled to
attack them.




The objections which will be taken to the conclusion arrived at in
the preceding chapter resolve themselves into two groups, one of
which rests on general and more or less sentimental considerations,
the other on practical. We will deal with the former first.

This group of objections will, by those persons who entertain them,
be probably first expressed in an outburst of fine indignation at
the wrong which the conclusions just epitomised do to the average
man; for such persons will at once take them as implying that the
average man is a miserable and helpless creature, with only enough
intelligence to carry out blindly the orders which his betters are
condescending enough to give him; and this implication will strike
them as a wanton insult. They will think over various men in private
and humble life who were never thought by themselves or others to be
above the average level, but who yet were gifted with intelligence,
{251} taste, and skill equal to any possessed by the men who are
called great. They will reflect that these men represent not the few,
but the many; and they will angrily reject a theory which frankly
denies to the many any of those forces which specifically make for

But this class of objections, which was already briefly glanced at
when we were considering the precise points by which the great man is
distinguished from the average man, will disappear altogether when we
take the matter conversely and consider the precise points in which
the average man differs from the great man.

In any discussion that aims at scientific precision it is necessary
to give to the principal terms used a far more definite meaning than
is given to them when they are used ordinarily; for most words when
used ordinarily have several meanings, but when used technically
they must have only one. Any term, then, when used technically will
of necessity specifically exclude a number of ideas—and it may be
very important ones—which are frequently attached to it when it is
used in conversation or general literature. This observation, as the
reader will readily perceive, has a special application to our use
of the term _great man_. The greatness of the great man, regarded as
an agent of progress, is a quality, as has been said, which is to be
measured by its overt results; and its overt results consist of, and
are brought about by, not what he does in his own person, but what
he makes others do. It is needless to insist {252} upon this truth
again, as it has been explained at great length already, and it is
impossible that any reader can misunderstand it. What it is necessary
for us here to explain and insist upon is its converse—namely,
that if the essence of technical greatness is so to influence the
actions or thoughts of other men that the productivity of human
labour is increased or the scope of human thought enlarged, no man is
technically great who is not in this way influential.

When we come to reflect closely on this definition, some of the
results will strike us as not a little curious; for if we exclude
from the class of great men and relegate to the class of ordinary men
all those whose greatness begins and ends with themselves, and does
not tend to communicate itself to any one beside themselves, so as to
make others think or act more efficiently than they would unaided,
ordinary men, or the many, in our present technical sense of the
words, will include a number of men of the most brilliant capacities
and accomplishments.

The greatest poets, for instance, will in this way be classed as
ordinary men, whilst the inventor of machinery for making good boots
cheaply will be classed as a great man. And the reason is as follows.
A great inventor is great as an agent of progress because when the
apparatus invented by him is in process of being manufactured, and a
thousand workmen are shaping or multiplying its separate parts, or
again, when ten thousand other workmen are using the machines when
completed, he makes each workman do precisely what he would {253}
do himself if he were performing their several tasks actually with
his own hands. But a great poet—let us say Shakespeare—could not in
a similar way so influence a thousand ordinary writers that they
should all of them be producing plays like _Macbeth_ or _Hamlet_.
Indeed, the greater the poet is, the more absolutely incommunicable
is his gift. Shakespeare may have so far contributed to progress as
to have aided in the development of literary English generally, but
he has not, in the course of some three hundred years, brought into
existence one dramatist comparable to himself.† In art, in fact,
after a certain point has been passed, it can hardly be said that
there is any progress at all.

 † Of course the great poet, like the great religious teacher, may
 have an effect on the thoughts and imaginations of his readers, and
 he may be a great man or an agent of progress in this way. But he is
 not, in the technical sense of the word, a great man in reference to
 his own art. He does not promote progress amongst other poets.

It is still more important to observe that what is true of the
arts is also true of the crafts, or, in other words, those kinds
of manual work whose special characteristic is rare personal
skill. Manual skill, though essential to material progress no less
than unskilled labour is, does not, except during the earlier
stages of civilisation, itself constitute an actively progressive
principle. That is to say, at a very early stage in the development
of productive industry manual skill reaches its utmost limits,
and thenceforward remains stationary, whilst industry continues
to progress. Thus the skill which is evidenced by the {254}
gem-engraving of the Greeks and Romans has rarely been equalled
since, and has certainly never been surpassed. But we need not
stop short at the antiquity of the Greeks and Romans. Many of the
implements made by the prehistoric lake-dwellers could not, so far as
mere manual workmanship is concerned, be better made by any workman
or mechanic of to-day. Indeed, so far is the progress of material
civilisation from depending on or coinciding with any progress in
manual skill, that it actually depends on a getting rid of the
necessity, not certainly of all skill, but of skill of the rarer
kinds. If any machine, for example, depended for its successful
operation on an accurate finish in certain essential parts which
only one workman in half a million could give, such a machine would
be practically almost worthless. A productive machine is of use in
the service of society generally in proportion as the machines or
processes by which it is itself manufactured obviate the necessity
for any skill in manufacturing it beyond such as can be obtained with
considerable ease and constancy.

Many sentimentalists—and it is difficult not to sympathise with
them—regret the manner in which manufacture is thus superseding
craftsmanship, or that kind of production in which the beauty or
excellence of the product is the direct result and expression of
the skill of one producer. But this natural regret, though most
frequently expressed by socialists, is defensible only on grounds of
the narrowest social exclusiveness. That the {255} artist-craftsman
who gives his talents directly to each particular commodity in
the production of which he is concerned—a silver cup, or a lamp,
or a curiously-designed carpet, or a printed volume—will produce
objects having a charm which is wanting in similar objects produced
by the methods of the manufacturer is, no doubt, true. But great
artist-craftsmen being few in number, the beautiful objects they
make by the craftsman’s methods are few in number also, and are
consequently obtainable by a few persons only; whilst the objects
inferior, but approximately similar to them, which the great
manufacturer multiplies in indefinite quantities, are accessible to
the many, who, under any social system, must either have these or
have nothing of the kind at all. An artist-craftsman, for example,
such as the late Mr. William Morris, or a transcriber and illuminator
in a mediæval monastery, could produce a volume indefinitely more
beautiful than any product of the steam printing-press; but a book
which the methods of the manufacturer would admit of being sold for
sixpence might cost, if produced by the craftsman, twice that number
of pounds; and it is easy to see that, supposing a study of the
Bible to be desirable, a village comprising four hundred and eighty
families would be benefited more by each family having a sixpenny
Bible of its own than it would by the existence of one sumptuous copy
chained to a desk in the village church or reading-room.

Rare manual skill, in short, does not promote progress, or help
to maintain civilisation at any {256} given level, unless it can
metamorphose itself—as in many cases it can do by means of patterns
or otherwise—into a series of orders which men who have less
skill can execute, and thus affects commodities not directly, but
indirectly. So long as it resides in exertions of the craftsman’s
hand, applied directly to each commodity produced, it has on the
progress of the arts generally no effect at all. The man or men who
invented the slide rest communicated a new power to every one of
the innumerable artisans now using it; but an artisan who should
produce exceptionally accurate work owing to the exceptional accuracy
and steadiness of his own hand, could no more add anything to the
faculties of even one of his fellows than a beautiful woman can,
by means of her own beauty, improve the eyes, nose, or hair of her
plainer sisters. Material progress, then, as has just been said,
is so far from being dependent on the growth of rare manual skill
that it takes place in proportion as the necessity for such skill is

And now let us turn from the consideration of human capacities, as
applied to and expressing themselves in the production of particular
commodities or results, and consider them as they reveal themselves
in ordinary life and conversation. We shall find ourselves confronted
by a similar set of facts here. We shall see that many of the talents
and qualities which, when possessed by our friends or by ourselves,
elicit our strongest admiration, and give an interest to human
nature, do nothing to {257} advance or to maintain civilisation
at all. No one, for example, who knows anything of English society
will deny that conversational wit is one of the rarest faculties to
be met with in it, and earns for its possessor the reputation of an
exceptionally brilliant man; but its possession by one man does not
cause its existence in others. The wit leaves the rest of society
precisely where he found it. The same is the case with private
goodness and wisdom. They may indeed affect an exceedingly small
circle, but there is in their influence nothing certain or lasting.
The most highly moral parents have often the most dissipated sons;
it requires almost as much wisdom to take sound advice as to give
it; even if the sensible and the excellent exert a good influence on
their own friends, they have no tendency to inaugurate any general
moral advance; and a man whose life is rendered interesting by an
exceptionally romantic passion may illustrate the capacities of human
nature, but he does nothing to expand them.

It will thus be seen that when we describe the majority of mankind
as being so far passive with regard to the production of progress
that unless there were a minority of men with faculties which the
majority do not possess, no progress or civilisation would take
place at all, we are not declaring that the larger part of mankind
are stupid, foolish, unskilful, or void of resource, or that human
nature as exemplified in the normal man or woman is not often noble
and beautiful, and is not always interesting. On the contrary, the
very reverse is the {258} case. What is really interesting in human
life and in human nature is the universal and typical elements in
it, not the exceptional; and we can show ourselves the truth of this
in a very convincing way by looking into the mirror that is held up
to nature by art. The most famous and interesting characters to be
found in fiction or in the drama, though they may have been invested
by their creators with exceptional circumstances and endowed with
exceptional gifts, have interested and appealed both to the world and
their creators through the qualities and experiences which they share
with human beings generally, not through those which may incidentally
make them peculiar. Very few men, for example, are as intellectual
as Hamlet; but Hamlet has interested the world because, as has been
well said of him, he is not “a man,” but “man.” If a great dramatist
or novelist makes his heroes exceptional, he does so only because
he can, by this device, more easily give a magnified representation
of what is universal; and the universal elements which he magnifies
excite universal interest, not because they are exhibited on more
than a common scale, but because they are thus exhibited with a more
than common clearness. What are the most beautiful love-poems that
have made their writers immortal but an expression of what is felt by
millions, though it can be expressed only by a few? Why is there life
still in the two marriage songs of Catullus, if it were not for the
living strings in the normal human heart which the magic of his hand
still touches? {259}

But not only is the normal man the type of what is interesting and
important in humanity. He is also the type of wise conduct in life,
and secures amongst men in general a conformity to this conduct, not
by means of advice given by exceptionally excellent individuals, but
by the purely democratic pressure of cumulative class opinion. The
force which this opinion exercises is commonly called “The World.”
The details of its injunctions and prohibitions are different in
different classes; and when it is called “The World,” reference is
usually being made to the pressure exercised by it in the highest
classes only. But this limitation of meaning is altogether arbitrary.
Every class is “The World,” so far as regards itself. It has its own
standards of manners, honour, prudence, dress, and also of moral
judgment as applied to social conduct; and it is in respect of all of
them incalculably wiser than most individuals who differ from it. In
social life even the greatest genius is ridiculous, in so far as he
is unusual in anything except his greatness.

It is, moreover, the same cumulative common sense, the same
spontaneous identity of perception on the part of ordinary men, that
forms, as Aristotle says, the fundamental test of what is real. The
world of reality is distinguished from the world of dreams because
the former is the same for all men. It is ὁ παᾶι δοκεῖ. The same
fact is the foundation and the justification of trial by jury—an
institution in which, as Sir Henry Maine has observed, we {260}
have the very abstract and essence of all practicable democratic

It is true that even here we are brought sharply back again to those
limitations by which the powers of the normal man are surrounded.
The jury, who represent the normal man’s intelligence, require, as
Sir Henry Maine points out, to have the facts on which they are to
base their judgment, in exact proportion as these are obscure or
complicated, reduced to order for them by advocates whose powers are
more than normal. It is also true that, though it is the identity
of ordinary men’s perceptions which shows the reality and the
qualities of external objects, ordinary men’s perceptions would
never have sufficed to show us that the earth was not the centre of
the universe, and that the sun did not move round it. But the true
moral of all that has been just insisted on is, that in denying to
the masses of mankind those special powers which actively initiate
and actively promote progress, and actively sustain the fabric of
advanced civilisation, we are not denying to the masses of mankind
great moral and great intellectual qualities generally. We are
not asserting that the normal, the average, the ordinary man is
incapable of being developed into a creature endowed with beliefs,
thoughts, and feelings which are not only noble and correct, but
which expand and improve as civilisation advances. We are merely
asserting that the ordinary man, or the masses of mankind, which
are simply the ordinary man multiplied, cannot provide themselves
{261} with the conditions of their own progressive development; or,
to put the matter in a still more comprehensive way, we are merely
asserting that that particular form of greatness which improves
those conditions or sustains them, by influencing, or compelling, or
enabling masses of men to act or think as they would not act or think
otherwise, constitutes a very small portion of human activity, and a
still smaller portion of human life.

This truth has been lost sight of because modern social philosophers,
led astray by political and other passions, have confused two
distinct things—man as a moral being, moving in a circle of
prescribed duties, and man as a being capable of public or social
initiative; and the more we study the ordinary man, and the more
fully we appreciate the varied possibilities of his nature, the more
clearly shall we see, and the more ungrudgingly shall we recognise,
how absolutely he is, so far as civilisation is concerned, dependent
on the exceptional man for even those very powers in virtue of which
the action of the exceptional man is controlled by him.

The general or the sentimental objections, then, which might not
unnaturally arise in the minds of many when the claims of the great
man to be the sole agent of progress are first broadly asserted, are
found to disappear altogether when the meaning of these claims is
more fully considered. But sentimental objections, as has been said
already, are by no means the only objections which these claims have
{262} to encounter. Objections will be raised against them which
are economic rather than sentimental, and which, moreover,—this is a
still more important fact—rest solely upon a practical, and have no
theoretical basis.

In order to see what these objections are it will be well to consider
them in their extremest and most uncompromising form. We will
accordingly consider them as put forward by the socialists. That the
objections of the socialists to the claims made for the great man
are not grounded in any theory that consistently disallows them, is
sufficiently shown by the fact that even the most extreme socialists,
no less than the members of every other militant party, are always
extolling the exceptional qualities of their own leaders. Agitators,
thinkers, and writers like Karl Marx, Lassalle, and Engels have
been extolled by their followers as though in their own way equal
to Cæsar and Napoleon, to Aristotle, Galileo, and Bacon; and their
works are continually called “marvels of reasoning,” and described as
evincing “such powers of thought as are given to only a few men in
the course of five hundred years.” The arguments, therefore, which
are employed by socialistic thinkers to convince them that the great
man is not essential to social progress, and plays no real part in
it—those arguments to the examination of which the first chapters of
this work were devoted, do not really convince even those who lay
most stress on them, so far as they are applicable to social progress
generally. For the {263} socialists in practice are forced to limit
the application of them to two kinds of social action only; and these
are social activity in the domains of political government and of
wealth-production. They are, moreover, applied to the latter of these
with so much more strictness than to the former, that the objections
to the special claims of the great man as a wealth-producer are the
only ones that here require our attention.

Now even here we shall find that the objections in question are
originated not by theoretical, but by practical considerations only;
for one of the most curious features in the history of socialistic
thought, from the time when socialists claim that it first began
to be scientific till to-day, has been the unwilling replacement,
in their theory of production and progress, of that factor or
element—and this factor is the great man—which Karl Marx, with his
doctrine of labour as the sole creator of value, had eliminated.
Under one disguise or another the great or exceptional man, as
distinct from the average labourer whose productivity is measured
by time, has been put back in the place from which the theory of
Marx had ousted him; and the inventors, the men of enterprise, the
organisers and capitalists of to-day—or, as Mr. Sidney Webb calls
them, “_the monopolists of business ability_”—are given back to us
in the guise of officials of the bureaucratic State, armed by the
State with the industrial powers of slave-owners. It is true that
socialistic theorists still do their utmost to hide from themselves
and their followers the nature {264} of this change, by means of
those curious arguments which find their chief exponent in Mr.
Spencer, and which have rendered sociology thus far so useless as a
practical science. But the change is but partly hidden, nevertheless,
even from themselves.

Why, then, should they endeavour to hide it at all? Why should
they shrink from a perfectly frank avowal—an avowal which they are
constantly compelled to make by implication—that the great man’s
power in wealth-production is what has been described, and that every
increase in the wealth of civilised communities is due to him? They
shrink from making this avowal for one reason only. This reason is
that their main practical object is to represent the possessions of
the great man, or of the few, as a treasure to which the few have no
theoretical right, and which can be, and ought to be, divided amongst
the many. They are therefore compelled, by the necessities of popular
agitation, to obscure the part that the few have played in producing
it, and to pretend, so far as possible, that it is produced by the
undifferentiated many. If it were not for its promise to the many of
some indefinite pecuniary gain, it may safely be said that socialism
would have been never heard of; and if this pecuniary promise were
made good, the demands of the socialists, as a practical party, would
be satisfied.

And now having considered this, let the reader look back at the
claims that have, in our present argument, been advanced for the
great man thus far. It will be seen that not a single claim has
been {265} advanced on his behalf to which, on practical grounds,
any socialist could object. We have not assumed that out of all the
wealth he produces he shall take a larger, or even so large a share,
as the least efficient of his workmen. On the contrary, we have
assumed that his contributions to the national wealth find their
way into the pockets of those around him, and that for him nothing
is left but the bare means of subsistence. It has indeed been shown
that he must necessarily have the control of capital, and be free to
use it in the way that he thinks best; but this is only because the
control of capital affords the sole means by which, amongst free men,
industrial discipline can be enforced and the productive genius of
the few be communicated to the muscles of the many. For all that has
been said thus far to the contrary, the great man himself may derive
from his control of it no advantage whatsoever. We have assumed only
that by his use of it he shall concentrate his exceptional faculties
on the practical business of wealth-production with as much intensity
and devotion as he would do if the whole of what he produced were to
go into his own coffers. We have, in fact, been regarding the great
man as being socially the servant of the ordinary men, though in
technical matters he is their master.

So far, then, as our argument has up to this point proceeded, we
have merely in our theory assigned to the great man functions which
are implicitly assigned to him in the reasonings of the more recent
socialists themselves, whilst in practice we have {266} assumed
the realisation of the very conditions at which socialism aims. For
let us consider very briefly what these conditions are. The more
carefully the theoretical admissions and the practical promises of
the more recent socialists are examined, the more clear does it
become that the sole essential change which socialism would introduce
into the existing economic _régime_ would consist not in getting
rid of the great man, but in securing his activity on totally new
terms. The socialists aim, in fact, at securing the best industrial
masters and treating them like the worst servants. This, as social
reformers, is their fundamental peculiarity. For whilst they propose
to secure an equal distribution of products, they implicitly admit
that the producers may be divided into three classes—the men of
exceptional ability who produce an exceptional amount of wealth;
the mass of average men who produce a normal amount; and the idle,
the refractory, and the worthless, who produce less than the normal
amount; and they propose accordingly to apportion the products
as follows. To the average man they would give twice as much as
he produces; to the idle and the worthless man they would give a
hundred times as much as he produces; and to the great man, on whose
talents the fortunes of all the others depend, they would give from a
hundredth to a thousandth part of what he produces.

Now, whatever the reader may think of this economic programme,
there is nothing in the present work, thus far, to show that it is
impossible; and if {267} the object of socialists is to level social
conditions, to abolish all differences of rank, and to confiscate
all exceptional incomes, this book up to the present point might be
accepted as a handbook of socialism. For the reader will recollect
that when it was said that the great man’s activity involved the
existence of motives which would lead him to develop his faculties,
and that without such motives these faculties would be practically
non-existent, the question of what these motives were was for the
time altogether waived, and we assumed the development and the
subsequent exercise of his abilities as something that would take
place no matter under what conditions. The question, however, which
we then put on one side must now be taken up and submitted to a
careful examination. It being granted that the activity of the great
man is necessary, on what conditions can his activity be secured? Can
it be secured on the conditions that are proposed by socialism, or on
any others that even remotely resemble them?






In entering on the inquiry which now lies before us it is necessary
to recall to the reader, and to insist with renewed emphasis on a
fact which has been explained with the utmost fulness already. This
is the fact that those exceptional efficiencies of the few on which
the initiation, the progress, and the maintenance of civilisation
depend, and which in a technical sense we have here described as
_greatness_, do not consist of qualities which are unique in kind,
or which are not possessed in some measure by the masses of ordinary
men; but that they are made up of ordinary faculties magnified or
mixed together in unusual proportions. For although, as George Eliot
observes in a striking passage, the faculties of all men are the
same in kind, they manifest themselves in different men in such very
different degrees that a faculty or feeling which in one man has the
power and dimensions of a tiger, may never in another man outgrow
those of {272} a weasel. _Greatness_, then, is simply the possession
and exercise by such and such a person, in an exceptional degree,
of some faculty or assortment of faculties, the rudiments of which
are possessed by all. And the reason why it is necessary to insist
on this fact here is that, as a consequence of it, the use which
the great man makes of his exceptional powers—or, in other words,
their whole efficient existence—depends on certain causes which are
relatively, though not absolutely, similar to those on which depends
the use which the ordinary man makes of his.

Let us, then, consider the powers of the ordinary man first, and let
us take as examples of them those powers or faculties which are most
universally distributed amongst the human race—namely, the powers
by which the rudest populations obtain enough food to live upon.
Now such faculties, practically universal as they are, would be
potential only, not actual, if it were not for two things. These are
certain appetites or desires, having a physiological origin, on the
one hand, and the external conditions on the other, which make the
satisfaction of those appetites, or the fulfilment of those desires,
a possibility. Thus if men could live without eating, and had no
desire for food, those special faculties would be dormant which are
now exercised in agriculture; and this means that for all practical
purposes they would not exist at all. These faculties would also not
exist at all, no matter what men’s desire for food might be, if the
whole of the earth’s crust had {273} happened to be cast-iron, and
if tillage were consequently impossible, and there were no seeds to
sow. In other words, the very commonest and very simplest faculties
which human beings possess have a practical and a universal existence
in those beings, only because, in the first place, they minister
to universal wants, and because, in the second place, the earth is
so constituted as to supply the materials on which these faculties
can operate. Or, to put the matter in more general terms, the very
commonest and simplest faculties are not practically self-existent,
except as mere barren potentialities; and as practical forces they
exist only in the degree to which they are evoked by external things
and circumstances—by some external object, such as food, which
excites and will satisfy desire, and by external circumstances which
make the object obtainable.

Now if this be true of those faculties of the commonest kind,
ministering to the needs which all men inevitably feel alike, and
which they always must feel so long as they remain alive, it is yet
more obviously true of those higher and rarer faculties ministering
to needs which are so far from being inevitable, that whole races
have existed and do exist without any conscious knowledge of them.
The great inventor, the great director of industry, will not develop
or use his exceptional latent faculties unless by the use of them he
can achieve some object which he desires; and this must be something
which the community has to give, or the possession of which it will
secure to him if it be something which he himself {274} produces.
Columbus, for instance, as the records of his life show us, would
never have braved the Atlantic if the society of his time, though in
the end it rewarded him ill, had not rendered an enormous reward both
in money and rank possible—a reward which he specifically bargained
for in the event of his enterprise being successful. And similarly in
the case of great men in general, unless society is so constituted
as to render some reward or other the natural or possible result of
the exercise of certain exceptional faculties, and unless this reward
shall be one which the great men shall think worth working for, their
exceptional faculties will remain potential only. That is to say,
their faculties will be practically non-existent, and the community
will be as helpless as it would be if it had no great men at all.

Now here we have what is virtually a genuine social contract. It is
not, indeed, such a contract as Rousseau dreamed of. It was never
made deliberately at any period of history by two independent parties
coming together for the purpose. It was the result of a gradual and
quite unconscious process. Ordinary men, having experienced the
advantages of being directed by great men, submitted instinctively
to such conditions as the great men demanded, and instinctively
offered them, or allowed them to retain possession of, such rewards
as were necessary to stimulate them to further action. But these
proceedings were a bargain, a social contract none the less, although
they were not recognised as such; and they constitute a bargain
still—a bargain which is {275} continually being renewed, and the
terms of which reformers are continually trying to alter. Thus the
socialists’ proposal to take from the founder of a new industry all
the wealth that his exceptional faculties have created, and pay him,
as they propose to do, with the paper money of honour, is merely an
attempt to make a new bargain with the great man, which shall secure
his services on cheaper terms for the little men. Similarly, all
encouragement offered to art and science by the State is a bargain
offered to a number of unknown persons, who are presumed to be the
possessors potentially of artistic and scientific faculties; the
State engaging to give them certain opportunities and rewards, if
they on their part will make their potential faculties actual.

Now with regard to this bargain or contract which the community has
not only made, but is always remaking and revising with its great
men, we must observe that it is a bargain which, from the necessities
of the case, is made by the community solely with individual great
men who are living. It is not a bargain offered to the great men
of the past, no matter how much of his greatness the living great
man may owe to them. It is impossible to bargain with the dead,
and therefore to the present question the claims of the dead are
as irrelevant as the claims of protoplasm. The present question
is how shall such and such living people be induced to develop
certain superiorities which are latent in them, or to use to the
best advantage superiorities which have been developed already. And
{276} the answer depends on these men themselves. It depends on the
characters which they personally possess, and not on the parents
or ancestors from whom their characters have been derived. We can
no more go behind the personality of the great man in bargaining
with him, than we can go behind the personality of the dipsomaniac
in attempting to cure him. We may excuse the failing of the latter
as something which he has inherited from his ancestors; we can
cure it only as something for which he is himself responsible. If
civilisation, therefore, depends on the great man, no community can
become or remain civilised which does not so arrange itself as to
accord to its living great men such rewards as they themselves feel
to be a sufficient inducement firstly to develop their faculties, and
secondly to employ them to the utmost.

Here, then, we have a new and final verification of that truth
which has already been established against the arguments of Mr.
Spencer—namely, that the great man is a _vera causa_ of progress,
and that no explanation of progress has any practical value which
does not base itself on an examination of the great man’s character.
And that such is the case will become yet more apparent when we take
into consideration the following additional facts, which are quite
distinct from any we have yet touched upon, and which practically
have an equal, or perhaps even a superior, importance.

If the exceptional faculties of the great man were so far like
the faculties possessed by all men, {277} that by looking at him
we could tell that he was a potential inventor, or organiser of
industry, or philosopher, as easily as by looking at a common man
we can tell that he can trundle a wheelbarrow, the entire force of
the foregoing argument would be lost. The community would then know
what each great man could do for it, and could force him to do it by
flogging or starving him if he refused. The ordinary faculties—the
faculties of manual labour—can be made to exert themselves precisely
in this way. A large number of the great works of antiquity were due
to labour successfully stimulated by the whip. But it is only a man’s
commonest faculties that can be called into action thus; and they can
be called into action thus only for this reason—that those who coerce
him know that these faculties are possessed by him, and they also
know the task which they wish to make him accomplish. But in the case
of the great man both these conditions are wanting. It is impossible
to tell that he possesses any exceptional faculties till he himself
chooses to show them; and until circumstances supply him with some
motive for exercising them, he will probably be hardly aware that
he possesses such faculties himself. Moreover, even if he gives the
world some reason to suspect their existence, the world will still
not know what he can do with them, and will consequently not be able
to impose on him any task until he himself chooses to show of what he
is capable. Any farmer by looking at Burns could have told that he
had the makings of a ploughman in him, and have forced {278} him,
under certain circumstances, to do so much ploughing daily; but no
one could have told that he was a poet if he had not of his own free
will revealed the fact to the public; and even when the public were
aware of it, no one could have forced him to compose _The Cotter’s
Saturday Night_. A press-gang could have turned Columbus into a
common sailor, but not all the sovereigns of Europe could have forced
him to discover a new hemisphere. On the contrary, it was he who had
to force sovereigns into the reluctant belief that possibly there
was a new hemisphere to discover. The great man, therefore, is lord
of his exceptional faculties in a way in which the common man is not
lord of his common faculties. The existence of the latter faculties
cannot be concealed; the kind of work that can be accomplished by
them is known to everybody; and therefore the community by the
exercise of mere force can command the average man, and make him
work like an animal. But over the exceptional faculties of the great
man it has no command whatever, except what the great man gives it;
for it neither knows that the faculties exist, nor what things the
faculties can do, until the great man elects to reveal the secret.
He cannot be made to reveal it, he can only be induced to do so;
and he can be induced to do so only by a community which offers to
exceptional faculties some assured and exceptional reward, just as a
reward is offered for evidence against an unknown murderer. Moreover,
just as in the latter case it very often happens that the {279}
reward originally offered has to be raised several times before a
sum is reached which will induce the witness to come forward, so
must any community, as the condition of becoming civilised, raise
the rewards of greatness to such a figure that the possessors of
latent superiorities will be induced to develop and use them. And
hence the great man not only causes progress by what he does, but he
influences also the entire structure of society, by his character,
which regulates the terms on which he will consent to do it.

This is the point at which the science of sociology primarily comes
in contact with the practical problems of to-day. That all progress
is due to the efforts of the superior minority is a truth which,
taken by itself, and apart from other truths allied to it, we can
merely recognise and assent to. We can do nothing to alter it; nor
will the fact of our recognising it, if taken by itself, tend to
alter or guide our conduct. We are not even able to settle the number
of males and females which shall be produced in each family. Still
less can we settle or increase the number of individuals who shall
bring into the world with them talents more than ordinary. But though
no community can do anything to settle or alter the percentage of
potential greatness that will be born into it from generation to
generation, it can settle or alter the social conditions and rewards
by means of which this potential greatness shall be developed and
enabled to use itself; and a very large part, though not the whole,
of political wisdom {280} will thus consist in arranging these
conditions and rewards, so that from each potentially great man,
whatever degree or kind of potentiality may be his, the community
may elicit the highest and most far-reaching efforts of which he is
capable. It will, of course, be to the interest of the community to
secure this result by offering the great man the smallest and least
costly reward, the desire of which will induce him to develop and
exert himself to the utmost; but the ultimate fixer of the great
man’s price—let it once again be said—is not the community, but the
great man himself.

It is this sociological and psychological truth that even the
clearest-headed amongst the socialists are continually forgetting.
They perceive it at one moment, at the next moment they entirely
forget it, and solemnly proceed to build up their visionary polity
on foundations which their own arguments had previously condemned.
A curious example of this “_inability_,” as Mr. Spencer calls it,
“_to comprehend assembled propositions in their totality_” is to be
found in a remarkable passage by Mr. Sidney Webb. Having observed
that “_socialists would nationalise both rent and interest by the
State becoming the sole landowner and capitalist_,” he goes on to
acknowledge that great fundamental fact which it is the main object
of the present work to elucidate. “_Such an arrangement, however_,”
he says, “_would leave untouched the third monopoly—the largest of
them all—the monopoly of business ability_.” In these last words he
appears to be like a Daniel {281} come to judgment. He recognises
in the fact that the few have a natural monopoly of faculties, the
exercise of which is required for the progressive well-being of all,
a genuine and a formidable difficulty in the way of the realisation
of socialism; but now comes the passage for the sake of which these
others have been quoted. Great as this difficulty is, he tells us,
“_the more recent socialists_” have devised a way for getting over
it. And what does the reader think this way is? It has at all events
the merit of being very simple. “_The more recent socialists_,” says
Mr. Webb, “_attack this third monopoly also by allotting to every
worker an equal wage, whatever may be the nature of his work_.”

It has been thought worth while to quote Mr. Sidney Webb because he
is an exceptionally favourable specimen of the modern socialistic
theoriser. It is therefore interesting to notice the hiatus that
here yawns in his argument. The entire question which is really at
issue is begged by him. His allies, he tells us, though they cannot
destroy the monopoly which the few possess of exceptional business
powers, will destroy the effects of this monopoly by taking away
from the few nearly all the wealth that their exceptional powers
produce. It never seems to occur to him to ask whether, under these
circumstances, the few would develop or exercise their exceptional
powers at all. And yet the whole problem for him, as a socialist,
lies here, and lies nowhere else. For from the very fact that these
powers are admittedly a monopoly of the few, it is {282} evident
that their existence cannot be assumed in anybody unless he exerts
himself to give some sign of their presence. External authority,
therefore, can compel nobody to employ them who does not put himself
at the mercy of the authorities by letting them know he has them;
and thus “_the more recent socialists_,” in attacking “_the third
and greatest monopoly_,” are really themselves at the mercy of the
very monopolists whom they propose to attack. It is true that if a
socialistic revolution could be brought about suddenly, existing
great men known to have certain talents, which had been already
developed and exercised under conditions which the revolution
destroyed, might be seized on by the State, in its capacity of
universal employer, and forced to continue something of their former
voluntary activity by threats of torture or some similar method of
coercion. But even granting this to be possible, it would only solve
the problem for a moment; for as these men died—and some of them
would be dying daily—new talent would be wanted to take the place of
the old; and though the State might coerce such talent as was already
developed, it could not by coercion secure the services of the new,
because threats of coercion would never tempt new talent to discover
itself, but would, on the contrary, drive it yet deeper beneath the

Exceptional potentialities can be called out and realised only by
a kind of action which is the very antithesis of coercion, and
which is analogous to that of sunshine on buds, or flowers or {283}
fruits—namely, the penetrating, the warming, the stimulating
action of the hope of certain personal advantages on the mind of
the exceptional man, which advantages he will not only covet as
advantageous, but will recognise as the natural result of the
exercise of his exceptional faculties, and as a result attainable by
the exercise of these faculties only. What these personal advantages
are, the desire of which, coupled with their attainability,
is necessary to stimulate men who have more than ordinary
potentialities, to do greater things by developing them than are done
by ordinary men, must be determined by reference to the actual facts
of life, the records of which are ample, and the details of which,
though numerous, can by careful analysis be easily reduced to order.




In spite of their frequent forgetfulness of the fact just insisted
on, that the development and exercise of exceptional faculties can
be secured only through the influence of some exceptional motive,
this is not a fact which socialists theoretically deny. On the
contrary, often as they forget it, with curious consequences to
their reasoning, yet just as often, when they happen to be directly
confronted with it, they are loud in declaring that they recognise it
quite as clearly as their opponents; and a considerable portion of
their more modern writings consists of a setting forth of the various
exceptional rewards which will, according to them, in the socialistic
State, elicit from exceptional men the exercise of their utmost
powers. Moreover, the rewards on which the socialists principally
insist are rewards, the desire of which is admitted by all parties to
be an actual force in society as at present constituted, and in fact
to have been, ever since the dawn of history, the motive to which
much activity of the highest kind {285} has been due. These rewards
have been defined in a recent _Handbook of Socialism_ as the pleasure
of “_excelling_,” “_the joy in creative work_,” the satisfaction
which work for others brings to “_the instincts of benevolence_,”
and, lastly, “_social approval_,” or the homage which is called

If the socialists, however, confined themselves to maintaining
that the desire of such rewards as these constitutes a sufficient
motive to exceptional activity of certain kinds, they would not
only be asserting what nobody else would deny, but they would be
putting forward nothing which, as socialists, it is their interest
to assert. The ultimate proposition which, as socialists, they aim
at establishing is not that certain kinds of exceptional men do
certain kinds of exceptional things, in obedience to the motives in
question; but that because some exceptional men, endowed with certain
temperaments, are motived by them to activities of certain specific
kinds, other exceptional men will be motived by them with equal
certainty to other activities of a kind totally different—and more
especially to the activities which result in the production of wealth.

Here is the fundamental point on which the socialists join issues
with their opponents. Their opponents, they say, assume that the
sole reward or advantage, the desire of which will stimulate the
monopolists of “business ability” to exert that ability in the
production and augmentation of wealth, is a share of wealth for
themselves proportionate to the amount produced by them—an {286}
amount which will separate their lot from that of the majority
of their fellows. Now if this should be really the case, as the
socialists are coming to perceive, the fact would be fatal to the
entire ideal of socialism. They are consequently now directing the
best of their ingenuity to showing that the desire of possessing
exceptional wealth is altogether superfluous as a motive for
producing it, and that the great producers of it, when all chance of
possessing it is taken from them, will find in the pleasures of the
strain which the productive process necessitates—especially if these
are supplemented by the inexpensive thanks of the community—a more
powerful inducement to exertion than is the prospect of the largest

Now in endeavouring to make this peculiar position good, it is
evident that the burden of proof lies with the socialists themselves;
for although the doctrine that all exceptional exertions in
wealth-production are motived solely by an avidity for exceptional
wealth as such—and this is the doctrine which the socialists set
themselves to controvert—is a very imperfect rendering of what their
opponents actually maintain, it embodies an assertion which the
socialists themselves declare to have been true of all exceptional
exertion in wealth-production hitherto. No one declares this more
passionately and more persistently than they. For what, as political
agitators, has been their chief moral indictment against the typical
great men of industry—the organisers of labour, the introducers of
new {287} machinery, the pioneers of commerce? Their chief moral
indictment has been this: that these men, instead of labouring for
their fellows, or for the sake of any of those rewards which the
socialists declare to be so satisfying, have been motived solely by
the passion of selfish “greed.” Its hideous influence, they say, is
as old as civilisation itself, and the “_monopolists of business
ability_” in Tyre and Sidon were as much its creatures as are their
modern representatives in Chicago. And this assertion, unlike many
made by the socialists, has the merit of being, so far as it goes,
true. Greed, of course, is a word which, in addition to its direct
meaning, carries with it an accretion of moral insult; but putting
aside this, it means in the present connection merely a desire on
the part of the great wealth-producer to enjoy an amount of wealth
proportionate to the amount produced by him: and from the dawn of
civilisation up to the present time all great wealth-producers,
whether merchants, manufacturers, or inventors, have had the desire
of enjoying such wealth as their motive. The desire has been
connected with the activity just as universally and closely as the
desire of water is connected with the act of drinking it, or the
desire of winning a woman with the act of making love to her. If
the socialists, then, would persuade us that a motive so universal
as this can be now superseded by others of an entirely opposite
character, they can do so only by adducing the clearest evidence
that, on the one hand, this motive itself is losing its old power,
and {288} that other motives, on the other hand, are actually
acquiring and exercising it.

Let us first, then, consider the passion of greed itself, and ask
whether there is anything in its connection with wealth-production
hitherto which may lead us to think that in spite of its universality
in the past, it is merely a transitory propensity from which
exceptional men will free themselves, instead of being a propensity
rooted in the very constitution of human nature.

And here again the socialists will be amongst our most important
witnesses; for just as they, of all writers and thinkers, have done
most to call attention to the fact that up to the present time greed
has been the main motive by which the exceptional wealth-producers
have been actuated, so they, of all writers and thinkers, have done
most to call attention to another fact as well, which shows the
motive in question to be as permanent as it is universal. For that
very desire of the producer to possess what he himself produces,
which, when found in the exceptional man, they denounce as greed,
and which they tell us that the exceptional man will get rid of in
the course of a year or two, is the very desire which, as existing
in the common man, they have assumed to be the foundation of his
whole industrial character; and to it have all their most fervid
and powerful appeals been made. The socialists, in their attempts
to excite the masses against the existing order, have relied less
on rhetorical declarations that the labouring man gets {289} very
little, than on the quasi-scientific assertion that he gets less
than he produces, and that consequently the wealth of his employers
is merely his own wealth stolen from him. “_All wealth is due to
labour; therefore to the labourer all wealth is due_” has formed from
the first, and still forms the text from which the socialists always
preach when addressing the labouring classes; and the use of this
text as the watchword of popular agitation is obviously an admission
that, as a producing agent, man is motived so exclusively by the
desire to possess what he produces, or else its fair equivalent,
that he naturally resents the idea of producing anything merely in
order that others may take it away from him. Indeed, this doctrine
that the desire for the product, and the producer’s sense that he
has a right to it, form the only motive for production possible for
a free man, formed the unquestioned basis of the entire socialistic
psychology so long as the theory of Marx was held by the socialists
to be unassailable, according to which wealth was the product of
average labour, and the common or average labourer was the sole
true producer. It was only as time went on, and the socialists were
slowly compelled to recognise the few to be producers of wealth just
as truly as the many, that the socialists began their attempts to
get rid of the doctrine which a very little while ago they regarded
as axiomatic—the doctrine that each producer has a right to his own
products, and that his hope of possessing it is his principal motive
for its {290} production. In making these attempts, however, they
have, with a judicious eclecticism, been content to apply them to the
exceptional man only; and the common man and his motives they leave
undisturbed, except when they venture on the doctrine that the common
man’s motive for production will in the future be the desire of
possessing, not only all that he produces, but all that he produces
and a great deal else besides.

If, then, it is unlikely that this desire to possess the product
will cease to be operative as the motive to production amongst the
masses, that it will cease to be operative amongst the few is more
unlikely still; for the man who is possessed of average powers only,
cannot hope to produce more than the average man requires, and his
object in producing tends to represent itself to his mind in terms
of the comfort which he hopes to experience, rather than in terms of
the value of products which he hopes to possess. But the exceptional
man, whose peculiarity as a producer is this, that he produces not
only as much as the average man requires, but an indefinite amount
in addition to it, is constantly balancing his products not with his
immediate wants, but with the amount of intellectual effort which he
has expended in the process of production. Indeed, the more closely
we consider the matter, the more strongly we shall be convinced that
the desire of possessing wealth proportionate to the amount produced
by them becomes as a motive to production stronger in men, not {291}
weaker, in exact proportion as their productive powers are great,
and the amount produced by them appeals to their intellects rather
than to their necessities.

So far, then, as a study of this motive itself can inform us, the
socialistic idea that it will ever cease to be paramount has no
foundation whatever, and is contradicted even by the socialists
themselves. The only fact connected with this motive directly which
wears so much as a semblance of serious evidence in their favour is
the fact often dwelt on by emotional writers like Mr. Kidd, that many
men who have made enormous fortunes have given away a large part of
them for what he calls “altruistic” purposes; and writers of the kind
in question take this fact for evidence that the desire of possessing
great wealth is ceasing to be the motive for producing it. But those
who allow themselves to argue thus, show a curious carelessness in
their examination of human action; for the fact referred to, so far
as it proves anything, negatives rather than supports the conclusion
they seek to draw from it. It is perfectly true that many men of
great industrial ability have produced large fortunes and given them
away afterwards. But in order to give, a man must first possess; and
it is in the act of giving magnificently for some specified purpose
that many men most fully realise the power with which wealth endows
them. Thus the fact that many men will produce in order that they
may have the delight of giving is no more a proof that they would
produce under the _régime_ of {292} socialism, which would aim at
depriving them of anything that they might possibly give, than the
fact that a man would with pleasure give five shillings to a beggar
is a proof that he would be equally pleased if the beggar were to
pick his pocket. Even the men who produce wealth—and no doubt there
are such—without any conscious sense that they produce it because of
their desire to possess it, would show that such was their motive by
their instinctive and indignant refusal to go on producing it, if
they knew that it would be forcibly taken from them.

And now, since we have seen that “greed” as a motive to
wealth-production shows no internal tendency to lose its old
efficiency, let us turn to those other motives which the socialists
tell us are to supersede it, and ask whether there is anything in
their known operations hitherto which indicates that in the domain of
wealth-production they will acquire an efficiency similar to it. This
is not an inquiry which is very difficult to pursue, for the motives
in question are of a very familiar kind, and the kinds of activity
which they have produced hitherto are notorious.

What these motives are has been sufficiently shown already in
language borrowed from the socialistic writers themselves—the
pleasure of “_excelling_,” the “_joy in creative work_,” the
pleasure of doing good to others, and, lastly, the enjoyment of the
approbation of others, or of the yet more flattering tribute commonly
called “_honour_.” Now these motives, it will be seen, are of two
distinct kinds, the first three {293} being based exclusively on
some pleasurable condition of mind, which is independent of anybody
except the individual who actually experiences it; the two last being
based on a pleasurable condition of mind, which is directly dependent
on the actions or the attitude of other people. We may therefore
reduce these motives to two—namely, self-realisation, in the first
place, and recognition by others, in the second. This classification
will be not only shorter, but more comprehensive than the other; for
self-realisation will include not only the joys of self-improvement
and artistic creation, but those of the pursuit of truth and the
performance of religious duty, and will distinguish the pleasure of
doing good to others from the pleasure of being thanked or praised
for it.

And now let us consider what those kinds of exceptional activity are,
in the production of which one or other of these motives, or both of
them, have played, hitherto, any considerable part. We shall find
them to be as follows: heroic conduct in battle, or in the face of
any exceptional danger; artistic creation; the pursuit of speculative
truth; what theologians call works of mercy; and, lastly, the
propagation of religion. This list, if understood in its full sense,
is exhaustive.

Now of these five kinds of action we may dismiss the last from our
consideration, not because it has not a most important influence on
civilisation, but because it has no direct connection with any of
the processes of wealth-production, except in so far as it {294}
tends to divert men’s attention from them. And with regard to the
works of mercy something similar must be said also; for though they
undoubtedly have a close connection with wealth, they do not aid
at its production, still less at its increase, but merely at the
distribution of portions of it, which have been produced already,
amongst persons whom it would otherwise not reach. The love for
others, for example, by which works of mercy are motived, may prompt
a man to send London children for a holiday into the country by
train, but it would never have prompted him to invent the locomotive
engine. It may prompt him to secure for a youth an education in
modern science, but it would never have prompted him to write the
treatises of Professor Huxley. All activity of this kind, then,
whatever form it may take, is, in a sociological sense, essentially
parasitic. It implies the previous exercise of another set of
faculties totally distinct from those directly implied in itself,
and, together with other faculties, other motives belonging to them.
It has, then, with the actual process of wealth-production as little
to do as has religious propagandism itself; and, like religious
propagandism, we may dismiss it from our consideration here. The only
forms of activity with which we are called on to deal with here will
thus be artistic creation, the pursuit of speculative truth, and
military or quasi-military feats of heroism.

As to artistic creation, it is, no doubt, perfectly true, as is
proved by the efforts of countless devoted amateurs, that men with
artistic powers will {295} often do their utmost to develop them,
merely for the sake of the pleasure which the exercise of these
powers brings with it; whilst literature is even more obviously
than painting cultivated by men who devote themselves to it solely
as a means of self-expression. Indeed, it might reasonably be
contended that finer books and paintings would be produced if it were
impossible for painters and writers to make money by producing them,
than are now produced with a view to captivating the public purchaser.

So, too, the pursuit of scientific and philosophic truth—arduous
though it is—is generally undertaken by men whose principal motive is
the pleasure their work brings them.

              A watcher of the skies,
    When some new planet swims into his ken,

may well be supposed to find in that thrilling moment a reward
sufficient to compensate him for all his pains in arriving at it;
and most branches of science would yield us similar illustrations.
Indeed, the career characteristic of scientists and philosophers
generally is a conclusive proof that the principal motive of their
activity is not the desire of any extrinsic reward, the amount of
which they will balance against the amount or the quality of their
efforts, but a passion for truth as truth, which they indulge in for
its own sake only.

Now granting all this, what will its bearing be on the question
of whether the pleasures of pure self-realisation will suffice to
stimulate those {296} exceptional faculties whose function it is
to maintain and increase the production of wealth? With regard to
artistic creation, we are certainly bound to admit that great works
of art are wealth of a highly important kind, and when a good picture
is produced, as it often is, solely in obedience to the painter’s
artistic impulse, we have a genuine example of wealth produced in
obedience to that kind of motive whose efficiency the socialists
desire to establish. Further, with regard to the pursuit of truth, as
Mill points out in a passage that has been already quoted, progress
in speculative knowledge is the basis of all other progress, and
notably of progress in the arts and processes of wealth-production.
It must, accordingly, be admitted that in a certain sense all
progress in wealth-production has for its basis a kind of
disinterested activity with which the desire of possessing wealth
has nothing at all to do. And yet in spite of this, neither the case
of the artist nor of the philosopher warrants the inference that the
motives which are sufficient for them will ever have a similar effect
on the faculties of the great wealth-producers. The evidence, in
fact, as soon as we have fully examined it, will be found to point in
a direction precisely opposite.

For, to begin with the case of the artist, it must be remembered,
in the first place, that works of art, such as pictures painted by
the artist’s hand, form a very small, though an important part of
wealth, and that they are hardly wealth at all from the {297} point
of view of the many, unless they are reproduced and multiplied by
adequate mechanical processes. Now, though it is quite conceivable
that a painter might paint a Madonna solely because the realisation
of his own ideas delighted him, it is hardly to be expected that
other men will rack their brains to devise blocks, presses, and
preparations by which copies of it may be made and multiplied, solely
for the pleasure of reproducing ideas which are not their own. It
must further be added that delight in creation for its own sake can
be attributed as a sufficient motive to the highest class of artists
only. As for the men whose artistic powers are true, but qualify them
only for decorative not for creative work—the men, for example, who
design beautiful stuffs and furniture—though the exercise of their
power may be doubtless itself a pleasure to them, they are certainly
as a class not given to exercising them without the expectation of
some proportionate pecuniary reward. Indeed, in exact proportion as
artistic creation assimilates itself to the processes by which wealth
in general is produced, the mere pleasure of the work itself ceases
to be a sufficient motive for it.

Next, with regard to the pursuit of speculative knowledge, though
this, and more especially pure scientific discovery, may form the
basis of all productive effort, it is very far from being a form
of productive effort itself. It has, on the contrary, no necessary
connection with it. It does not even belong to the region in which
such effort operates. {298} Scientific truths, as apprehended by the
mere seeker after speculative knowledge, are like powerful spirits
secluded in some distant star; and, for any effect which they have on
the processes of economic production, they might just as well have
never been discovered at all. Before they can be applied to practical
purposes they have to be mastered and digested by a new class of
men altogether, who value them not for themselves, but solely for
the use they can be put to. Thus, in order that speculative truths
may be connected with productive effort, they must pass out of the
hands of the men who first discovered them, and be made over to men
whose motive in acquiring them will emphatically not be desire of
the mere pleasure of intellectual acquisition, but the desire of
some marketable products with a calculable pecuniary value, in the
production of which a knowledge of the truths in question will help
them. Thus speculative activity, just like artistic creation, in
exact proportion as it connects itself with the ordinary processes
of wealth-production, ceases to find its motive in the desire of
self-realisation, and claims to be rewarded by the possession of the
objective results produced by it.

And now let us turn from the motives which consist in the desire
of self-realisation to those which consist in the desire of the
approbation or the homage of others. This desire, which exercises a
great influence on the artist, and often also on the seeker after
speculative truth, concurrently with the {299} desire of pure
self-realisation, exhibits its force most signally when it is the
motive of military heroism; and the readiness with which a soldier
will risk his life for honour—honour which brings with it nothing
besides itself, excepting perhaps a medal and a scrap of ribbon—has
been said by socialistic writers to afford a conclusive proof that
any practical work, no matter how laborious, and more particularly
the work of the great wealth-producer, will be willingly undertaken
for the sake of the same reward. “_The soldier’s subsistence is
certain_,” writes a well-known contemporary enthusiast. “_It does not
depend upon his exertions. At once he becomes susceptible to appeals
to his patriotism. He will dare anything for glory, and value a bit
of bronze which is ‘the reward of valour’ far more than a hundred
times its weight in gold._” The implication, of course, is that
what men will do in war they will do in peaceful industry; and the
writer adds, in order to point this moral, “_yet many of the private
soldiers come from the worst of the population_.” This passage is
quoted with rapture by another socialistic theorist, who exclaims,
“_Let those especially notice this last point who fancy we must wait
till men are angels before socialism be practical_.” And even so
well-trained a thinker as Mr. Frederic Harrison has argued, from the
readiness with which men die in battle for their country, that they
will be equally willing to deny themselves or suffer martyrdom for
universal humanity.

To all these ideas and arguments there is one {300} answer to be
made. They are all founded on a failure to perceive the fact that
military activity is in many respects a thing apart, and depends
on psychological, and indeed on physiological processes which have
no counterpart in the domain of ordinary effort. That such is the
case can be seen very easily by following out the train of argument
suggested by Mr. Harrison. Mr. Harrison sees that in ordinary life
a man will not deliberately run the risk of being killed except for
the sake of a cause or person to which or whom he is profoundly
and indescribably attached. Indeed his attachment is presumably in
proportion to the risk he is prepared to run. And such being the case
in the field of ordinary life, Mr. Harrison assumes it must be the
case on the field of battle also, and that the soldier’s willingness
to risk death in fighting for a cause or country proves that this
cause or country is inexpressibly dear to him. And in certain
cases—when a country is in desperate straits, and everything hangs on
the issue of a single battle—this inference would be doubtless just;
but that it is not so generally is shown by the notorious fact that
some of the bravest and most reckless soldiers ever known to history
have been mercenaries who would fight as willingly for one country as
for another. Thus until Mr. Harrison can show us that men in ordinary
life will wear themselves out for either of two opposed objects
indifferently, or that they will risk death as willingly for a plain
woman as for a pretty one, it is obvious that men’s willingness to
risk death in war implies no corresponding {301} willingness to risk
it cutting trousers, and is for certain reasons a phenomenon standing
by itself.

That this is so is shown even more strikingly by the fact to which
the two other writers just quoted point with so much complacency.
This fact is the soldier’s undoubted willingness to pursue his
calling for pay which seems strikingly incommensurate with his risks.
His conduct in this respect is, no doubt, remarkable, especially
when compared with that of men in the domain of peaceful industry.
When any industrial occupation is in question a workman will expect
special wages if it is one which presents a likelihood of his often
hurting his thumb; but soldiers will risk the probability of being
tortured and blown to pieces for wages which would hardly induce a
peasant to hoe a turnip-field. This is no indication of any abnormal
poverty amongst the classes from whom the army is mainly recruited,
for the same phenomenon is constantly observable amongst men who are
not under the necessity of working for their living at all. Amongst
such men are numbers who in time of actual war will eagerly give
up a life of leisure and luxury for the certainty of hardship and
the probability of death—men who for the sake of anything else but
fighting would hardly, without a struggle, run the risk of a bad
dinner. But what these facts really suggest to us is not the insane
conclusion that because soldiers act differently from other men,
other men may be counted on to act like soldiers. On the contrary,
what they suggest is the question {302} why men will do as soldiers
what no one will do in any other capacity, and what soldiers
themselves will cease to do as soon as they become commissionaires.

For this peculiarity in the soldier’s conduct there are three
separate reasons. One is the strictness of military discipline,
which socialistic reformers would hardly find popular if they tried
to introduce it into factories and contractors’ yards. A second is
the peculiar character of the circumstances in which the soldier is
placed when his courage is most severely taxed—circumstances which
render the attempt to evade peril almost as difficult, and often
more perilous than facing it, and which in ordinary life would
be intolerable if they did not happen to be impossible. But the
most important reason is this—and the others without it would be
non-existent—that the instinct of fighting is inherent in the very
nature of the dominant races, and it will always prompt numbers to
do for the smallest reward what they could hardly, in its absence,
be induced to do for the largest. This immemorial instinct has been
wrought into our blood and nerves by the innumerable thousands of
years that have made us what we are; and all the battles of their
fathers are pulsing in men’s veins to-day. These instincts, no doubt,
are more controlled than formerly, and not so frequently roused; but
they are still there. They are ready to quicken at the mere sound of
military music; and the sight of a regiment marching draws cheers
from the most democratic crowd. Here is the {303} reason why the
soldier, though he submits himself to the most direct coercion, never
considers himself, and never is considered a slave; and military
activity will always be a thing apart, and for purposes of argument
will never be comparable to industrial, till human nature undergoes
so radical a change that men will as eagerly risk being killed by
unfenced machinery in a cotton-mill as they will being killed by a
bullet or a bayonet on the field of battle. Here again the facts for
which the socialists reason are indubitable; but the inference which
the socialists draw from them is altogether illusory.

It remains, however, to add that the desire of mere honour—of honour
unaccompanied by any extrinsic advantages—has an efficiency which is
strictly limited in the domain even of military activity itself. It
may move men, in the act of fighting, to the highest and most heroic
actions; but history shows us that it has not been found sufficient
to elicit the sustained intellectual efforts of the General, bent on
achieving some great and monumental conquest—efforts in which all
the excitement of the actual fighter is wanting, and in which the
coolest calculation plays as large a part as courage. The Cæsars and
Napoleons of the world have certainly not, as a rule, been content,
when they have crushed their enemies and augmented the magnificence
of their country, with the gift of a medal or two, and the privilege
of ending their days in the modest uniform of commissionaires
opening {304} shop doors. If, then, the mere honour of being a
great conqueror is insufficient to stimulate the activities by which
great conquests are achieved, a man is hardly likely to consecrate
his entire faculties to wealth-production merely that he may enjoy
the honour of being known as the proud producer of so many miles of
calico, or millions of pots of jam.

There is, therefore, in the present operations of those motives, for
which the socialists attempt to claim a universal efficiency, as
little to suggest that as motives to exceptional wealth-production
they will ever supersede the desire of exceptional possession, as
there is in the present operations of the desire of exceptional
wealth-possession to show that it is losing its power, or is at all
likely to be superseded. The final demonstration of this truth,
however, yet remains to be given.

The socialists, in dealing with this question of motive, have been
led into the curious blunders which have just now been exposed by
their singularly childish conception of what men’s actual motives
are. They divide motives into various well-known classes, and, so
far as it goes, their procedure is here correct. Their error is
that they conceive of man as a being on whom these motives, as a
rule, act separately; whereas in reality the very reverse is the
case. Acts which are due to any single motive are not the rule, but
the exception. For instance, even though artistic creation and the
pursuit of truth are motived in the case of many men by the pleasure
which the work brings them, some of the greatest {305} artists
and thinkers, with whom this motive was certainly powerful, have
been motived by the desire of pecuniary reward also. It is enough
to mention the names of Bacon and Shakespeare, Rubens, Turner, and
Scott. And with the desire of honour the desire of pecuniary reward
is found to mix itself yet more often and readily than it does with
the mere passion for artistic or for speculative work itself. The
psychological fact, however, which we must here notice is this—that
the pecuniary reward, though it seems theoretically to be in
contrast to any genuine desire for other men’s approbation, or for
the pleasure brought to the worker by the work itself, instead of
destroying the force of those other motives, increases it, just as
the admixture of a certain amount of alloy makes gold and silver more
valuable for artistic purposes. And now, having observed this, let us
turn back to the consideration of the desire of pecuniary reward as
the principal motive of wealth-production, and endeavour to make our
analysis of it more complete.

As the reader will recollect, the doctrine that all exceptional
exertions in wealth-production are motived solely by the desire of
exceptional wealth as such, although it is the doctrine imputed by
the socialists to their opponents, has been said already to be a
very imperfect rendering of any doctrine as to the subject which
their opponents would actually maintain; and the reason why it is
imperfect is simply that wealth as such is not the object for which
wealth is really sought by most of those men whom the {306} desire
of it most powerfully influences. For wealth as such, in the ordinary
sense of the phrase, is wealth regarded as a means of personal
self-indulgence. It stands for the finest wines, the richest food,
the softest beds, the most luxurious furniture—for everything that
can caress the senses and enervate the mind and body. And no doubt
its power of securing all these things to its possessors is one of
the qualities which render it an object of desire. But it is only
one; and though it is the most obvious of them, it is not the chief.
The subordinate place which it occupies is conclusively shown by the
fact that a very few thousands a year would suffice to provide a man
with every pleasure or luxury that his own senses could appreciate;
and yet men are often more eager, after these few thousands have been
secured by them, to pass this point of opulence than they ever were
in reaching it. Many men, moreover, who have surrounded themselves
with pomp and splendour are indifferent to the gratification of their
own senses altogether. Though their luncheon tables may groan under
every imaginable delicacy, they will themselves eat a slice or two of
cold ham, no better or worse than would have been secured them for a
shilling in a cheap restaurant. Their own beds will be no softer than
those of prosperous clerks; and, surrounded by cushioned sofas, they
will sit upon straight-backed chairs.

The principal reasons for which wealth is sought are not pleasures
of the senses, but pleasures of the mind and the imagination; and of
these pleasures {307} there are three principal kinds. One of them
is the pleasure of power, which in their analysis of human motives
the socialists conveniently overlook; and the two others happen to be
the very pleasures by the desire of which the socialists themselves
declare the exceptional wealth-producers are to be principally marked
in the future—namely, the pleasures of self-realisation and the
pleasures of social honour. Wealth is coveted by all really great
wealth-producers, not in preference to these, but as a means to all
or one of them. To many of our great wealth-producers, with their
strong practical faculties, wealth would be nothing if it brought to
them no accession of influence; to many it would be nothing if it
did not bring them the means of indulging their tastes, as distinct
from their physical appetites; to nearly all it would be nothing if
they did not, or if they did not hope it would, secure for them the
approbation and the respectful homage of others.

The only alternatives, then, which we have before us are as
follows:—If the great wealth-producer is a man of such coarse fibre
that none of those desires just mentioned are really his—neither the
desire of power, nor the desire of social honour, nor the desire
for that larger development of taste and moral activities which is
rendered possible by the possession of exceptional wealth—then it
is obvious that the sole motive left to him will be the gross or
unreasoning desire for the possession of wealth as such; and we are
brought back to the original {308} proposition which the socialists
set themselves to annihilate. But if, on the other hand, the great
wealth-producer is really capable of those higher desires which the
socialists assure us will shortly become so strong in him, the desire
of exceptional wealth, instead of being superseded by these, will be
stronger beyond calculation than it ever could be without them.

And it is, as a rule, the latter of these two suppositions which
practically represents the truth. Exceptional wealth is desired by
the men who produce it not for itself, but for its results; and in
proportion as the man who desires it possesses a lofty character, his
desire for it, being merged in the thought of the uses to which he
desires to put it, will itself become equally lofty also. But none
the less will the desire of the material wealth form the physical
basis in which his loftier desires inhere, just as the impulse of
sex remains the physical basis of the deepest and tenderest love
which a man feels for a woman, or as the brain is the physical basis
of every thought that a man can think. Thus the arguments of the
socialists recoil upon their own heads; and instead of tending to
show that the desire of possessing exceptional wealth will ever cease
to be indispensable as a motive to exceptional production of it, they
have merely succeeded in calling attention to the facts on which the
indispensable character of this motive depends.

We have not, however, finished with this question yet. There is a
further set of objections still {309} remaining to be considered
which, whilst based on an admission that wealth-production is motived
by the desire of wealth, aims at showing that this fact does not
necessarily result in more than a fraction of the consequences which
have up to this time flowed from it, but merely shows in reality
that those consequences are unalterable, and adds new force to the
arguments that have just been urged with regard to them.

The objections referred to are those embodied in the well-known
contention that though the possession of exceptional wealth must be
allowed to the exceptional men who are actually engaged in producing
it, and the exercise of whose business ability is just as essential
to the country’s prosperity as to their own, yet this possession of
wealth should be limited to themselves personally, and should not
be allowed to distribute itself amongst their idle and inefficient
families. In other words, it is urged that whilst the founders and
conductors of businesses are entitled to the incomes, no matter
how large, that are due to the exercise of their own powers, these
incomes should cease with the cessation of the powers that caused
them, and should not be allowed to perpetuate themselves, as they
do now, in the shape of interest paid to the passive owners of
capital. Such an arrangement, it is maintained by those who advocate
it, would at once coincide with the dictates of abstract justice,
and whilst securing to the exceptional wealth-producer, whose
services society requires, the full reward and motive necessary to
ensure his activity, would enrich the community at {310} large by
distributing amongst it an enormous income, which at present, instead
of stimulating anybody to any useful exertion, merely keeps a number
of men in idleness. And this contention at first sight does not lack
plausibility either in respect of the question of abstract justice
which it raises, or of the practical consequences which, according
to it, the arrangement in question would produce. When we examine it
closely, however, the plausibility vanishes, and abstract justice
and practical reason alike condemn the appeals thus made to them as
founded entirely on misconception.

Let us deal with the question of abstract justice first. Those who
denounce interest or unearned income as unjust, invariably state
their case in the following simple form. There are only two ways,
they say, in which a man can become possessed of wealth—either by
producing such and such an amount himself, or by appropriating such
and such an amount that has been produced by another person; or,
as they frequently put it, with an air of solemn sententiousness,
“_A man can get an income only by working or by stealing: there is
no third way!_” Now one conclusive answer to this puerile, though
popular, sophism has, strangely enough, been given by Mr. Henry
George, who, though eager to adopt any argument that could be used to
assail the rich, was, nevertheless, not taken in by this. Mr. George
pointed out that one kind of wealth, at all events,—and we may add
that in this we have wealth in its oldest form—consists of {311}
possessions which have been neither made by the possessors nor yet
stolen by them. That is to say, it consists of flocks and herds. Mr.
George pointed out also that whole classes of possessions besides
are, for by far the larger part of their value, equally independent
of either work or theft. Such possessions are wines, whose quality
improves with time, and whose value, consequently, whether in
exchange or use, is increased from year to year by the secret
operations of nature. But Mr. George, though his arguments were
true so far as they went, did little more than touch the hem of the
question; for flocks and herds, and commodities that grow valuable
as they mature themselves, form but a small, though they do form a
typical, portion of wealth that may come to a man without his having
produced it himself, and without his stealing it from any other
human producer. And this is the wealth which is actually produced by

In order to show the reader that capital is an actual producer, in
as true a sense as labour is, or the ability by which labour is
directed, let us begin by considering fixed capital as distinct from
wage capital, and by considering it in its simplest forms. By fixed
capital is meant any tools, machines, or materials by which man’s
efficiency as a producer of wealth is increased; and we will take as
examples of these the three following things—a dart or missile by
which game may be killed; a heap of manure by which a peasant’s field
may be fertilised; and a horse which a peasant uses for ploughing and
{312} kindred purposes. Now let us imagine a race of savages who use
no missiles at all, but catch their game merely by sleight of hand.
If a man is entitled to such game as he catches, the exceptionally
dexterous hunter who catches most will be necessarily the rightful
possessor of more game than his fellows. This will be granted by
those who admit that work constitutes a true, and the only true title
to possession.

Such being the case, then, let us alter our supposition somewhat, and
suppose that the hunters, instead of catching the game with their
hands, kill it with wooden darts; and that the amount of game which
each hunter will secure in a day depends not on the skill with which
the darts are thrown, but on the skill with which the darts are made.
Under these circumstances, the hunter who secures most will not be
the man who is quickest in seizing the quarry with his hands, but the
man who makes the darts that will reach their mark most certainly;
and yet no one would say that he was less entitled to what he took,
because his exceptional skill, before it could become effectual, was
obliged to become embodied in some object external to himself.

In the same way, if two peasants are cultivating similar fields,
and one, by sheer hard work, raises a larger crop than the other,
his right to his larger crop would not be denied by anybody. Let us
suppose, then, that instead of working harder than his neighbour
he works more intelligently, that he saves and stores up as manure
materials which his {313} neighbour wastes; and that every year,
through the powers accumulated in his manure heap, he can raise a
larger crop than his neighbour, though he actually works less. Would
any one affirm that the man lost his right to his extra produce
because he produced it indirectly by the external agency of his
manure, and not directly by overstraining his muscles? Or again, if
one of the peasants raised a larger crop than his neighbour because,
whilst his neighbour spent all his money in drinking, he himself
saved it and bought a horse, would any one maintain that the extra
crop due to the work which the horse performed for its owner did not
belong to the owner, but was stolen by him from the other man?

No one would put forward an argument so absurd as this. And yet
the wooden darts of the savage and the manure heap and the horse
of the peasant are neither more nor less than portions of fixed
capital, just as a steam engine is, or a cotton mill with all its
plant. Fixed capital is merely productive ability which, instead of
acting directly in the production of goods for the consumer, stores
itself up in externalised means of production, so that it may, with
accumulated force, produce such goods indirectly; and the additional
wealth which a man produces by a new machine is just as much produced
by himself as is the additional crop which he raises from a patch
of land by the employment of a horse which he has bought, or manure
which he has himself concocted. Indeed, fixed capital may be compared
to a breed of artificial horses, or if we like the simile better,
to {314} a race of iron slaves. The amount of wealth which the
employment of a machine adds to the amount that would be produced
without it by a given number of labourers, is produced by the
machine itself just as truly as it would be if the machine, instead
of a structure of wheels and framework, took the form of a gang of
artificial negroes, who only betrayed the fact that they were not
human by the heat of their breath, an occasional unearthly whistle,
and the different language in which they required to have their
orders given them. The machine produces this increment, but certain
men produced the machine; and therefore the increment is in reality
produced by the men, just as truly as when a murdered man has been
killed by a bullet from a rifle, his death has been caused by the
murderer who aimed and discharged the weapon.

And what is true of fixed capital is true of wage capital also;
for fixed capital, such as machines, buildings, or railways, is
the result of wage capital, as employed to direct labour, and is
therefore wage-capital externalised in the objective results of
its employment. But fixed capital, or a man’s productive power
externalised, differs from his productive power when exercised by
himself through wage capital. It is a part of his power which he can
separate from his own personality, and which he can make over to
others, just as a slave-owner might make over a body of slaves; only
these are slaves whose enslavement does them no wrong, and who belong
{315} by right to the men whose enterprise and whose intellect
created them.

Capital, then, as such, is as true a producer of wealth as the men
were who in the first instance produced it; and when one of them
passes a portion of it on to his son, and with it the income that
results from it, this income is nothing that is stolen from other
men, but is simply a part of the product produced by the artificial
slaves, the use of whom other men for their own advantage borrow,
and who rightly belong to the lender because he has received them
from his fathers, who created them. And should any socialist quarrel
with this reasoning, it will be sufficient to point out to him that
it is neither more nor less than the reasoning which, till only a
few years ago, the leaders of socialism themselves were never weary
of employing. Capital, said Lassalle, is merely labour fossilised:
and so long as labour was held to be the only wealth-producer, the
socialists urged that capital belonged to the labourers, because it
represented the labour of their fathers, whose heirs they were. But
with the gradual disappearance of the doctrine that labour is the
sole producer, it is becoming more and more evident that capital is
not what Lassalle thought it was—that it is not fossilised labour,
but fossilised business ability. In other words, it does not,
except in its earliest stages, represent on the part of producers a
process of exceptional saving. What it does represent is a process
of exceptional production. Since then the labourers, as labourers,
{316} would have been the rightful heirs to all capital, if all
capital had been produced by the common labour of their parents,
those who have actually inherited it must be its rightful owners in
fact, because in fact it has been produced by the ability of the
exceptional men who left it to them.

But the whole of this argument, based on the claims of abstract
justice, would avail very little to defend the income of the mere
owner of capital if his position rested upon its abstract justice
only, and if his right to his income did not form a part of the very
conditions that render the production of wealth possible. The part
which the right to income from capital plays when the ownership of
the capital is divorced from any active employment of it, depends
on the fact that the right to income of this kind is what gives to
wealth the larger part of its value, and renders the desire of it
efficient as a social motive.

The ways in which it does this are many and various; and because
it is impossible to indicate them in any simple or single formula,
certain people may imagine that they have no importance. Such people
might as well argue that no complicated process is an important
process, or that no results are necessary when many causes combine to
produce them.

The most obvious of the reasons why the right to income from capital
forms in the eyes of the exceptional wealth-producer a principal
element in the desirability of the wealth produced by him has
{317} its root in the facts of family affection. In spite of the
selfishness which distinguishes so much of human action, a man’s
desire to secure for his family such wealth as he can is one of
the strongest motives of human activity known; and the fact that
it operates in the case of many who are otherwise selfish shows
how deeply it is engrained in the human character. It may, indeed,
be regarded as a kind of selfishness itself; and the vigorous and
practical men who have exceptional faculties for wealth-production
are precisely those in whom it is strongest and most persistent. Men
like these would never for a moment tolerate an arrangement which
permitted the head of the family to keep his wife and children in
luxury so long as he lived, but would condemn all of them, the moment
he happened to die, to be turned by the butler and footmen into the
street as beggars.

It has been said that this family feeling on the part of the great
wealth-producer may be regarded as a species of selfishness; and
there is nothing very recondite in the process by which it comes
to be so. Such a man, no matter how selfish, values his family
because it happens to be his own. His own importance is enhanced by
the success and brilliancy of its members; and the possession of a
fashionable wife, and a popular and well-bred son, reflects almost
as much credit on him as the possession of a gentleman for his
grandfather. For this reason, if for no others, he will do for them
everything that exceptional wealth will enable him to do. Wealth,
{318} however, depends for its effects on those who enjoy it, not
merely on its present enjoyment, but on the prospect of its continued
possession; and unless the man who is making a fortune by his ability
may bequeath to one of his children, at all events, a position
similar to his own, and something exceptional in the way of wealth to
all, the money which he spends on them during his own lifetime will
be wasted. The whole social importance which wealth might have given
them would be gone. The tastes and the peculiar cultivation which
wealth is capable of securing for those who are from their earliest
years surrounded with it, they would under such circumstances neglect
to acquire at all; or, if they did acquire them, they would be living
in a fool’s paradise, for when their father died, and their wealth
consequently vanished, they would be infinitely worse off than those
who had never possessed it. They would resemble nothing so much as
plants that had been grown in a conservatory, merely that, when on
the point of flowering, they might be bedded out in the frost.

If, then, for the selfish, or even the heartless parent, wealth
would in most cases lose the larger part of its attractions unless
it could be accumulated and bequeathed to others in the shape of
income-yielding property, for the normally affectionate parent its
attractions would be reduced yet further.

But the full part which heritable incomes play, in rendering wealth
desirable in the eyes of exceptional men, is not to be understood by
considering such a {319} man and his family singly. For the life
and the ambitions of a family are not self-contained. They imply and
depend upon relations with other families; and these other families
will be valued, and intercourse with them will be rendered possible,
not by the bare fact that they are the possessors of so much money,
but by the fact that they have the habits and interests which result,
and result only, in the social atmosphere created by a number of
assured incomes, wholly independent of any daily struggle to make
them. It is easy to see that no rich society would be endurable if
the only men in it were men who had just made their fortunes, and if,
on their deaths, their families disappeared from it in the gulfs of
destitution. Anything more exquisitely ludicrous than the socialistic
proposal that great wealth-producers should be allowed large incomes
to spend, but that they must not on any account be allowed to invest
any part of them, or use it in a way by which more income may
result from it—anything more ludicrous than this it is not possible
to conceive. It is—to recur to an illustration used already—like
proposing that a peasant who is more industrious than his neighbours
shall be allowed all the money which the sale of his extra produce
brings him, provided only that he spends it on brandy, or beer, or
absinthe; but that if he save it up and buys a useful horse with it,
his purchase shall be confiscated by the State, because a horse is
productive capital. This proposal, however, is not only ludicrous in
theory, but it would, if put into practice, result in a sort of {320}
society more vile and bestial than anything which the world has ever
known. For the sole advantage which in that case wealth would bring
to its producer would consist in the meat and drink and other means
of physical pleasure which he and his family could consume or enjoy
during his lifetime—before he retired to the grave, and his wife and
children to the workhouse.

The main value of wealth in the eyes of the great wealth-producer does
not consist in its ministering to brief spasms of self-indulgence,
but in the fact of its being the foundation of an equable and
sustained life, in which the physical pleasures are refined
rather than intensified, and the time employed by the majority
in producing the necessaries of existence is given not to sloth,
but to other kinds of exertion. A life of this kind is impossible
except in a society of which a large section not only possesses
wealth, but is accustomed to its possession, and is characterised
by accomplishments, tastes, principles, and kinds of knowledge,
which can be developed and acquired only when the continuance of its
possession is assured. In other words, those men on whose exceptional
business ability the productive processes of the entire community
depend, and who are the cause of growth in the incomes of the mass of
the community, just as truly as they are the producers of their own
fortunes, are motived to activity less by the desire of the wealth
which comes to them day by day through their own direct exertions,
and which would cease instantly {321} when these exertions were
suspended, than they are by the desire of wealth that shall come to
them indirectly, not as the product of their exceptional exertions in
the present, but as the product of the accumulated product of their
exceptional exertions in the past—the product of those stored-up
forces with which they have enriched the world, and which, whilst
rendering help to thousands of men besides, will continue to render a
tribute to their creators and their creators’ children.

Thus, to express the matter in brief and familiar language, the
sustained development and exercise of exceptional ability in
wealth-production implies the possession by those who monopolise
this ability, not merely of that portion of those products which are
called the wages of superintendence, but also to that portion which
is called interest on capital. For just as the control of capital
affords the only means by which, under free institutions, the great
man can apply his faculties so as to increase the production of
wealth, so does the right to interest, or to the products of the
capital accumulated by him, constitute the chief reward by the desire
of which the exercise of his faculties is stimulated.

There is a further point, however, which now remains to be noticed.
When it is said that the great wealth-producer is motived mainly
by the desire to enjoy an amount of wealth proportionate to what
is produced by him, it is not asserted that in order to gratify
this desire it is necessary that he should be able to appropriate
the whole of what {322} is produced by him. On the contrary, of
that constantly growing product which is added by the great man’s
faculties to the product of ordinary labour, and out of which
the income of the great man comes, a portion is capable of being
appropriated by the ordinary labourers themselves. Indeed, the
masses of the community are partakers in material progress, and
have an interest in material progress solely because, as an actual
fact, a considerable percentage of this added product goes to them;
and though few of our so-called “labour leaders” recognise this
truth, all the hopes of enrichment which they hold out to their
followers imply nothing whatever beyond the securing a larger amount
of an increment which is produced not by themselves but others. An
important question, therefore, arises in this way as to how far the
product of the great men can be taxed and handed over as a bonus
to average labour without weakening the motives which prompt the
great men to produce it. This is a question to which, by _à priori_
reasoning, it is absolutely impossible to give any definite answer.
It is a question that can be solved only by cautious practical
experiment; and the answer will vary constantly with times, places,
and circumstances. All that can be asserted here, and it is all that
requires to be insisted on, is that the amount of wealth which the
exceptional wealth-producer can secure must be proportionate to what
is produced by him, however far short of the whole of it; and that
it must not be diminished to such an extent as {323} will render it
less exceptional as the object of an ambitious and strenuous man’s

In other words, that graduation of social circumstances, those
differences in ways of living, in habits, manners, accomplishments,
and social functions, which have their physical basis in varying
degrees of wealth, and give to civilised society what is its present,
as it has been its past character—these graduations of social
circumstances, which it is the cherished dream of the socialists to
do away with, are indestructible so long as civilisation lasts. If
they perish, civilisation will perish also; when civilisation is
restored they will reappear along with it; and however they may be
modified or adjusted, they can never be even approximately effaced.

It is the facts briefly indicated in the present chapter which the
socialists of to-day are principally distinguished by ignoring; and
it is these facts which render socialism for ever impossible.

This truth, when once generally recognised, will lead to many
practical consequences, of which the most immediately important will
be dealt with in the following chapter.




The two great facts, then, that have been elucidated by our
inquiry thus far, are these: in the first place, all progress and
civilisation, and more especially all production of wealth, results
from a complicated process in which, man for man, a minority plays
a part incalculably greater than the majority; and consequently, in
the second place, the minority, man for man, possesses wealth that is
correspondingly greater than the wealth of the majority, likewise. In
addition to these facts a third has been elucidated also, to which
it in desirable that we should give renewed attention. Since great
men not only produce wealth directly, but produce it indirectly by
producing wealth which produces it, and which they are enabled to
hand on to their children, the wealthy class is at any particular
moment always more numerous than those members of it who are engaged
actually in production. In Great Britain, for example, it has been
estimated that two-thirds of the aggregate income that pays income
tax is rent or interest on capital, and that one-third represents
{325} the direct products of work. We may therefore here adopt
the rough hypothesis that out of each generation of our wealthy
class a third part is enriching itself by the process of direct
production, and two-thirds are living on the products produced for
them indirectly by the capital or the means of production which were
created by their fathers and their grandfathers. Now such being the
case, what we have to notice is as follows. Though the members of
the wealthy class are not always changing, as they would be were no
saving of capital, no interest, and no bequest allowed, they are
still changing gradually from generation to generation, so that
whilst the class, as a class, always possesses a nucleus of families
with whom wealth and the traditions of wealth are hereditary, a
number of individuals born in it are constantly disappearing over its
borders, and a number of other individuals are constantly passing
into it.†

 † The most permanent form of hereditary wealth is land; but only a
 small minority of our existing landed families existed as landed
 families at the time of the last Heralds’ visitation. Thus, though
 the estates of this country are as old as the country itself, the
 actual possession of a large proportion of them by their owners,
 at any given time, represents their purchase by wealth recently
 created, and is, in fact, recent wealth converted into another form.

 And if there is a change like this in the possession of landed
 wealth, there is a still more rapid change in the possession of
 commercial capital. One of the many childish assumptions of Karl
 Marx was the assumption on which a good deal of his reasoning
 rests—that the English middle classes of the present century owed
 their capital and positions to social opportunities which had come
 to them as the heirs and descendants of the merchants and wealthier
 sheep-farmers who began to make fortunes four hundred years ago.
 As a matter of fact by far the larger part of the great commercial
 businesses and commercial fortunes now existing in this country have
 been founded during the past hundred, and many within the past fifty
 years, by men who were the sons of ordinary wage-paid labourers, and
 who were no more heirs to the men who formed the middle class under
 the Tudors than they were to the merchants who are celebrated in the
 _Arabian Nights_. That such is the case is shown with sufficient
 clearness by the following figures, which refer to commercial
 incomes during the thirty years which followed the first Great
 Exhibition. During these years, whilst the population increased
 by about 30 per cent, fortunes of over ten thousand a year were
 multiplied by 100 per cent, fortunes of from five to ten thousand
 by 96 per cent, and fortunes of from five to six hundred by 308
 per cent. It is obvious, then, that when a class is augmented in
 one generation by a number of new members from three to ten times
 as great as its natural increase would account for, most of its
 new members must have come to it from some class outside, and have
 gained their place in it solely by their own exertions.


Thus in spite of the permanence which interest gives to wealth,
the families that live merely on interest are constantly tending
to disappear, and their places are being taken by the men whose
exceptional faculties, whose business ability, whose enterprise and
strenuous will, actually contribute most to the productive forces of
the country. It was observed by J. S. Mill with regard to political
government that this “is always in, _or is passing into_, the hands”
of the men who are at the time the true repositories of power. In
the same way the wealth of any progressive country is always in, or
is passing into, the hands of the men who by their own abilities are
engaged actively in producing it. {327}

Such being the case, then, the material civilisation of a country—the
wealth of the few or the progressive comfort of the many—depends
on the extent to which its potentially great wealth-producers, as
they come into the world, generation after generation, are induced
by circumstances to develop their exceptional talents, and devote
them to the maintenance and improvement of the productive process.
For those, therefore, who regard the material welfare of a community
as the test and basis of its welfare in all other ways, the abiding
social problem is always this: how to adjust circumstances in such
a way that the smallest possible number of these potentially great
wealth-producers may be wasted, and the largest possible number may
be induced to exert themselves to the utmost.

One set of conditions essential to this result has been described
already—those, that is to say, by which the possession of wealth
is secured to the producers of it, and the persons to whom they
leave it. But to these must be added another set of an entirely
distinct character—that is to say, the conditions which, the motive
to exertion being given, shall render exertion of the kind required
possible for the largest number who happen to be theoretically
capable of it. Now modern democratic thinkers have supplied the world
with a formula by which, in their judgment, these conditions are
sufficiently indicated. This formula is “equality of opportunity,”
and we cannot begin our consideration of the question better than
by taking this as a {328} starting-point, and asking what truth
is contained in it. We may at once admit, then, that if it is
taken in an abstract sense, it sums up a truth which is, beyond
doubt, indisputable; for if each individual having exceptional
potentialities as a wealth-producer, which require nothing but
the favour of circumstances to ensure their being turned into
actualities, could be provided with circumstances so nicely adapted
to his idiosyncrasies that these potentialities might be developed to
the utmost extent possible, the productive powers of the community,
it is almost needless to observe, would be raised in that case to
their utmost possible efficiency. Such an ideal condition of things
as this, however, is impossible for the following, if for no other,
reason. Successful parents as a rule will employ part of their
wealth—at all events they will employ the positions which they have
won by their own ability—to provide opportunities of a special kind
for their sons; therefore, whatever the State might do for its youths
and young men in general, exceptional parents for their sons would
be able to do something more. Equality of opportunity, therefore,
represents an ideal condition which we never can reach, but to which
we can only approximate; and the only practical questions for us are
accordingly these: how far towards this ideal can political action
carry us, and what results are to be anticipated from our nearest
possible approach to it?

Now the answer to both these questions will very largely depend
on the existing conditions of the {329} community with reference
to which they are asked. For though men’s powers of equalising
opportunities are limited, their powers of making them unequal may
be said to be indefinitely great; and the more unequal they have
been made at the time when we ask our questions, the greater will
the progress be which there will be room for us to make towards
equalising them, and the greater will be the social advantages which
we may hope to secure by making it. In France, for example, before
the first Revolution, the laws affecting industry had almost ruined
the nation, not because by unduly favouring one class they led to
wealth being concentrated, but because by unduly hampering other
classes they prevented its being produced; and the sweeping away by
the Revolution of the old feudal inequalities, though it had none of
the millennial effects which the Revolutionists themselves hoped for,
has had others equally striking, though of a very different kind. It
has not made men equal in point of wealth, but it has increased to an
astonishing extent the wealth of all classes alike. And the way in
which it has done this has been by removing artificial impediments to
the development and free exercise of exceptional productive talent;
or in other words, by an equalisation of economic opportunities.

But the kind of equality that has thus been reached may be described
as being of a negative rather than a positive kind. It depends on
the absence of artificial impediments to production, rather than
on the supply of any artificial helps to {330} it; which means
that it depends on the absence of everything that might obstruct
the strong, rather than on measures or institutions that should
artificially lend strength to the weak. Now, so far as industrial
ability of the highest kind is concerned, it is probable that this
negative condition of things, which is merely the complete embodiment
of a policy of _laisser-faire_, represents the utmost that, in
any civilised country, can be done by the process of equalisation
with any beneficial result. For in wealth-production the men whose
capacities are really of the first order will, when not positively
impeded, make their own opportunities for themselves; and the genius
who is born with every opportunity waiting for him has but a few
years’ start of the genius who is born with none. That such is
the case is abundantly illustrated by history. If we consider the
most famous of the men whose originality of mind and extraordinary
spirit of enterprise have been chief amongst the forces which have
enriched the civilised world, we shall find that those whose names
most readily occur to us have had no opportunities save such as their
own genius made for them. Arkwright, Cartwright, Watt, Stephenson,
the intrepid and enduring adventurers who, in the teeth of prolonged
opposition, laid the foundations of the modern manufacture of iron;
Columbus, who gave to Europe a new hemisphere—all these have been men
born amongst social circumstances which conspired to deny them rather
than to provide them with opportunities. And if we turn from {331}
Europe to new countries like America, and consider the leaders of
economic production there, we shall find that the histories of these
men have been similar. Nor, indeed, in this fact is there anything to
be wondered at. In the sphere of industry, just as in the sphere of
art, the greatest men will never be suppressed. They are always sure
to assert themselves, and the struggle with adverse circumstances
will, instead of crushing, strengthen them.

It may therefore be safely said that no equalisation of opportunity
which goes beyond the abolition of arbitrary and unequal impediments
would tend to increase the number of those exceptional men whose
productive faculties are really of the first order. And this
inference is supported by a large number of analogies drawn from
domains of activity other than economic. Any workman’s boy, for
example, who has any taste for books has now in England, before he
is fifteen, more educational opportunities than Shakespeare had in
all his lifetime. But the number of Shakespeares has not appreciably
increased. Again, popular education has given to the whole French
army advantages confined to a few at the time of Napoleon’s boyhood.
Every private carries the marshal’s _bâton_ in his knapsack. And yet
democratic France, with all its equalisation of opportunity, has not
produced a series of new Napoleons. On the contrary, the mountain,
after years and generations of labour, does nothing at last but give
birth to a Boulanger.

Though faculties of the first order, however, are {332} independent
of artificial assistance, many of an inferior, but still of an
exceptional kind, are not; and it cannot be doubted that the supply
of these last will depend very largely on the degree to which
facilities for self-development are given by the State to those
who desire to take advantage of them. Thus, though the spread
of education in this country has not increased the number of
Shakespeares, it has enormously increased the number of those who can
write good English. And no doubt in the domain of wealth-production
it has had an analogous effect. This effect, however, though real,
has been enormously exaggerated; and it has been exaggerated for
a particular reason. Social reformers have confused two things
together. They have confused talents which are exceptional in their
very nature, with accomplishments which are exceptional only because
they are not universally taught. Thus reading and writing, for
instance, were rare accomplishments once. Of all accomplishments they
are the most universal now; and there is not the least doubt that
there are very many others which, with equal opportunities, might
be acquired by almost anybody, but which yet, as a matter of fact,
are still confined to a minority. In this fact that education may
increase the accomplishments of a community, social reformers have
fancied that they discovered an indication of the extent to which
education could elicit exceptional talent. But to call into practical
activity by means of external help exceptional faculties, of which
the supply is necessarily limited, is a very {333} different process
from evoking by similar means faculties which are potential in
everybody, and the supply of which can be increased indefinitely; and
it is a process, moreover, which produces very different results. Let
us consider how this is.

For productive faculties of the highest order, which not only
minister to progress, but initiate it, and which make, as if by
a conjuring trick, the hands of the average labourer produce new
commodities of which he never would have dreamed himself—for
faculties such as these, the demand is always unlimited. There
are productive faculties also, exceptional although they are
inferior, the demand for which is usually greater than the supply.
But with regard to those faculties or accomplishments which are
only exceptional accidentally, and which might be, like reading,
conceivably made universal, the case is precisely opposite, and it
is so for two reasons. In the first place, these accomplishments,
which anybody might conceivably acquire—knowledge of French, for
instance, or of book-keeping—though they may minister to the business
of wealth-production, yet have no tendency in themselves to make
the business grow. The number of persons, then, possessing these
accomplishments who at any given time can put them to a productive
use is limited by the condition in which production at that time
is. Thus the number of clerks which a mercantile firm can employ
is limited by the business which the firm happens to be doing; and
though this business might be enlarged by the enterprise of one new
{334} partner, it would not be enlarged, when there were no letters
to copy, by the accession of ten young men who could copy letters
beautifully. In the second place, even at times when the national
business is growing, and the demand for these accomplishments is for
the moment greater than the supply, any attempt by the State to make
their development general would produce a supply indefinitely greater
than the demand. Thus to multiply the number of labourers’ sons
possessing accomplishments that would fit them for the work of clerks
would not be to increase the number of young men who would wear black
coats, and sit on stools in offices, instead of working in factories,
or laying bricks, or ploughing. Instead of raising the position of
the plough-boy to the same level as the clerk’s, it would lower the
clerk’s salary to the level of the plough-boy’s wages; and clerk and
plough-boy would be alike sufferers by the process.

The beneficial effects, then, to be looked for from an equalisation
of opportunity have been exaggerated by democratic thinkers because
they have failed to perceive those facts. They have confounded the
development of accomplishments which might conceivably be acquired
by all with the development of faculties which, even potentially,
are possessed by a few only. They see that education can increase
the number of possible clerks, and they have therefore imagined that
it can, with similar ease and certainty, increase the number of
efficient men of genius. It must, however, be distinctly stated that
{335} the error in their conclusion is one of exaggeration only.
There is much exceptional talent which, though not of the highest
order, will, when opportunity is given it, increase the wealth of the
community, but which will, without the educational help of the State,
be lost; and it may frankly be admitted that, within certain limits,
the equalising of educational opportunity plays a very important part
in supplying the community with exceptionally efficient citizens.

But the main difficulties involved in the artificial equalisation of
opportunity are not concerned with the problem of how to produce good
results by it. They are connected with the problem of how to avoid
producing bad results. Let us consider what the possible bad results
of it are.

In a general way they are indicated, or indirectly implied, in
the saying so dear to the sterner and more thoughtless of the
Conservatives—that popular education does nothing but promote
discontent. Sweeping statements of this kind, however, though they
may have an element of truth in them, are valueless till they have
been carefully qualified; for what we have to ask about them is
not whether they are true, but how far they are true, and in what
precise senses. Thus, though it is true that the danger of diffusing
education lies in the discontent that may thereby be promoted, some
kinds of discontent are not dangerous—they are beneficial; therefore
the danger of diffusing education lies in its tendency to promote not
discontent generally, but {336} discontent of certain special kinds;
and it is necessary to discriminate carefully what these kinds are.

Now the kind of discontent which Conservatives generally have in
view, when they denounce education because they think it tends to
promote it, is by no means that from which danger really arises. What
they generally have in view is a discontent with his circumstances
which they think education will produce in the average working man.
In reality, however, the primary danger of education is not to be
looked for in its effects upon average men at all. It is to be looked
for in its effects upon men who are distinctly exceptional.

In order to understand how this is, let the reader reflect once more
on one of the main truths that have been insisted on in the present
volume—namely, that though all progress is the work of great or
exceptional men, all great or exceptional men do not promote progress
equally, and some of them indeed do not promote it at all. Progress
results from the victory of the fittest of these over the less fit
in the struggle to gain dominion over the thoughts and actions of
others. Let the reader reflect also on the analysis that was given
of the various qualities which go to make up greatness—that is to
say, the qualities by which dominion over others is obtained. It
was pointed out that greatness is a highly composite thing; that it
need not necessarily imply any moral, nor indeed any intellectual
superiority; and as an illustration of this it was mentioned that
many most {337} important political movements have been produced by
men whose greatness consisted merely in ordinary sense joined to, and
made efficient by, an extraordinary strength of will. It is necessary
now to follow this line of observation farther, and to point out that
if extraordinary strength of will can produce beneficial effects
when allied with ordinary sense, it is equally capable of producing
effects that are mischievous when allied with stupidity, or with
that kind of imperfect intellect which is as quick in defending and
popularising, as it is in being duped by fallacies. And with these
latter qualities it is allied as often as with the former. It is
a great mistake to suppose that even the most false and foolish
opinions which have influenced multitudes to their own detriment have
been originated and promulgated by men who were altogether weak and
inferior. On the contrary, most of the follies which have disturbed
or retarded civilisation have been due to the influence of men who,
though morally or intellectually contemptible, have possessed a
vigour of character far beyond what is ordinary.

Now, if education has the effect attributed to it of liberating
the will and developing the intellectual powers of men in whom the
intellect is really acute and sound, there is an obvious danger of
its having the same effect on men whose intellect is unbalanced
and imperfect. To some of such intellects, no doubt, it may give
clearness and equilibrium; but there are others for which it does
nothing, except to increase their powers of reasoning wrongly; and
when an {338} intellect of this kind is allied with a naturally
strong will, the effect of education is to let loose a wild horse,
merely in order that it may run away with a lunatic.

It must be remembered that the strength of a man’s will, though
depending as a potentiality on the character with which he happens
to be born, depends as an actual force on his desire for certain
objects or results, coupled with the belief that he can attain
these by action. Now, when a man’s powers of action are capable of
realising his desires—as when a man who desires to be wealthy has the
talents that produce wealth, or when the man who desires to be Prime
Minister has the talents of a great statesman—his career satisfies
himself, and is presumably serviceable to his country. In many cases,
however, desire is exceptionally great, and generates also a strong
impulse to act, but the capacity for that kind of action by which
the desired object might be obtained is small. Thus many men desire
exceptional wealth, but find themselves incapable of the peculiar
kind of action that produces it. Their will, accordingly, if it makes
them act at all, is like a steam-engine which merely puts useless
machinery into motion; or if it fails to make them act, as it very
often does, it shakes them to pieces with a kind of intellectual
retching. These unhappy persons owe the condition in which they find
themselves mainly to an over-estimate of their own powers; and this
over-estimate is generally the direct result of education, which, by
making them {339} falsely imagine themselves capable of attaining
wealth, actualises a fruitless desire for it, which might otherwise
have remained latent. When education has this effect on a man it is
an unmitigated evil for himself, and very frequently for others.

Again, education, besides actualising exceptional desires which are
wholly unaccompanied by any exceptional faculties that correspond
to them, actualises desires accompanied by faculties which are
really exceptional, and which produce results undoubtedly more than
ordinary, but are nevertheless incapable of complete development.
Many men, for instance, have gifts for music and poetry which, though
genuine so far as they go, have yet some fatal defect in them, and
will never produce, however devotedly they are exercised, any results
possessing artistic value. Now the fact that progress is caused by
a struggle between exceptional men, of course implies that some of
them shall be less efficient than the others. It is by struggling
with the less efficient that the superiority of the most efficient is
realised; and in order that it may be found who the most efficient
are, the inferior as well as the superior must put their capacities
to the test. It is therefore unavoidably one object of education to
stimulate the activity of some exceptional men whose own efforts are
foredoomed to ultimate failure. Failures, however, differ in degree
and kind. Some men fail because they can accomplish nothing of what
they attempt, like the dreamers who have wasted their {340} lives
in trying to make perpetual motions. Some fail because, though they
accomplish something, others accomplish more; and the production of
what is the best makes the second best valueless. Thus nine inventors
might produce nine motor-cars, each of which worked well enough to
command a considerable sale; but if a tenth inventor was to produce
another which was faster, simpler, more durable, and cheaper than
any of these, all the rest would drop out of use altogether, and be
practically as valueless as the mad aggregation of wheels by which
the seeker for the perpetual motion endeavoured to accomplish the
impossible. Between the men who fail, however, because they succeed
less than others, and the men who fail because they do not succeed
at all, there is a great practical difference. The men who fail only
because others succeed better than they do, contribute to the very
success of the men by whom they are defeated; for they raise the
standard of achievement which these men have to overpass. But the
men who fail because they accomplish nothing waste their own lives
without benefiting anybody. In the domain of economic production
the truth of this is obvious. It is not less so in the domain of
speculative thought. Scientific theories are constantly put forward
which, though not true, are sufficiently near the truth to have some
definite relation to it; and those who actually reach it find in
errors of this kind an indispensable assistance. Nothing gives to
truth so keen and clear an outline as the refuted errors of really
powerful thinkers. But {341} there are errors, on the other hand,
which, though it may be necessary to refute them because they have
imposed themselves on a number of ignorant people, do nothing to
advance the discovery of truth whatever, and the activity of those
who originate them is altogether mischievous. Thus whilst the
reasonings of heretical thinkers like Arius, by the controversy
they provoked, were very largely instrumental in advancing orthodox
theology to really logical completeness, the philosophy of religion
owes absolutely nothing to Joanna Southcott or the American prophet
Harris. Accordingly, whilst it is impossible to say with precision
where the line is to be drawn between the exceptional talents
which, if developed, would be of use in the progressive struggle
and those which are so defective that their influences would be
merely mischievous, it is obvious that talent of this latter kind is
sufficiently plentiful to render its development dangerous.

History teems with examples of this fact, and so do the unwritten
annals of the social life around us. Henri Murger in his studies
of Bohemian Paris bears eloquent witness to the tragic absurdity
of the results caused by the development of imperfect artistic
talent, and the miserable endings of men who, if they had not tried
to be artists, might have lived and thriven as honest and healthy
_ouvriers_; whilst, according as we hold vaccination to be a blessing
to the world or a curse, we must necessarily hold that it would have
been far better for everybody if the talents of the men who invented
it, or else {342} those of the men who now oppose it, had been
killed by the frosts of ignorance, and never allowed to blossom.

But the commonest examples of talent that is wholly mischievous
are afforded by certain classes of politicians and social
agitators. There is a large number of men whose potential activity
is considerable, and whose intellect has a natural nimbleness
which will enable them, when stimulated by education, to seize
on plausible fallacies and impose them both on themselves and
others. Politicians of this class are familiar figures enough.
The social agitator, whose mental equipment is similar, is more
familiar still. Many attempts have been made to give a scientific
explanation of those constant attacks on the existing organisation
of society which are common to all civilised countries, and go by
the name of socialism. Socialism is said by some to be the protest
of increasing poverty against increasing wealth; by some to be the
natural voice of highly organised labour, which has come at last to
be capable of self-government; and by some to be an embodiment of
the esoteric philosophy of Hegel. In reality it is the embodiment
of the results of indiscriminate education on talents which are
exceptional, but at the same time inefficient. The avowed object
of socialism is a redistribution of wealth; but the most striking
characteristic of all the socialistic leaders has been an incapacity
to produce the thing which they are so anxious to distribute.
The wish to {343} redistribute it in some of them arises from
sentiments of benevolence; in some from fallacious reasoning; and
in some from personal envy; but in none has it been accompanied
by those particular faculties on which the actual production of
wealth in large quantities depends. Socialism, therefore, so far as
it is a serious theory, is essentially an attempt on the part of
men who are themselves economically impotent to prove that they,
and others like them, have some reasonable right to possess and
divide amongst themselves what they are constitutionally powerless
to make for themselves. The result has been the elaboration of
a theory of production which sometimes declares that wealth is
produced by “aggregates of conditions,” or “social inheritances,” or
“environments,” as Mr. Spencer, Mr. Bellamy, and Mr. Sidney Webb tell
us; and sometimes that it is produced by “average labour measured by
time,” as Karl Marx tells us,—the one doctrine being that wealth is
produced by nobody, and that one man has thus as good a right to it
as another; the other being that it is produced in equal quantities
by everybody, and that everybody on that ground has a right to
an equal quantity of it. Both doctrines agree in this, that they
altogether miss and divert the attention of the mind from the forces
and conditions on which wealth-production depends in reality.

Now if the elaboration of these fallacies had been confined to men
who were capable of presenting them in a really arguable form, and if
they had been promulgated only amongst classes who were capable {344}
of passing a scientific judgment on them, they might have played—and
within limits they have played—a valuable part in eliciting the
truth opposed to them. But they have become wholly mischievous when,
through the agency of indiscriminate education, they have influenced
men who, whilst wanting in intellectual judgment, are nevertheless
endowed with a potential activity of character, and who, when this is
developed, at once become powerful agents in disseminating fallacies
amongst others even less capable of criticising them than themselves.
Thus many of the leaders of the “new unionism” in England are to be
credited with energy of a really remarkable kind; but unfortunately
the energy is united to such defective intellectual powers, that the
more vigorously these are employed, the more mischievous and absurd
is the result. The general resolutions that have been passed at Trade
Union conferences declaring that no progress is possible till all the
means of production shall have been nationalised, or the doctrine of
the “new unionists” that wages control prices, are all results of
the exercise of faculties which, though in some respects doubtless
superior to those of the average man, had far better have never been
developed at all.

It is men like these—the men with ill-balanced or abortive
talents—the men with strong wills and defective intellects, the men
whose ambition is developed by the smallest educational stimulus,
but who have no talents proportionate to it which any {345}
education could develop—it is men like these who invest with its
principal dangers the equalisation of educational opportunity; and
if education, as so many Conservatives say, really does nothing but
promote popular discontent, it promotes discontent amongst the great
masses of the population less from the manner in which it affects
the average man directly, than from the manner in which it affects
men who are inefficiently exceptional, and who, not having the gifts
that would enable them to rise in any society, endeavour to persuade
the masses that society, as at present constituted, is an organised
conspiracy of the few to keep everybody else down.

The equalisation of educational opportunity has, therefore, two
dangers—the danger of developing wants in the average man which could
never be generally satisfied under any social arrangements; and the
danger of developing the talents of a certain class of exceptional
men which are naturally incomplete, and which the more fully they
were developed, would only become more mischievous both to their
possessors and to society.

And these dangers correspond with the two objects for the sake of
which the equalisation of educational opportunity is advocated. One
of these objects is the raising the condition of the average man; the
other is the securing, alike for himself and for society, the full
benefit of the potential gifts of the exceptional man. The average
man, however, is not made better or happier by being filled in early
life with importunate wants and propensities which he {346} will,
when he comes to maturity, be unable to gratify; nor is any one
made better or happier by the development of gifts which, however
exceptional, can, by reason of their incompleteness, do nothing but
give currency to error, or initiate abortive action.

It is the latter of these dangers that is practically the source
of the former. The average man would, as has been said already,
probably suffer little from over-development under existing systems
of education if it were not for the effects of these systems on
inefficiently exceptional men whose superiorities ought never to be
developed at all. It is doubtless impossible to avoid this danger
completely. If educational opportunities are to be of a kind that
will enable the efficiently exceptional to work their way to the top,
and advance or maintain civilisation by their influence or domination
over others, it is inevitable that a certain proportion of the
inefficiently exceptional will be induced to develop their unhappy
capabilities also; but the number of these may, at all events,
be reduced to a minimum. The fundamental fault of contemporary
educational theories is, that in proportion to the completeness with
which they were carried out, they would tend to raise the number
of these men to a maximum. And the reason why they would have this
tendency is that they are founded on two absolutely false principles.

The first of these principles is, that whatever potential talents
any man may possess, it is desirable to assist and encourage him to
develop them to the utmost. The second is that the type of {347}
education and culture to which education generally should, so far
as is possible, be assimilated, is the kind of education and culture
that is actually prevalent amongst the rich.

It is impossible to meet these principles with too emphatic a

The first of them is false because, as has just been shown, there
is a large amount of really exceptional talent which, if developed,
would work nothing but mischief, and which ought, consequently, for
the sake of everybody, not to be developed, but suppressed. The
second is false because all tastes and talents are good or bad,
useful for a man or useless, according to the conditions under
which his life will be passed; and the conditions of the rich are
altogether exceptional. Societies have existed in which they have
been enjoyed by nobody. It would be impossible to construct a society
in which they should be enjoyed by more than a few. The attempt,
therefore, to give to everybody a rich man’s education is like
including skating in the curriculum, and fur coats in the wardrobe,
of a thousand boys, when nine hundred of them are to spend their
lives in the tropics.

Both these false principles rest on that radically false theory
of society which it is the principal object of the present volume
to expose—the theory that civilisation is the product of men
approximately equal in capacities, and that in proportion as these
equal capacities have equal opportunities of development, there
will naturally be an approximation to an {348} equality of social
conditions. The facts of the case are precisely the reverse of
these. Civilisation originated in, and is still maintained by, men
whose capacities are unequal to those of the majority; and just as
there is no tendency towards equality in capacity, so, for reasons
which have been explained in the last chapter, there is no tendency
towards equality in social conditions. Inequalities of condition may
at some times be greater than at others, but the fact that at times
they show a tendency to become less is no more a sign that they
have any tendency to disappear than the fact that an economy has
been effected in the consumption of coal on board a steamship is a
sign that steam has a tendency to be generated without fire. It is
therefore a scientific certainty that of each generation of children
in every civilised country the majority will, throughout their
subsequent lives, occupy positions very different from those of the
few. Most of the members of each class will remain in the position in
which they were born; but there will be a gradual descent from the
upper classes of their weaker members into the lower, and amongst
the stronger members of the lower classes there will be a constant
potential desire to push their way into the upper. Some of these last
are strong in potential desire only. With others the strength of
desire is accompanied by corresponding talent, by means of which, if
developed, the position which they desire will be obtained. It will
be obtained by the talent of these men, because the talent of such
men is creative; and when it is {349} developed it renders those who
possess it actual additions to the civilising forces of the community.

With regard, then, to exceptional men, the object of education should
be to stimulate the ambitions of those of them whose talents are
efficient, whilst discouraging the ambitions of those whose talents
are inherently defective. The stronger the ambitions of the former
are, the better for themselves and for the community. Men like these
are the true gold-mines of their country. The stronger the ambitions
and the larger the opportunities of the latter, the more will the
health and strength of the social organism be interfered with.

With regard to the average man, the object of education should be
to develop in him such tastes or accomplishments as will assist him
in the work by which he is to live, and enable him to make the most
of such means of enjoyment as are within his reach, whilst leaving
him untormented with a desire for enjoyments that are beyond it;
and the crucial fact on which it is necessary to insist is that the
circumstances of different classes are permanently and necessarily
different, and that for the average man of each class the education
that will make the most of his life is necessarily different also.

In other words, the only true equality of educational opportunity is
an equal opportunity for each, not of acquiring the same knowledge
or developing the same faculties, but of acquiring the knowledge and
of developing the faculties which, given his circumstances and given
his natural capacities, will {350} do most to make him a useful, a
contented, and a happy man.

Unfortunately these conclusions, simple and obvious as they seem,
run directly counter to that entire theory of society which, with
more or less consciousness, and with more or less precision, is held
by the school of writers, reformers, and politicians, who suppose
themselves, in some exclusive sense, to have social progress at
heart; and also to that mass of diffused sentiment which, though not
expressing itself formally in any theoretical propositions, has that
theory as its foundation, and bears to it, as a political force,
the same relation that vapour bears to water. These conclusions,
therefore, which imply inequality in capacity as the cause of social
progress, and inequality in social circumstances as the necessary and
permanent conditions of it, are, like most of the other conclusions
put forward in this work, certain to be met with objections of the
most vehement kind, which it will now be necessary for us fairly and
carefully to consider. We shall find that, as we do so, the entire
arguments of the present work are summed up and brought together
before us; and however incompatible they may be with the false
conception of progress, of class relationships, and of the structure
of society generally, which are at present mischievously popular,
they form the foundation of hopes, for all classes, far more solid
than those, the fallacy of which they aim at demonstrating.




Man does not live by wealth alone, and progress is not concerned
solely with the production and the distribution of it. But the
processes involved in the production and distribution of wealth,
though far from being coextensive with all social progress, are
typical of it. They form, moreover, the subject with regard to which
contending politicians and reformers practically join issue; and it
is mainly because inequality in the possession of wealth is affirmed
to be a permanent and necessary feature of civilisation, that the
conclusions here put forward will be attacked.

The objections that will be brought against them will take two
forms; one being the form which will be given them by the radical or
socialistic politician; the other the form which will be given to
them by the radical or socialistic theorist.

The radical or socialistic politician, whether he is journalist
or popular orator, will express them by asserting, in a tone of
contemptuous irony, that {352} these conclusions, whilst highly
satisfactory to the fortunately-placed minority, bring but cold
comfort to the majority; that they represent an attempt “to put the
clock of progress back,” and that the masses of mankind are not very
likely to accept them. He will probably go on to say that they are
merely a prose rendering of the well-known lines which the sarcastic
radical loves—

    God bless the squire and his relations,
    Teach us to know our proper stations;

which last request to the radical seems to be the very height
of absurdity; and he will end his attack by appealing to our
electioneering instincts, asking us, if we take away the hopes to
which at present the masses cling, what new hopes or promises we
propose to put in the place of them?

The radical or socialistic theorist, as distinct from the militant
politician, will express these same objections in a more logical
form, thus: He will remind us that in our analysis of social action
we represent the attainment of an exceptional position, and more
especially of an exceptional amount of wealth, as the sole motive
that can be counted on to induce exceptional men to develop and use
their powers. Now this, he will urge, is tantamount to declaring that
exceptional wealth is naturally regarded by men as the main condition
of happiness; and since it is obvious that exceptional wealth can be
possessed by the few only, we are, he will say, convicted of teaching
that social progress involves a denial of {353} happiness to the
vast majority of those amongst whom social progress takes place;
which, the critic will go on to say, is absurd.

Now even if the conclusions we are discussing did involve in reality
all those consequences which would be so depressing to the majority
of mankind, yet to prove the conclusions depressing would not be
to prove them false; and few enthusiasts will deny that the object
of sociological inquiry is not to reach conclusions which are
inspiriting, but to reach conclusions which are true. As a matter of
fact, however, the conclusions now in question have by no means that
depressing tendency which the radical and the socialist will impute
to them.

For, in the first place, none of the arguments contained in the
present work have been invoked to prove, or have any tendency to
prove, that the many, as distinct from the few, in any progressive
country, may not reasonably look forward to a continuous improvement
in their condition—to a greater command of the comforts and luxuries
of life, together with a lightening or a lessening of the labour
necessary to procure them. On the contrary, the majority may look
forward to an improvement in their circumstances which it is as
impossible for us to imagine distinctly at the present time as it
would have been for our grandfathers to imagine the telephone or the
phonograph. All that has been urged in this work is as follows: That
whatever may be the new advantages which the majority of mankind
attain, they will attain them {354} not by any development in their
own productive powers, but solely by the talents and activity of an
exceptionally gifted minority, who will enable the ordinary man to
earn more whilst labouring for fewer hours, because they will, by
directing his labour to more and more advantage, secure from equal
labour an ever-increasing product. The conclusion, therefore, is not
that the majority in any progressive community may not look forward
to indefinitely better conditions, but merely that their condition
will not depend on themselves, and that, though the conditions of all
may be bettered, they will never be even approximately equal.

What, then, of the argument that, however conditions may be bettered,
yet if exceptional conditions are still objects of exceptional
desire, the want of these objects of desire will cause a sense of
privation amongst the majority?

To this really important question there are two answers.

The first is, that the conclusion now before us—the conclusion that
certain of the most coveted prizes of life will always be for the
few only—is, whatever may be its consequences, true; and that its
truth is nowhere more clearly evidenced than in the ideal State,
as presented to us by the extremest socialists. For we shall find
that whatever in the way of equalised incomes these statesmen of
cloud-land promise to their imaginary citizens, they do not even
suggest that the most coveted social prizes shall be distributed
more equally than they are at {355} the present moment. They, as
has been said already, though they consider themselves the apostles
of equality, recognise that the prosperity, and, above all, the
wealth of the community, will depend on their securing the very
ablest of their citizens as members of the bureaucracy by whom all
labour will be directed; and they recognise that these able men,
like the present race of employers, will not develop their ability
without some special inducement. They accordingly propose to reward
them, not by allowing them to retain any exceptional portion of the
wealth which they are instrumental in producing, but by investing
them with exceptional honour; and the desire for such honour,
say the socialists, as a motive to exceptional effort, “_will be
incalculably more efficacious_” than the desire for wealth. Now if
those who make this assertion attribute to it any serious meaning,
they must mean that men like honour much better than they like
wealth—that they covet it more keenly, that they will struggle more
desperately to win it, and are more exasperated at not possessing it.
If, however, great wealth is possible for the few only, and if the
majority of mankind are for ever destined to be without it, such,
with regard to honour, is the case even more evidently. For honour
is more essentially confined to the few than wealth is. We can, at
all events, conceive a community composed wholly of millionaires,
supported in luxury by battalions of labouring automata; but it is
impossible to conceive a community wholly composed of men on whom
{356} honour is conferred as the choicest prize of life, and all of
whom—the exceptional and the ordinary—enjoy it to the same degree.
The essence of honour is distinction or differentiation; and it forms
a motive for the exceptional actions of the few only because it is
withheld from the many whose action is not exceptional. Either, then,
in the socialistic State the honour that is to form the reward of
exceptionally able men will fail to stimulate their abilities and
attract them into the ranks of the bureaucracy because it is not of
itself so keenly desired as wealth is; or if, as the socialists say,
it is desired even more keenly, and if it consequently does stimulate
exceptional men to struggle for it, the socialistic bureaucracy,
with its honours, will excite amongst the mass of the citizens
incalculably more envy than the rich excite amongst the poor; and
the millions of average men will be rendered by the want of honour
incalculably more miserable than they could be by want of wealth. If,
therefore, inequality in the possession of external goods, for which
many men struggle, and which only a minority can secure, necessarily
means unhappiness for the larger part of the community, this evil at
all events is not due to the existing structure of society, but is,
on the contrary, so rooted in the constitution of human nature, that
even the wildest and completest schemes of social reform are unable
to offer us so much as a mitigation of it.

The second answer to the objection, however, is of quite a different,
and of a far more reassuring {357} character. It is that the entire
supposition on which the objection rests is untrue. The external
prizes of life, of which exceptional wealth is the type, though
struggled for by many with every faculty they possess, though valued
by those who achieve them, and though recognised by men in general as
something of which everybody would choose to be the possessor if he
could be, do nevertheless amongst average human beings not cause any
unhappiness by their absence at all corresponding to the satisfaction
which they cause notoriously by their presence. Such an assertion
will to many people probably seem self-contradictory. But if it does
so, this will simply be owing to the fact that the whole science of
the subjective conditions of happiness has been utterly neglected
by sociological writers hitherto. The assertion here made, however
paradoxical it may sound, embodies one of the most important truths
which can claim the sociologist’s attention; and though it cannot
be called self-evident, every student of social science should be
familiar with it. It forms, indeed, the _pons asinorum_ of all social
psychology. A brief elucidation of it will be enough for our present

There is a certain minimum of external goods, the desire for which
has a physiological basis, and causes, when unsatisfied, misery,
disease, or death. Chief amongst such goods are food and, in most
climates, clothes and shelter. So far as this minimum is concerned,
the desires of all are practically equal; and they are equal because
they arise out of that physical {358} constitution which we cannot
alter, and in respect of which we are all similar. But for external
goods that are beyond this minimum men’s desires vary indefinitely;
and they vary because they depend on the action of the imagination
and the intellect, which varies in different men, and in the same men
under different circumstances.

In civilised countries the minimum of goods desired is practically
not limited to the bare necessaries of existence, and it is difficult
to define it with anything like absolute precision. But without any
formal definition of it, it is at all events sufficiently distinct to
enable us to place in contrast with it those obviously unnecessary
goods which make up wealth and luxury. Now luxury is very commonly
supposed, in contradiction to what has just been asserted, to
represent materialism in its most exaggerated form, and thus to offer
a contrast to competence or modest comfort. And it does, no doubt,
rest on a material basis; but competence and modest comfort do so
likewise. An arm-chair which costs perhaps thirty shillings is as
material as one which, on account of its artistic workmanship, costs
four or five times that number of pounds. But so far as wealth and
luxury transcend comfort and competence, and possess those peculiar
qualities which are held to render them enviable, what they appeal
to, and what they are measured by, is not their effect upon the
senses, but their appeal to the imagination and the mind. We can
easily see this by considering very simple examples, which will show
us that the {359} same external things are luxuries or not luxuries
according to the way in which the mind regards them. Thus a man
will be called luxurious if his house is of palatial proportions,
if he lives under lofty ceilings and treads upon shining floors.
But the luxury which the owner finds in existing amongst these
surroundings consists not in any physical effect which they produce
upon his senses as he moves amongst them, but in a great variety of
complicated relations which exist between them and his own life, past
and future, and of which the senses take no account at all. Were this
not so the poorest and most destitute might daily enjoy a luxury
superior to that of the millionaire by strolling through the halls
and corridors of our great public institutions, of which many are far
finer than the most magnificent private houses. A man, again, will be
thought, and will think himself, luxurious if he travels from Paris
to Monte Carlo in a sleeping compartment with sheets and pillows;
and passengers who have ordinary places, if they are sensitive to
social contrasts, will glare through the windows enviously at the
occupant of this paradise, who has probably had to pay a hundred
francs to enter it. But let us only imagine that the sleeping
compartment is taken off its wheels and is permanently planted by
the side of some street or road. It will then form a bedroom which
the owner of the pettiest villa would hardly venture to assign to a
maid-of-all-work; whilst if three workmen had to sleep in it instead
of three first-class passengers, the agitator {360} would point to
it as an example of the horrors of overcrowding. When, therefore, the
sleeping compartment is admitted—as it is admitted—to be a luxury,
it is admitted to be so because it is regarded in relation to a
variety of circumstances to which the senses are quite blind, and
which are realised by acts of the mind and the imagination only. And
with all wealth and luxury the case is just the same. Like comfort
and competence, they have material things for their foundation; and
the material foundation that supports them is no doubt necessarily
larger. But what renders them more desirable is not the additional
material in itself, but the qualities with which it is invested by
the subtle craftsmanship of the mind.

Just, then, as wealth and luxury depend on the intellect and the
imagination for the larger part of the pleasure which they give to
those who possess them, so does the desire for them amongst men in
general depend on the action of the intellect and the imagination
also. Hence, though a desire for wealth is popularly supposed to
be universal, and in a certain sense is so, it is a desire the
non-satisfaction of which causes a sense of privation only when the
imagination and the intellect work in an exceptional way. Let us
take, for example, some community on the outskirts of civilisation
which continues to maintain itself in rude plenty and comfort, but
to which wealth and luxury are merely remote ideas. If a stranger
suddenly came within its borders carrying a bag which had in it a
hundred thousand pounds, and if {361} he placed this bag on the
summit of a neighbouring mountain and promised to give it to the
first man who should get hold of it, every member of this simple
community who was not lame or bed-ridden would start for the mountain
as fast as his legs could carry him, and the slopes would soon be the
scene of a mad and breathless scramble. But if no such stranger came
bringing the image of wealth close to them, or if instead of placing
his bag on the summit of a neighbouring mountain he showed it to them
through a telescope hung up in the moon, not a single heart amongst
them would beat quicker at the thought of it or suffer a single pang
from the knowledge that it was unattainable.

The reason of this is as follows: Amongst the great masses of mankind
the desire for wealth is a speculative desire only. They give, if
we may borrow an expression from Cardinal Newman, only a “_notional
assent_” to the fact that it is desirable. Wealth means for them no
special pleasure which they have experienced, or can represent to
themselves, and the repetition of which they crave for; nor does it
mean the satisfaction of any importunate wants. It does not mean
for them what a shilling would mean for a starving man. For him the
shilling would mean the food for which his stomach clamoured; and he
would feel the want of it as keenly as he would value its possession.
So, too, a poor youth separated from his family may crave for a
five-pound note, and be miserable at not possessing it, because this
will represent the {362} possibility of spending Christmas with
them. But no ordinary man, unless he has lived amongst the very
rich, and his entire view of life has been practically identified
with theirs, has any similar craving for a hundred thousand pounds,
or for a million; for he has no personal experience and no detailed
knowledge of the peculiar conditions of life which require such sums
to purchase them. Wealth is to him little more than a name for a
power which would secure for him, if he possessed it, an indefinite
number of indefinite things, if he wanted them; but he is under
ordinary circumstances no more troubled by its absence than he is by
the fact that he has not a fairy for his godmother, or that he does
not happen to be the owner of Aladdin’s lamp.

How, then, does it come to be the object of that keen hunger which is
the strongest motive to activity amongst the men who are the chief
producers of it? What are the exceptional circumstances which convert
it from a remote something, held in a passionless and speculative
way to be desirable, into a near something, craved for, and eagerly
struggled for with the painful industry of a lifetime?

The speculative desire for wealth, common to all human beings, is
converted into this practical craving by two causes, which act and
re-act upon each other. One of them is an exceptionally powerful
imagination; the other is the belief on the part of any given
individual that wealth is a thing which he actually may acquire if he
will only make certain {363} efforts, of which he believes himself
to be capable. In cases where the necessary efforts are recognised
as long and arduous, and the coveted reward as being consequently
far distant, the belief of the individual that it is really possible
for him to attain it will require the aid of an exceptionally
powerful imagination to rouse it into activity, and to keep it alive
when roused. In cases where the necessary efforts are obviously
extremely slight, and the individual believes that wealth is almost
in his hands already, the belief will stimulate his imagination,
however feeble it may be naturally, instead of requiring that his
imagination should sustain or stimulate _it_. Thus the attainment of
wealth being under ordinary circumstances difficult, and requiring
intense, anxious, and prolonged effort, a keen desire for it is not
ordinarily felt except by men whose strength of imagination amounts
almost to genius, and in whom a belief, whether true or false, is
developed, that they are capable of creating for themselves this
prize which they see so clearly. Warren Hastings, for instance, if
his imagination had not been exceptional, would never have had that
vision of the past glories of his family which made the desire of
restoring them the main motive of his career; and again, on the
other hand, if some sudden and exceptional circumstance, such as the
advent of an imaginary stranger with his bag and his hundred thousand
pounds, should present every member of a community with a chance of
acquiring wealth instantly, the feeblest imaginations would be {364}
stimulated to such a degree, that all would find themselves craving
for the possible prize equally.

In converting, then, a mere notional assent to the proposition
that wealth is desirable into an actual hunger for it, which is
painful if not satisfied, the essential cause is a belief that
the desired wealth is attainable; and the intensity of the hunger
is in proportion to the vitality of the belief. This important
psychological truth is very easily demonstrable by a kind of
experience sufficiently familiar to most people. If a man who has
perfect taste, and a few thousands a year, is buying furniture for
his house, and is anxious that every room shall be as beautiful as
it is in his power to make it, we all of us know with what eagerness
day after day he will stare into the windows of the dealers in old
furniture and _bric-à-brac_, and how quickly he will take note of any
object that his taste approves. Now if such a man, having admired
a cabinet or a piece of tapestry, finds that the price of it is a
hundred or a hundred and fifty pounds, he will feel perhaps that it
is a little beyond his means; but he will dream of it, long for it,
and will never know a moment’s peace till he has so arranged his
expenditure as to enable him to complete the purchase. But if the
price of the cabinet or the tapestry, instead of being a hundred or
a hundred and fifty pounds, had been a thousand or fifteen hundred,
he would have recognised that the objects were totally beyond his
reach, and though they still excited admiration in him, they would
{365} excite no desire. Here is the great difference between the
necessaries of life and the luxuries. Men crave for the former,
whether they are able to procure them or no. They crave for the
latter only in proportion as they feel them to be procurable. A
starving boy does not want a bun the less because he has not a penny
to buy it with. A man of taste, with only a hundred pounds to spend,
does not crave for a piece of tapestry at all, if he knows that the
lowest price for it would be not less than a thousand.

Now under normal conditions the belief that exceptional wealth is
procurable by them is confined to men with exceptionally vivid
imaginations and with certain exceptional talents and energies that
correspond to them. They crave for wealth, in fact, because they
believe themselves capable of creating it, and their craving keeps
pace with their belief in the range of their capabilities. The
more wealth they can create, the more they desire to create. Their
desire for wealth, in fact, unlike their desire for necessaries,
is proportionate not to their natural wants, but to the extent of
their natural powers. It follows what may be called _the law of
expanding desire_. Here, then, is the explanation of the fact which
is at first sight so paradoxical—that whilst the desire of wealth
is the strongest of all motives amongst a minority, the absence of
wealth is not felt as any privation by the majority; and so long as
the normal conditions that have just been indicated prevail, and
the men who {366} can really produce exceptional wealth are the
only men who believe it to be a thing attainable by them, and are
consequently the only men who feel any actual craving for it, all
goes well and healthily, and the desire of all classes may be at
least approximately satisfied. Unfortunately, however, the belief
that wealth is attainable, though it is naturally confined to men who
have exceptional powers of creating it, is capable of being implanted
under certain circumstances artificially in men who possess no
exceptional powers at all.

A familiar case like the following will show how this is effected. A
man, we will say, occupies an ornamental cottage, which is beautiful
in itself, is embowered in beautiful gardens, and also commands views
of a picturesque and magnificent park, into the glades of which one
of the gates of his garden opens, and which the owner allows him to
use precisely as if it were his own. All his friends tell him, and
tell him truly, that there is no such place of its size within fifty
miles of London. They envy him his dainty drawing-room, his verandah
festooned with roses, his prospect of the timbered park, and his
free access to its solitudes. His friends envy him, and he feels
himself that he is enviable. One morning, however, he receives a
lawyer’s letter, which gives him to understand that he is really the
legal owner, not of his cottage only, but of the park and property
adjoining, and that with adequate legal assistance he could certainly
substantiate his claim to them. In an instant his whole {367} temper
of mind with regard to his surroundings is changed. His pride in his
cottage is gone, and its place is taken by indignation at having
been kept out of possession of the park, and by a feverish craving
to acquire it. He goes to law. The case is long and difficult. He
lives for months distracted by fear and hope; and when the case is
finally given against him, he comes back to his cottage with his mind
unhinged by the shock, contemptuous of the dwelling which once was a
source of pride to him, and cursing the prospects which once were his
daily pleasure.

Now this craving for wealth, by which the man’s life is blighted, has
been produced, precisely as such a craving normally is, by the belief
on his part that certain wealth is attainable; but the belief here
does not rest on a consciousness that he is able by his own abilities
to create or earn it for himself; it rests on his intellectual
assent to a delusive proposition that he has a legal right to it,
or, in other words, that the law will make him the possessor of it
without any exceptional productive effort of his own. And here we
have a counterpart to the socialistic teaching of to-day. It excites,
or aims at exciting, an artificial craving for wealth in men who
would not naturally trouble their heads about it, by teaching them
that they have a right to it, which is wholly independent of any
exceptional productive power in themselves, or in any ancestors from
whom they might claim to inherit. The only difference between men
who are thus deluded, and {368} the claimant to the park and estate
whose case we have been just imagining, is that whilst the latter is
deceived into expecting that he individually can be made rich by a
law-suit, the latter are deceived into expecting that they all can be
made rich by legislation.

The desire for wealth, as something distinct from competence, is a
desire which normally affects men only in proportion as they believe
themselves to be possessed of power by which they may individually
earn it; and so long as men recognise the truth that, apart from rare
chances, the powers that earn wealth are the exceptional powers that
create it, the craving for wealth which makes the non-possession
of it a pain is confined to a minority composed of exceptionally
constituted individuals. The absence of wealth amongst the majority
causes unhappiness only when false theories with regard to its
attainability and men’s natural rights to it have produced in the
average man an artificial and diseased sensitiveness. There is no
surer means of exaggerating inequalities in happiness than the false
and pestilent teachings which encourage equality of expectations.

And not only do these teachings, so far as they have any effect at
all, create private unhappiness and multiply private disappointments,
but they give rise amongst masses of men to an impracticable temper,
which is the source of many of the difficulties confronting us in
the domain of politics, and most of those confronting us in the
domain of industry. {369} The crude and childish philosophy which
socialists and so-called labour-leaders endeavour to diffuse amongst
the great masses of the population rests, so far as the masses of the
population understand it, on the theory that society is composed of
“approximately equal units,” and that whatever is produced within a
community is produced by that community as a whole. Hence the members
argue, and the socialists distinctly tell them, that property and
capital are merely accidental possessions, which give to those who
possess them a purely adventitious power. These teachers add that
such possessions, in abstract justice, should be taken from their
present possessors and divided amongst the community at large; and
from this it follows that all claims to the profits of capital, as
put forward by its present possessors, are, in an abstract sense,
unjust. The consequence is that the employed, when stimulated into
conflict with the employers, enter on the conflict in a temper
which forbids them to be satisfied with any immediate result of it,
however favourable to themselves. Whatever advance in wages, or
reduction in hours, the employers may have conceded, the employed—so
far as they are influenced by the socialistic fallacies of the
day—consider themselves still wronged almost as much as ever, so
long as the employers continue to exist at all; and thus any cordial
understanding between the two classes is made impossible. When the
employed strike or agitate for higher wages, they may be compared to
a man who maintains that his tailor’s bill is {370} exorbitant, and
desires to have a certain portion of the total deducted. Now if the
tailor is reasonable and agrees to take off something, the matter
may be easily adjusted to the satisfaction of both parties; for
though the customer may think that the tailor has claimed too much,
he admits that to a certain sum the tailor has an undoubted right.
But if the customer were a madman, who believed when he ordered his
clothes that in abstract justice he ought to be charged nothing
for them, and that any claim on the tailor’s part was in reality
robbery and oppression, whatever deduction the tailor might consent
to make, the customer’s grievance against him would remain the same
as ever. It is possible for customers and tradesmen to come to some
satisfactory understanding, so long as the demand of the former is
that their bills shall not be too high. No satisfactory understanding
could be arrived at between them possibly—there would be nothing
but friction, constant dunning, and writs—were it known that the
customers entertained and meant to act on the theory that they ought
not, in abstract justice, to pay their bills at all. Now such is the
labour-leaders’ theory with regard to the employing classes. For a
time some part of their bills must unfortunately be paid—that is,
some part of their profits be allowed them. But to these profits
they have no real right, and the employed must never be contented
until they have absorbed the whole of them. So long as such a theory
prevails, no satisfactory progress in the condition of labour is
possible, {371} partly because the employed, whatever advantages
they may gain, will be no nearer to content than they were before,
partly because the employers are constantly forced into a position of
unwilling antagonism to men whom they would wish to befriend.

The object of this present work, so far as the question of wealth
and its distribution is concerned, has been to show how absolutely
false to fact are the theories to which this impracticable discontent
is due, and how intellectually ludicrous is the position of the
school of thinkers who imagine that such theories represent accurate
science. These thinkers, in their dealings with property and capital,
in spite of the esoteric admissions of a certain number of them to
the contrary, touch the truth in their more popular utterances, only
by the process of inverting it, or of putting the cart before the
horse. They represent the employing classes as possessing exceptional
strength merely because they are accidentally the possessors of
capital. The actual truth is that these classes are possessors of
capital because they themselves or their fathers have possessed
exceptional strength. The arrows of Ulysses were more formidable than
those of the suitors because Ulysses shot with a stronger bow than
they; but he shot with a stronger bow for the very simple reason that
he was strong enough to bend it and they were not. The employing
classes contribute to the processes of production not less than the
employed; in certain senses they contribute incalculably more, {372}
and in every sense they contribute as truly; and they contribute
not primarily because they possess capital, but because as a class
they possess exceptional faculties, of which the capital possessed by
them is at once the creation and the instrument. In other words, the
inequalities which socialists regard as accidental are the natural
result of the inequalities of human nature, and constitute also
the sole social conditions under which men’s unequal faculties can
co-operate towards a common end.

Socialists contend that the source of all power is in the multitude.
It is impossible to imagine a greater or more abject error. The
multitude, or the mass of average men—the men undistinguished by
any exceptional faculties—are the source of certain powers, or
rather they possess certain powers. That is true; but what may these
powers be? Their most striking characteristic is their limitation.
In the domain of industry the many, if left to themselves, could
produce only a very small amount, which would have, moreover, no
appreciable tendency to increase. In the domain of government they
could initiate the simplest movements only, and carry out only the
simplest measures. The powers which they actually possess under
existing circumstances are as much greater than these as the man
is greater than the child; but these added powers acquired by the
average men, or by the many, do not depend upon average men alone.
They are developed only with the development of another set of
powers altogether—the powers belonging to the exceptional men or
to {373} the few; and if these latter powers were impaired, the
former would be impaired also. In the domain of production and the
domain of government alike, not all, but nearly all, the powers of
a democracy presuppose the powers of a _de facto_ aristocracy, and
although they modify them, they depend upon them. Here are the two
factors or forces which we can never get rid of unless we get rid of
civilisation altogether—the force represented by the mass of ordinary
men, and the force represented by those who in various ways are more
than ordinary. Let us destroy society a hundred times over, and
attempt to reconstruct it in what way we will, these two forces will
inevitably reassert themselves, and reveal their existence in the
form which society takes, as surely as a man’s figure will give its
shape to whatever kind of cloak we hang on it. These two forces at
the present time attract our attention principally by their activity
in the domain of industry, where they show themselves under the forms
of employer and employed. In order that any satisfactory solution of
our industrial difficulties may be arrived at it is necessary that
employers and employed alike should each recognise the importance of
the part played by the other, the nature and extent of the other’s
strength, and the permanent need each has of the other’s strenuous
co-operation. It is hardly to be expected that between these two,
serious disputes and difficulties will ever completely cease. In the
interest of social progress it is not necessary that they should.
What is necessary is that {374} whatever disputes between these two
parties may arise, and however unreasonable or excessive on any given
occasion the claims of the few may seem to the many, or the claims
of the many to the few, neither party shall regard the other as its
opponent, excepting with reference to the particular points at issue;
that the few shall not deal with the many as though the many, in
asserting themselves, were rebels, nor the many attack the few, as
though the powers of the few were usurpations. What is necessary is
that each should recognise its own position and its own functions,
and the position and the functions of the other, as being, in a
general sense, all equally unalterable, and although admitting of
indefinitely improved adjustment, not admitting of any fundamental

And what is true of the social forces that are involved in the
production of wealth, is true of those that are involved in political
government. In political government, just as in the production of
wealth, the power of the few has a root in the nature of things
as indestructible as has that of the many; and though the few can
produce progress only when the many can co-operate with them, it
is not from the many that their power is primarily derived. In the
domain of speculative knowledge this is self-evident. The ordinary
brains are pensioners of the few brains that are superior to them;
and yet the superior brains are powerless to produce social results,
except in so far as the ordinary brains respond to what their
superiors {375} teach them. So it is in economic production, so it
is in political government. The power of democracy is not only an
actual power; it is a power from which no society can ever wholly
escape; but never—not even when nominally it reaches its extreme
development—is it, or can it be, or does it ever tend to be, a
power which is self-existent. It always implies and rests upon the
corresponding power of the few, as one half of an arch implies and
rests upon the other. The whole object of the democratic formulas
popular to-day is to deny or to obscure this fundamental truth; and
no greater obstacle to general progress exists than the prevalence of
the spirit which the acceptance of these formulas engenders. If there
is anything sacred in the rights of the poorest wage-earners, there
is something equally sacred in those of the greatest millionaires;
and if the latter are capable of abusing their power, so also are the
former; but nothing will tend to prevent their abuse of it so much
as the recognition that such an abuse on either side is possible. If
there is any wisdom and power in the cumulative opinions of ordinary
men, there is another kind of wisdom and another kind of power in
the ideas, the insight, the imagination, and strength of will which
belong to exceptional men; and these last, though they may give
effect to what the many wish, do so only because they represent what
the many do not possess. What is required to bring our political
philosophy—and not only our political philosophy but our political
temper—into correspondence with facts is not to {376} deny the
power that has been claimed during this century for the many, but to
recognise that this power does not stand alone, and that those other
powers represented by the wealthy few are not only essential to the
wealth of the few themselves, but also to the prosperity, and most
emphatically to the progress, of all.

The progress of all, instead of being incompatible with the fact
that the positions of all have no tendency to become equal, assumes,
on the contrary, a more and more practicable aspect in proportion
to the accuracy with which this fact is recognised; and that such
is the case shall, in conclusion, be briefly shown by reference to
the theory of progress which at present deceives the socialists.
This theory, which was formulated by Karl Marx, bases itself on
the fact, which is indubitable, that the industrial systems of the
civilised races of the world have undergone great changes in the
past, and may therefore be expected to undergo changes as great in
the future. The three most marked stages in the sequence of change
referred to are slavery, feudalism, and capitalism; and the practical
conclusion drawn from them by the socialists is that as feudalism
arose out of slavery, and capitalism arose out of feudalism, so
will socialism arise out of capitalism. This argument is merely
another example of those self-confusions by which the socialists are
distinguished as reasoners. It is an argument which depends for its
whole apparent point on the defective manner in which these various
systems—socialism {377} included—have been analysed. For, though
slavery, feudalism, and capitalism differ from one another in many
most important points, they happen not to differ at all as regards
that one particular point in respect of which socialism will have
to differ from all three of them. That is to say, in whatever way
these three systems differ from one another, they all agree with one
another in being systems under which the few, the strongest, the most
intellectual, the most energetic, not only controlled the actions
of the average many, but received for their exceptional action a
correspondingly exceptional recompense. The few who occupied this
commanding position differed, at different times, in the nature
of the powers which gave them the command. Sometimes it was the
great fighters who were paramount, sometimes the great legislators,
sometimes the great industrialists. But into whatever mould human
society has been cast, with whatever circumstances it has been
surrounded, and whatever kind of talent or strength has been most
essential to it at given periods, the few who have possessed this
kind of talent and strength to the highest degree have, as a whole,
and with them their families, invariably occupied a position of
exceptional wealth and power. We may deplore this fact or no, but the
fact still remains, and consequently the argument of the socialists
from the facts of social evolution, when reduced to its true terms,
merely amounts to this—that because many social changes have taken
place already, but one particular change in spite of these has never
taken {378} place, yet this particular change which has refused to
take place in the past is perfectly certain to take place in the

The historical evolution of society, however, and the social changes
that have taken place, do indeed convey to us a very important moral;
but this moral which the changes convey to us is curiously different
from that which the socialists draw from them. They draw from them
the moral that because social arrangements have been greatly changed,
therefore they can be fundamentally changed. The true moral is that,
although they may be changed greatly, they can never be changed
fundamentally; and from this there follows another as its yet more
important corollary—that although social arrangements can never be
changed fundamentally, they can, nevertheless, be progressively and
indefinitely improved, but that real reforms can be accomplished
only by those who abandon altogether every dream of fundamental
revolution. Many reforms which socialists eagerly recommend, and
many wishes which socialists entertain, may meet with the approval
and sympathy of the most determined conservatives; but the error
of the socialists is sufficiently indicated by the fact, already
remarked upon in the course of this work, that the changes which
they advocate, and whose advent they delight to prophesy, leave
the possible and approach the absolutely impossible, in precise
proportion as these visionaries set value upon them.

Nowhere is the impossibility of such changes more clearly indicated
than in the phrases now most {379} frequently used to indicate
their specific nature—such phrases as “_the emancipation_” and “_the
economic freedom_” of the labourer. These phrases, if they have any
meaning at all, can mean one thing only—the emancipation of the
average man, endowed with average capacities, from the control, from
the guidance, or, in other words, from the help, of any man or men
whose capacities are above the average—whose speculative abilities
are exceptionally keen, whose inventive abilities are exceptionally
great, whose judgments are exceptionally sound, and whose powers of
will, enterprise, and initiative are exceptionally strong. That is
to say, these phrases, if they have any meaning at all, mean the
deliberate loss and rejection, by the less efficient majority of
mankind, of any advantage that might come to it from the powers of
the more efficient minority. “_Economic freedom_,” in fact, would
mean economic poverty; and the “_emancipation_” of the average man
would merely be the emancipation which a blind man achieves when
he breaks away from his guide. The human race progresses because
and when the strongest human powers and the highest human faculties
lead it; such powers and faculties are embodied in and monopolised
by a minority of exceptional men; these men enable the majority to
progress, only on condition that the majority submit themselves to
their control; and if all the ruling classes of to-day could be
disposed of in a single massacre, and nobody left but those who at
present call themselves the workers, these {380} workers would be as
helpless as a flock of shepherdless sheep, until out of themselves
a new minority had been evolved, to whose order the majority would
have to submit themselves, precisely as they submit themselves to the
orders of the ruling classes now, and whose rule, like the rule of
all new masters, would be harder, and more arbitrary, and less humane
than the rule of the old.


_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh._


Original spelling and grammar have been generally retained, with
some exceptions noted below. Original small caps are now uppercase.
Italics look _like this_. The original sidenotes have been removed,
being redundant with the Table of Contents. I produced the cover
image and hereby assign it to the public domain. Original page images
are available from archive.org; search for “b21508343”.

Page xxvi. The page reference in ‹often remember it, • 285› was
changed to ‹284›.

Page xxx. The page reference in ‹wealth that raises them • 329› was
changed to ‹326›.

Page 70. The word ‹negligeable› was changed to ‹negligible›.

Page 159. The word ‹Where-ever› was changed to ‹Wherever›.

Page 240. The phrase ‹orginal processes› was changed to ‹original

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